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$150K and up for Software Devs in Austin (statesman.com)
136 points by jefflinwood on Dec 11, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 184 comments



I'm a freelance mobile developer in Austin.

My experience is that companies are "desperate" in the sense that they're willing to invite you to lavish parties and fill you with free alcohol to get you to work there. But as soon as you start talking contracting, telecommute, or anything other than "sit at this desk for 60-hour weeks trying to get permission to fix an awful codebase with terrible equipment," suddenly they're not interested.

Story time: one of the best, most experienced local developers I know interviewed at a name-brand tech firm who is covered once a week on HN. Twelve separate times, they told him "We'll let you know today" as to whether or not he was hired. Several weeks later he found out third-hand he was the fall-back guy for some other non-qualified person they ended up hiring instead. He's told me horror stories about their code base that would make your hair stand up. This company keeps inviting me to parties about once a month.

There is a developer shortage in Austin, but the article blows it out of proportion. In reality the reason these few companies are "desperate" has to do with developers who want respect as human beings, autonomy to get things done, reasonable hours, a company that understands the need for technical excellence and not "put out fires" mentality, etc. If you do those things it's not that difficult to hire...


I'd agree that in tech in general you have to be very very careful in terms of understanding what you are really stepping into. There are jobs that are great but there are more jobs that are not so great (meaning the pay may be good but... 60-80 hours, boring CRUD stuff, unmaintained code bases, tyrannical managers, etc. etc.) This is probably true with most occupations but my guess is that it is a lot more extreme for software engineers (especially in SV). I've specifically taken somewhat significant lower offers based on my intuition about a job being "good" or not - I'd highly recommend it (I used to jump around for just higher salaries and to no surprise ended up miserable)


This is something I stress when I talk to other management-types about hiring, now that I've (mostly) joined the Dark Side.

If you want amazing people, just spending more money on salaries isn't going to do it. I too have turned down very high-paying offers because they came with the baggage of a company that considered Dilbert strips inspirational rather than satirical.

This is an area where small start-ups can really win big, by offering what bigger and better-funded players don't:

1. Sensible hours. Sure, crunch times happen, but being in crunch mode all of the time is a sign of management failure.

2. Accountability defines authority. There's nothing worse than a company where you're responsible for keeping other peoples' (often impossible) promises.

3. Big equity with profit-sharing. This really keeps everybody's goals aligned: the employees win if the company either gets a big exit or becomes a profit-making machine.

The three of these together are easily worth more than $30k in competitive salary.


I once interviewed with a company that had built in "crunch mode" into their release schedule. I told them that I regarded relying on "crunch mode" as a strategy smelled of management failure & if they couldn't get product out the door without it then they had a problem. Needless to say the interview went downhill from there.

Every programmer recognises there might be times when something has gone horribly wrong, or there's an immovable deadline that has to be met. Actually planning to put your team through that amount of stress on a regular basis for no particular reason other than some arbitrary "deadline"? Well, some people were obviously happy to sign up to wear a "kick me" sign on their backs, but it wasn't going to be me.

(Yeah, I know all the arguments about startups / success / equity / return on time invested etc etc. Lets just say that they didn't apply in this case.)


I had to double check I didn't write that comment and forgot about it :)

That's spot on for all my startups interviews in sf.


Big equity with profit-sharing.

What do you and anyone else in the thread consider "big equity"? Please give specific examples.


That's a good question, and depends on a lot of factors.

I'm going to assume we're talking about employee equity, and not founder equity. If you signed on at a reasonable salary, then you're an employee. If, on the other hand, you worked without pay until the company got to the point where a salary was possible, then you're a co-founder.

For a first employee, somewhere between one and five percent makes sense to me. Exactly where the number falls depends on their role, as well as small details like company funding structure, cashflow at time-of-hire, etc.

The next two to five or so employees would be somewhere around one percent.

After that, the number starts diving rapidly, with a total employee ownership converging to a number near ten percent or so.

In my experience, this is more than a lot of startups offer, and feels fair in terms of risk.

On top of the equity, though, I think that profit-sharing is also important. Not as a mechanism for motivation, but as a means of retaining talent. Exits are few and far between, and it's quite easy to screw over minor shareholders. An annual bonus check based on company performance goes a long way towards showing personnel that you're serious about the idea of "if the company succeeds, you succeed".


At the end of the day, no matter how much equity gets passed around, it's unlikely to pay out big unless your company goes public.

Too many companies attach conditions to their equity and too many acquiring investors and big companies will readily dilute employee shares to sweeten the equity deals for founders and early investors.

Thats why sweating hard times out for equity is a hard sell to engineers these days. There's too many ways for equity to be worthless paper later on and there's countless examples of it happening recently (e.g. Skype, Zynga, etc).


Hence the profit-sharing. If the company never gets, or was even aiming for, a big exit, but instead turns into a long-term sustainable business, then as an employee you still get a cut of the success you helped create.


can't agree more, we're working on multiple projects all with unrealistic goals, and everyday in panic mode is not fun.


Bias: I'm a co-founder of BuildASign.com, an ecommerce company in Austin, and we're hiring. (Extra bias: we're a great company to work for, if Austin interests you.)

I agree that this article blows the issue out of proportion, but then again, any intelligent internet company realizes that its future success and future value is determined, more than anything else, by the quality of its software people. That being the case, any company where the higher-ups don't think finding the best software folks is the #1 problem (or at least one of the critical issues) at the moment is probably not a company you'd want to work for anyway. I think this is the #1 problem we face as a company, and yet I agree this article blows the "problem" out of proportion in the way the article presents the issue.


No offense meant, but "our pace is often fast and furious. We put in extra hours to output excellent results" in your careers page is working against you here :)


To each of his own.

It's very very tough to find the "best software folks" and hope this cog (yes, sorry bro) can join your company and fit the culture.

I joined a company with decent software developers (that are willing to listen, learn, and also live life like a normal regular human being) and I couldn't be more happier.

During my interview, the manager, the senior people, and the owner keeps stressing 2 things: we hire people that fit our culture and we don't hire stupid people (not the smartest). I asked everybody who interviewed me of how long they have been here and the minimum question was 3 years (the person is one of the Directors). The rest have been there for 6 years, 8 years, etc.

We struggled together. We went through hard times together. At the end of the day, these people go home everyday to their family and go back to work tomorrow without extra baggages.

The best software folks tend to have their own dogmatic approaches that may clash with everybody else that he thinks less superior (U KNO NO EMACS? Ur LVL just went down a few notch and U SHALL BOW TO ME!).

I mean... c'mon, let's get real here and clear those pixie dusts. If the smartest people don't have that kind of ego, they ain't smart to begin with.


