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Ask HN: 2x50K Jobs vs. 1x100K
11 points by sdevonoes 10 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 35 comments
It's crazy, but this seems to be accurate from my limited experience:

1. Senior backend developer (~10 years of experience) trying to find a 100K Euro/year job in Western Europe: quite hard if all you want to be is a simple "individual contributor" (employee, not contractor) writing $PROGRAMMING_LANG code without having to deal with k8s, the cloud, mentoring, or on-call paging. Besides, I'm not specially bright, just average, so I cannot pass tricky tech interviews. I'm currently making 85K Euro/year (around 4600 Euro/month after taxes) which is nice, but I cannot deal with the stress my current role (tech lead?) implies: I'm supposed to be on-call, to mentor junior engineers, to "own" our products, to learn more about devops/infra topics, to bring and introduce new topics to my team, to be an example to engineers with less experience. All I want to do is to be part of a team pushing useful features for our customers: I don't want to be on-call; I like to teach and learn from others but I don't want to be a mentor; I want to write $PROGRAMMING_LANG code, I don't want to setup the infra of our services... I want the job I had in 2010! Now, that's for positions that pay ~85K euro/year. Imagine the stress for positions that pay 100K. I don't even think such positions (plain IC) exist in WE (excluding top companies ofc: I'm just the average Joe). It seems that this ~17% salary increase I'm looking for implies a 100% increase in stress. Nuts.

2. Getting a 50K euro/year job in Western Europe is easy for someone like me with ~10 years of experience. I can pass the interviews just fine (I guess I would just have to hide some previous experience of mine so that I look like a junior to the companies). 50K euro/year is around 3K/month after taxes. Not bad. Now, the stress of a 50K euro/year job is close to zero for someone with years of dev experience. Besides, you'll get ton of free time because you know exactly how to do "junior" tasks! No on-call, no mentoring, no cloud, no k8s... just coding like it's 2010!

Now, the big IF: what if I quit my current job and get 2x50K euro/year jobs? That would mean (oversimplifying taxes) around 6K euro/month after taxes (more than I would make earning 100K euro/year!). I think I could do it just fine (perhaps I would have trouble with meetings at the same time). Low stress (because I would be a senior doing junior tasks), more money. Bingo. From an ethical point of view: I would be a junior (earning junior money) producing senior-level coding. That's a big win for any company, no?

Now, coming back to reality: this is probably never going to happen.

Edit: I'm assuming 100% remote setup.

Edit 2: this all is just a mental exercise. I'm not planning to get 2x 50K jobs; the idea just came to my mind and all I wanted is to get your opinions about it. Merci!






- you're assuming that you can do a junior job in half the time - you probably can't

- you're assuming that the schedules will magically align - they probably won't

- if either company thinks that you're working full time but you aren't, I wouldn't be comfortable with this from a purely ethical point of view


Wanted to address the first two from a friend's experience - these are absolutely not true.

They are able to work 4 hours a day remote (2 hours per job) and get good reviews. Some days happen to be a full 8 hour day, but they're rare.

Meetings for junior positions almost never conflict when the junior has less than 3 meetings a week. It sounds like it would be common, but turns out it's rare.


Here's the rub (at least in the US, Canada, Singapore, and the UK) ... if you're working "full-time" for $COMPANY (ie 40h per week (give or take), then you've contractually agreed that from 0900-1700, you're "theirs"

If you work $ELSEWHERE during the same hours, you're double-dipping, and you will be found out - either by replying to an email from the wrong address / with the wrong signature, being in a meeting for #COMPANY when you're supposed to be in a call with $ELSEWHERE

Now, if you can start one job early-ish (say at 0700-1500), and don't mind working the other one late-ish (say 1530-2330) - and they're not "competing" companies, go for it

You're not going to come out ahead on taxes in any country I'm aware of (regardless of what $COMPANY & $ELSEWHERE reports as your salary, the tax officials will be able to add them together at filing time) - $50k + $50k still plops you at $100k of pay (and, therefore, into whatever tax brackets that entails in your locale)

You may (or may not - you have to figure this out for yourself) be better off leaving Europe if jobs like the one you're looking for are too difficult to find


This is a good illustration but I'm not sure if follow your rationale. You said that from 0900-1700 you belong to $COMPANY, contractually.

