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Silicon Valley stays on top as tech salaries climb across U.S. (ieee.org)
178 points by samizdis 47 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 258 comments

One of the founders of Levels.fyi here – wish we were cited on here too! But we also did a pay report for 2020 with a breakdown of companies and locations which was covered in another IEEE post: https://spectrum.ieee.org/view-from-the-valley/at-work/tech-...

In our report, we account for total compensation including equity. Feel free to check it out: https://levels.fyi/2020/

With regular chats with a few old coworkers in various FANGish companies(we talk total comp between us) the numbers are always solid at levels, I wish this was more widely known as companies want to keep pay bands secret to drive down engineer's wages. Good work on the site and thanks!

Honestly your site blows away the competition. AFAIK you have the best data. Great work and bravo on making compensation more transparent.

Agreed. I'm always shocked when I go to Glassdoor and see how wrong the compensation is.

Glasdoor community are marketing representatives from companies and angry employees. lots of negativity and fake or wrong submissions there.

Glassdoor systematically underestimates total compensation for pretty much every position I've looked at. Not exactly sure why that is.

Employers are incentivised to have pay reports underrepresented so new goes don't negotiate for more.

I don't know what actually happens, but following the money is usually a good first place to look.

Appreciate it!

One of your cofounder's, Zaheer, set a date and time with me for a phone interview and proceeded to ghost me even after sending multiple emails asking why he didn't appear for the call. I'm really glad I didn't join the company whose cofounder can do something like that.

Hey Zaheer here. There’s no excuse for ghosting. I totally apologize. I just checked back in my emails and it seems like our meeting and subsequent emails were around the same time I was out of town for a wedding a few things fell through the cracks. I generally make it a point to respond back to everyone but this was a period of time where there was a lot going on in my personal space and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get back to you. I’ll DM you separately.

Whoa. @elvongray is a real world Ghostbuster!

Just looking at this data I question why even bother working for a startup. Getting paid 200k at a startup is a rarity, usually with poor health benefits. Lots of work and a hope that you can make up the difference in case of a huge sale.

Am I looking at it wrong?

For me, startups helped me establish a track record and learn practical skills that helped get into bigger companies. I don't have a CS degree, and didn't go to a fancy school, so experience helped a lot. But now that I'm past that period, the value proposition of most startups seems really bad. Especially given ageism in tech, I think it really makes sense to maximize earnings while you can.

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/

It depends on if you are optimizing for money, work-life balance, interest, impact etc.

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)

I've worked at a bunch of startups (20 years) and what I've learned is:

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.

This is spot on to my experience as well. Startup employees seems to move in waves and being the first wave of employees at a startup usually means working the hardest and getting burnt out. In my experience it's the second and third wave employees that have it easier, get to reap the benefits.

(Also, your bullets didn't format properly, you may want to edit your response to fix that)

> Am I looking at it wrong?

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.

Quants still pay a silly amount that being a quant at a top firm (citadel, jane street, HRT, etc) still out pays FAANG most of the time. A candidate that interviews well and negotiates some can go for 300-400k new grad bachelors to those firms. That's not doable at FAANG. For FAANGs, over 300k without equity growth requires senior level or top band mid level. 400k needs senior level. While for citadel they're willing to immediately go that high. The growth in pay is also high in finance although it is very bonus heavy so performance matters a lot more than other places.

Quality of life and pay per hour is better at FAANG, from the people I’ve seen at both.

Nope, that's why FAANG pays so much: startups can't compete and they get a monopoly on talent.

Have you considered adding finance/investment/trading salaries? It's super great for tech (one high paying field) and I think it would be really great for finance (another high paying field).

Definitely! We’re working on finance, the variability there in compensation is pretty high especially at these HFT firms with heavy bonus structures, and so we’re hoping to develop a way to accommodate for the soon (although you can still enter your information today)

+1, the only comparable source I've found is anecdotal data from Blind.

Yes, we're working on collecting more data still: https://www.levels.fyi/comp.html?track=Investment%20Banker

(really like the site)

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)

Totally, we’re just starting to accommodate for better international support. We want to auto detect and change our home page (companies and currency) based on where you are. Look out for updates!

Can I suggest making it easy to include conversion to another currency? I recently was arguing about salaries at large tech companies with employees in Bangalore and Hyderabad. It would have been convenient (for my task) to not only have the local rupee rate but the “equivalent USD” (in this case at exchange rates, not PPP).

Yeah we do want to include currency exchange rates. On certain location pages, we actually do offer this. For example for India, you can toggle between INR and USD up top: https://www.levels.fyi/Salaries/Software-Engineer/India/

Your website has single handedly changed the negotiations for so many people. It was so hard to get good salary data

Do you plan on incorporating how salaries compare to local costs of living?

Discretionary income can vary widely after living expenses are removed for a given salary for a given locale.

