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One thing that helped me is not to care so much about my employer's goals.

It's almost heretical. But once you embrace this mindset, it does wonders. Or at least, it has for me so far.

I think a lot of us want to be proud of the work we do, and we feel that if we slack off, then we shouldn't be proud. But it's the other way around. I think the slackers have it right.

You're probably not going to get rich from working a day job. You're replaceable, and if you left your job tomorrow then you'll soon be forgotten. This is true for the majority of software engineers.

In that context, why do so many of us take on so many unnecessary responsibilities? It's tempting to say "Well, my employer assigned them." But how often do you tell them no, or try to present a different approach that just so happens not to involve you?

I know someone who is a chronic yes person. They will almost never say no, and they're pretty stressed day to day because of it. Whenever I point out that they're taking on too much, they say that they disagree and that it's their career.

That's true, but they won't get rich from that career, so I don't understand why they care so much about it.

Just remember to say 'no' for yourself from time to time. You often don't need to take on as many responsibilities as you have.




I totally agree. Don't be "pro-active" be "re-active" - is my way of putting it.

Frankly, most orgs will not reward pro-activity, in fact you can even be punished for it, since if a problem is not yet known by stakeholders then why are you solving it.

There have been times in my career where I spotted issues from other teams on preview or staging servers and helped to fix it. Then I later got blamed (or dragged into the subject) when a similar issue occured on live which I had no association with.

It's better to just sit back and do the minimum, but do it well and professionally. Most importantly, don't make yourself too available:

> Don't respond immediately to messages and emails.

> Don't propose solutions, that you will have to own (at least partly).

> Don't answer questions outside of your responsibility space - even if you know the answer. Instead, direct people to others who should be answering those questions.


I like the sentiment of this comment, but I think it is a little too black and white. I am in science, so your mileage may vary.

I have found a little bit of pro-activity on things you like to do anyway is a good way to turn your job into the job you actually want to do rather than the one you got hired for. I started my current job doing wetlab biology, but I currently do coding and grant writing. I like wetlab, but its exciting to transition into a different area I have wanted to get into for years.

To be clear though, I am still often re-active. I generally won't push hard on things I am not enthusiastic about. It helps to have a friendly and permissive boss.


> “It helps to have a friendly and permissive boss.”

I think this is the most impactful factor in achieving pro-activity at a level you are comfortable with. The company might not reward you directly, but being able to change your own job description, find ways you can contribute better, etc. are all more motivating than financial incentives.

It’s easy to get burned out doing too much without a boss that’ll recognize your efforts and encourage you to do less from time to time though. A little bit of love and care, however superficial, goes a long way here.

I agree with doing the bare minimum at an expected quality if you are working in an inflexible system, but getting too comfortable there might leave you doing that until retirement.


> a little bit of pro-activity on things you like to do anyway is a good way to turn your job into the job you actually want to do rather than the one you got hired for

I used to like (still do) building tools that help with my job. Little command line tools or browser extensions that just make things easier. As soon as management discovered these tools (because i shared them with other devs) it became a full time responsibility for me to maintain them - I had to port them from my personal Github onto the companies.

I also now get feature requests from global teams to add updates to these tools. Now, I don't have a problem with this - I enjoy working on these tools but the issue is they are added on top of my actual work (which is a lot). In hindsight i regretted sharing these tools and adding more responsibility to myself. Mostly because I didn't get a meaningful pay rise or promotion to reflect my additional contribution or lets say expanded job description.

But again, all depends on where you work and with whom.


> Don't be "pro-active" be "re-active"

I moved from development to management a few years ago and as a manager I have to say my proactive developers are far more valuable to me. I recognise their value and I give them more interesting work and more financial rewards as a result. I also do everything I can to be sure that they're happy and not overworked because I'd hate to lose any of them.


I think because you were a developer, so you have that appreciation. I've always preferred working with PM's who were actual Developers. It just makes your life easier.


I guess the financial rewards you can give them do not matter that much.


Unless you work with interns or very junior devs [1], manager deciding whom to give what, also favoring some subset group, giving them interesting tasks and financial rewards, while keeping "boring" stuff for the rest of the team lights up quite a few red flags to be honest. You might want to reconsider what management means.

[1] - favoritism is not acceptable in this case as well.


> Don't be "pro-active" be "re-active" - is my way of putting it.

As much as I recognize this can be good advice, this comment makes me sad.

It's like "start underperforming" is the answer given to bad management problems.

Which I agree actually makes sense in a lot of companies (if pro-active efforts are not already being recognized, then it's hard to change the culture).

I also think that a lot of comments here are directed toward financial success, but many people are actually looking for meaningful ways to contribute. People for which the "re-active" approach might not be a solution.

What would be the solution for those people? How unlikely is it to actually switch to a company which recognizes employees willing to be more involved?


i think it depends on your goals. If you're ambitious and driven and willing to take on extra responsibilities - perhaps with little immediate reward then go for it. For some, it's more about finding a balance to avoid getting too jaded or burnt out.

Some of the best devs I've worked with are those who just like to work. They are also up for any problem and rarely complain even if (imo) they have too much on their plate. It really just comes down to your personality and needs at that stage of your life.

For myself, I sort of came to the conclusion that I won't encounter meaningful financial success in my day job. I would have to work another 20-30 years to accomplish (financially) what I used to expect I would have done already in my late 20s. So, it's more about trying to maintain some kind enjoyment in my work and also to protect my mental/physical health.


One thing I did learn though, is that if you spot a problem and then report it to the relevant stakeholder, along with a plan for how you think it could be resolved, that's a really easy way to work yourself up in a large organisation. You have to work the politics, not just the code.


Yes, it does depend a lot on the environment.

Many cases, the stakeholders don't have an appreciation for what you're suggesting or even the consideration to balance your workload:

"Oh, thanks for bringing the problem to my attention, let me just add that to your massive pile of work and make it a P1 like everything else - and this problem space is also now your responsibility forever because you're (in my mind) the expert on it"

- unfortunately, there are many managers that operate this way. Just clueless.

That's why i always advocate a cautious, cynical, self preserving approach but again depends on the env and your relationships.


No, that's an easy way to get fired.


Why so? Delegation is a valuable skill, especially for those seeking a position in leadership.

It does matter how it's conveyed though - it can be interpreted as "not my problem" in certain cultures where people wear too many hats.

One of my workplaces has its engineers overwhelmed with too many responsibilities, like expecting front-end engineers to be wearing the DevOps hat any time a fire comes up related to their own staging environment.

I have found it's a matter of finding comfort in being assertive (and well aware) of the best and worst skills I have to offer in a realistic sense. If I'm particularly weak at a skill and I have little time to build it or refer to deep heady documentation, I ask a colleague who is capable to join me in looking, and they often find the problem within a few minutes, resulting in far less time wasted for all.


> Don't propose solutions, that you will have to own (at least partly).

I find that if I propose anything at all ever I immediately become the responsible party for it and forced to own that no matter what it was. Which has lead to me not wanting to propose anything anymore. If I expose that we have a problem with X, I am then the one tasked with solving it no matter how much is already on my plate. So now I try not to see things that aren't going to immediately put us all out of a job.


Don't be "pro-active" be "re-active"

Balance being proactive with being responsive.

I feel you would of received a better response if you used the word Responsive not Reactive in this context and replaced "Don't" with Balance.

Being responsive to things that happen on a daily basis acknowledges that the company we are employed in is messy and stuff happens that you may need to urgently attend to. Yet it doesn't mean that you still can't achieve things that make your place of employment a better place for others.


Agreed with most of your post. Though I'd say a little proactive is still better than bare minimum, but I prefer to keep it private and work on that proactive 'things' at my own pace, no outside pressure.

Sometimes you want to work on something that you see it can be useful for you in the foreseeable future, voluntarily, without anyone asking(and you don't have to tell anyone) Said work occasionally benefit you, or even save your ass along the line sometimes.

but too much of it do you no good, that's for sure. And don't announce it to the world because it'll bring you all miserable things. :p


> Don't be "pro-active" be "re-active"

Highly reactive employees and companies end up being left in the dark and given short notice on everything... leading to more stress

A balance between pro-active and re-active is ideal.


I found the perfect balance to be very pro-active and resourceful at the beginning of a project, both to structure it in a way that suits me and make a good impression. Later, not so much. And I am not lazy, but being too active means other team members (or even the customers) get too little say.


Although this does make you sound a bit like Wally from Dilbert, but done in the right amount I think it does make sense as taking on too much is the quickest way to never getting anything 'done'.


I like the comparison :)

Well I would say that Wally is a true pragmatist, whilst Dilbert is an eternal optimist - despite the reality of his actions never meeting his expectations. Wally has learnt his lessons unlike Dilbert.