I completely disagree with your last statement, and believe that that kind of thinking is bad.

It allows assholes to continue to pose as 'smart people' because they simply bully their peers, and their superiors will assume they must be smart because their peers defer to them.

There is absolutely no reason why truly smart people would be assholes.


Sure, I am throwing a blanketed statements. That's why I opened my comment as "it is very very hard to find...".

Assholes will be assholes regardless whether they're smart or not. If their superiors like assholes, then that's the culture in there. It's up to you whether you want to work there or not.

Smart people that aren't assholes are hard to find. Linus Torvalds, Theo de Raadt, Zed Shaw, DHH, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, should I go on with the list?

I'm not suggesting that smart people should be asshole. Or people should pretend to be asshole. But based on my tiny speck of observation, experienced, interviews, reading the tone of blog posts, smart people tend to be assholes.


Word on the street is that you guys have a core group of developers that are set in their (old and busted) ways.


I think that's likely to be the perception any time you have a company that's grown quickly and organically, at least when your whole company depends on your software as much as ours does. Ditching something that's interwoven into every business process is tough, and making new approaches play well with existing ones is tricky. We're all for doing things the best way.

If you have specific ideas, I'd love to hear them, and would gladly buy you lunch. Shoot me an email.


Just wanted to share my experience as a junior software engineer straight out of college (May 2011, UT Austin) with experience at 3 different startups now.

There's been a discussion lately about the city of Austin being unable to retain engineering graduates, most of whom leave the city unable to find entry level work here (refer to http://blog.infochimps.com/2011/11/30/keeping-tech-talent-in... to get what I'm talking about). Many of my college friends want to stay in the city that they've grown to love, but many don't and end up moving back home to find work. The growing exodus has become a problem over time, but prospects seem to be on the rise again with initiatives by the City of Austin and other organizations (campus2careers is a great one) to keep graduates in the area. HireStarter, the recruiting agency that was mentioned in the article, was excellent in placing me at my current startup even though I had little experience. There's hope out there for junior guys, but it's still going to be tough.

I don't expect things to get better tomorrow as this movement is still early stage, but if this momentum keeps up, suddenly Austin will have a new supply of junior and (formerly junior) senior devs.

Again, I still consider myself very fresh to the local industry so my observations may be a bit myopic :).


Not wanting to take entry level software engineers is possibly the most bone-headed move a big company can make. Someone needs to send a memo to management.

Big companies with no technical culture are not generally fun places for engineers. Experienced engineers can probably sniff out the really bad ones from a mile away. If they don't take new grads then essentially they're staffing up with the desperate and the downtrodden.

Telling the HR guys to hire new grads would, just by youthful ignorance and the law of averages yield a much better team over time. Granted retention would be the next problem, but at least they'd be somewhere.


On the contrary, experienced engineers are the ones most likely to be comfortable with a non-exciting big company that provides solid benefits, a reasonable working schedule, and mature, well-considered engineering practices.

Our own company isn't large, but we're rather traditional. We're not hackers, we believe in technical correctness, test-driven development and choosing the best tool for the problem at hand. This means that we generally write mobile software in the target platform language, server software in JVM languages, and on the occasions where we get to work on hardware and OS development, C and assembly.

The work approach is not laden with technical culture and "fun", unless you find solid engineering to be fun (personally, I do).

However, we've had great success in hiring genuinely senior engineers with at least a decade of experience each. We experimented early on with hiring junior engineers, but found that the overhead of dealing with untrained engineers was exceptionally high -- something that models my experience elsewhere, at larger companies.

With the caveat that these are generalizations, I've found that the cost to hiring junior engineers is expressed in obvious and (perhaps) non-obvious ways. There are the obvious costs of the training and mentoring required, along-side lower productivity, and a lesser ability to estimate complexity and time to completion. There are also more abstract costs, such as technical and design debt that junior engineers are much more likely to incur simply due to a lack of experience. There are also cultural costs -- if you hire too many junior engineers, you'll create a technical culture and working experience that drives senior candidates away, amplifying the costs I've listed above.

Of course, I readily admit that someone must hire untrained junior engineers, and I realize the implicit unfairness of hiring standards that would exclude myself were it 15 years ago. However, there are companies other than our own that are willing to bear these costs in exchange for being able to recruit at the scale they require -- we're just not one of them, and I think our reasoning is sound.

That said, there are some things a junior engineer can do to make themselves less junior, (possibly before even entering the labor market):

- Get experience (class projects don't count). A great way to do this is by contributing to OSS, especially projects that demand high-technical competence (eg, contribute to the ruby interpreter or MacRuby, not just high-level Ruby on Rails). Senior engineers have past experience to draw on when implementing software projects; this allows them to design not just for the immediate requirements, but with an understanding of how the requirements, maintenance costs, and performance will evolve over time.

- Study practical implementation topics (... and then get experience implementing them). A lot of the value of a senior engineer is in their broad understanding of the practical topics of the field. Coming out of a CS program, you should hopefully have a firm grasp of the fundamentals of CS, but what many candidates are missing is a firm understanding of applied programming. Some off the cuff general book suggestions: UNIX Network Programming, Application Programming in a UNIX Environment, Mac OS X Internals, Applied Cryptography, The Design and Implementation of The FreeBSD Operating System, Database in Depth. This list is probably incomplete :)

- Don't settle for just an internship. Internships at big companies (Apple, Google, Microsoft) serve as a relatively cheap first-pass filter on college candidates for hiring. Of a given pool of software interns at a company like Apple, it's unlikely that more than a 10% of them will be hirable material, and of those 10, maybe 2-3 will actually get jobs. Other companies may hire a larger percentage (I don't have any experience there). If you want to work for Apple, Microsoft, or Google (or think you might), then don't sit on your laurels if you get an internship there. Pick a real, practical problem that, and work on it, hard, leveraging your access to senior engineers for advice and guidance as much as possible. If you just coast through the internship, you probably won't receive an offer. I think some students look at internships at the big companies as prestigious. However, they may be viewed as the opposite -- an internship at one (or more) of those companies without being hired is a red flag for me, since I'm wondering why you didn't get an offer.


You seem to have some kind of chip on your shoulder, because you are reading a bunch of things into what I said that were not intended and are way out there.

In short, the company you describe does have technical culture.


> You seem to have some kind of chip on your shoulder, because you are reading a bunch of things into what I said that were not intended and are way out there.

I wouldn't read my response as a line-by-line rebuttal of your post. It wasn't.

> In short, the company you describe does have technical culture.

By that measure, all companies have a technical culture.