Can you add more nuance for private companies? It is hard to determine what people got at private companies because no one is using a consistent formula. It'd be good if everyone just gave number of shares they received (unless it's some other format like how Stripe does it) for private firms.

Yeah, this is something we’re actively working on for early stage companies. Number of shares is actually not very valuable information. What’s more important is your percentage of ownership given how many outstanding shares there are at the company. We’re taking a first attempt at collecting this information here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdErbieBKoeEVhrOWZn...

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)

The first graph in the spectrum article seems wrong (eg some companies only have a bar for 2018 when they ought to only have one for 2020), and the interpretation doesn’t line up with it either, but maybe they are referring to something different.

Quick question: does this account for recent massive stock price inflation ? My comp at one of these places matched what you have here early to mid last year, but since then has gone up quite a bit due to the stock market

Usually what will happen when a company's stock increases is that new offers have a lower # of stock units in the hiring grant. Basically, even if Google is worth $1.5T or $15T they don't change the "total compensation" value of the offer at hand.

Ultimately, if you join and the stock goes up, congrats on your "free" raise!

Yeah agreed. I was curious if the median salary was impacted by the bull run, where suddenly engineers who joined a couple of years before the bull run are now disproportionately paid compared to more recent hires

Yes, it may – our aggregates account for the latest information at a specific level which can include data points for individuals who have been at a company and experienced stock growth. However, when you drill down into the individual data points (https://levels.fyi/comp.html?showFilters), you can take a look at, and filter by the "Years at Company" field to distinguish how long the employee has been in their current role.

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.

Is there a way to filter for remote friendliness on Levels.fyi? Especially since COVID it's gotten hard to keep track of who hires remote and who doesn't.

Yes, there is! Check out this search: https://www.levels.fyi/comp.html?track=Software%20Engineer&s...

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 only use Levels.fyi btw. Blows glassdoor out of the water. Thank you so much.

I declined a role in the USA with severe performance anxiety over asking for 2-3x my current salary. I learned from your report I should have declined for asking 6-8x my current salary, with stock options.

I still would have had performance anxiety, but it would have been bigger, and bigger, is better, right?

Co-opting to ask where should Danes go to find these numbers?


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?

We have yet to provide a generalized leveling filter for our salaries – we have started on creating a normalization though. You can check out the standard leveling guide we put together here: https://levels.fyi/standard

Click on the levels to get a brief overview of the scope and responsibility.

Funny thing I noticed on https://www.levels.fyi/comp.html?track=Software%20Engineer&s...

You're abbreviating 'NSW' as just 'NS', is that intentional?

Yeah, sharp eye! So right now, the provider we use for location, Geobytes, abbreviates state code to 2 letters internationally and so the 3 letter code gets chopped to 2. Gets a bit confusing for some areas, so we’re trying to figure out we can have another mapping with it spelled out.

Meanwhile, EU salaries are stagnating and it's one of the worst places to be a software engineer. An average salary for a software developer in Germany was 46000 Euro per year in 2020, and don't forget, it's one of the richest countries in Europe. The average in EU is even lower... After paying taxes a single person with that salary will only have 2400 Euro per month (~ 2800 USD). The guy who cleans our house in Germany without any education (an African refugee) makes more money than that. 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.

>The guy who cleans our house in Germany without any education (an African refugee) makes more money than that

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.

But that's ridiculous - many many years of continual study and professional development are required to be a developer - with lots of it happening of the job in the developer's education and personal time.

About a week of on the job training is required to go from an entry level cleaner to an experienced cleaner.

Not only that, but in Germany many companies will not hire you, if you don't have a degree. So you must also spend a lot of time (3-5 years) and money to get a Bachelor/Master degree.

Money? What money? AFAIK degree programs in German public universities are nearly free.

In public universities yes, but not in private universities. You will also have other expenses as well when you study (rent an appartment, food etc.)

Don't do that then?

It is ridiculous if you associate pay with degree/profession, but it is not if you associate pay with the offer and demand equilibrium. If there are no revenues to be taken or no demands for a professional, there’s no reason to pay them more. Degree does mean someone deserves to make more.

Maybe. All i know is i would much rather be a computer programmer than a cleaner, even if being a cleaner paid more.

Depending on who you ask, income inequality and returns to education/skill are anywhere from closely related to the same fact.

The managerial class in Germany earns much more than normal workers. The point here isn't that Germany somehow successfully combated inequality, just that it doesn't value software engineers as much as the US or even the UK does.

Another way of framing this is that this is completely false, a house cleaner in Germany doesn't make anywhere close to 2400€/month after taxes. Unless he works all day and night including weekends without declaring any of it maybe, and even then that's a stretch.

When I left Germany in 2007, I was making 52000 Euro per year. Crazy to hear that salaries remained practically flat. When I went to Silicon Valley, my pay practically doubled overnight, and now 13 years later I make 10x as much (and my job hasn't really changed much).