It's kind of the cliche of work smart not hard. Easier said then done but the sentiment being to elevate your status whilst simultaneously reducing your actual deliverables (or delegating them elsewhere) - isn't that ultimately the goal of career progression. Is there anyone that does less actual "work" than a CEO.


I have recently jumped ship from an employer of 3 years after adopting a similar attitude.

New Job will pay me double and as such will help me achieve my goals.

Old Company said if I stayed I could achieve a 25% increase in TC if I continued to work on "impactful projects" for 2 years or so. But those projects are the ones I hated there (otherwise a great company)

I've seen first hand when developers leave how all their prideful work becomes a burden to be distributed and shared, and while on notice myself I've seen how all my best and most impactful ideas and projects has been deprioritised. I expect some of it to be lost forever when I go. Instead of milking me for info on my most useful works (libraries, scripts, etc), they have me reassigning meaningless JIRA tickets.


>Old Company said if I stayed I could achieve a 25% increase [within 2 years]

For existing employees, this is rather high, but as you did, you should discount this. To get that boost with your current employer, you need to (i) be irreplaceable for a critical service; or (ii) show proof of external offers.

HR/Finance will sets wages at low-mid market so that the 10 other high performing/underpaid employees in your situation will stay and only you will leave. HR's fine with that bet, and people with initiative like you are the victors.


My TC increased 7-10%/yr each year I was there, so the promise is inline with expectations. Me and my partner just can't wait 2 years for 25% when I can have 2x now. Even with 2x, raising kids will be financially challenging.


Were you making a very small amount then? You said you were in college 20 years ago. Did you start your career very late or do you want an very large salary before you have kids? I made $60K right out of college (far less than 20 years ago) as a software developer at a small consultancy in one of the cheapest cities in the country.

People on here are always talking about changing jobs and getting a huge salary increase, but these numbers don't make sense unless you were tremendously underpaid for many years.


I’m not OP but my numbers are similar.

I spent most of my twenties in college and grad school. Then worked in the Midwest in my early thirties making $100k-$130k.

I moved to Silicon Valley and took a job for $150k. That was a downgrade considering the much higher cost of living, but it seemed like a good stepping stone at the time. I stayed at that company for way too long working towards a promotion that was dangled in front of me but never came, and finally switched to FANG for a 2X increase in total comp.

And many people at my age in the company make about 2X+ of what I make now. The housing prices here are so crazy that I’m ready to throw in the towel on SV, even if it means a pay cut. My QOL was highest outside of the Bay Area working for less.


In the end, those who own the apartments and the buildings will always be able to capture a significant part of the economical output of a city or country.

All that clever software that increased the company's revenue by 10%? A large part of those additional earnings ended up in some landlord's pocket.

We're all just working around the clock so that landlords can increase their rents and sip cocktails.


That’s my main issue with the way our society is structured. There’s a class difference between those who own a property and those who don’t even if they do the exactly same job. I don’t even talk about the people who have not done single contribution to the society and live of on the rent of inherited properties.

It’s like the peasants who work all day and have nothing when people from blue blood are having generations living of their backs in castles.

Having an elite is fine, it’s even better when class movement is feasible but when you have a large class of people doing nothing or rewarded drastically differently for the same input, things are not fine.


Ye. You need to own "the means of production", which in eg. New York or SV is the house you live in, since the house is the reason you can work close to the easy money.

A friend is thinking about to open a restaurant in a very attractive location, but I said, if you don't own the property the restaurant is in, the land lord will just increase rent until the any profit is barely OK anyways. There is no money in that.


> if you don't own the property the restaurant is in, the land lord will just increase rent until the any profit is barely OK anyways.

Then, contract around it with a capped escalation factor? And doesn't this apply to any <insert business> renting space?


No, I don't think it applies to all businesses. Like, restaurants are tied to a location and reputation. An office not so much. Bigger corporations like McDonalds or Starbucks probably have more bargain power and a better picture of how much a location will pay out, etc.


Are you sure most restaurants aren't renting their premises in any case? Owning a property sounds like a massive investment before you're even able to do any business.

Of course the restaurant business is probably hit-and-miss and risky, and owning the premises might give you more stability, at least if you don't have a large amount of debt. It sounds to me like your stance might be quite cynical in the sense that almost nobody would try starting a restaurant if they considered owning their premises a necessity.


You're making $300k and not financially comfortable starting a family?


Welcome to SV


If you think you can't live on 300k with a family in the bay area, then you need a serious reality check.

On a $300k income, even with one earner, you can comfortably afford a $1m+ home (of which there are plenty of single family homes available in many parts of the bay area), and while yes the COL for things like groceries/eating out is higher than in Austin TX, it's not high enough to seriously claim that it's not liveable


Show me a 3-4 bedroom house for $1M, and I’ll tell you how many hours the commute would take.

I work on the Peninsula. 90% of 3+ bedroom houses currently on the market here cost over $1.75M. Those below that, in the bottom 10%, are what you’d expect to find in the bottom 10%. There are many great places to live where I wouldn’t be forced to choose between that or spending a couple hours a day in traffic. Less money and higher quality of life.


300k is probably total comp. Meaning that base could be around 170k to 180k. Cut half of that in taxes. That's what you keep.


A little bit of everything you said. I didn't start working in software right away. I didn't complete my (non-CS) degree, and so thought a career in software was out of reach. Right at the beginning I was shot down without interview by a bunch of companies because I had no industry experience. Once I had my lucky break (massively underpaid but fun work with good people) everything changed.

Every time I've changed jobs to date I've had multiple job offers. 3 years ago I had 3 offers from 3 different companies. This time around I had the same - 3 offers, 3 companies. Just in the last 5 years my salary has increased 6 fold.

My basic philosophy with respect to compensation is to take home enough to maintain the lifestyle you want + 20% extra to save and invest.


I know of so many folks in fang and my current job who’d disagree that you can’t get rich from a day job. Most of them got there by not being cynical about their employer’s goals and working with the team to make those happen.

I guess I’ve been incredibly lucky and probably am in a nice west coast dream bubble, but my bubble vision means I definitely don’t buy that am a rare unicorn. I don’t think I would feel happy about working with peers who had a cynical outlook and we’re not invested in the shared dream.

I am replying only because this was the top comment - I really hope I reach at least one person who’s on the fence about committing to a goal bigger than personal!


Why is it required not to say "no" or suggest alternative directions in order to work with your employer to make their goals happen?

I don't think it's cynical at all. Quite the opposite: I think it's how functional teams work effectively.

Of course you can get rich from a FAANG job. But most of us don't work at FAANG. And there are plenty of slackers even at FAANG: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21961560 "Ask HN: I've been slacking off at Google for 6 years. How can I stop this?"

My thesis here is that this person wasn't doing anything wrong. They don't need to feel bad about providing value to their employer by only "patching things together from an internal codebase" or "not deeply understanding every aspect of what they do." The vast majority of the world operates this way, and I'm not sure FAANG is much of an exception.


I totally agree with push back when necessary: my own career has seen lean times and heavy times as well and thankfully I had built enough work-equity with my employers that they gracefully helped me tide over them. So that’s not what am contesting.

I was addressing the heretical point you mentioned - ignore employer’s goals.

May be I missed an exaggeration there.


It's a balance. I think most people care too much about their employer's goals. The heresy is that you can't just say "Well, I don't care about my employer's goals," or else you'll be facing some negative reviews.

The trick is to make it a mental shift. Here's a concrete example: Suppose you were coordinating with some large bank that takes a very long time to do anything. Should you feel bad that most of your day is spent waiting for them? Should you proactively go out of your way to find extra work for yourself?

I don't think so. You waiting for Big Bank is the business goal. But most people will tell their manager "I have nothing to do; please find me more work" (in so many words).

There's no reason to stress yourself out like that. Some would say you'd be doing the bare minimum. I would say that you'd be fulfilling your business obligations, and that you'd be acting professionally.

Most people won't have such direct opportunities to minimize their workload. But they often maximize their own workload for no reason, until their managers practically force them to take time off. (Or they don't, which is worse.)


Well, again from personal experience and what I have seen, going the extra mile exactly like you said (not to) is what enabled many to grow both professionally and financially. For many, that’s exactly what put them on the faster track to all that’s good.

I know only a lucky few who got there by being there at the right time and coasting out. Most had to work it. I can really feel how it is easier to focus on those lucky ones (or the ones who missed out), but I prefer to still focus on the middle ones with right values for whom it worked out.


Few months back an SVP type came for internal talk about journey and growth that led to their present position. So their matra was: looking for opportunities, mentoring, having great mentors, learning, proactive problem solving blah..blah.