However, big company culture (outside of Google and Apple) is usually not appealing to junior engineers, but is to senior engineers -- which is the opposite of your original point, and what I intended to address.


Are you saying that only 2-3% of interns at Google end up with a Google offer?


I only have experience with Apple. I wouldn't be surprised if the number was similar for Google, given that internships are seen as a low-cost, low-risk trawling mechanism.


Are you counting return internship offers? Many interns aren't looking for full time job offers. Only 2-3% percent receiving offers seems rather low.


From my limited experience hunting from a job in Austin, I think one of the reasons is that there literally aren't that many firms (small or large) doing software engineering.

The other vibe that I get is that culturally most of the older companies are from a different era which kind of doesn't make them too attractive a destination for a new graduate. Surprisingly enough the situation for EE grads is much more rosier: Anecdotal evidence over the past three years suggests that most of them get hired and stay in Austin.


"Austin's supply crunch for software developers was bad enough by September to prompt 25 Central Texas tech executives to fly to California in search of new talent."

Awesome idea - cause there's certainly not a dev shortage in California, is there?

They'd probably have more luck doing a whistlestop tour of the midwest and north atlantic states, hitting up the more rural areas. Many techies in those areas have few options, or may be stuck with remote-only options, and may not enjoy the weather as much. The Austin companies have an automatic 'better lifestyle' story against more of those areas (weather alone) rather than trying to compete with California (where most of the devs are there probably because of the Valley and the software dev culture already).

In short, I'd guess it's an uphill battle to get people to move from SF to Austin, probably much harder than getting people from, say, St Joseph, Michigan to uproot for Austin.

"After resumes were shared, business cards exchanged and several follow-up phone interviews completed, not a single one of those California candidates has made the move to Texas, according to the Austin Technology Council, which organized the trip."

Oh wow, and look at that, it didn't work. Wh not?

"It's even tighter there than it is here," said participant Rod Favaron , CEO of Austin startup Spredfast . "The challenge is there just aren't enough good software developers to go around."

They didn't think of that before? Or just can't think outside the bubble?


You are absolutely right about them hitting the wrong geographical area.

However, as a developer in the mid-Atlantic, I think the lifestyle here is just as good :)

I'd love to find a remote opportunity with any of those firms, but it seems that is difficult to find these days.


Many people do like where they live, but... I suspect more people would prefer to leave, say, Maryland for Austin than leaving SF.


May I submit that if companies collectively hired some junior/entry level employees, they might eventually have some mid and senior level developers in the market? Just looking at Startuply for example, there is maybe one junior position out of 53 positions listed in Austin.

Perhaps hire one senior level and a two or three junior level developers to work closely together, and try and raise the productivity of the new devs.

If there are NO senior level programmers available, maybe they should get creative.


Spot on. I've seen this again and again: everyone is hurting for senior people, and everyone wants rock stars/ninjas. Hardly any companies that I see are willing to hire a junior dev or admin and contribute anything at all to his/her personal development, skill accumulation, and experience. They just wanna plug the hole and fill the position as fast as they can, and that's usually bad for both employer and employee long term.


Bull.

Companies have been hiring tons of inexperienced devs throughout the late '90s and early '00s, and they have been hurt badly by it. Incoherent teams full of junior devs that lacked practical skills and didn't know how to work in a team nearly killed many software based companies.

A CS degree teaches barely any professional skills, it's all on the job training, so training a junior is extremely costly.

So nowadays, smart companies build their team around seniors, and only then start hiring juniors one at a time. Which means 3 to 4 seniors for every junior dev.

It's not about "plugging the hole", it's about making sure the ship doesn't start leaking so badly it sinks.


"Companies have been hiring tons of inexperienced devs throughout the late '90s and early '00s, and they have been hurt badly by it."

Hiring "junior devs" and "hiring inexperienced devs" can be a world apart.

Hiring someone for position X who turns out to be inexperienced is not the same as explicitly hiring a junior developer with the intent of training them up.

I've seen a lot of the former, but not much of the latter. The two ideas get conflated quite often, but in reality are different and the latter takes a bigger commitment of resources.

"So nowadays, smart companies build their team around seniors, and only then start hiring juniors one at a time."

5-10 years from now, the conventional wisdom will probably be different. Sr devs might be more willing to leave, and if there are fewer of them, a larger percentage of your company knowledge, culture and IP resources go with them.


I agree with you in principle but your ratio is way off. Once you get out of the startup phase, a senior team lead plus one senior to two juniors is plenty. Training them isn't any more costly than hiring a senior, and they have the benefit of, you know, being available to hire.


I have seen several teams with this idea but they start calling someone senior after 4-5 years...

The following team is vary senior heavy and would avoid the junior dev team syndrome without costing an arm an arm and a leg and is still reasonably stable over the long term as long as turnover is low.

1 person with 0-2 years exp, 1 person with 2-5, 1 with 5-7, 3 with 7+ and 1 with 15+.

To, keep priming the pump just look for one new grad every 2 years and keep a lookout for the occasional great senior dev out there to cover for attrition.


This is the problem I've had with job listings in the startup world. I'm a jr level web developer, self-taught in the past year, that can't seem to find a single job listing that isn't asking for a ninja, rockstar, guru, or dragon slayer.

Where are the companies hiring warlocks in training, people willing to learn but needing the chance to grow and be challenged.

I guess I wonder why, if I was indeed a sr level engineer, why I would work for anyone at all when I could command high rates as a freelancer, or build my own products.


I live close to the DC/Baltimore area right now. 95% of the positions I see advertised as either junior or entry level are looking for someone with a Top Secret (SCI) clearance and 3 years of professional experience. In addition to the ridiculous requirements they typically offer 40-60k a year.

On the other hand for people with 5+ years of experience there seems to be tons of high paying jobs.

Five years ago you could get a job around here as a security guard making 80k if you had a TS clearance.


In the DC area too. The positions that need 5+ years experience and need TS/SCI/FSP still pay $60K/yr.


I see a few low paying jobs for experienced people, but I also see a lot of 80-130k jobs. Most of them require at least a Top Secret, but not all of them. Try clearancejobs.com if you have any kind of clearance at all.


That's a resume farm.


What's a resume farm? I'm actually pretty new to looking for a job. I have been in the military for almost a decade.


A resume farm is an entity that collects (farm) resumes. The job postings are most likely taken from other sites. Salaries are inflated to make you want to submit your resume.


Are there any reputable job sites? I have mostly been looking for positions posted on sites such as clearancejobs.com, but I usually apply directly through each company's website.


