In our report, we account for total compensation including equity. Feel free to check it out: https://levels.fyi/2020/
I don't know what actually happens, but following the money is usually a good first place to look.
Am I looking at it wrong?
The really only reason I can imagine doing it would be if I really liked the team and product, such that the actual experience of working there was going to be really fun. But the startups I worked at were similar or worse than the larger companies on those fronts.
I think this Dan Luu article is a good look at it: https://danluu.com/startup-tradeoffs/
If you want the money... you can't beat the highly profitable big-tech companies.
If you want small teams, deep ownership of the projects you work on, and like being invested in your product/company you might enjoy a start up more.
(also this isn't a dig at big companies, it's just way harder to match the start-up/small co. experience)
Do not work at an early stage startup!
- Shitty experience because you won't have to do things right. Initial system will turn out like crap because you are rushed to build it.
- You will be in constant firefights once live. You will feel like a hero but in reality you're just burning yourself out to make the leadership rich.
- No customers so won't learn about scaling,
- Little to no process.
- Pay is crap
- Equity is a complete scam. Company will do everything they can to keep you from capitalizing on them. 90 day exercise after leaving. 8-10 years before there's a market to sell and you won't last that long. Company won't buy them from you. Common shares instead of preferred. Dilution, etc.
- Management is inexperienced and a lot of times abusive.
- Once the company starts to succeed, a new wave of management will be hired. They will bring their own direct reports who blame you for creating the initial crappy system and your career will essentially be over at the startup.
I could go on.
(Also, your bullets didn't format properly, you may want to edit your response to fix that)
It all depends on what you want out of your work. The balance has shifted semi recently so that if you want to maximize your expected earnings, for most tech area engineers the answer has shifted from "pick the right startup" or maybe "go be a quant if you can" to "go work for FAANG".
Things get a lot more complicated if you are not merely optimizing for income.
sidenote, it's a bit hard to access aggregated data, I always have to click bunch of things if I want to see e.g. distribution of salaries for role in switzerland.
(all the default views seem to show just a list of entries, I think you first have to pivot to company, then to location before you can see any aggregated data)
Discretionary income can vary widely after living expenses are removed for a given salary for a given locale.
We think startup compensation will be a huge and important next step for us. Hope to have more updates soon!
*Note that once a company switches to RSU we collect that as a cash value at that point (so for example Stripe would have a cash value for their stock grant)
Ultimately, if you join and the stock goes up, congrats on your "free" raise!
We do believe that the stock growth in the market in general influences the monetary amounts of new stock grants. The bull run in essence contributes to larger stock grants through a cascading effect, as people who are looking to switch to another company expect higher and more competitive packages to make the leap.
You’ll notice when you expand each row by clicking on it, there are some additional details such as if the data point is for remote.
I still would have had performance anxiety, but it would have been bigger, and bigger, is better, right?
I need some help interpreting the location data. For example, if you click on Los Angeles, there's a bar chart with median and different percentiles. I assume this is across all engineer levels (I - V). But I'm interested in compensation for a level at a location.
Going by years of experience, my level is Staff (IV) and the description notes that this is 10% of all engineers. Looking at the LA bar chart, the 90th percentile is around $325k total compensation. So a Staff level engineer in the LA area should expect around this much. Does this analysis seem correct with the given data?
Click on the levels to get a brief overview of the scope and responsibility.
You're abbreviating 'NSW' as just 'NS', is that intentional?
Another way of framing this is that Germany is successfully combating inequality, right? Professional-managerial class incomes and lifestyles aligning and sometimes inverting with working-class incomes is sort of the point.
About a week of on the job training is required to go from an entry level cleaner to an experienced cleaner.
Curious though how your house cleaner is making more than a software engineer?
Another reason for your Ukraine friends not wanting to move to Germany is because in one single comment you somehow made it clear that your cleaner is an African refugee and that Ukraine is poorer. Let that sink in.