Curious though how your house cleaner is making more than a software engineer?

You make half a million Euros a year as a software engineer?

Not unreasonable if the parent a senior engineer or is counting stock appreciation.

I make what I consider OK money in the UK, but the US is on a totally different level. I can only assume we're undervalued here!

I think so, just having worked with UK colleagues who were no different in ability and looking for opportunities overseas as a way to explore more places while holding a steady job.

This will get downvotes but its worth it.

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 [1]. 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.

1. https://www.altfi.com/article/7458_london-tech-firms-receive...

> 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.

I am a software engineer from Ukraine. Why do you assume I should get offended by these factual statements made by the OP?

I am neither Ukrainian nor African, and I am not happy with the "African refugee cleaner" comment either. Was specifying that the cleaner was "African" really necessary?

I guess their point was that first generation immigrant without higher education can make more money doing menial work than sw engineer. Don't know if it true in Germany or OP was just exaggerating.

> 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"[1] 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.

1. https://elitex.systems/blog/software-developers-salaries-us-...

> You, as a software developer in Ukraine are unlikely to be "poor"[1] yet OP makes an attempt at enforcing that stereotype. By factoring in the cost of living, you are quite "rich".

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."

EU engineers need to vote with their feet and simply go to SV for things to change.

H1-B are not that easy to get, but it might get better after the required minimum salaries were raised.

Heard mixed things about intra-company transfers from Europe to the US.

Otherwise it's rather difficult to get to SV.

Hey there’s also Canada! We don’t have San Francisco salaries but Toronto tech blows away the EU. With a job offer, you can get a visa in a few weeks.

No. Let say 120k CAD, that's 80k eur. Getting 80k euro in Germany is as hard (or as easy if you wish) as 120k in Canada.

A raw currency conversion isn't meaningful. It doesn't account for cost of living.

CoL is often mentioned, but what's not is the saving rate.

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.

Sure, and say Munich ~ Toronto in that regard https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?cou...

So why move to Canada?

> 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.

Not that easy! TN visa is kind of automatic if one have engineering degree from Canada or related job offer. Even for 'software developer' it can be tricky. Also Canadian citizenship after 3 years is in reality 3 years + 1-2 years of the wait time. Source https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/se...

> Even for 'software developer' it can be tricky.

That's not been my experience when hiring. Serious candidates from serious schools don't seem to have any issues getting it.

Wouldn’t low engineer salaries encourage more startups in Germany? Relatively cheaper labor pool if the talent is good enough for Silicon Valley companies.

Funding is rather limited

Maybe it's time for EU countries to negotiate a better deal than H1.

Or just get an O-1.

FAANG salaries in Germany are higher. I recently turned down a 75k offer from a German e-commerce company for a competing offer (FAANG, 88k + RSUs) that paid more. This was for an Applied Scientist role, but the software engineering payscale at both these companies are similar, according to friends who work there. This was not a senior position either - I was a masters student while I was interviewing for these roles

>46000 Euro per month in

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.

* per year (was a typo)

here is the source (in German):


LOL. Is that the Ukraine that has an active war zone, multiple provinces annexed and mostly abandoned by Russia, and a comedian who played a president on TV... actually serving as president? The Ukraine that's mostly used as a punching bag in disputes between other countries?

If someone would rather live in the third most corrupt country in the world than in Germany, well, they can have it.

After tax income for software engineer in Ukraine and Germany is about the same and Ukraine is much cheaper place to live. Most of the country is pretty nice and corruption will most likely play in your favor (small bribe for speeding) if it affects you at all.

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.

Speaking from family experience, here's what actually happens: someone driving an expensive car drunk hits you. Then they pay a small bribe and get away with impunity.

In Germany you don't even need money to only get probation for such a deadly crash incident:


To make sure we're on the same page, the grandparent is describing this as a positive part of living in Ukraine.

It's not a war, but a frozen conflict. Even Wikipedia says that:


I'm not sure I understand the point of this hair-splitting. There is a front line with land mines, ongoing armed conflict, and recent soldier casualties.

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."

Ukrainian army only had 75 casualties in 2020... and this is on a very small area near the Russian border. The rest of the country is absolutely fine.

This is a continuing misrepresentation of a grim reality. The entirety of the US armed forces, in all of its "ongoing contingency operations" (euphemism for combat) around the entire world, has lost less than 75 people over the period of the last several years. "We've only had 75 people die in active combat on domestic soil last year!" is not a great sales pitch for Ukrainian quality of life.

"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.

Not really sure the point that you're trying to make here. You seem to be implying that anyone living anywhere in Ukraine (such as Kyiv) is under constant threat of getting bombed by Russia, while jjjei3 is saying that Ukraine is relatively safe.

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?