>Hardly any companies that I see are willing to hire a junior dev or admin and contribute anything at all to his/her personal development, skill accumulation, and experience.

well and after all that investment the person leaves for better salary/etc... to somebody who is looking to hire senior people and not "willing to hire a junior dev or admin and contribute anything at all to his/her personal development, skill accumulation, and experience" There is a reason for the things even if we don't like the reason.

And again, the "hot" skills (any NoSQL/Hadoop) can be picked in a week and even junior with such skills would easy find a place. There is just no excuse for somebody unsuccessfully looking for work in this market to not sit down and master some of such skills.


>well and after all that investment the person leaves for better salary/etc

They could offer them a raise based on their new value? If this company can't pay people well or offer a good work environment, how are they going to get senior developers?

> (any NoSQL/Hadoop) can be picked in a week

I can't believe there are companies looking for people with a "week" of experience in NoSQL who aren't mid-level developers already.


"Rock star" is code for "junior dev who thinks he should be senior and will work 90 hours per week to prove it". People who've been programming for 5+ years generally avoid the "rock star" epithet like the plague.


In general companies seem unwilling to "train". Everyone has to start somewhere. I honestly consider software development to be a trade skill.

For startups, it makes sense to desire a senior level developer. Midsize and large companies really should explore internal training programs. Everyone a generation older than me talk about a world where the "entered through the mail room" and worked their way up. Does this world even exist today? From my point of view, it seems like we only expect top talent everywhere.


The only thing harder to hire than an experienced developer is a manager experienced at turning junior or early-career developers into senior ones.

Seriously, few things can sink the ship faster than taking on inexperienced people and hoping they'll learn. From that point of view, I can see why many startups, particularly those whose CTO/VP-E doesn't have management depth in addition to their technical depth.


Technical Management - either Operations or Project - is still regarded as a soft skill, and therefore isn't desired by most startups. As a result, they don't know how to recruit, don't know how to interview, and don't know how to manage their teams, whether in the office or distributed.

I've been doing it for about 5 years now, almost exclusively remote - it's not difficult, it just requires that everyone communicate well, or be willing to learn, if they don't already.

Part of the problem I've encountered are founder/senior managment who are willing to learn these management skills themselves - they are conditioned that everything is on them, so that can be tough.

At this point, I'm of the opinion that in most cases, especially with startups, remote is far more humane than in the office. It's also far more cost effective.


I'm going to drop a small plug for my former employer, MyEdu (an Austin startup) -- they frequently hire people into junior roles, and I feel fortunate to have had such an opportunity myself. I'm not saying that everything is sunshine and roses there, but they definitely have a company culture that values the professional growth of junior employees.


How junior? And do you know if the hire remote for a probation period?


> How junior?

I had one year of programming experience when I was hired at MyEdu. I was desperate for a job so I actually signed on as a member of the automated data collection team, which only involved writing lightweight scripts. After six months, though, I taught myself PHP and improved my JavaScript enough to move up to the web development team.

Other coworkers of mine at MyEdu had similar experiences with paths like manual data entry -> QA -> web developer / DBA (as junior roles), or automated data collection -> sysop + backend developer (junior role). I don't work there now, but I think it would still be fair to characterize the company as one willing to take a chance on someone who shows a burgeoning aptitude. [And there are direct hires into junior web dev roles also; promotion from within is highly valued but not the only route.]

Naturally, this is not how you make the biggest of bucks, but it's a decent salary (with stock options for some positions) + work on a meaningful product + an enjoyable work environment. It's an especially attractive situation for people who are attempting a career transition like I was.

In the interest of not derailing the discussion too much, email me if you want to know more about my experience there. I haven't worked there since August but I worked there for over two years.

> And do you know if the hire remote for a probation period?

Remote work is normally unavailable to junior positions -- it's more of a trust-earned situation.


A "probation period" doesn't really make sense in Texas. Even when the probation period is over, you can be fired the next day for no reason.


Well, probation for me means lower salary too.


I'm a developer in Dallas and many of the same things are affecting our market, although we're mostly big companies and less startups.

I personally work with a geographically distributed team and as long as we meet face to face on occasion, we're highly effective and we can hire when ever we find good talent no matter where they live.

I know companies like GitHub, LivingSocial, and 37 Signals all embrace this remote team model and utilize it well to find the talent they need without taking desperate measures.

That begs the question, why aren't most of these startups doing the same thing? I understand big companies are often too paralyzed in bureaucracy to hire remote workers, but shouldn't startups be a little more flexible in this regard?


It seems like most hip startups want you in their office, drinking coffee/beer/coolaid with the rest of the team. I don't know more companies don't give a distributed team a chance, but from my observations it seems like they're all inherently against the idea.


Distributed teams work when the company, its culture and processes are stable and clear. Most software related companies don't get anywhere near that in the first five to ten years. In the mean time, fast growing start-ups look for the engineers they hire to be their future technical leaders, and to be deeply involved in the entire company, not just writing code.

In short: drinking coffee/beer/koolaid with the rest of the team is of vital importance, even if the actual work can be done remotely.

Also, the people that don't get this aren't good hires for remote work anyway, because one primary skill needed for a remote worker is knowing how to compensate for not being physically present.


I don't know what you qualify as 'hip', but beyond the initial three or four first people in a startup, many startups are more than willing to start hiring remote workers.

This is especially true when you're looking for workers with very specific skill sets. It's generally easy to find a generic Java developer locally, but if you're looking for, say Cassandra experts (like we are at DataStax, with an office in Austin), then you're probably willing to hire someone anywhere in the world if they're good enough.


I get this, as I worked in a startup and saw how many of the early employees started to fill in leadership roles within the company. However, we had remote teams too and they worked out just as well. Our VP of Development for a long time was remote too.

I do agree that it's not optimal in every situation, and your culture has to adjust for it. I'm just saying, if there is a talent crunch, companies need to be willing to take steps to handle it. Distributed teams are one such option.


Because face to face is that much more valuable; there's no replacement for it; it's worth it


The distributed model imposes a cost that most startups would rather not pay. There's a lot of communication latency that occurs once a company becomes distributed. It takes a high level of aggregate professional maturity and attentiveness to communication to work.

Some teams, usually small ones, can make distributed work work, but it doesn't work for everyone and it doesn't form the sort of culture startups generally want.

That said, the distance metric isn't linear. Across a parking lot is almost as far as 1000 miles away. Once a company is scaling to this point, remote-work arrangements make a lot of sense.


Okay HN – (forgive the personal bent to this, please) what's the best way for me to find a decent paying, but fun job?

I've got ~8 years of python experience, ~2 years of experience with Javascript/JQuery/etc. and will be finishing up my masters in design (and an MBA) in the spring and, while I'm actually really proud of a lot of the work I've done, I'm irrationally terrified that I won't find a fun job that pays halfway decently... so, without becoming a plumb for a recruiter with their own best interests at heart, do y'all have any tips for finding a job worth having?

