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I work at Microsoft and in Azure Cosmos DB, the same org as Steve.

Leadership believing in remote makes all the difference. We'd been doing more and more remote hiring in the years before COVID, especially when remote made a specific skillset's talent pool larger. This led to some remote-friendly, bordering on remote-first culture. When COVID hit, we adapted really fast.

I had taken a short break from Cosmos DB before COVID hit, and then accepted a new management role back on the team right as COVID was hitting. I've never seen my team all in the same room; but it's been fine/normal-ish. Now that full-remote just takes manager approval, we've had folks move away from Seattle/SF. I've got reports in the UK and NYC. It's pushed our culture to be a lot more communicative, intentional, and organized, which is good for everyone, Seattle based or remote.

What's great about all this is now there isn't even a question of "is remote ok"? We don't need to be looking for a specific skillset or a certain level of seniority. It really opens up the talent pool; recent hires have given us a lot more selection. (P.S. - I'm hiring Product Managers; permanent remote. Check out my pinned tweet on the twitter profile in my bio)

But are they top paying?

Microsoft hasn't been top paying in a lot of markets outside US for years, let alone competitive with I'd imagine most people on hackernews consider "top paying"

Wouldn't a role in UK be essentially paid nearly 50% less in total compensation?

It's incredibly easy to compete with "top paying" companies once you offer remote work, due to huge gaps in taxation and cost-of-living.

Let's do the math:

$400k salary in SFBay is $238k net. $300k in any state that doesn't have an income tax (like Texas, Florida, Washington) is $211k net.

Factor in cost-of-living differences, and as an employee, I'd be much better off earning $300k remotely than $400k in SFBay. From an employer's perspective, that means I can offer 25% lower pay and be more than competitive with top paying companies in my field - if I offer a remote option.

This gap will only increase, as states are constantly planning ways to squeeze more taxes out of their major tech hubs: https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickgleason/2021/12/31/calif...

I therefore believe these economics will drive remote work adoption.

So that's the catch though.

A $400k wage in SFBay for Microsoft (which I've never heard of for a regular position) won't just translate to anywhere else in the world. When starting salary in SF for Microsoft new college hire might be $120k+, in the UK it's £40k.

I realize you are specifcally talking about relocating to work remotely only within the US, but what I'm getting is that today Microsoft pays wildly differently based on location, and proposes to continue to pay wildly differently based on location with people relocating to work remotely.

I don't know if there will some special exception for United States, but the poster I replied to specifically brought up International.

Will Microsoft pay 1:1 for SF employee relocating to Texas while paying a UK employee 1/4 the wage? If so, why... it doesn't make good business sense.

I am more than ready for my thoughts to be considered economically naïve, but I wonder if it's to do with the ability for labor to move?

In the US it is easy (from a legal POV) to move between California and Texas or vice versa so an American employee would probably move to California if a much larger salary depended upon it. If an employer doesn't really care if someone is in any particular location within the US, they may nonetheless feel happy paying what they valued the employee at if they did force them to move to California, say. Of course, they may also attempt to pay less, but that's a risky strategy since the employee could just as easily then request to move to the expensive location.

The UK worker earning 1/4 the wage does not have this freedom. Very few UK workers can move to the US (or any other economy than Ireland) and so the market rate for developers in the UK is very specific to the UK. Only a fraction of the best developers who both want to leave and be able to leave. There's a certain local demand and supply and the salary has found its natural resting point, protected by a moat of visas and regulations.

By the same process, you can also hire a 15 year of experience software engineer from europe or south america for 80k a year, and doing it as a contractor would also mean no payroll taxes.

In the remote game, people living in the US have a formidable economic foe.

But there is a reason why companies haven't done this massively before, both for international remote and US remote. Very few companies pre-Covid were fully remote, and it might just stay that way.

How many software engineers with 15 years of experience, perfect English, strong up-to-date skills, and ability to work seamlessly with an American team, do you think exist in South America or Europe (very different timezone)?

If it was so easy to reduce payroll cost (the biggest cost in the budget of all tech companies) then it would have been done years ago, COVID or no COVID.

I don't think you know how many non-15 YOE, non perfect english, non up-to-date skills work poorly with an American team at FAANG.

B2B customers generally have it spelled into the contracts that engineers outside of the US may not access customer data. The value of an engineer who can remediate a customer problem end-to-end for a thousand $500K ARR contracts is far greater than saving $200K/year on salary.

What's the difference between an immigrant working for FAANG today remotely from the US or from another country?


I know companies where management have refused work-from-home PRE-COVID have struggled to deal with their whole company forced to work from home because of lockdowns as they were unprepared. As soon as restrictions were lifted here, these same companies forced workers to come back into the office... and now only a few weeks later, we’re in a lockdown again.

In a digital world, and being the primary workers in this industry, I find companies that outright refuse work-from-home because “culture” are pissing in the wind.

I agree. But what about the business that aren’t 100% digital? Is it okay to have half your workforce at home? Is it fair? What about roles that thrive off human interaction, do they get written off?

Is it "fair" for many workers to work in hostile and dangerous environments like oil rigs or policing high-crime streets, while SWEs sit in comfortable climate-controlled offices?

Is it "fair" that thousands of employees of particular companies work endless shifts in unpleasant warehouses, while others enjoy nice downtown offices?

Fair has nothing to do with it. We want to remove risk from as many people as possible. If you can do a job from home, do it from home.

Lets not put people at risk just to increase "fairness".

This, so much. Can’t have us flatten the curve if we’re all jammed packed on public transport!