I think what you're doing is called "sea-lioning" online. I mentioned numerous ways in which living in Ukraine misses basic first-world standards. Then you come along and say, no-no-no, you need to demonstrate this other statistic that I find more interesting.

100 people were murdered in Chicago in July (just one month) last year so does it mean US as a whole is dangerous? No, my suburban town had zero murders for last 4 years, there was one homicide in 2016 (domestic dispute) and then no murders for 10 years before that. On the other hand it’s unclear which one is safer - South Chicago or Kabul.

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.

Oh for goodness sake... there were government snipers shooting dozens of people in broad daylight in Kyiv just 6 years ago.

My theory for why "AR/VR" is so much higher is that those engineers are mostly just working for Facebook on Oculus, and FB has high pay.

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.

Apple also use AR/VR engineer and almost no one else uses that phrase exactly. For example Unity uses "XR engineer" and VR game studios tend to use standard game industry titles (software engineer, graphics engineer, gameplay engineer, programmer, etc.)

Or not realizing that cost of living if you don't have roommates / tax burden is also absolutely insane in SV.

Isn't it because that's probably one of the hardest, if not the hardest technical role right now? It's novel, and incorporates potentially every other kind of area in CS. At the moment engineers in games are the best suited to jump over, but I can see the field expanding like the game industry and AR/VR needing more specialized roles like it is right now in web. Of course it is also what the tech companies are betting on, so makes sense they try to fund it more.

I wonder how common it was for companies to not give out any raises due to economic changes from the pandemic. It depends I suppose on what the business is and what the impact is.

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.

Several companies I know seemed to lie and use Covid as a convenient excuse to not give out raises (or give shitty bonuses, etc) to save money in the short term. Meanwhile hiring and earnings don't match up to those actions.

That's a fairly cynical take. You may be right, at least in some cases, but I also think it's reasonable for any executive to look at the unprecedented situation with a high degree of uncertainty and reign in spending on all possible fronts. In hindsight perhaps cutting back salaries/bonuses wasn't warranted, but that doesn't mean it was all planned as a scheme to boost profits.

I'm cynical because apparently reigning in spending can be done instantly, but handing out bonuses, raises or equity seems to be a very long and difficult process involving a lot of some-day-soons and any-day-nows and then perhaps-next-years.

Indeed, it's easy for the execs raking in top salaries to say "everyone cant get raises now", yet when the profits roll in they don't reverse course and now your salary is deflated by one or more annual cycles of non-adjustment. This is a permanent deflation of your salary vs pre-COVID expectations at this same company too.

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

> I would consider myself the most important member of my team but would guess I am making a median salary on it

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.

Yes .. watch what they DO, over a zoomed out timescale.

Anything else is a decoy. Words != actions.

Eh, executives seem pretty receptive to the idea of not cutting their own pay during uncertainty or a downturn[0].

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.

[0] https://on.ft.com/3rfL1n4 (paywalled, but link bypasses)

Depends entirely on the company. I switched jobs during the pandemic, the new company has constantly been hiring, I got a huge salary/benefits boost, and I got an end of year raise and bonuses. As I was heading out from the previous job, they sent out an email saying that hiring was frozen, salaries would be frozen (no raises for anybody), and retirement contribution matches would halt. I've had some friends furloughed and some also get new jobs. Probably comes down to how the employer was affected by changes due to the pandemic

(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)

Same here. My employer is fortunate to be doing well. I've heard we are seeing some really good applicants. But they want to compete with top tech companies. So initial offers are going up, they are still giving out raises, and benefits have improved.

This exact same thing happened to me.

Just get a stock comp.

If they don't raise your base rate (and get stingy with employees to get better profits), your stock will appreciate.

Bonuses at the tech company where I work were only funded at 57% even though the financial press has been in love with the stock lately. The contrast with the recent stock performance made the shit bonus feel like a real slap in the face.

> so it's not clear what the "things" were.

"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.

I cannot believe how high tech salaries are right now in my city (Seattle) versus even three years ago the last time I had a "real" job.

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...

It's incredible to me that most of the surplus wealth generated by all of humanity's innovation in the 21st century has basically accumulated to property owners in the Bay Area and Seattle. This is only a slight exaggeration.

Also incredible that it could have been predicted over 200 years ago [0]. The law of rent, one of the most firmly established in economics, is that all the bounty of our efforts will accumulate to the holders of fixed assets, namely land and human talent.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_rent.

You've misinterpreted that greatly.

It's certainly possible, could you elaborate? To clear, I haven't read that wikipedia article recently, or maybe ever. I'm going off of what my understanding is of Ricardian rent from wherever I learned it-- I don't remember maybe an economics class, maybe a blog.

Ricardo is never referring to land in the use of housing, he's referring to land in the use of production.

EDIT to expand given downvotes on prior post: You claim:

> ...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.

A house in a major tech hub is more valuable than one in the sticks because tech workers can command higher wages there than elsewhere.