(Backstory -- I haven't been out of a job since I got out of college, so I'm feeling totally out of practice with regards to the job search)


In my experience, finding a great job starts with not selling yourself short. Don't send out blanket resumes to anyone who is hiring with the hope that something will stick. Don't waste time with recruiters who have no idea about the tech industry and/or work out of some call center in New Jersey. Spend time searching for jobs that appeal to you, particularly stuff from personal contacts, HN or StackOverflow careers before wading into Monster or Dice. Also, spend the time to check out any companies in your area(s) that you are interested in. Many times companies only post jobs on their own site, and sometimes jobs aren't posted at all. If you know of a company you want to work for, send in a resume even if they don't have open positions. Then, put as much effort as possible into nailing one or two job possibilities a week. That means researching the company and their competition (Twitter/Glassdoor/LinkedIn/etc), refreshing yourself on any software topics related to their niche, and playing with any of their products you can get your hands on. Also, be ready with some real questions for them during the interview, and remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Good luck!


Thanks. That's a great reply -- much appreciated.


Wall of text ahead. Sorry. :)

Don't sweat it too much. You can do things to adjust your odds, but there's a lot of luck involved, so part of it is out of your control. Who's hiring, what they're looking for, how your resume matches what they want, and how you interview that day can all turn good candidates and good employers into non-matches.

Mind your ethics and personal preferences, but don't over-emphasize the fun part of a fun job. Your attitude can control your opinions to some extent, and this plays in your favor here. Employers generally trip over themselves to try to convince candidates that they're a fun and exciting place to work. They're not trying as hard to pour money on you (generally). Geeks are generally bad at negotiating, and bad early steps can have a long-term, sometimes nearly permanent, effect on your salary level. It's also common to feel bitter if you ever realize you're being screwed over financially.

Don't sweat recruiters too much. As a candidate your interests don't directly align with theirs. That doesn't mean that you're necessarily always at odds. If you care about a fun work environment you will probably find that they don't have much to offer you. It doesn't hurt to talk to them, but don't expect much.

Probably the single biggest attack point for hitting your stated goals is during the job interview. Make sure that you realize the interview is, and treat it as, a mutual process. Are your future teammates boring, stupid, or difficult? What's the manager looking for, explicitly and implicitly? Why did the last person on the team leave (even/especially if the team is growing)? How does the hiring manager (or the higher-up "fit" interviewer, usually a Director or executive) think about the company culture, and what do they do about it?

You will probably not benefit by bringing up salary or benefits before the interviewer does, so don't. Once that topic has been broached don't be afraid to dig. If you're feeling brash, ask how the company makes salary decisions. There are services out there that offer salary ranges for employee positions. Maybe they use that data. If so, how?

Eventually you'll get an offer. Congratulations! It's very common for employers to set a tight expiration on one. If your offer expires sooner than you're comfortable making a decision, push back gently but firmly. Commit to a response deadline, but give yourself the time you need to decide.


"You will probably not benefit by bringing up salary or benefits before the interviewer does, so don't."

While I do not disagree, why is this? You, the one looking for a job, are the seller. The seller almost always makes the first offer. It seems a lot of time could be saved if expectations were put right out there during the initial sales pitch.


Thanks. I'm often one to write long replies – it's actually a bit gratifying to be on the receiving end of one, so thanks for your time.

So, I dig everything you're saying... I guess I should have been more specific – by fun, I mean 'rewarding' in just about every sense except financial/ladder-climbing, etc, but I think all of what you said still applies.

In response to what you said, however, do you have any tips on negotiating?

A classmate was just offered 65k for a job in NYC that would pay 80-85k at a comparable firm in Chicago and he took the offer with no negotiating because he was afraid to do so... which blew my mind, honestly... so, I am to not be that guy...


> do you have any tips on negotiating?

Interview like it's going out of style; it'll help you feel more comfortable, if nothing else. When you have multiple offers, you can tell one company that the other is offering more. Then you can say that you have a significantly higher offer that's much closer to the average offer in your area, without revealing the exact dollar amount. Plus, you actually have a second offer you can go with if the first company doesn't offer more.

Also, look up online what average salaries are for your occupation and your area.


Make a good network, meet lots of people in your area, notice who's good and who's not, and work for one of the good ones.


The obviousness of your reply highlights the irrationality of my job-hunting fears. Thanks for the reality-check.


Make friends with people who share your priorities. I've got a large number of friends who have prioritized professional enjoyment over simply making bank - and this network is great when you're looking.

Surround yourself with people who won't work bullshit jobs, and come job hunting time it shouldn't be hard to find something that fits.


Have an e-mail in your HN account so people can contact you. :)


I had considered that, but I wasn't explicitly trying to troll HN for jobs – just advice... but fair enough. I've added one now.


Start a technical blog, in which you advertise that you are available for hire. Go to meetups (and conferences) to further network with the right people.


What do you consider "fun?" Does it have to be a startup or a ping pong tables in the office kind of place? Obviously HN is going to place a higher value on a startup, but there are lots of interesting jobs at larger companies too. Do you want to be part of a small or large team? How much autonomy do you want?

Figuring out exactly what you want is the first step in getting it :)


Your resume is fine; focus on the fun, work hard, keep in touch with colleagues, and the opportunities will find you.


Join the Austin Startup group on Facebook. There are plenty of people on there that can point you in the right direction if you are legit.


Which one? I ask b/c there appear to be several with that or very similar names.



Why not

a) put stuff you've done up on the web so people can see that it's cool and doesn't suck;

b) email random cool places you'd like to work (e.g. startups)

c) practice interviewing

?


It is pretty depressing to realize how under-paid we are in the bay area when you factor in cost of living. A lead systems administrator in SF tops out at about $150k, but more likely is about $120k, which is the same my friends in Wisconsin and New Jersey make, where the cost of living is 60% and 30% lower, respectively.


But you get to live in San Francisco rather than Wisconsin or New Jersey. It might not matter to some people, but I have almost zero desire to live long-term anywhere other than San Diego, LA, or San Francisco. There are enough people who feel the same way that I do, and so employees can pay a bit less.


I live in SF right now. It's not even that nice... it just costs a lot, and in many ways I feel like the insane amount of love the city gets from its residents is at least in part to feel better about paying such ridiculous living costs.

I've lived in a lot of major cities in my life, and SF is the first one where I've had to literally dodge human shit while walking on the sidewalk.