Now this all seems reasonably true. Most important thing they missed to tell was joining industry/company at time of explosive growth in sector. If one is out with graduate degree in EEE field in late eighties or early nineties and joined a growing tech firm they undoubtedly ended up doing very well even if not an SVP or higher. To their credit was not to totally screw up things and not some great leadership lessons.

This story is not going to repeat for engineer joining in 2020s. There are no great green field projects coming, or customer negotiations happening for a low/mid-level engineers. Most of them will be put to churn out and integrate thousand little micro services and feel grateful that they still have job and health insurance.

Reflecting on myself who joined in mid 2000s all interesting work is now past and even after gaining lot of experience I ended being a JIRA slave and daily agile standup chump today. I can't imagine what an extra mile would be in this environment. I might, however, get fired if I tell a lot of work they are trying to efficiently should not be done at all in first place.


I don’t know your exact situation - but I precisely started working full time in 2003. I have many peers who have grown to vp levels from that time.

Without more details, any points I make / advice I give will just sound like platitudes. But I do hope you turn it around. The job market is very hot right now fwiw if you want a fresh start.


What's the Big Dream at FAANG these days? What "greater goal" is there at Facebook in 2021? Or Amazon? I mean sure, if you want to switch off your moral compass and make lots of money, go you, I guess, but it sounds almost cultish at this point to still believe that there's a higher purpose to working for these companies.


Well I was a part of SqlCE efforts which was the first storage engine tuned for flash devices during a time when flash meant you had to account for wear in software etc. I launched dynamodb - tech lead for storage engines. I’ve been a part of few infrastructure projects in snap where savings are huge (there are talks from my peers in reinvent). Those savings enable snap to make investments like our AR glasses (again I was a part of launching this). I am currently looking at other infra projects which mean big picture efforts that are mind boggling in scope (sorry for being vague about snap - most of these efforts aren’t public).

Each one of those represent very big dreams for me. Dynamo powers practically half the internet. AR experiences are the future of computing interfaces (IMO).

That’s just my experience. I also know of a million projects with equal scope getting built out even today.

It comes down to this: do you want to be judged by your best day or your worst? I personally don’t focus on the media narrative that target a sliver of badness in these places. I prefer to work within the system either advancing the goodness or trying to rethink the issues affecting folks - sometimes luckily both. I believe these companies are too big to be brushed off in a single stroke.


Probably “Discretionary Equity”, a small-to-The-Company but large-to-the-Individual extra grant of restricted stock units given (in secret) to people whose contributions literally make-or-break the business. Think “invent HHVM”.


I know a few FAANGs looking for 'greater goal' who left in the past 2 years to work for crypto or biotech companies.


I do hope that people who got rich by being Faang employees are cynical, because that would be a better option (in my eyes, at least) to being sociopaths.

And "caring about your employer's" goals in this day and age while you're working at FB/Google/Amazon (I'm on the fence about Apple, don't have much of an opinion about Netflix) actually makes you look like a sociopath in my eyes. Again, imo being a cynic beats being a sociopath.


Please see my answer above. I really hope it makes you reconsider that opinion. Most of us are just regular Joe’s looking to make a good life and have an impact.


> And "caring about your employer's" goals in this day and age while you're working at FB/Google/Amazon actually makes you look like a sociopath in my eyes

Google and Amazon are very large corporations. Someone who works in GCP or AWS is benefiting rest of us.

Another way of seeing this is acknowledging that anyone who owns S&P 500 technically owns these companies. So if you’re making money in stock market, it’s happening due to the very same people you’re condemning. In this day and age it’s very hard to draw a line for “us vs. them”.


Have you considered that perhaps you're kept middle-to-low-upper-class not because you're special, but because you'll espouse these exact beliefs?


How do you figure I am in that bucket? (Fwiw - I am not).


This is tough if you actually try to have a team-oriented mindset. I’ve worked in groups (hard to really call them a team) where everyone, everyone , stiff armed duties. The end result is that the hard stuff, or low status stuff, never got done. I get there’s a balance, but if you entered a career where you actually care about the mission, it’s hard to just see that mission suffer because people want to take the easy way out. It’s particularly problematic when they are positions of public trust.

Would you want to go to a hospital where the “it’s not my job” attitude is prevalent? Would you hire a contractor to build a house with that attitude? I tend to think the better organizations don’t think in terms of what are peoples “jobs” but what problems actually need solved


Hospitals and contractors are great examples of professional fields where job roles are well-defined and the hours worked are carefully tracked. When contractors get too busy, they tell clients their project is delayed. When ER or ICU resources are maxed out, they stop accepting patients and send them to other nearby hospitals. When clinics are fully booked, they stop making appointments.

I understand what you’re saying about a problem solving mindset, but that is not the issue in burnout. The issue is unrealistic volumes and deadlines that encroach too far into the rest of your life.

Personal boundaries exist in medicine, in fact they are essential to surviving a career in medicine. There will always be more sick, injured, and dying people. The hospital has the mission to save them all if it can. An individual doctor or nurse has to understand that they personally cannot. Or they will burn out very fast.

Overworked tech companies could benefit from some perspective from the medical field. Is someone going to die if your feature misses its ship date? Probably not. People die in ERs every day, but guess what: ER staff still work a fixed set of hours, take vacations, etc.


Contractors is overly broad but plenty of contractors work overtime and very long, stressful hours including weekends and holidays.

Hospitals on the other hand, you're just downright wrong about that. Not only in general do hospital staff work 12 hour shifts including being on-call and having to work abrupt hours, especially over the past year their hours have been absolutely ridiculous. This includes nurses and MDs.

Feel free to review some studies on this issue, it's not hard to find nor is it some kind of secret. Basic Google search pops this up within the first few results:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/200130302_The_Worki...

That study shows that in fact, nurses work their regularly scheduled shift less than 50% of the time, and 81% of their shifts involve overtime even though only 7% of it is scheduled in advance.

Here is a study looking at work hours among surgeons and physicians:

https://forums.ucdavis.edu/local_resources/docs/Freischlag-S...

It paints a very different picture from the idea that medical staff work very strict and well regulated hours. Their working hours are very chaotic and extreme.


I don’t need studies, I have a number of friends and family who are doctors and nurses.

You completely missed my point, which is that it is ridiculous for tech companies to compare themselves to a profession that faces literally life and death situations. Comparing to “the past year” (i.e. a historic global pandemic) just highlights the absurdity.

Your OKRs are not COVID patients!


My ancedote, and general data, agrees with the other person that your ancedote is wrong and healthcare is one of the most abusive environments in terms of nursing staff levels, hours, and quality of care. It's like you live in a different world.

Healthcare was easily the most toxic environment I ever worked in as well. The CTO literally was happy to quote that he treated it like a sweatshop because thats how you got the most value out of your human resources.

We literally had contractors fall asleep at the wheel and die driving between sites during marathon crunches where people got written up for leaving to eat / sleep.


My wife is a nurse at a huge national hospital. You're very wrong. 12 hours shifts turn into 13-14 hour shifts. They're so short staffed right now they're offering double pay + cash lump sums that equate it to triple/quadruple pay. But they pay lower than clinics and other hospitals in the area. They don't turn away patients.


You’re not reading what I’m writing. The fact that you know how long your wife’s shift is supposed to be is my point. The fact that nurses are being paid extra money for extra time is my point.

Engineers in Silicon Valley don’t clock in for a 12 hour shift. They are put on salary and any discussion of schedule is discouraged in favor of talking about “hustle” and “team players.”[1]

My point is not “health care workers don’t work hard.” My point is that they are set up with schedules and structure, which tech companies avoid… and then try to point at health care workers or “contractors” to justify the chaos.

Also I bet your wife is not working so hard just so the hospital can meet its financial goals. If she is like most nurses she is motivated by patient care and probably hates the administration, who are usually seen as bean counters who (if anything) impede care. Again, compare to tech companies who build myths around founders and corporate missions to obscure the purely financial stakes of their work.

[1] I know that not all companies operate this way, not all managers do this, not all engineers experience this. But there is obviously some sort of shared experience among a lot of people that the blog post at the top of the main thread is tapping into.


My wife's schedule is 12 hours: 7 to 7. Except nine out of ten times she's there until 8 or 9. It's "scheduled" but much closer to BAT times then sun revolution times. Any talk of schedule is discouraged and nurses are fired very quickly if they don't become "team players". Engineers in the valley have a lot more leeway because hiring is a lot harder. I can actively push back against my managers. My wife would be fired on the spot.

You're making numerous points and your later ones are good ones. But the working conditions for front line workers, including but not limited to their scheduling, hours, pay, etc, are all terrible.


>tech companies to compare themselves to a profession that faces literally life and death situations

I think you have a narrowly defined scope of “tech”. What about the software that controls the Da Vinci robot in the operating room? Do you want someone to say “eh, code quality checks aren’t my job?” Or the person writing flight software for aircraft? Or the safety critical software for a power plant?