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.

Quality of life is a form of production.

Even allowing that, it still doesn't come close to Ricardo's Law of Rent implying that

> all the bounty of our efforts will accumulate to the holders of fixed assets, namely land and human talent.

It’s misleading, too. Most of the surplus wealth has accrued to people who were already wealthy. They are property owners in these areas, perhaps, but that’s incidental.

“Most of the surplus wealth” seems like a massive exaggeration. I don’t see too many FAANG employees spending “most” of their wealth on real estate.

FAANG employees don't spend most of their wealth on real estate but all the non tech employees do because rent is a significant portion of their income.

Wall St?

> I cannot believe how high tech salaries are right now in my city (Seattle)

they had better be, to keep up with cost of living, have you priced real estate in seattle recently?

You've reversed cause and effect.

well, yes, though at some point it begins to resemble a reinforcement feedback loop

One cause is that these companies earn lots of money and have great business models. Another cause is that specific land itself is highly desirable for those with lots of money, for variety of reasons (weather/geography/location/culture/etc). Everything else is an effect.

This is so misleading. In silicon valley total compensation is touching 400k+/year on an average for experienced professionals. They should've at least consulted something like levels.fyi before publishing and looking dumb.

Bay area comp is massively bimodal. FAANG tier folks are certainly making that much, but they are a tiny fraction of the market. Most senior devs at smaller companies and startups are making under $200k.

Companies in the tier of Stripe, Lyft, Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Robinhood, etc. pay that much at senior levels. Often better than FAANG.

You're confining your thinking to well-known companies you can name. For every company you can name, there are 20 you've never heard of and they sure as hell aren't paying average developers $200k.

I am refuting the blatantly false claim that only FAANG compensate like this.

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.

The quote was "FAANG tier", which I think encompasses "the tech companies that pay outrageously above the norm for engineers".

AFAIK, the difference between the two tiers comes down to public companies that pay equity with real stock vs those who are not public and cannot offer comp in the form of liquid equity.

Several of those companies are not public. They are indeed offering paper money, but if you trust valuations during fundraising rounds (and given how late stage Stripe, Robinhood are) it's a pretty safe bet.

Aren't more volatile valuations also better for the value seeking employees? Let's say in 1 year there's a 50% chance of the valuation going up 3x, and a 50% chance of it going down to 0.

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.

Yes, from people I know, the asymmetric risk is what draws them to working for startups. Go to one, see if it 10xs quickly, otherwise go to another one.

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.

well, there's a spectrum there. There are the late stage unicorns offering paper money that is close to becoming real money, there are the pie-in-the-sky startups whose paper money may or may not be worth a damn and there are the companies that have no equity comp structure at all for whatever reason.

People at these companies are super-elite tier. It doesn't even remotely represent the experience of most working developers.

Curious what SRE/TPM/security roles are making. I have turned down two different security job offers from FAANG companies because the comp was even or a net loss over my current role at midwest orgs each time, and that was before factoring in CoL.

The average is probably lower than most people think, while the 80th and 90th percentiles is probably much greater.

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:


Do you have a source that says the average experienced engineer in Silicon Valley makes $400k/year?

That number is too high. If you restrict to the FAANG companies, though, it is only a small overestimate. See https://www.levels.fyi/ and select Google. There an L5 represents an "experienced" engineer with at least 4-5 years of experience, and total comp is $350k. Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft are similar.

Yeah $400K is high L5. Not uncommon, but slightly above average. It's possible that if you average all engineers you'd get something close to $400K, but L3 and L4 salaries would bring that value down. In surveys L5 makes up the majority of the engineering workforce in these companies, and L3\L4 have a bigger representation than L6+, so it's unlikely that the average TC is $400K.

Probably also worth highlighting that L5 at google is a much wider range than other companies. For example, at Uber, there's two separate promotion tiers (5A and 5B, with the latter being far less common than the former) that more or less overlap w/ Google's L5 range, while at Microsoft, google's L5 range would overlap with a good portion of 3 separate tiers (senior SDE to principal SDE)[0]

[0] https://www.levels.fyi/?compare=Uber,Google,Microsoft&track=...

> If you restrict to the FAANG companies,

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.

Yea, whenever you read these insane compensations, people forget to point out that we're talking about a small outlier of senior engineers at a small outlier of companies, in a handful of cities in the USA. This bimodal distribution of a (relatively) few insane comps bring the average way above the median.

Yeah, my point is that's only true for FAANGs. Not the average engineer.

This is crazy, that is only senior managers with a lot of responsibility. Nobody is paying engineer roles that do mostly code contribution that much.

If you read it as base only, not TC it seems accurate.

This Dice stuff is hard to believe. I have literally not made that much in base comp since 2014 (no matter what my visa application says). It's like way low.

They intentionally leave out equity pay too. That way you manager can say you're making "industry standard" competitive pay at 1/2 of what others are actually making.