The weather is pretty much the only reason I don't regret moving here. Even the famously liberal population drives me up the wall sometimes - amazingly cliquey, and way smugger than even South Park portrays this place.


I travel all around the United States, moving every three to six weeks, and I completely agree with your assessment of San Francisco, having just spent a month living there.

San Francisco is actually kind of disgusting. It is one of the dirtiest cities in the United States and there are literally-crazy homeless people on every corner. In many ways, it is dirtier than Manhattan; it makes Boston look sterile. There is human excrement everywhere, and serious crime issues. I passed a fountain that was effectively aerosolizing human shit (the homeless were pooping in it), which smelled about how you may imagine. It is not uncommon to walk through a cloud of pot smoke then to be hit in the face with the foul stench of waste; the mixture is revolting.

The locals are also out of touch with reality. They compare Market St. to the Champs-Élysées in Paris which only seems to demonstrate that they've never been to Paris. There are idiotic cancer warnings on everything; hotels, gas stations, parking garages, Starbucks, shopping centers, health clubs, and french fry boxes. There are Idiocracy warning alarms at the exit to every parking garage, presumably to prevent the deaths of the vast number of people that are killed every year by cars exiting parking garages. There is a tax on toasted subs. Idiotic protesters were allowed to block Market St., halting street cars, rerouting buses, disrupting commutes, and closing the MUNI station while blathering about how it was there first amendment right to do so (it's not). In short, the place is backward. There seems to be such a political desire to tackle huge societal issues and minor non-issues that the city has failed to master the very basics, and is unable to even manage human waste.


It's refreshing to hear others who share the same views of SF. I was beginning to think that I was just missing something.

> There are idiotic cancer warnings on everything; hotels, gas stations, parking garages, Starbucks, shopping centers, health clubs, and french fry boxes.

I think this is a State of CA thing, not a City of SF thing.


Per rent dollar, some parts of LA like the UCLA area, South Pas, Santa Monica, Malibu, etc, seem much nicer than SF.

The poor/middle-class parts of LA like the SFV are obviously in bad shape.


I'm a denizen of the East Coast. On every visit to SF I notice shit on the sidewalks that public services never clean up. I guess it's the vast number of homeless people and crackheads. They just pull their pants down and defecate wherever they are. I never saw that in Philly.

But yeah, the weather sure is nice. I figure that's part of the problem, though: if you're homeless, you'll head somewhere that's warm all the time. Everbody had the same idea and solution.


Talking to other people in SF about the city always strikes me as somewhat Stockholm Syndrome-y. People take pride in paying $2K for an apartment on a street where the police warns you to stay inside because two people got raped blocks apart in the same week. It's so surreal.

Oh, the crime isn't so bad. Everyone knows to stay away from the west side of Dolores Park! The crackheads in the TL won't bother you unless you show fear! Haha! Another person got shanked on my block this week - if only they were as street smart as the rest of us! I deftly dodged a piece of human shit on the sidewalk on my way to work without missing a beat, how delightfully urban-sophisticate!

I've never before lived in a place where violent crime, rampant substance abuse, and extreme poverty was treated in such a blase way, and often glorified as "vibrancy" and "color". The more I live here the more I feel like people here have these giant goggles on that only allows them to see the charming mini-muffins, startup parties, and great coffee.


I have lived in SF for 5 years, and seriously have no clue WTF you are talking about. The crime rate in SF is quite average as far as big cities go. You make it sound like some post apocalyptic hellhole.


San Francisco has a higher incidence of violent crime per capita than does New York, despite the fact that San Francisco is concentrated into 46 square miles, while New York spans 301 square miles.

What this means in practice is that nobody in San Francisco lives more than walking distance from an area of the city in which people are routinely mugged, whereas you have to get north of the 140s in NYC to see drastically increased crime.

San Francisco is, for its population, anomalously small. That plays into a lot of the problems perceive in it: it drives housing costs, makes transportation infrastructure harder to build, retards home ownership (and thus neighborhoods --- had a block party lately?), puts people into closer contact with crime, &c &c.

I lived in SF for several years, and I think 'potatolicious is if anything understating his case.


Shouldn't the small size make transportation easier to build? I've always assumed muni sucks so bad because it's part of some grand plan I never understood. Incompetence cannot explain it, it's so bad it has to be deliberate.


Can you explain to me why Muni and BART suck? I take BART or AC Transit every day, and Muni 2 or 3 times per week, and have for years. A decade ago I was afraid of Muni because I was afraid of poor people. I'm no longer afraid of poor people, I'm afraid of the rich, so Muni feels really natural.


I'm truly curious, as someone who has never been to San Francisco, if rents are so high, how come smalltime criminals and other lower parts of the society can afford it? Or they simply don't have to pay rent?


The very very poor live in taxpayer subsidized housing called SROs, or camp-out in parks or on the street. Blue-collar families who were lucky enough to buy in the '60s and '70s often have multiple generations in their spots, or sell, profit many hundreds of thousands of dollars, and relocate to cheap suburbs. Otherwise they reside in subsidized housing projects or just live in the 5 or 6 bad neighborhoods where crime is high and rents are cheap such as the 'loin, bayshore, hunter's point, the south side of potrero hill, tortilla flats, the far outer-mission, or ingleside. Most of these neighborhoods are being aggressively squeezed out of existence through gentrifaction.

Most residents without families have roommates. Tweens who make up the majority of the workforce naive enough to work for start-ups live 3-5 people in older victorian or "railroad" apartments where the dining rooms and living rooms have long-since been converted into bedrooms.

These apartments are rent controlled, so it's common for these units to be priced below market if the lease holder has had their lease for a significant period of time.

I have several friends who spend $600-$900/month to share such a unit with 3-4 others, whilst the leaseholder pays $1,000-$1,500/month for the apartment. Often the leaseholder no longer resides in the unit, and sublets it as an income source.

Our rent control law was ill-conceived covering only buildings constructed before the bill was passed in the'70s. Landlords burdened by rent-control statues are only permitted inflationary rent increases. Landlords of newer constructions may set rates as they see fit when contracts come up to renewal. This artificially restricts the supply of available units and helps keep rents high.

My last apartment, a 2 bedroom, 2 bath in SOMA cost me $2900 when I signed up for it two years ago. They raised the rent to $4,200 this summer and I had to move to Oakland. It turns out Oakland is pretty awesome, but it's not home. Everything closes early, there are some 'hoods I bike through which are shady enough that I keep pepper spray mounted on my seat stay and a quick-action folding knife in my pocket.

There is very little violence in San Francisco directed at white/asian, upper-middle class people, like the suburbanites bitching in this thread. Most violence is crackheads killing crackheads, or gangs killing other gang members. I've walked every street in this city day and night, drunk, high, and sober, carrying a $2k laptop and a $3k camera on my backpack.