The point being, yes, perspective is important but it’s a difference of degree not of kind.


The point being you aren't changing the code of a robot while it's being used.

There’s a time delay that separates these things. That completely changes your approach.


Fair enough on the Da Vinci robot because it's a turn-key product. But I can tell you that people change production code on the fly in safety-critical applications (particularly in the industrial controls space) much more often than many people would be comfortable with.

A better healthcare example may have been, would you be comfortable with people changing the building automation software that controls operating room air exchange rates or oxygen delivery systems?

But again, this isn’t really about software devs so it should extend beyond just SWE roles. It’s about positional duties, regardless if you write code or deliver meds to patients.

All of these systems run into schedule and cost pressures that often causes people to feel overburdened. I don't actually think they are fundamentally different.


There might be difference between healthcare systems in different parts of world.


> Not only in general do hospital staff work 12 hour shifts including being on-call and having to work abrupt hours

Not in EU countries that do not allow the medical profession to opt out of the Working Time Directive.

See"Are the opt-outs related to long hours?" in https://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2014_2019/documents/...


Having personally worked in both healthcare and construction (sometimes even healthcare construction), I disagree.

Roles are not nearly as defined as you suggest. Take construction: there will always be conflicts between sub-domains. If there’s a clash between disciplines there’s nothing more frustrating than two sub-contractors who point to each other as the one who must “own” the problem to fix it. Same thing in healthcare. A surgeon who won’t do a task because they believe it’s beneath them is not benefiting the patient.

I don’t think most missions are capable of having clearly defined roles like you suggest. There will always be jobs that fall in the gray area and that’s why almost every job I’ve had included a “and other duties as assigned.”

I agree that perspective is important, but that’s talking about prioritization not shirking duties. I also understand burn out is a real risk, but I don’t think the right mitigation is taking a "that's not my job" perspective; I'd much rather see someone work with their supervisor to say, "here's where that falls in my current priorities". "It's not my job" tends to results in un-productive finger pointing or venting as opposed to actually aligning one's work with what's important to the shared mission.

I want to work with problem solvers not people who identify with strictly defined roles.


I don’t want overworked medical professionals. I want the hospitals to hire more people to work healthy 8 hour shifts.

There is a viable different approach, but the employers do not like it. Let’s stop pretending.


Ultimately, it's payers -- taxpayers and insurance payers -- that aren't down the the "hire more people" solution. Another stakeholder group that's not down with it? Doctors. The AMA, who doctors control corporately, don't certify enough medical schools to train sufficient doctors to make the reality you want possible.


Does the AMA certify the colleges of nurses? No. And yet here we are:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/feb/12/nurses-hospi...


I didn't say doctors were responsible for all understaffed roles in the country. But they are partly responsible for understaffed physician roles. :) The payer aspect I mentioned is relevant for the nurses.


In America we pay on average ~$3000 per day of stay in the hospital. How much extra do we have to pay to have enough nurses so that we don't work them to death?

Why British hospitals have a fraction of that cost (1/10th)? Oh yes, it is because they decided that it is not a moneymaking business.

Overworked employees should not blame themselves for not being able to keep up with unreasonable hours. They should blame the real responsible for their misery. Their employer.


It feels good to have a villain to blame, but in a complicated problem, there are often complicated reasons.

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/08061...

Hospital profits are part of the costs, but doctors and nurses here are also paid more than elsewhere. Doctors in the US are paid multiple times as much as doctors in the UK, and supply restriction is a big part of why that is possible.

There are also administrative costs, drug costs, and insurance overheads to deal with.


It's not that complicated. When we setup competition for infrastructure, we needlessly duplicate management, marketing, accounting, and everything else that does not directly result in the service being provided. The US is doubly idiotic by creating huge financial barriers for anyone who wants to enter healthcare. We make the problem even worse with a system that encourages people to delay treatment for problems that get more expensive to treat over time. The less money you have the more you delay, so the entire system eventually ends up overpaying for a worse outcome.

This doesn't factor in all the time spent dealing with inscrutable billing practices for fully insured people having routine medical procedures, or the tens of thousands who are bankrupted every year by the same practices. We recently took our daughter to the ER, which is supposed to be a $400 copay. We now have three separate bills from that visit totaling $1100, and I have no idea how many hours it will take to sort out. The same billing department sent us a $380 invoice six months after her birth because (in their description) they forgot she was there.


>It's not that complicated

Just out of curiosity, what’s your proposed solution?

There's been decades of very smart people working on this problem and its still a problem largely because of its complexity. If there was a simple solution, I have a feeling it would have been implemented already.

The irony of your post that starts with "its not that complicated" ends with an anecdote about just how complicated the system is.


It was an anecdote about how complicated the US system is. Other countries figured out decades ago that adding competition to healthcare does not bring down the price or lead to better life expectancy.

It is not complicated.

https://data.oecd.org/healthres/health-spending.htm

https://data.oecd.org/healthstat/life-expectancy-at-birth.ht...


But you’re missing a crucial point: The US is not starting from a blank slate.

President Obama acknowledged this much when he proposed the Affordable Care Act. He said that he’d prefer a single payer system like other countries use, but that it’s not feasible in the US because we can’t just completely uproot the current system without a ton of unintended consequences.

“Just do it like other countries” isn’t a real plan.

So given the current state of the healthcare system, how do you propose it gets modified to mirror those other countries? Do you have a good handle on how those proposed steps (like drastic reductions in R&D spending) will affect the overall system?

When people naively think there are simple solutions to extremely complex systems, it reminds me of the quote “For every problem there is a solution that is simple, straightforward, and wrong.”


Obama has also been endorsing Medicare For All since 2018. From an article about that subject:

"The facts are undeniable. Citizens of developed countries with variations of single-payer systems — Britain, Germany, France, etc. — pay roughly half what Americans pay for health coverage and have better results to show for it (longer life spans, lower infant mortality).

They accomplish this not through some exotic, foreign magic but by exploiting the economic benefits of large insurance pools that represent the entire population. This allows comprehensive coverage to be offered at affordable rates because everyone shares in the risks and rewards of the system.

Let’s be real clear: This isn’t socialism. This isn’t communism. It’s simple risk management — the same economic principle that underlies all forms of insurance."[1]

The bottom line is that nearly a third of America (over 100 million people) are already on Medicare or Medicaid. That is enough data to forecast any outcome there is. Billing, coding, everything is already at a federal standard. Hospitals, doctors, and clinics love Medicare/Medicaid because they know what they are going to be paid and they are paid. Anyone who claims that it can't work here is either unaware of these facts, or purposefully pretending they don't exist.

[1] https://www.latimes.com/business/lazarus/la-fi-lazarus-obama...


I think you are misunderstanding what I'm saying.

I'm not arguing whether single payer is a good idea. I'm not arguing that it's tantamount to communism. I'm not arguing that there are many politicians (Obama, included) who are in favor of it. I'm arguing about the feasibility of it in light of naive statements.

It's easy for a politician to endorse a policy, particularly a populist one like Medicare for All. It's entirely different to craft a policy, within the current system, that pragmatically implements it.

My claim is that Obama endorsed the idea because he both thought it was good policy and populist idea that worked in the favor of his politics. But that's entirely different from crafting a pragmatic policy that actually can get passed into law.

I think he's been on the record stating that he didn't like the ACA, but the goal was to pass something, even if it's broken, to try to force it into policy so that it would eventually be fixed into something better. So with so much support, why can't the U.S. implement it? That's central to my point.

"President Obama was clear that – while he would have preferred single payer if we were starting from a clean slate – it would be too disruptive given our current system."[1]

Point being, in many ways it is against the current system. So while you haven't directly addressed my questions, I get the impression you think "Just expand Medicare" is the answer. My point is that it's a bit naive because it really doesn't address the systemic effects that have kept single payer policy from already being implemented.

Medicare/Medicaid is on track to be the largest proportion of the entitlement budget, before expanding it and it doesn't count the Dept. of Veterans Affairs budget (I don't think healthcare is a bad way to spend the budget btw). I know many people will say the Defense budget can be cut to pay for it. But how do you plan on getting that passed when nearly every senator wants to protect the DoD jobs in their state? I'm not even against that idea, I'm just not seeing you advocate a real strategy to implement it. The U.S. is perpetually running against the debt ceiling and your proposal will exacerbate that. This is just the beginning; how do you address the medical insurance industry, particularly when they are heavily lobbying Congress?

If the answer was "Just expand Medicare", it probably would have been implemented already but the fact that it's not should tell you something: maybe it's not that easy. So my question is not whether or not you think it's a good idea, my question is how do you get from the current state to your goal of a single payer system?