The Victorian government’s messaging here has been along the lines of “if you can work for home, please do it”, and fines can be issued if you force workers into the office when unnecessary... but from what I’m hearing, workers aren’t raising alarm bells

I wasn't referring to "During the pandemic" I was responding to the idea of "Is this permanent".

Also: Not every country is the US... some can safely go back to work. Or others, like Taiwan, never stopped.

In general, less people using the infrastructure around cities means that traveling is more safer, is generally better for the environment, and also supports small business growth in local communities instead of in a few blocks in the big city.

Even people that don't get to work from home still benefit from work from home. At the very least there's one less person to get annoyed with on the commute.

Really good point. It's kind of the Urban planners dream of decentralised hubs being realised.

This is Hacker News, so I was speaking to the crowds here. Sure, most companies can’t have work-from-home as a viable alternative, but I’m specifically talking about purely digital companies - even where devs don’t interact with customers :shrug.gif:

Does Microsoft explicitly mark their open positions as remote friendly? Or is it a case of talking to the recruiter during the process?

This depends on the hiring manager and the org - I'm hiring for a couple of roles in Australia and have explicitly marked them as remote (in AU).

The opening of the talent pool flows both ways. The company options are also more open to high performance engineers. High performers are not limited by geography anymore. Many more companies are open to remote option.

This means increased competition for high performers and increase in salary.

All high performing tech engineer should interview with multiple companies and negotiate for increase in salary from all of them.

Forget this silly notion of location based COL salary adjustments. That's industry propaganda to suppress salary levels.

How is the international remote scene? Does it exist in big (top paying?) companies in the US? To clarify, can people outside the US be hired to do remote work for US companies?

> To clarify, can people outside the US be hired to do remote work for US companies?

It's often called 'offshoring', I think. I know plenty of US companies large and small that hire remote workers. It also doesn't seem like it's a net win in most cases that I've seen, but people generally don't set themselves up to re-evaluate their decisions 3, 6 and 12 months later, nor have the willpower to reverse the decision if it's not working out as expected.

To clarify, I have seen remote workers outside the US, working for US companies, be a net positive/win, it just hasn't been the norm.

By 'net win', I'm meaning the original goals - more work getting done at a lower cost at the same or better quality in the same or reduced amount of time - panning out. Usually the timezone and cultural differences are bigger hurdles to overcome than anticipated. You often need more US-based resources dedicated to managing the remote team than originally planned. To counter some of those, you can hire more experienced overseas talent, but that's a higher cost, eating in to the anticipated cost savings.

Do note that the workforce in tech is already like 20% immigrants. They don't have a cultural mismatch. They can go back to their countries and work remotely at lower cost of living and possibly lower taxes.

Companies generally only allow this when they are forced. There are limits to remote work.

To add to this, there is work done in non-US offices which is not offshoring. A lot of companies have local products in the non-US countries that they operate. These features might have originated in US or one of the western countries, but eventually feature development of these local products moves to the countries it serves.

I also believe in remote, but it's not like remote is 100% effective for all teams, and with all kinds of leadership.

Remote work at scale is relatively new, and it will be evolving - you don't know the direction: good, or bad.

Yes, many employers would rather that we physically commute to their offices every morning. They'd also rather we worked 12-hour shifts and got paid minimum wage for it.

However, as the talent crunch keeps getting worse, and CoL and local income taxes keep obliterating pay raises, employers will have to find ways to reward the talented senior employees they're all competing for - and it won't be simply paying them more to work on-site in ultra-high CoL locations.

As more employers offer remote work options, the remaining employers will have to match - or risk losing many of the best candidates, especially senior engineers who aren't going to try to raise a family in SF or Manhattan.

Also, once the process kicks into high gear, it will be hard to reverse; engineers will move to suburbs in states like Colorado, and it will be very hard to get them to move back to extremely expensive areas like the Bay.

Arguably this is already happening during this pandemic. I know many engineers who moved to remote locations with no plans of coming back.

> Yes, many employers would rather that we physically commute to their offices every morning. They'd also rather we worked 12-hour shifts and got paid minimum wage for it.

This is factitious comparison. Remote works great for a lot of people and it's undoubtable good that there are more options. But there are legit reasons for both businesses and employees to prefer working from an office. Office working isn't some ploy by evil employers to sweat every last drop of productivity from their employees at the employees expense.

Remote work is a coveted benefit, subject to the same economics as other coveted benefits: employers will have to offer it as it becomes normalized, and offered by their competitors in the war for talent.

Similar to how office food benefits used to be extremely rare niche, and now are extremely common.

Not sure where you got "ploy" or "evil employers", nothing in my post implies those things.

> Not sure where you got "ploy" or "evil employers", nothing in my post implies those things.

"They'd also rather we worked 12-hour shifts and got paid minimum wage for it."

^ That's where I got it from. The framing that office work was something employers forced upon employees against their will. Many of us prefer an office and are keen to get back to one.

You might not know the history of employment. Employment is the latest iteration of a series of systems which require the bulk of the population to contribute labor to shared efforts which are designed by small elite groups. Your society explicitly asks you to trade labor for food, shelter, and other basic benefits of living in a civilization.

Specifically, we know that 12-hour shifts (without overtime or adequate breaks) were a thing that employers would want, because they used to exist. Similarly, we know that employers would want to pay below minimum wage, because they used to. In fact, both of these things still happen regularly today, despite the laws having changed.

Yes, when we look at history, we often feel that folks were doing evil/bad/harmful/etc. things, because we can't help but judge them based on our values which we hold today. The best that can be said is that people are complicated and that good/evil is not a good framing for weighing why people did what they did.

What's "CoL"?

cost of living


Are you paying same in all locations

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