Panhandlers mostly stick to the neighborhoods locals avoid. The yuppie neighborhoods and the tourist neighborhoods. But honestly, if the fear of panhandlers keeps you from moving to the city and sticking in the south bay or the peninsula, awesome. You're not going to contribute anything to this city besides the money you spend at restaurants and bars, anyways, so you're just part of the invading gentry, you're not part of our city. Stay away. It's dangerous here. The poor are out to get you because they're poor and you're rich. Go back to Palo Alto where you belong. Please. They have coffee shops and women too beautiful for you nerds to ever sleep with.


You aren't contributing anything more to the conversation. There are some high-paying jobs in Austin that you might want to check out.


I thought his post was rather insightful for those of us in Austin constantly wondering if the grass is greener on the other side.


To be fair, it's not all bad - otherwise I would've high-tailed it out of here already. I feel that SF is a city of extremes - on the bad side, it gets really fucked up. But on the good side, there are things here that you won't find anywhere else.

As impendia brings up elsewhere in the thread, there are a lot of world-class people here, in startups and otherwise. I'm a part-time photographer on the side, and I've been able to find a lot more creative, ambitious, and talented people here than anywhere else I've been.

Though I wish I could get to these places/people without wading through the cesspool that is the rest of the city. SF is a city where you can attend an art show opening by incredible artists... but have to walk through crackstab-row to get there. You can learn dance from world-class instructors... but have to step over a few prone, immobile bodies lying on the sidewalk. There are unique shops you won't find anywhere else... and you'll be accosted by deranged crackheads the whole way. You can enjoy great, sunny year-round weather in the park... just watch out for the needles in the grass.

It really is a city of extremes. Personally, I'm not moving out of here anytime soon - though I would wish that people stop wearing obvious problems like a badge of pride. No, it's not cool that you live on a street where people get raped all the time. No, it's not cool that you have 5 crackheads hanging out downstairs blocking your building's entrance every morning. In other cities people would see these things as problems. In SF it's "ohhhhh it's just SF! Reminds me of how lucky I am to be here!".

The standard response to bringing any of these impolite topics up is either:

- hur hur. You're obviously not cut out for city-living (right, because I've lived in more major cities than most people have in their lives...)

- Well, I've never seen any of this! (unless you stay in the very furthest reaches of the Richmond or Outer Sunset, yes, yes you have).


If you've ever lived in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, or any of the small midwestern cities you'll feel that San Francisco is a paradise. I've had a gun pointed in my face in Philly and New York. The worst random violence I've ever had is I caught some guy with a grinder trying to cut through my bicycle lock. He high-tailed it, and I stole his grinder.


I've decided that while urban areas generally lean left, there are definitely "red" cities and "blue" cities, with the classification basically coming down to the citizenry's thoughts on what constitutes police brutality/harassment/whatever.


As someone who's prospectively moving out to the Valley from Austin in a couple of months, I'd say its perhaps the most interesting part of this thread...


But yeah, the weather sure is nice. I figure that's part of the problem, though: if you're homeless, you'll head somewhere that's warm all the time.

That and a place with good public transportation. Portland has a huge homeless problem because it has free public transportation within city limits. Many homeless people just ride the trains around all day.


Anyone who raves about the great weather in SF is clearly not qualified to give judgment on the city.


Anyone who thinks that SF doesn't have great weather, compared to the rest of the country, has clearly been in California so long they've lost touch with reality.

Do you really want to compare SF weather with Seattle, Portland, Chicago, New York, Boston, etc?


I like wearing shorts. At night. The fact that I can do this, at least some parts of the year, in New York, makes it a great city. In New York, I never once left the house wearing a tshirt, walked a neighborhood over, spent a few hours at a friend's, and then nearly died of hypothermia walking home. The fact that residents of SF have to check the weather every two hours and every time they cross into a new zip code is, imo, a fatal flaw. Yeah, it's often nice, but never nice enough for long enough (48 hours of reliable 70+ temperatures). Now, a few miles down the peninsula, things get more interesting...


> I never saw that in Philly.

I definitely have. :|


Worked for 4 years in SF and left a couple years ago for another job... the whole time I was there I felt like I was seeing a different city than everyone else. For the most part I found it dirty, unfriendly, cold and way overpriced. There are some nice attractions and scenery but the day to day experience drove me nuts after a while. I also got tired of seeing my earnings slowly eaten up by all miscellaneous costs that go along with city living - paying for a parking spot, bridge tolls, extra taxes, etc. will not be missed


I lived in San Francisco for two years, and moved away to a much smaller place when my (temporary) job ran out.

SF isn't for everyone, but I absolutely loved it. I went to weekly swing dances attended by 200+ people, joined meditation circles, took yoga classes from the best instructors in the world, took comedy lessons from the studio that pioneered long-form improv, ... the list goes on and on.

SF has a huge concentration of high-energy, motivated, ambitious, creative people, and if I had the option I would move back there in a heartbeat, high real estate prices and all.

Everyone's tastes are different, I don't mean to criticize you one bit, but there are a lot of things to seriously love about San Francisco, and people who love these things push the rents up.


> The weather is pretty much the only reason I don't regret moving here

You nailed it: we're paying for the weather.

It's December 11th, and we're still able to be outside. Yesterday I did a 80k bike ride and it was perfect out. Even at it's worst (Feb) it's still quite tolerable. Every time I think about moving to the east coast, I remember the ice and snow of the winters, and am quite happy to stay here.

Also, we're geographically ideal. Want to get into the hills? take a drive down 1 or skyline, and it's gorgeous. We have ocean access. Napa and Sonoma are an hour north. Skiing and the mountains are only a couple hours east.

It's far more than just san fransico proper.


I've lived in a lot of major cities in my life, and SF is the first one where I've had to literally dodge human shit while walking on the sidewalk.

As a longtime Austin resident, I'd almost consider that a nice problem to have, because it would mean that walking was an integrated part of my daily routine rather than something I have to explicitly make time for so that I don't lose my mind from all the driving I have to do.


I've heard good things about Austin's urban life - though I've never lived there myself.

In any case, there are lot of cities in the US (and even more abroad) where you can get the walk-centric lifestyle without having to dodge human shit. Hell, even Manhattan, the city that supposedly defines urban grime, doesn't have this.


What part of Austin are you living in? There is great public transit here, and the city is very pedestrian and biker friendly. I know many many people who don't own cars in Austin. If you're driving everywhere all the time, perhaps that is a lifestyle choice you made.