[1]https://washingtonmonthly.com/2015/09/13/obama-the-negotiato...


> I'm arguing about the feasibility of it in light of naive statements.

I have directly addressed your question with the fact that already a third of Americans are in a single payer system, and most of the world has a single payer or hybrid system.[1] It's naive to think we don't know how to do it, and that we can't learn something from other nations when we expand it.

If you don't think we're capable of achieving the same results as a bloc of nations that has twice our population and many more cultural differences between them, why? Low confidence in America as a whole? Math and science fundamentally change in different time zones? Nobody in America knows how to read German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Belgian, or English?

> If the answer was "Just expand Medicare", it probably would have been implemented already but the fact that it's not should tell you something: maybe it's not that easy.

There's an even simpler explanation: S.1129 was not passed.[2]

> So my question is not whether or not you think it's a good idea, my question is how do you get from the current state to your goal of a single payer system?

No, your question is, "How can I keep the conversation going pretending that I'll accept an answer?" So let's nip that, and you can answer the following question: what evidence would convince you it is feasible?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_with_univers...

[2] https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/112...


Yes, the bill was not passed. Neither were any of the proposals for the last 3 decades. Why do you think that is??

I mean, it’s “obviously” just so easy. Do you have better answers than President Obama? Or President Clinton before him? Or Bob Dole? Or John McCain? Yet with all their knowledge and connections, they couldn’t get it accomplished. Note that in nearly 20 years, Medicare for All bills only made it out of committee once. Why do you think that is?

Perhaps because it’s an enormously complex problem with lots of stakeholders and lots of competing interests. One that doesn’t get fixed by just copying a different model that operates outside of the U.S. constraints.

You still never addressed why those bills don’t pass. It’s like your answer is the trivial (and useless) one that “it’s because not enough people voted for it.”

Saying “we already cover 100MM” doesn’t explain how it can be more than tripled. I didn’t claim it can’t be done, I’m asking why none of the proposals have worked out so far. I’ve never claimed the US “doesn’t know how”, I’m saying they haven’t shown political will to implement it. I’m asking for a pragmatic answer that shows why it hasn’t worked despite previous efforts.

I’m asking for your opinion why that’s the case that nothings has been passed in the last 30 years despite the desire among many, many people to do so. I’ve already outlined a few examples that you just blow past for the naively simple answer. That’s not helpful nor does it demonstrate anything beyond a simplistic understanding of the problem.

I have no problem accepting an answer that actually shows an understanding of the complexity of the problem, even if I don’t agree. I’ll help you: I think the very first problem needs to campaign finance reform. Because without that, any proposed bill that goes against the monied interest is dead in the water. But that’s just the first of many things that has to happen before the bills you’re talking about have any chance.


>what evidence would convince you it is feasible?

Short answer: a bill that passes.

Again, I’m not arguing whether it’s technically feasible. I’m saying the US has not yet shown its politically feasible. I think you’re conflating my position on these.

That latter part is a much tougher and complex problem but every bit a necessary part of the solution. So take just a very small subset of that problem: how do you plan on mitigating the insurance industry’s influence in preventing the passage of a bill that goes against their interests?

Once you figure that out, you’ll have dozens of other political concerns to solve before you ever get to consider implementing the technical solution.


There’s a saying that your can choose between access, quality, and low cost but you can only choose two. The US system has chosen quality and access at the expense of cost.

Other countries benefit largely from the US healthcare R&D machine. The US funds over 40% of the world medical R&D. While other countries put price controls on their medicine, this arrangement won’t work with the current system if the US does the same. To a certain extent, US high prices partly subsidized the rest of the world.


Hiring may be a part of it, but not the whole answer. It actually needs a more process-oriented solution. Adding people to a broken process makes things worse.

When people complain of being over burdened, more often than not it means the process they worked within had a lot of waste. Invariably, the proposed solution was always “we need more people”. You can sometimes hide process waste problems with inventory. The number of times hiring people made for a long term solution is exactly zero in my experience, and this includes process improvement work within healthcare.

“Just hire more people” tends to be a myopic view that underscores a misunderstanding of the systemic effects at work.


Are 8 hour shifts healthy for patients? More handovers is strongly correlated with poorer patient outcomes. We need to strike a balance between the falloff in ability that comes with consecutive hours awake past a certain point, and minimizing handover.


Refineries have blown up because of messed handovers, is the solution to have the console operators on 24h/7 days-a-week shifts?

Like the sibling comment said, if you are overworking then the process is broken.

The thing that I added, is that maybe the process remains broken because the employer finds it profitable.


NHS doctors will typically have a significant part of their rota made up of 'long days'. The 'solution' is never 24/7, or less hyperbolic but still overly long hours, because there is a median decrease in cognitive function that renders additional benefit from fewer handovers moot.

But as regards 'overworking', while that is certainly true for many US residents in particular, I think the majority of people would be overworked on a surgeon's schedule. Yet reducing it significantly would probably be much worse for patients and decried by surgeons. My viewpoint is mostly informed by the British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh's opinion on working hours.


You’re not wrong, but when doctors work longer shifts, they work fewer days of the week. The total weekly hours are the same, they are just distributed differently.


There's room to have pride in your job and still erect those boundaries. Maybe not doing the literal "bare minimum," but recognizing where your duties end. If you're constantly going beyond your duties, there are likely structural issues that are not being addressed.


I wouldn't appeal to a person's better nature to counteract this attitude. If their nature were to be a team player, they would be a team player. Instead, employers need to recognize that there will be mercenary employees, and they need to set up their systems to reward the behavior they actually want to encourage. If mercenary behavior is rewarded, that's what you'll get at the margin.

At least at my employer, it doesn't seem like shirkers and work-to-rule folks are rewarded. Maybe there are some people who do work like this and are still getting rewarded by giving off the appearance of being team players, but I guess you'd have to be a pretty careful actor to accomplish that. You'd also need to be able to manipulate your colleagues into doing the work you aren't, but still liking you enough to review you well during 360 reviews.

That being said, there is a grain of truth in what the op was saying as well. It's not healthy to care too much about your employer's goals, because they are necessarily in tension with yours to a certain degree. Work should be compartmentalized to the degree appropriate to how much you enjoy it and the material rewards you're getting from it, and this balance is going to be specific to each individual person.


I couldn’t agree with this more. I think it also speaks to the importance of leadership in creating a culture that incentivizes the right behavior


Have you ever thought how and why the “it’s not my job” attitude fostered? Most people at least myself on their first day working would never thought they would end up at some point as people they despised so much.


I have had a similar career experience. In time, I’ve decided to accept that I’m much more like those people than I wanted to accept when I felt I was a young and hungry “disruptor”

I am much more a product of the systems than I wanted to accept. That’s the most mature perspective I have had to date - and has led to more empathy than I thought I was capable of.


The reason you didn’t like those people is that somewhere deep inside you knew it could be you in ten years. I had the same thoughts, and came to the same insight.

It’s a lot like how you dislike the people who remind you of your bad qualities.


Like most problems I think there’s the actual issue at hand and also the feelings that fosters. Feeling under appreciated is the #1 complaint amongst employees, I believe, and even out-ranks salary. There’s probably a balance. Sometimes the employer isn’t appreciative and sometimes the employee overly inflates their contribution.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like the premise here is that the only purpose for a career is to "get rich". I think a lot of people genuinely enjoy the work they do, and the relationships they have with their co-workers. Or, on the darker side of things, over-work themselves because they can't find anything engaging _outside of work_. For both of those groups of people, they might not actually enjoy getting rich and retiring early.

At the same time, it seems like your yes-person friend is both willingly over-working themselves and complaining that they are overworked. So I'll agree that it doesn't make much sense - unless they truly are aiming for an early retirement.


The topic of the article is burn out, and if you are burnt out obviously you are no longer enjoying the work you do.


It is a lost easier to get burnt out if you are chasing success than if you are doing things you intrinsically want to do. I will over do it from time to time but the cure is rest. I don’t need to re-evaluate my goals or priorities for life.


>the only purpose for a career is to "get rich".

What other reason is there for a career? If there was no financial incentive for most, I highly doubt anybody would waste the time learning how to be a lawyer, programmer, or doctor. People don't just go into a career hoping to make a menial wage and work 40-60 hours a week.


OMG, until like what Netscape IPO almost no programmers wanted or expected to get rich. It was about a job where they paid you to solve problems so interesting you would have contrived to work on them for free.