Yeah I wish they had mentioned what those are supposed to be exactly. Is it average? Median? Entry-level? Senior?

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? ;)

Perhaps there is a bimodal distribution? Eg large public companies or older well funded startups in Silicon Valley can afford to pay more than the (many?) other companies

Technology done well is more valuable than ever. Companies not paying up for their developers are going down the tubes.

One data point. My salary was basically stagnant 2005-2015 then started going up. Last couple years increased quite a bit.

Seems to be in line with the general stock market trend for tech sector.

Your wages going up after 2015 may have had something to do with tech companies losing a wage suppression suit[1].


I wish it were clearer how to apply these surveys to remote jobs.

Having salaries broken out by major city don't seem to anticipate remote workers.

IMO, it's not useful to look solely at salaries. My salary and my compensation are radically different numbers. My salary is approximately $200k/year, but my compensation is closer to $650k this year. Most of the engineers I know view their salary as only part of the picture.

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.

Also people forget you cannot compare equity compensation just based on quoted value between companies. Even public companies have different growth trajectories.

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.

Is the rest RSUs? Only a select few that work for big publicly traded companies get to benefit from those...

RSUs and bonuses, but yes, for the past decade for me about half of my compensation has been stock grants.

Working for small and privately held companies implies a major opportunity cost

I worked for a small private company for a number of years immediately post dot-bomb (not as a developer). It was a great job in many ways but not with respect to comp. It did lead to my current position which has been good. Everything has to be viewed in the context of career/life and alternative possibilities.

Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple all have more than 100k employees, this is close to the full SF population, so doesn't look like "select few" to me.

These employees are not all software engineers getting paid out the yinyang with RSUs...

Even if we can get over the pro-employer stigma of not discussing compensation openly, we still have to deal with ego and the fact that people earning in the top 20% are going to be much more vocal than people in the bottom 20%. For example, see this entire thread.

i never worked at a big tech so hope someone can help me on this.

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

Usually you get a 4 year grant that vests monthly or weekly or whatever over the four years. You get one of those every year, so after 4 years you have 4 stacked vesting bonuses, when the oldest runs out, the new one you got that year will take its place.

In most companies I have seen, you are given "refreshers" at a yearly cadence. So for example if you have an initial stock grant of $100K, vesting over 4 years (so $25k per year if split equally). Then at year 1 you might get another $80k, vesting over 4 years, then the next year $120k, etc.

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).

You might get refreshes. Though if you join a company when the stock was $10 and you get 100 shares a year and then after for 3 years it's trading at $30, your refresh might only be 33 shares at $30.

Meanwhile in New Zealand, I'm a good developer with a few years experience, doing well for my age locally...at USD$69,000.

How can someone like me get a piece of US salaries without moving to the USA?

Contract. You want the same salary and security in NZ as a job in the US? Take control roles with daily rates above $1K.

Get a remote job in the US.

The standard conversation that happens around such posts:

"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"

You're quite right. I wish we had a more reliable way to downweight such generic responses, which reliably recur on every story related to an ongoing theme. HN threads are much better when they have interesting diffs.




Of course I need to downweight this subthread too, because metageneric is a subset of generic, plus meta is its own issue.

at the risk of wallowing in the meta, sometimes i fantasize about having a button that zaps away all the tropey, partisan, bigoted, and ideological comments (even ones i might nod along with) in one fell swoop, leaving just the ~10 genuinely interesting comments (which seems to be about the average on any given story, regardless of # of comments). can we get a button like that? #downvotingfatigue (i realize this is practically impossible)

Makes sense. My goal with the comment was to shortcut the stuff that's already been discussed.

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.

I just mean that as a topic becomes larger and more general, there are fewer new things to say about it.

One thing I've noticed is that the people making these counter-arguments seem to completely ignore (or don't know about) the ridiculous amounts of equity that $big_tech_co's are handing out.

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.

This is mostly an argument for people who have either gotten a lot of equity at large public tech companies--at least some of them--and/or just had a lot of money in equities, including large public tech companies, over the past 10 years or so.

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.

Equity is great when the stock market is booming, but when it decides to drop off a cliff every decade or so for whatever reason I'd prefer if my actual salary didn't go with it

The thing is, it's very hard to get rich without some sort of equity. Maybe it's not equity in public companies, but almost all wealthy people get to that point by owning something. Whether that's stock options in a startup or a general partnership in a hedge fund or a medical practice or a piece of property that gets developed.

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.

Linus Torvalds makes a lot less than Tom Brady. He basically makes as much as the executive director at the Linux Foundation, something over $600K, but nothing extraordinary by SV standards. And there's no equity associated with the LF.

I once saw him walking the floor at Comdex (not the main Las Vegas one but in Chicago). Watchig him walking around, shaking hands, and catching up with his old friends at Red Hat and the like, I couldn't help but feel an intangible sense that the guy was happy. Someone who had created something significant out of nothing (This was before Linux really took off in the 90s). I was starstruck.