The question I would ask is why is there less demand in the EU for software engineers. The fact is software startups in europe are pretty small compared to the US and UK. For instance german VC investment in tech startups vs british investment is significantly lower . The rest of the eu is even smaller on a country by country basis. The eu tries covering that gap with government grants and eu funds which rarely produce much return in tech. The EU as a whole doesnt have the culture of risk needed for startups to thrive. We are safer with the same car makers since ww2, same tv manufacturers, and having a law for everything. We dont want amazons, facebooks, and googles around here because they kill our small shops, violate our privacy, and teslas threaten our precious diesel engines.
So if we want higher salaries in the eu, and germany included, we need to loosen things up a bit to let startups “break” things and have vcs invest in them.
Or you could simply immigrate to east europe or the uk to either earn more or live a better life.
I am a software engineer from Ukraine. Why do you assume I should get offended by these factual statements made by the OP?
I salute your confidence - I genuinely do. However, the statement is factually wrong.
You, as a software developer in Ukraine are unlikely to be "poor" yet OP makes an attempt at enforcing that stereotype. By factoring in the cost of living, you are quite "rich".
Anecdotally, I spoke to someone from Romania a few years back when they were made an offer at Microsoft in London. They point blank refused an 80k GBP salary + bonus because, despite a lower income in Romania, their disposable income and quality of life was higher.
Some German immigrants to Romania, working at Ubisoft Bucharest, I was told, are quite impressed about how much more they earn compared to Germany.
After doing a bit of research I can see that salaries are indeed higher. Another anecdote may be that I wanted to hire someone remote for a UK contract and the daily rate was not much lower (it is lower if you factor in no VAT for intra EU invoicing, and lower agency fees and office costs / desk, but in practical terms its not). Some of the people working in IT in east Europe genuinely have a higher standard of living than in Germany. Compared to London the story is a bit different, but you rarely hear about a software engineer in their 30s, in east europe, living with "flatmates" because they cant afford their own property.
So really, I would reject stereotypes, particularly when they are not based on reality. Sure Ukraine overall has financial difficulties, but that stereotype simply doesn't apply to people in the context of our debate.
To me it looks like you and OP are in agreement because this is exactly what he said: "Even my friends from Ukraine (which is a much poorer country) don't want to move there, because in Ukraine they only pay 5% taxes and cost of living is much lower. So they can afford a much better life comparing to German developers."
Heard mixed things about intra-company transfers from Europe to the US.
Otherwise it's rather difficult to get to SV.
Saving the same percentage in a higher CoL place gives you the option of moving out or retiring anywhere, including a high CoL location. You don't have these options if you make a lower wage at a lower CoL place.
So why move to Canada?
Get Canadian citizenship after 3 years, and become eligible for TN visa, which is not subject to any lotteries or quotas.
That's not been my experience when hiring. Serious candidates from serious schools don't seem to have any issues getting it.
Or just get an O-1.
I guess you mean 4600€ per month.
FAANG salaries in Europe are not too bad, at least London seems to be okay-ish in terms of salary vs. CoL. The openings are rather limited and I never had any luck, but YMMV.
here is the source (in German):
If someone would rather live in the third most corrupt country in the world than in Germany, well, they can have it.
I was amazed at how low quality of life is for engineer in Berlin where all you can afford on avg salary is shoebox, you have to look at prices when shopping for food and raising family on one income is very hard.
Saying that what Ukraine has is a "frozen conflict" and not a war zone is like a real estate agent calling a crappy house a "renovator's dream."
"A very small area near the Russian border" is literally moving the goalposts. Until Russia stepped in and redrew the border of Ukraine, the front lines were a hundred miles from the border.
If you're so sure its so dangerous there, maybe you can pull up statistics about number/rate of shooting deaths there compared to the US?
Donbass in Ukraine is dangerous and a no go war zone. Downtown Kiev/Lviv are peaceful and have an excellent quality of life with amazing restaurants and nightlife.
You can’t average big countries.
Also telltale sign someone's not plugged into SV - looking at salaries rather than total comp. Then there are two further schools of thought: granted vs. vested compensation. What was your offer + refreshers at grant value + expected bonus vs. what are your initial grants and refreshers actually vesting at + what is your real bonus.