And even now, I don’t understand why the response to “company will overwork me” is act with bad faith. Just take care of yourself, stop working before the long term costs to yourself your family and your life get too high. That P1 will still be there later. If you have worked for more than two years and not recognized them saying this is crucial is just how they talk, you aren’t as clever as you think. The job market for “can make computer programs” essentially guarantees you cannot be exploited without your consent. Just find you limits and protect them. It will work out. But you don’t need to not offer helpful advice or sketch out solutions for people. That sounds like you are burning down the fun parts of the job to avoid overwork. But the easier way to avoid overwork is to work less.


You do realize a career extends beyond programming right?


You're the one who used it as an example. You've been proven wrong.


I highly doubt most doctors' end goal is to get rich

The world is cynical but not that depressing dude


I'm not inferring here that if we don't pay doctors a lot nobody would be doctors. But what else would drive people to work 36 hour shifts, low to no pay, and put up with that for 10+ years? It's definitely not their character of wanting to help people. Otherwise the medical profession for doctors would be full of women because that is the #1 reason why any of them go into child care or being a teacher. Which if we look at the data, correlates to low wages.

Greed is what compels people to do the difficult things in life. I highly doubt anybody would put up with what you do for med school if you're prospects of earnings was similar to that of a business analyst. Of which can get that job with an Associates Degree or less.


The same pattern of hospital work process and crazy shifts occurs also in countries with very different healthcare funding where the vast majority doctors definitely never become rich and are significantly behind the other "highly skilled" careers. So the long-term perspective of richness is definitely not the only/main thing driving potential doctors to do what they do.

"highly doubt anybody would put up with what you do for med school if you're prospects of earnings was similar to that of a business analyst." - I'm asserting that people do put up with that in many places around the world, where doctors' earnings actually are quite similar to that of a business analyst. And not because they're somehow different, homo sapiens think/work/behave pretty much the same everywhere. The only practical difference that comes to mind is that they don't go into immense debt during med school like in USA.


I agree with you but it’s easy to not have this end goal when you are already rich just by doing your job.


I dont follow. Do you mean doctors are rich so they dont have to care? Last I checked a doctor needs 10 years since high school to make any real money. A fresh grad in SV needs 4, sometimes 3. By the time the medical student can legally be called doctor, you and I are already making "obscene money" by their standard


> Do you mean doctors are rich so they dont have to care?

Where am I saying this ? I'm totally ok with "rich" doctors. I totally want the doctor to have its full mind caring about "me" and not how he'll have to pay for his debts.

I'm just saying that it's easy for doctors not to care about money. Not that it's bad or that they are overpaid.


Career is something imposed by companies where HR cannot phantom why people like to keep doing what they love, instead of being endless promoted until they aren't fit for the position.


Yeah, this dynamic is what causes me to avoid big companies. As soon as you hire on you get attacked with career goals, assumptions that you want to move up (I'm senior so I already make enough money and have no interest in "moving up"), and being asked to do the litany of things required to move up. Maddening. Especially when you tell several of your bosses directly that you are good and that you already have the position and money you want. It just doesn't register and they keep trying to get you to tick off the boxes that will get you promoted. Figured they would be happy that someone was happy for once and didn't need to maintain them as they strive for promotion. I realized that they string everyone along with promises of career profession. And more than just being strung along, it's mainly a distraction for you to focus on while they overwork you on projects that get cancelled or otherwise don't matter.


Some of us don't like to maintain. It keeps life interesting. I've been told by many people "Oh you'll get tired of it when you get older" but I'm tired of it now. However, the reason I don't stop is it's literally the only thing driving me to do anything in life but be another mouth breather waiting to die in their retirement center while their children grovel over who gets what in the inheritance.


Yeah, I share the feeling.


Most (if not all) programmers I personally know are in it because they love computers and programming, and they'd all agree that we're lucky to be doing what we love 9-5 (and then some) whilst getting paid better than average.

I almost feel guilty I get paid to play with computers all day.


I think what resonious is saying is that your particular job is unlikely to make you significantly wealthier than any others in your field.

Don't make huge sacrifices unless you have a realistic expectation of abnormally huge returns.


> What other reason is there for a career?

A way to make a living doing what you love. I loved programming as a child/teenager. I wasn't paid then.


You also had someone providing for you and covering all of your costs. Once you leave the carefree comforts of childhood and join the rat race the rules change.


Ones motivation need not change. “Do what you love and the money will follow” is not universally true, but it is pretty damn true for learning and making software.


What's your point? The discussion we're having is whether anyone would be a programmer if they weren't getting paid well. Clearly many people would.


I love art and music. I'm pretty skilled in a variety of those fields. The reason I don't do them is because programming pays extraordinarily better and can let me have a more relaxed and enjoyable lifestyle as opposed to living in garbage tier slums.


What does that have to do with anything?

I think from the responses you've had to your comment you've now seen that you're in a minority here.


Because you are interested in what you are doing? I had no idea how much a developer or sysadmin made when I was 13 and started playing with FreeBSD and Debian...


Much of what I do, I would have done even without the money. The money is just a means to allow me to do what it for the duration of my life.


It's very easy to say that when you're making more than the cost of living by a significant margin. Not so much when you've lived with meager wages. I love what I do, but I also wouldn't have switched careers if it didn't pay more than I made now. The years I've taken off my life from doing it would not have been worth it for an additional $500/month. If anything that coupled with the major inflation that's happened in the past two years, it wouldn't have even been worth it.


I started doing this around 7 years ago. A company I worked at imposed a nights and weekends working schedule. I left mostly to move to be closer with my current wife who lived further (> 1 hour) away. At the time it was still early in our relationship. Seven years later she is my wife and the company that asked for nights and weekends, no one cares about.


Well said. It is frustrating with the "everything is an emergency" mindset at some companies. I far along in my career that I just let it slide off but others aren't. We had a potential customer that was definitely going to sign a contract on Monday so another engineer spent all weekend getting a new rack mount computer all set up. That was four weeks ago and no one has heard anything from them. The bosses think they they are helping to keep everyone motivated and moving forward but they don't get how bad it is for morale. Everything can't be most important.


Bingo. 90% of the things I broke my back over because “it was an emergency” got scraped or abandoned a week later. And my ex-employer was wondering why our team turnover was through the roof.


I had an old boss that I developed a rule of 3 for. He like to change priorities constantly because that was "agile". So I just knew that until he asked for something the 3rd time, I would say "yes" and let it die on the vine. If he did ask 3 times, then it was probably going to actually stay a priority.


This attitude works at random jobs where you’re replaceable, absolutely. However if you’re a meaningful part of an early team with equity, this is quite literally how you can indeed get rich.


This was how you could get rich. Maybe I'm overly cynical, but I feel that these days VC and founders know all the right tricks to play to remove value from the contributors and reallocate it to the investors.


Nope. You can still get rich from equity, especially by being an early employee. It's all a giant lottery though.

The easiest way is to join companies that are obviously doing well and will likely IPO in 2-3 years. This is still a lottery, but one with much higher odds and a lower potential payout. You can make $600k-1m every few years in equity alone by hopping around these companies.

If you ever wondered why so many people have ~1-2 years of experience at each company on their resume, this is often why. They join, get a decent chunk of their equity grant (in RSUs), then go to another company to get more equity. Some of these companies will do well, others will do poorly. You end up distributing your risk and ensuring you'll get a decent payout.


This is a great narrative! It just doesn’t work out for most people.

I would say that if you want to hit a lotto ticket, this is your best route. Increased variance is your friend when you are at the downside and it’s all uphill.

But if you want to get rich, and you are the average HN reader, it’s better to bet on the typical case.

(That said, if you have a list of companies that meet your current criteria, I would love to know! I know a lot of faang engineers who are bored and would love a shot at millions.)


You can get rich winning the lottery. Both are purely chance.


How do you get RSUs if the company hasn't IPOed?

I thought that RSUs were limited to public companies (since they are essentially grants of stock, not options).


Companies typically switch to RSUs from option as they get closer to the IPO. Conversely if a company is offering RSUs then it’s a strong signal that they will go public within 18-24 months and also that the options have appreciated as much as they could as evaluated by private investors and so subsequent stock appreciation could only happen by public investors. Exceptions exist but it’s a good heuristic.


Awesome, thanks! TIL.


You can get RSUs and RSAs from a private company, it's just often undesirable because you pay income tax on the valuation of the shares vested but you can't sell your shares until a liquidity event or IPO.


Some employers will structure these as double trigger RSUs that do not vest until a date passes + a liquidity event occurs to avoid this.


I had no idea that you can get RSUs this way. Does anyone have any suggestions on what to search for related to this?

Part of why I wanted to be a contractor was precisely because I didn’t want to play the startup lottery. But RSUs would give an alternative.


They’re extremely common at larger venture funded companies that in theory are closer to IPO.


“Double trigger” seems to be the common term per a quick online search


Yeah, staff does not get big payouts anymore because investors want that money. If you're a founder you might get rich


Plenty of staff got rich from the Uber / Airbnb / snowflake etc IPOs though.