> 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.


Sure, but there are also strategies to buffer yourself from that. Barring the first year where you have to wait/make it up to the 12-month mark to get the full 25% of your equity paid out, 99% of companies (i.e. almost everyone except for Amazon IME) will vest 1/4 of your annual 25% stock comp quarterly - I've even seen 1/12th-monthly in an offer.

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.

By my understanding RSUs vest monthly at Google and Facebook with no cliff, making them a slightly more volatile cash equivalent. Many diversify immediately by auto-selling the bulk of their stock grants and buying tracker funds.

Nobody gets rich without owning equity in a business.

> 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

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.

My idea has always been that you can take a topic like this, and generate 90% of the discussion using machine learning. If I ever have some time, I will give it a shot, or hopefully someone else does it.

Then write a forum software that just fills in the appropriate discussion for each article, and save us all a lot of trouble :)

when the deepest financial discussion from the general population is about cost of living, I rest assured that I have no competition

On balance, anyone remote before the pandemic and traveling the world has probably had a better life than someone with the same skills making double the salary in SV. Just the reduction in poop on sidewalks speaks for itself.

Apparently this comment triggered someone lol.

Maybe this is falling into the trap that OP wanted to avoid but I think you're right. Sure, if I moved to the Bay Area my income would go up by 10-15%. But about half of that would go straight to taxes, and IMO the remainder wouldn't be enough to set me up with a comparable quality of life.

Scene_Cast2 should add this as a fourth element to their list.

It will all make it to n-gate.com. Don't worry.

San Francisco isn't in Silicon Valley. They're just pretending.

interesting how different this is from the salaries at large companies on levels.fyi. annoyingly, the dice URL is broken currently, so I can't verify the underlying dataset.

yeah huge information asymmetry as people are used to looking up "salary" versus "total compensation"

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

Of course, that sort of RSU appreciation can go away overnight. (To be clear, RSUs still have significant value even if they don't appreciate. But a lot of the really big $$ people have been making over the past 5 years or so are because of stock gains.)

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.

Those stock gains absolutely are negotiating leverage as much as the same person's prior or competing salaries would be, so I don't think it is productive to draw a distinction. Open to discussion.

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

Sure, absolutely relevant as a backward looking measure to offer a potential new employer a baseline--to the degree you want to share it. Certainly, when I last got a new job, I handwaved a bit around "counting bonuses etc." when giving a salary. (Was a private company so no stock.)

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.

> 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.

Right. I was specifically responding to the parent around stock-based comp.But, yeah, if your comp is 75% variable there's a real possibility it could be cut in half if things go south. Of course, you could also be laid off but that's a somewhat higher bar.

1/3rd I can agree with, but 1/10th?? That has to be a senior L7/L8 salary

For those outside Silicon Valley why might think, "you could live like a king with that kind of money", here is a potential home you are looking at ($2M, 1200 sqft, 7 rated schools): https://www.redfin.com/CA/Palo-Alto/3785-Park-Blvd-94306/hom...

Or you can live in this house, which is >2k sq ft, on 0.53 acres, in a 10 rated school district and only 16 miles from SF


Why do you think it is relatively so much cheaper? There has to be some reasonable explanation? Maybe it is because it is not Silicon Valley? Maybe commute to Mountain View or Sunnyvale takes 4hrs off your life each day?

You can easily access SF jobs, but South Bay jobs are harder to get to. But it is no different than living in Oakland or Berkeley when it comes to commute

Somewhat visible in some of the outdoor photos: a railroad right-of-way is located directly behind this house, with at least two trains per hour from early morning until midnight.

And for those that aren't familiar with Caltrain, that train blasts its horn two or three times before each stop and the horn is so loud that you can hear it from a mile away. Living as close to the train as that house is would be miserable.

I would be more worried about thick layer of diesel dust on all surfaces (including your lungs) but hey they are going electric in next 20 years for sure

That's OK, Atherton residents are against Caltrain electrification. We must maintain the quaint character of our multi-billionaire enclave!

I could easily afford a home in the bay area if I was more tolerant to noise. I live 1.5 miles away from the train and I can hear it quite clearly (the horns, as well as the track noise), but it's distant.

Conveniently located for commuters!

The train will be moving. Good exercise.

what i always wonder about this massive income inequality in silicon valley is, where are the non high paying people living?

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?!

With roommates, in rent controlled apartments, in subsidized housing, in bad neighborhoods most people don't frequent. And some in homes they bought before housing prices skyrocketed to absorb all of those high tech salaries.

Or just far away with long, miserable commutes.

They live with their families.

Palo Alto is a lot more expensive than most of the Bay Area, so this is a somewhat cherry-picked result.