But if you start working earlier or later, say 1500-2300, that would be fine? As long as you work 8h a day, I assume.

In this case you would belong to $COMPANY from 1500-2300 even though in the contract it says 0900-1700. What happens in this case?


I'm making the point that unless you can get your schedules to not overlap, you're going to have problems

It's no different than working at a FedEx warehouse from 0000-0500 and then going to drive a school bus from 0600-0900

The hours don't overlap, and the jobs aren't competing

It's at least unethical to be billing time to $COMPANY and $ELSEWHERE for the same clock hours (possibly unlawful in some (many?) jurisdictions)


I think this idea that a knowledge job has to be tied so tightly as a manufacturing job is where inputs are connected to outputs, has to change.

Probably so - but until it does ... there are going to be "core hours" when you're "required" to be available/onsite/etc

A friend of mine does this successfully in America. Cracked me up when he told me about it. We had joked about doing it years ago.

I'll suggest the same advice I gave him. Rather than working 2 full time jobs, have you considered consulting or freelancing? It's essentially what you're already talking about doing anyway. Now you're a consultant / freelancer. That pays pretty good. But it does run into limitations on your time.


> Rather than working 2 full time jobs, have you considered consulting or freelancing?

Problem here is the level of stress. In my limited experience, no one hires contractors/freelancers to do "easy" tasks. So, I would get the same level of stress plus all the disadvantages of being a freelancer/contractor.


In this market _a lot_ of companies hire contractors at high rates because it’s the only way for them to hire. Especially firms considered “lame” by developers like banks, insurance companies, utilities etc.

I work 30-35 hour low-stress weeks and make more than most managers.


anecdotal I know, but companies i've worked with in the past hire freelancers do to the jobs the employees don't want to do.

Most contracts I've had were due to skill shortages - not enough people know technology X, so they can't be bothered to join at regular FTE wages - but if you offer twice that as a contract, then people start showing up.

The relevant difference is the wage increase, the contract (instead of regular employment) is there mostly to create the illusion (to fool HR and some managers who can't deal with the fact that these programmers make more than them) that it's only a short-term emergency position fill, before the company can find suitable FTE - but in practice, the contracts are multi-year, because skill shortages for new/exotic tech just don't resolve themselves that quickly (demand tends to rise quicker than supply for a while), and also the company prefers to stay in denial and never raise the FTE wages they offer to meet the market expectations. So, the vacancies never get filled, and contractors stay for 3-5 years, making bank. Rinse and repeat a couple times, and you can retire around 40, even in socialist and low-paying Western Europe.


Employees are allowed to say no to a task and keep their job?

I am employee market, yes. You make people do the things they don't want to do, they start looking for another job and quit 2-3 months after. This has been a trend in my current company, to the degree that "developer preferences" is one of major factors when choosing tech stacks.

You can say no but you will have to be tactful. A simple refusal might get you fired but asking for training or showing how you are inefficient at certain task, may send the message without embarrassing your boss.

People are pretty damn good at finding reasons why they can't do a task or can't do it well or at least can't do it now, without it being an unacceptable direct "no, won't do that". And in plenty cases, loosing employees over something like that isn't worth it, especially for companies that already struggle with hiring enough and retaining knowledge.

Are they both mid or senior level jobs? and both on the 9-5 schedule?

> Low stress (because I would be a senior doing junior tasks), more money. Bingo. From an ethical point of view: I would be a junior (earning junior money) producing senior-level coding. That's a big win for any company, no?

Once the companies find out you can produce senior level output and junior level prices, they will take advantage of that situation quickly. So the stress would be quickly back with lower wages.


>employee, not contractor

You should reconsider this. Everything you want - and more - can be had if you go contracting and stick with the same contract/company when it rolls over every 6 months (which they often do).

As a contractor, you're external to the company, so there's no mentoring of junior devs, no on-call, no researching new tech. You're brought in to write code, and that's it.

Interviews are short and easy, with no Leetcode or other tests, and the day rate for someone with 10 years experience will easily give you above €100k a year, allowing for 5 weeks holiday.