> Plenty of staff got rich from the Uber / Airbnb / snowflake etc IPOs though.

GP said "anymore", so I assume he was talking about newer startups.


A lot of the recent IPOs are pretty big, and while I don’t have insider info I assume at least the early employees did well. Robinhood, snowflake, UiPath, Toast, Roblox, Coinbase etc. we are not short of large tech IPOs.


What do you mean by big payout in this context?


Enough to retire early.


I think this is around $2M in the US, using what the FIrE community says. Does that seem reasonable, Or are you thinking about $20M+ payouts? (That’s what I would need to retire now.)


"retire early" does not necessarily have to mean "retire tomorrow", I guess it depends how old you are.

If you're in your 20s or 30s, 2M is probably not "retire tomorrow" money, but it would probably let you retire very early if you managed it and made smart investments with it. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't think many ICs are getting even 50k from startup equity, nevermind 2M.

20M is "retire tomorrow" money for sure. And definitely workers do not get that kind of money from startup equity.

Most of what I hear now is companies giving fake "shares" that are ostensibly tied to the value of the company but are not actually shares and do not represent any ownership. If they do give shares it's not enough to pay out big, and they get diluted repeatedly over time.


> Most of what I hear now is companies giving fake "shares"

Yep. It's a thing unfortunately: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_stock


2M is 140k$ yearly with 7% return. You could live very comfortably almost every where.


If you can manage a consistent 7% return then you should be running a hedge fund.


1. you personal savings are more volatile tolerant than big pension funds. SP500 annual avg growth is 10% so you can almost achieve that 7% if you deploy 50/50 split to sp500 index + 30 year t-bonds. 2. It is magnitude more easier to deploy 2 million dollars to market than 2 billion dollars.


If you can offer me a consistent, risk-free 7% return in perpetuity, I will give you all of my money today.


The problem is that most people are NOT a meaningful part of an early team. The Silicon Valley Dream is to find a unicorn startup and be one of the first 5 engineers. In pursuit of that dream some people work way too much at jobs where they are NOT going to get rich from it. Stock options almost always end up being worth nothing. I think the OP has a point, which is, unless you're really sure you stand to get rich from that job, don't put your mental health on the line for it. Sound advice.


"Early team" here meaning a founder or first C-level hire. As an engineer, even as one of the first hires, it's unlikely your equity is going to be life changing unless the company ends up going to unicorn valuations - which most startups will not. Better to ask for market level salaries instead.


Honest question, is there any evidence that the effort of the early engineering team of a startup has a strong relationship with a high value exit?


There is a lot of luck involved so I rather doubt it. If anything, it is necessary but not sufficient.


Yes I also used to believe in the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas.


Equally you can end up unemployed...


> It's almost heretical

It really shouldn't be. At the end of the day, the vast majority of workers are being compensated to do/build something they otherwise wouldn't of their own volition. Your mental health ought never be lower in priority than the ambitions of your senior management, or the ROI of the stakeholders.


The irony is that I've consistently gotten more respect by saying no than saying yes. If you say yes all the time, you become the person people go to when they want to dump things on someone. When you say no when you're busy, people quickly learn to respect your time more, and they'll be far more grateful for your time when they get it.

More importantly, if it helps you deliver what you agree to deliver on time with more consistency, people quickly learn to appreciate that.


> In that context, why do so many of us take on so many unnecessary responsibilities? It's tempting to say "Well, my employer assigned them."...

It's interesting to audit what you do v. your ACTUAL job definition, especially when it comes to blurred responsibilities.

Tell your friend this realistic boss saying:

> If you work hard, put in extra hours, and push to be the best, then "I" get a new Ferrari next year!


This sounds like you’ve shifted from the “clueless” to the “loser” archetype in Ribbonfarm’s Gervais Principle (https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-...) — ignore the insulting names for all three archetypes, I think you’re exactly right about how to reclaim the balance of power between labor and capital.


> You're probably not going to get rich from working a day job. You're replaceable, and if you left your job tomorrow then you'll soon be forgotten. This is true for the majority of software engineers.

This part is so true. I worked with people who were the "conscience" of the project I worked on - they started it, knew everything about it, worked late nights to fix issues etc. Then they left and...the project kept running...everyone managed.


It is easy to say. But people characters are well-formed in theirs twenties. If someone is hardworking and motivated, they will work hard and be proactive regardless of project, compensation or whenever they care for the company. It is not something you can switch on and off.

For me, it is better to ride it. Since I am not going to change my approach to work, I will continue to be an expensive contractor until I can live from my savings and pursue my side projects.


There's a balance needed with smaller companies. I, for a long time, chose not to care about the company's goals and just hit the daily tasks, and for a while it worked and I did very well. But eventually the management had a build up of stress, realising that THEIR choices of assigned tasks were not taking us properly to the goals, and let out the stress on the development team to a point where a few of us quit.

This isn't an objection to "not caring about employer's goals", far from it, it's clearly an issue with management teething problems as they try to expand a relatively small company and don't know how to do it. But I've found that caring a little bit about the goals, trying to see what they're aiming for and having that inside view of why we aren't getting there, allows me to bridge that gap, offer better advice to management and help the entire team have a less stress filled day, at the expense of some of my own peace of mind.

It'd be easy for me to say "well that's managements issue" but I can't ignore that management issues trickle down to the rest of us, which is much more obvious in smaller companies.


Oh, and a mention on 'saying no' - it's very hard to convince an employer to start saying no to customer demands even when they agree with all the reasons set out in front of them, especially when they've had a decade of doing nothing but bespoke work for them. It's taken a year but we're finally at the point we can firmly stand our ground as a dev team and say "no we're not working on that", or "push to Q4", and ignore the "we need this done TODAY" type of demands that have plagued us for years.


You have to be careful here.

A lot of things will fall through the cracks if people don't pick up.

Professionals are not hourly workers, you're not there to do A->B, you're there to deal with the complexity, which means picking up pieces.

That said - you definitely do not have to worry about stuff. A healthy sense of detachment is actually kind of good for both you and your employer.

Your job is a civic responsibility, it's frankly moral to do a 'good job' - but that doesn't mean 'over striving', it doesn't mean 'being taken advantage of' and it doesn't mean having to worry about the bigger picture. That's definitely not your job.

I think a lot of people could be just as productive if they figured out the emotional strain part.

One little trick is to say to yourself 'I Don't Care' - but then go in the office, and put one foot in front of the other, and just get whatever is in front of you done. It's weirdly liberating and can be productive.

Like 'corporate mindfulness' - be present in the thing that you're trying to do - and not caught up in the giant hill of politics, bits and pieces, it's just noise.

Do your job well, go home, and forget about it.


1000 times this. The investors who own your company care about your well being as much as it affects the attrition stats in a way that matters to the bottom line. I say this as someone who's job is literally to talk to these people about their priorities before they buy a software company.


> You're probably not going to get rich from working a day job.

If you make a middle class salary, underspend your income by at least 10%, max out your 401k and IRA, invest in stocks, and start doing this in your 20s, yes, the odds are pretty good you will.


+1 and I would add try to own income rental properties by first buying an inexpensive house, not a huge expensive home; as soon as you can buy another inexpensive home and rent the first. Much better to own two modest homes and rent one than to own just one high maintenance cost huge home.


This also assumes that one has already won the lottery of birth.


If you were born in the US, and are of sound mind and body, you won the lottery.


For the people who strongly dislike that opinion of mine, consider the hundreds of thousands of people trying to win that lottery by walking thousands of miles just for a chance to slip through the border.


> I think a lot of us want to be proud of the work we do, and we feel that if we slack off, then we shouldn't be proud. But it's the other way around. I think the slackers have it right.

You're more correct than you think! https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-...

The TLDR of the above is:

1. There is usually only a single promotion-role on offer.

2. That promotion will go to the best performing employee (whatever metric is used).

3. If you're not the best performing employee, then do only the bare minimum to avoid being fired.

4. Doing the bare minimum to avoid being fired frees up the employee to concentrate energy and efforts towards jumping the corporate ladder (new project, etc).

Note that #4 is an "up or out" proposition: if the employee fails to gain power/influence in the company, then that energy can still be used to land a higher-level position at a different corp using the "new project" effort as an indicator to other companies that the employee has more power/influence than they actually possess.


I feel this is missing a lot of details.

Even if there's a single promotion per team per year (and there are certainly companies where promotions are not limited like that), that means that, in a team of 4 people, 50% will be promoted in 2 years. So if you like the job and plan to stay for a few years, I fail to see how this tactics is even remotely close to optimal.


> I feel this is missing a lot of details.

Yes. The link goes into details.