On one hand, you could say that vested comp mostly reflects the outcome of the equity lottery and doesn't have anything to do with what is actually the going "market rate". On the other hand, vested comp is what the person is actually earning. And because of that, it's also their opportunity cost if they were to switch to another job, which in a way does become the market price for that person (at that point in time). Although once appreciated grants fully vest you can hit quite a cliff.
Our Fortune 50 company late last year announced no raises based on the annual review cycle because of "things", but did give out bonuses. Of course then we had record earnings announcements recently, so it's not clear what the "things" were.
This phenomenon definitely has made me want to leave my job. I would consider myself the most important member of my team but would guess I am making a median salary on it. Time to brush up on my political speak and whiteboarding
so either you're not as important as you think you are, or you're being ripped off salary-wise. Both are reasons to move tbh.
Anything else is a decoy. Words != actions.
My understanding is that retention bonuses are the norm during bankruptcy. Of course, I understand the reason for that. But the reasoning is pretty clearly "we're betting on you not being mobile enough or irreplaceable enough".
Of course it is a bit cynical, and maybe some companies are acting different. But in general I think the cynicism is justified.
 https://on.ft.com/3rfL1n4 (paywalled, but link bypasses)
(in case anyone wants to ask, I don't reveal personal info online, so I won't be disclosing any company I've worked for)
If they don't raise your base rate (and get stingy with employees to get better profits), your stock will appreciate.
"Things" are easy to work out. Just follow the money.
Management gets far more RSUs and options and this means they are incentivised to do or say anything they think might push up the stock price.
What would have been a low 100s salary three years ago is easily pushing over 200k now.
This is all well and good except for when one of those folks tries to go to buy a house here and is outbid by 15 people all offering cash with 200k in escalation clauses...
EDIT to expand given downvotes on prior post:
> ...all the bounty of our efforts will accumulate to the holders of fixed assets, namely land and human talent.
Ricardo says nothing of the sort here. Especially so, nothing about human talent. Ricardo strictly makes claim that the rent of land will be equal to marginal value of that land in the use of production. So if a given unit of land would increase the production of an enterprise by $X/yr, then the owner of that land can charge the owner of that enterprise up to $X/yr. This has nothing to do with housing and certainly nothing to do with human talent. Housing is far more complicated given how one might think about demand. We also haven't even talked about how economic rent/economic value defers from just like dollars of revenue or whatever.
They are more "productive" on that land. They'll tend to outbid other potential users, at least if tech gentrification complaints are to be believed.
This all falls in line with the theory imho.
I don't think there's any real difference between that and good soybean land, or goat raising land or whatever that Ricardo wrote about.
The general idea is that for non-remote office workers, housing is a factor of production.
> all the bounty of our efforts will accumulate to the holders of fixed assets, namely land and human talent.
they had better be, to keep up with cost of living, have you priced real estate in seattle recently?
I agree that some employers lowball like crazy, and that some engineers don’t know better, have reasons to live in low-productivity regions that are worth six-figure opportunity costs to them (family, etc), or couldn’t pass the interviews. But it is worthwhile to remind people that this whole world is out there and they could pursue it if they wanted to.
You rest and vest if it goes up, or find another company if it fails. The ante would be 1 year's RSU and job searching for a payoff of 3 years worth of RSUs.
There is also a particular group of people who seek out pre-ipo (meaning a company that is expected to IPO soon) companies, or more generally those that are about to fundraise again. Generally equity offers are given based on valuations at the last fundraising round, so playing this game properly can instantly turn $100k in paper money into $400k. Of course, doing this only makes sense if you expect the new valuation to have some kind of staying power, otherwise you won't realize those gains.
Remember they also include the H1B body shops. To get an idea of what these places are playing you can look at the open data:
But then you are talking about a small minority of even SV salaries, and a tiny minority overall.
The real issue as noted elsewhere is that the distribution is at least bimodal, and many conversations get derailed by confusion around this fact.
In my experience, the SF value on the chart seems to match entry-level developers, and the other values on the chart are above what senior developers make elsewhere. If you're a developer in Detroit, maybe you can make 90k, but I suspect you'll have to settle for closer to 60k.