Yeah I started the interview process with Apple and they mentioned that we would have to relocate to the bay. Wife and I looked up house prices and we were like NOPE.

Serious question. As someone who has lived in his car voluntarily for 6 months, what's the feasibility of just buying an Airstream and towing it behind a used Ford F250? And parking somewhere closer to work?

You do realize it’s the price of a lot? That house is a teardown

Yeah but the houses nearby are not that much better, look at this: https://www.redfin.com/CA/Palo-Alto/3561-Park-Blvd-94306/hom...

$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.

I mean the fact that rank and file eng can’t afford PA house is not puzzling to me. More surprising is why Boulder or Vancouver have similar range of prices

I'm under impression everything is a teardown yet people live in those. Same in Vancouver and Toronto.

Pretty much every single family property in Silicon Valley is waiting to get torn down and replaced with a 3-4 family property or more.

These numbers are ridiculously low. Here is what a typical FAANG setup pays you in the bay area (Source: I have worked in a couple of them):

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?

The competition for these roles is extremely intense. Even doing well isn't sufficient in pandemic times. The baseline of prepping every night + weekend for 3+ months still isn't enough to guarantee you'll get in. Get unlucky and join an org like Ads at FB and you're gonna be miserable AF. Add in the general huge amount of luck that is involved with what interviewer you get, the hiring environment going on, and it's possible you'll spend years in purgatory waiting to get into FAANG.

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.

What's so miserable about working on Ads at FB?

Ads org is big but the general take I get is - the WLB is bad and there is a lot of pressure to deliver. I'll quote blind too: "It's great. Satan himself writes your evals."

I was in ads and I would disagree with this. Ads is a great place to be if you are data driven and are in FAANG - who enjoy excellent competitive advantages.

> Even doing well isn't sufficient in pandemic times.

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.

Arguably if you need to prep that much it might not be a good fit. YMMV.

> Arguably if you need to prep that much it might not be a good fit. YMMV.

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.

Prepping for 3+ months is definitely not the baseline. I'd really need some convincing that you're getting any real incremental benefit past a week of interview prep. There's not that much ground to really cover and at some point you're just solving different versions of the same problems over and over again.

It just depends on how close you are to college education and how much you've learned interviewing over time.

A majority of the time is spent on the "LeetCode grind." You can evaluate your own progress while you solve practice problems by checking time and checking how many solutions are correct on the first submit. Most likely 1 week would barely be enough to establish your baseline performance per category (DP, trie, etc.).

Worth keeping in mind lots of engineers in the bay area are working at startups for lower salaries (closer to median in this chart), bodyshops, and large companies that are not known for as good pay.

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.

IC6 is rare (15%ish) even among people working there, even ignoring people at less flush companies. IC7 is even more rare.

And those years of experience are for the fastest ladder climbing superstars. Multiply by 1.5x for the average.

No, they are expensive. Consider average software eng pay for Duolingo (Pittsburgh) is ~180k/yr total comp, but houses there go for like $120k. IC7 is like top 5-10%. Also, CA income taxes are high.

IC7 is top 2-5%

I'd need to study math just to get a managerial job that doesn't use any of these math and academic skills. I'd need to answer questions like, how many marbles would it take to reach the moon. I'd be surrounded by aspie workaholics who rank low in creativity, high in analytical skills and are fully deficient in sense of humor. Literal-minded math nerds fronted by a smattering of HR people who portray the company as enlightened and woke. And all that, I can live in a high-tax, car-oriented, earthquake and drought and mudslide and forest fire-prone state that decriminalized shoplifting and prevents rezoning to solve its housing issues.

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.

Ok, I get it. You need to be contrarian and repeat some California is bad talking points. But let’s be honest, life in California is way better than NYC. Nobody sipping Russian river pinot while overlooking Lake Tahoe has said “I wish I was in NYC”

I was harsh but replying to the, we make so much more money here, original post. My point is there's more than money for consideration, a very pedestrian observation.

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.

L7 is rare though, and most of them have more than 12 YOE (or maybe they have 12 YOE at the company). Levels.fyi seems to only have 38 data points for FB for example (https://www.levels.fyi/company/Facebook/salaries/Software-En...) and 47 for Google (https://www.levels.fyi/company/Google/salaries/Software-Engi...) vs. 490 and 457 L5 entries. It's probably safe to say if you get to L7 you're in the top 5% of engineers at the company and L8 is probably top 1%. So sure, $2M house isn't too expensive if you're both a good engineer and great at navigating company politics and selling\presenting yourself in a way that both gives you high value (to leadership) projects and peer recognition, but most employees won't get there. Going the EM route is generally considered to be an easier way to get to L7 comp.

What does EM stand for? Something with management, I presume?

Engineering Manager

Where are all the people with 15-20y experience?

Depends, is it winter or summer?

> Now those $2M houses don't sound too expensive right?

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.

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