> Even if there's a single promotion per team per year (and there are certainly companies where promotions are not limited like that), that means that, in a team of 4 people, 50% will be promoted in 2 years. So if you like the job and plan to stay for a few years, I fail to see how this tactics is even remotely close to optimal.

It's an analysis based on The Office; maybe read it and critique the 20k word write-up (in the link) instead of the 4-point summary.


> In that context, why do so many of us take on so many unnecessary responsibilities?

Honestly I think it’s a wonderful reflection of humans’ innate empathy and drive to help each other, the Stanford Prison Experiment shown to be junk science over and over and over.

We humans are unfortunately exploited by humanoid entities (corporations) who turn humans’ one truly-limited resource (attention) into something that’s also non-human. Everybody has heard the idiom that “time = money”, but have you ever stopped to think how fucked up it sounds when you apply the transitive property of equality to get “money = time”?


It does wonders, only care for the team.

Employers most of the time only care about the management board goals, employee of the year can quickly turn into a jobless employee, given the way company roadmaps work in practice.


As a serial entrepreneur, and therefore employer of many people, I'm pretty horrified to read this. My immediate thought is that it's a toxic attitude, but totally understandable in what is probably the rule rather than the exception, i.e. a 'regular' company. And that's sad.

If you are really feeling as you do, I think it's time to reassess your employment and potentially your life.

For instance, I think many startups are different to this, and not only because they are small. More meaning: the genuine opportunity to enact change, I think is the biggest differentiator, alongside better incentives and stock options that in some cases lead to life-changing financial outcomes. There is always risk with this, and it's a higher risk than a larger company, but that's just the mechanics of life, economics, and society.

I work incredibly long hours, so i'm always 'busy', but for the most part I love what I do, like a passion project. This is because I'm transfixed by cause and effect. It's an amazing thing that I don't think our brains are wired to appreciate by default. It takes discovering this and then confirming it, illustrating that just one person can have disproportionate impact in the world. It seems the vast majority of us limit ourselves or feel a sense of imposter syndrome in our own skin.

The more one realises this and manages to instrument some change, the more positive reinforcement one gets, until one can look back at varying chunks of time in one's life to see the impact that was made. This gives you strong sense of meaning to your life, motivating you to fill your time with high impact activities that have the capacity to genuinely change people's lives, alongside your own. This could includes making time for your family and so on: because in many cases this is an important high impact activity.

After realising this and doing it, the feeling you get with a positive outcome, even if you're still in the middle of doing whatever it is, is better than any drug i've taken.

Steve Jobs did an interview in which he more eloquently expresses this ethos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYfNvmF0Bqw

I think a lot of entrepreneurs feel this, but it isn't just limited to starting companies. There are so many ways each of us can make an impact.


> That's true, but they won't get rich from that career, so I don't understand why they care so much about it.

Perhaps they have company shares?


>You're probably not going to get rich from working a day job. You're replaceable, and if you left your job tomorrow then you'll soon be forgotten. This is true for the majority of software engineers.

I'd honestly be replace "software engineers" with "all jobs"; your post is highly relevant to most fields.


Are the owners not also, extremely replaceable, moreso than the engineers? I think so.


Of course, hence my use of the word, "all". :)


Agreed. It’s also important to remember that as a member of the non-propertied working class you’re always creating more value than what you’re paid for; you’re creating invaluable intellectual property that will bring in truckloads of cash and capital even after you leave the company.


Great point. I try to apply it to myself. Instead of working twice as hard for 5 percent chance of any promotion or other benefit, I'd prefer working hard enough at minimum acceptable level and try to control things from expense side.


People don't know what to do with their time. For those who know, they don't know why they do, what they do.


Even if you do get rich. There is also not much more reason to care. Find joy, i know a lot of rich folks have not.


Do you have OnCall shifts?


The only on-call I accept these days are ones that I get to bill my full rate for the entire time whether they call me or not. Most companies don't accept this deal, but I don't need or want to work for most companies.


> It's almost heretical. But once you embrace this mindset, it does wonders. Or at least, it has for me so far.

The only reward for a job well done is more work.

The quicker you realize that, the happier you'll be.


I feel genuinely sad for people who believe this. As someone who is extremely critical of my own work, the feeling of walking home knowing I really did something well is so awesome.


A job well done can be its own reward, that is true. Just be careful that the satisfaction does not turn into the main reward, because your management also knows that you derive significant value from the satisfaction and will attempt to save on raises/promotions/etc since you are apparently already happy enough even without those.


Also, spending your career in cynicism guarantees depression of some sorts. It makes you dull, you’ll have poor friends, you’ll attract the worst of people, you’ll create a toxic workplace that would resemble some of the worst run government departments. Impossible to fire, useless bloat of people that have zero interest in improving themselves or others, and life a fulfilling life.

Sad. But on the bright side, those that excel at what they do are going to be disproportionately rewarded. I love this aspect of society and certain political ideologies want to destroy this.


Also raises, promotions, bonuses, RSUs...


No, those are earned through office politics. A job well done is a good bargaining chip when playing office politics, but it doesn't guarantee you raises, bonuses, promotions or RSUs.


This is a terrible way to live a life. This cynicism would be evident to others, create a toxic pathologically depressing environment and then pull others down with it.

I can’t believe I’m reading this on HN, a place that used to be full of optimism and accepting grand challenges, looking upto leaders and doing hard things others shy away from.

I know this is a taboo to compare with Reddit, but lately I have to pinch myself and ask is this really HN!?


Well, maybe most people have finally seen through what a BS most of the VC/Start Ups are if you are an employee with shitty behaviour from founders/investors that you realize the best way to go through life is to do the same they do, just from the other side.

If you don't own a significant (5%+) chunk in a company, don't do a single minute of non-paid overwork. Do the bare minimum to justify not being fired (and this is key, if they don't fire you for that, it means they accept that what they pay you is being returned to them in work, so why give them more output for the same money?). Save your energy and time and focus on you, your family, your projects. Companies don't care for you, so why the fuck care for them. Get in. Put the minimum that the company accepts for they pay and get the fuck out. Anything else is just bad choice that are have more positives for the companies and downsides for yourself


First, employees stop caring for their employer's goals.

Next, they are upset when MailChimp sells and they don't get their options (apparently believing that receiving options is their sacred right protected by God, Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human rights).


Just know that we see you. We understand that this is your mentality. That's why we don't promote you, that's why we don't hire you, etc.

Saying yes to everything some random PM wants from you is of course not the way. But neither is "lying flat". Hard work is in many ways its own reward.

After decades in the industry, those that have put in the time and effort far outshine their coasting peers. There are benefits for your career should you choose to put in the effort and ascend.


This doesn’t mean no effort. This means putting effort into saying no.

There’s a difference, and school (and parents) don’t teach us the distinction.


Saying no is easy once you get passed the initial mental block. Let's not pretend otherwise.

It's certainly easier than doing the work. That's the entire premise of your argument.


It’s not so easy. I thought it was.

Many people — perhaps most — are inclined to be afraid of saying no.

You also can’t say no to homework assignments. So we learn the behavior early in life.


Superiority complex, much?

I share OP's sentiment, and I can flat out say that I am truly fine that "[you] see [me]". The thing is, I don't want to work with you or for you, or for people who don't want to hire me. Jobs are a two-way street and I'm going to pick a place to work for that's a good fit for me time after time. And you know what? I've always busted my ass and I continue to be hired, given raises, etc. - but I will always push back for my own sanity whenever I feel necessary.

>Hard work is in many ways its own reward.

There's a difference between "hard work" and "too much work", and the latter looks different to each and every one of us.

>After decades in the industry, those that have put in the time and effort far outshine their coasting peers. There are benefits for your career should you choose to put in the effort and ascend.

There sure are! And just as there are people like you who want to continue that career ascent, there are those of us who are also completely content with prioritizing other things in our lives beyond our careers, while still putting in a solid day's work every day. I don't care if people outshine me and ascend faster than I do - for me, my career is just something that allows me to provide for my family and my hobbies, but it will never be "who I am". And you know what? I'm happy with my choices and where I'm at. Go on, buddy, and get that promotion! I'll still be over here doing my thing at my pace, not bothered by the fact that I might be standing in your dust.

You would really do well to understand that everyone wants something different out of life and are content to take the paths they want, even if they're not yours. :)


Maybe people who put in a ton of work get ahead. That's a big maybe. Sometimes people get ahead because they had the good fortune to be tapped for the big project. Sometimes they were in the right meeting and got tapped by the boss because they were in the room. Sometimes people get ahead because they're better at talking than doing.

But maybe you work hard, do more. What's the financial return on that, for a typical employee over your hypothetical "coasting employee"? 50%? 20%? Less?

Is it worth it? The stress, the extra hours, the opportunity costs?




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