Looks like Dice is based in NYC. Maybe a bit of cross-coastal rivalry pulling our apparent numbers down so we don't steal all the NYC devs? ;)
Having salaries broken out by major city don't seem to anticipate remote workers.
I'm also a firm believer in sharing compensation numbers openly and transparently as a mechanism for increasing worker negotiating power. Talk with your peers about their wages, share your salary, post updated numbers to levels.fyi on the regular, etc.
Equity always carries added upside (and downside) value. Earlier you join the company, more risk there is, longer it takes to pay off, and but also more equity upside you have.
Google stock has 3x in the last 5 years. Equity in company 5 years before pre-IPO can increase in value 20x. Equity in a 1-2 old startup can increase 100x or more sometimes.
The stock grants usually has a 4 years vesting? that means after 4 years , you will not get any more granted stock? Does that mean after 4 years, your salary is going to drop down significantly
Of course this varies. Some may not give you any refreshers at all, biasing towards recruiting you rather than retaining. Some will give much larger refreshers when you perform well. Some (eg. Amazon) also have a backloaded vesting schedule (something like 5%,15%,40% and 40% over 4 years).
How can someone like me get a piece of US salaries without moving to the USA?
"Salaries in SV are so much higher than elsewhere" - "But so is rent, but SV still comes out to be more profitable"
"Salaries in USA are so much higher than elsewhere" - "But
so is healthcare, and there's no social safety net"
"Salaries in FANG make smart people work on optimizing for clicks instead of doing something more beneficial for the world"
Of course I need to downweight this subthread too, because metageneric is a subset of generic, plus meta is its own issue.
I wouldn't necessarily call this topic "generic". The "gravitational pull" you mention seems like a product of "number of people affected" x "how much of a relatable concern it is"; employment compensation scores high. Apple launches are another example of this.
Yes some of those points can be valid, and I understand that not all software companies hand out that much stock or are private and therefore it's harder to depend on, etc. But maybe it's just the bubble of tech that I've existed in within the PNW, but tonnes of people in my circle have built FIRE-level wealth by just having been driven enough to put up with bullshit interviews and staying long enough to get their stock grants.
I can say personally I definitely wouldn't have made it to where I did financially had I stayed in Canada, or it probably would've taken me at least 15 years instead of ~5.
If you're the type of person for who money can solve a lot of problems, I always suggest considering this as an option. It's solved ~90% of the problems in my life and has bought me years of time to be able to do what I actually want in life.
Even if someone hasn't won the FAANG lottery, there are a lot of folks, including those that aren't collecting SV-level comp, who have done pretty well being well-invested in diversified equities.
All equity comes with risk. Doubly so for the type of equity that generates a lot of wealth. Stability is nice, but expect to pay through the nose for it. The only real exception I can think of are people with exceptional talent in an exceptionally in demand skill. E.g. Tom Brady or Linus Torvalds or a world-class neurosurgeon.
> His fortunes changed in 1999. Red Hat and VA Linux, both leading purveyors of Linux-based software packages tailored for large enterprises, had granted him stock options with no strings attached, thank-yous from entrepreneurs who hoped to grow rich off his creation. When Red Hat went public that year, Torvalds was suddenly worth $1 million. On the day VA Linux (now VA Software) went public, Torvalds was worth roughly $20 million, though by the time he could sell his shares, they were valued at only a fraction of that.
> Torvalds hesitated before buying himself his first expensive bauble, a two-seater BMW convertible. "I was a bit nervous about people's reaction," he confesses. "Are they going to think I've gone over to the dark side?" In the end he decided that the shape and price of the hunk of metal he drove to and from work each day was his own business. Despite counsel to the contrary, Torvalds wisely sold all of his stock and spent almost all of the windfall on his home and his cars, trusting that he'd always be able to earn a good salary as an engineer.
If you're willing to take the short-term cap gains hit you can sell your stock immediately after vesting and reinvest in a total market index or w/e aligns with your investing philosophy. If we're talking hard numbers, you'd still be pulling in 150-200k+ in base salary/cash and let's say, in a non-ideal situation, what would've been your $125k of annual stock vest is now worth 30% less - still not a bad deal IMO.