That's in Europe, where contracting via recruiting agencies is huge. In the US it's very different, and contractors have to find end clients themselves and manage those clients.


> As a contractor, you're external to the company, so there's no mentoring of junior devs, no on-call, no researching new tech. You're brought in to write code, and that's it.

That really depends. I'm a contracting tech lead, and am expected to do all of the above, except the on-call (thankfully our app is insignificant enough to not need 24/7 support).


I know a few folks with full time dev jobs who also do consulting on the side. The consulting part is just that, clients consulting about solutions but leaving the implementation to others.

Another route that would involve less work but more responsibility is taking a leadership position at a small org. You're not obliged to work 40 hours a week but you are responsible for making sure things get done, which you can do from afar. If tech leaders can hold different leadership roles in several companies, you can do as well!

This is also a mental exercise, but something worth trying out.


I'm hearing a lot in this about senior level work and junior level work. Is there a definition of theses? I've been in the industry 9 years and have no idea what the difference is.

Are you willing to work 80 hours a week?

Or is the assumption that since you are extremely efficient, you can squeeze in all the work demands of two fulltime positions into 40 hours per week?


The assumption here is that a senior engineer with ~10 years of experience doing "junior" tasks does not need 40h/week to accomplish his tasks. Probably only half of that. In practice, however, things can get a bit more complicated; what's described above is just pure theory.

Example:

- Junior task: we need a new http GET endpoint to retrieve the list of attendees for a given meeting. The input and output looks as follows... No pagination is needed. Everything should be already setup, you just need to add the code that does the retrieval. Estimated time: X story points (let's say 1 or 2 days)

vs.

- Senior task: we need to setup the new X microservice. Please, setup auth and use this template the infra team is providing (some Terraform+GitLab ci/cd templates that sometimes do not work as defined). Add monitoring, and implement one useful http endpoint so that junior engineers can just take it as an example and can add more endpoints themselves. Also, if the service goes down on a Sunday morning, guess who's going to be on-call? Not the junior engineer. Estimated time: Y story points (let's say 3 or 4 days).

Now, I would need 1h to implement the junior task (tests included!) and I would probably ace it (if not, the hell I have been doing for 10 years?). For the senior task: all I see is complication down the rabbit hole (e.g., why are we using k8s for this? The templates do not work in some scenarios, who can help me improve them? I like to spend Sunday mornings with my kids, btw.


if two 40h jobs, how do you plan to deal with overlapping meeting / conf call requests ?

Good point! As it is said above, it's all just pure theory. But, let's imagine what would happen:

If somehow a "junior" member of your team seems to produce high-quality code (for "junior" standards) that require zero help from other team members, and always on time, then I guess the team would be fine with the "junior" participating minimally in meeting calls (perhaps even with the camera off... now here I'm assuming 100% remote, something I didn't explicitly said before).


>If somehow a "junior" member of your team seems to produce high-quality code (for "junior" standards) that require zero help from other team members, and always on time, then I guess the team would be fine with the "junior" participating minimally in meeting calls (perhaps even with the camera off... now here I'm assuming 100% remote, something I didn't explicitly said before).

Not gonna happen

First, they're gonna wonder how you're "magically" doing so well - and then either want to push you out, or move you up to a "senior" role

Second, you have to participate in team calls - regardless of your relative seniority, "participating minimally" is going to get you canned


You underestimate how a sleep people are at the wheel or just busy with their own stuff, at least in smaller companies, just no time to think "Let's push this junior out, he is doing too well". Not attending meetings could still cause some questions though.

As a former freelancer, the max I could ever do was 2 concurrent part time projects. It's a mess when fires start in two places at once.

Also you're implying that being a junior means half the work. Sometimes juniors just get menial tasks that take as long as a senior to do, but don't need the same level of skill.



I don’t think I could survive the sheer amount of context switching if I had 2 jobs

Fair enough. But I think it depends on the kind of jobs: context switching among two stressful jobs (senior role)? Impossible for me. Context switching among two stress-free jobs (junior role)? I guess I could do it.

Increase your cache size bruh

Juniors get less complicated and more well known tasks, but the effort involved is still high. Like digging a hole, everyone can do it, but its still hard.

It might be time to get a different $PROGRAMMING_LANG or $PLATFORM.



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