This is my experience coming from Britain too, but honestly not sure it's had any great effect on my level of life satisfaction - you can live a pretty comfortable life on software engineer's salary most places. The work available in Silicon Valley is definitely more interesting, but you now work in an office park 30 miles form the city centre and housing has gotten so expensive its driven out a lot of the interesting cultural life.
Then write a forum software that just fills in the appropriate discussion for each article, and save us all a lot of trouble :)
Apparently this comment triggered someone lol.
these salaries are 1/3rd to 1/10th of what people actually make, and thats not a statistical outlier with the stock appreciation over the last few years
ADDED: It's a difficult problem to solve with one number though. Base salary hasn't been very representative of total comp at the big SV tech companies over the past few years. On the other hand, there's not necessarily reason to believe that the past 5 years or so will be representative of the next 5 years--even if RSUs and bonuses are still relevant to a certain degree.
An "L5" position is very similar to what is written on Levels.fyi and Blind, no matter what macroeconomic factors made it so across the board
On the other hand, the fact that your comp could drop by $100K next year because your company's stock was flat or a bit down is probably at least somewhat relevant.
Sure, but that applies to cash-comp too, for companies paying big cash bonuses instead of equity.
If the overall economic environment turns downward, your share grants if paid in equity are gonna be worth less than in the last 5 years, and if paid in cash, your cash bonuses are likely to fall off as well.
you know, people who are not highly trained professionals with advanced degrees but who are still required to make up a community. (bakers, school teachers, nurses, technical craftsman, caretakers etc).
It is my understanding that those people make signficantly less money (more on the "standard" level most western-europeans make. say 30kEUR a year), But where do these people live?!
Or just far away with long, miserable commutes.
$2.7M for a 100x50 lot and a 4 bedroom? That's mansion money pretty much anywhere. Hell you can even get a nice place in NY for that much.
IC5 Eng (~5 yrs exp): $350k/yr all in (cash+stock+bonus)
IC6 Eng (~9 yrs exp): $550k/yr all in
IC7 Eng (~12 yrs exp and you are exceptional): $800k/yr
As you go from IC5 to IC7, your stock and bonus goes up (as expected). A typical IC7 will earn around $250k in cash, ~25% bonus (on the base cash salary) and the rest in stock.
Now those $2M houses don't sound too expensive right?
I think if you're really into spending your free time doing competitive programming, reading about system design, and making sure to have some interesting tech on your resume then it's not a big deal. Personally, I'm not any of that - so, getting into FAANG has been a real PITA. I still try but it's sooo painful now. The difficulty has just skyrocketed for someone who doesn't do those things in their free time.
Ask anyone hiring at a FAANG co and you will find that it's a massive struggle to hire now. Pandemic isn't making anything harder for applicants and, given the relative success of tech during it, may be making it harder.
Dear candidate - do not pay attention to this person’s comment. This behaviour is called gatekeeping (not withstanding the backbone-free cop-out at the end with the “ymmv”). It does not account for varied life circumstances & starting points. Prep for as long you need to - and more importantly - want to. In the interview the duration of prep won’t matter.
Also at higher levels it's not just the number of years you work. Average Joe with 9 years of experience is not going to be IC6 - the yoe:level relationship is also governed by pedigree, network, career history (where, what), projects led, previous roles, etc.
And those years of experience are for the fastest ladder climbing superstars. Multiply by 1.5x for the average.
Oh my God, where do I sign up?
I'll eat my downvotes and live in my crumbling NYC neighborhood with a semblance of mental and cultural diversity. A lower salary but a good one, and I don't have to work for advertising monopolies run by marketing people.
All that said, if the news reports are any indication, there are a lot of people exiting California for other states, so a lot of contrarians.
I do love the Sonoma Chardonnays myself, the Cali Pinots are a lot riper/sweeter than the Burgundy ones.
After taxes and living expenses it would still take years to save for a 2M home as an IC7.
Those homes peaked in 2018 anyway, bad investment.