I definitely wouldn't call Austin's public transportation "great," nor would I call a significant portion of the city "pedestrian friendly." I don't own a car and get around by bike, bus and car2go, but the desire to do so drastically limited my housing and employment choices.

http://www.walkscore.com/TX/Austin

From experience, anything that isn't green on that map isn't anywhere near walkable, and only Guadalupe and South Congress have transit worth riding. 20-30 minute headways are the norm on other routes, and only transit devotees will put up with that, like I did when I lived on Burnet.

You are very correct that transportation is a lifestyle choice, but Austin doesn't make driving rarely an easy choice.


It would be neat if we could do this without requiring me to provide my public transit bona fides. I live in Central Austin, where the public transit, pedestrian, and cycling infrastructure is about as good as it gets in Austin. And I would argue that it's pretty meager compared to many major cities – such as San Francisco, which is what we were talking about.

And since we're also talking about working for software companies, I would also like to posit – and I could certainly be wrong about this – that the majority of local software companies are not located centrally, where they are readily accessible via bus, rail, or bike. And once you're out of Central Austin, you're in a city that's built to car scale, not human scale.


Are you suggesting that the niceness of the city somehow acts as a benefit so that the employer doesn't have to pay as much?


Sort of, see "Expensive Urban Real Estate Is a Consumption Choice": http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/11/expensiv...

If coming to New York meant that you had to put four people in a three bedroom apartment that's uncomfortably far from a subway line, instead of buying a nice little condo in Omaha, this does not mean that you are not "really" better off than your counterpart in Omaha; it means that you have chosen to consume your extra wealth in the form of "living in New York" rather than in the form of spacious real estate, cheap groceries, and an easy commute.


...and a job.

At some point, the crowd creates the job market creates the crowd...and it snowballs. Our preferences stopped mattering a long time ago.


I'd definitely concur with that statement. Location and living environment are definitely a factor in deciding to take a job somewhere else than where you are now.

Whether SF is 'nicer' than somewhere else is down to the individual's preferences.

Who hasn't said "That job looks interesting but the office location is a pain in the ass and will add 30 minutes each way to my commute"?


All else equal, yes. More demand means a higher price -- i.e., less compensation for the same talent.


Absolutely. I am an experienced software engineer in SF, and you would have to pay me WAY more money to live in Texas. The number is high enough that I would never realistically move there.


Hmm. Do you have family that you're reluctant to uproot, or do you really just like SF that much? I like SF, it's the best place I've ever lived, but I guess I don't get too attached to cities.


of course. it's much easier to get good talent in cities that are desirable to live in, even though the cost of living is 2x higher than bumble-fuck places. i know because i moved to a bumble-fuck place for a high salary, and a. i hate living here, and b. we interview a lot of people, and it is surprising how hard it is to find anyone even mid-level.. the only lucky breaks we get is if some sr developer happened to move to bumble-fuck because he got married and is raising a family there.


Wow, all of the hate on San Francisco, this place is my home and I love it. New York is the only other city in the US I could cope with. I just wish we had saner policies around our housing (like a rent-control system which didn't create so much illiquidity in inventory) and fewer dot-commie 2.0s ruining our culture by taking everything they can and offering nothing back in return, essentially treating the city like a long-term tourist engagement. Every time a large startup has an exit rents go up. My income bracket makes me "lower upper-middle class" and now that I'm in my early '30s I can no longer afford to live here. Analysts preduct that when Facebook and Zynga IPO the average price of a 2 bedroom 2 bath in the city will get close to $5k/month, which is insane. The only way start-ups can manage to operate out of San Francisco is ridiculous valuations, and hiring young kids who are happy to live 3 or 4 to an apartment, since market-rate salaries don't allow you to live alone unless you want to live in a poorly maintained studio in the 'loin.


Please, don't make me mention the pay here in Hawaii.


The fact that you found a job in Hawaii at all is impressive. I lived there for 3 years and left for LA due to lack of jobs or community surrounding the web.


I grew up in Wisconsin, and until recently worked there. $120k seems an outrageous amount to me - where are your friends?


They're all in madison, working primarily for one of two tech companies or large cable-based ISPs. The jobs sound dreadfully boring, and I realize they're only able to command such salaries due to the lack of senior engineers to compete with.


Thanks for the info!


NJ and Wisconsin as a comparison?

Your friends in NJ probably work in NYC (or one of the close in northern NJ cities). Run a cost of living calculator, we're just as bad off (:

If they're out in the middle of the state they're probably not making $120, and you could be living in Sacramento for a lower cost of living (and salary) too.


That's a good point, but is it more depressing than living in WI is?


Madison is quite nice. There isn't as much excitement as in New York or San Francisco, but I'd take it over suburbia (including Bay Area suburbia) in 1/5 of a heartbeat.

If the three worst things about a place are December, January, and February... that's a pretty good place to live.


And the massive amounts of water pollution from all of the industrial interests that have been around for most of the 20th century.

It's what made Wisconsin great but it's also a horrible legacy to leave the population with.

It sure is beautiful in the spring and summer. Door County is amazing.


I grew up less than a mile away from the Fox River, one of the worst in the state, and I must say, I never thought of myself as saddled with a horrible legacy. There are plenty of places to go if you like being in the water.

That's not to say that I don't think all the pollution sucks, I do, I just don't think it factors in very much to the everyday quality of life as much as say, the weather.


There's a lot of discussion in this thread around "junior" vs. "senior". This misses the point, which is to hire good programmers and avoid bad ones. It's as if the industry has finally burned itself out of the "programmers as replaceable cogs" model and has replaced it with the next-laziest model, "hire senior, not junior". That is an improvement, but it's still so off-base that the words "junior" and "senior" applied to programming make me cringe.

Here are two factors the junior/senior model does not take into account. First, a good but inexperienced programmer will learn so quickly that they will run rings around mediocre experienced programmers in no time. Second, experience isn't only a good thing. Once people have repeated something a certain way enough times (and surprisingly few repetitions are required), they become locked-in and unable to see alternatives. This loss of flexibility is toxic to effective programming.

Of course that happens less to good programmers than bad ones, but that only puts us back at the real question - how do you tell a good one apart from a bad one? - something we have no satisfactory way of answering that is compatible with current hiring practices.

What we need is a healthy culture of interaction between "junior" and "senior". Our industry lacks this. What is our path to learning? We have the sink-or-swim model in which people once hired are installed in a silo and told to work on their tasks. Everyone recapitulates all the classic mistakes and has to figure everything out for themselves. I know I did. It cost me at least 5 years developmentally, and I'm only putting the number that low to save face. This way is so inefficient that it must eventually yield to something better. Hopefully when that happens there will also be less of the prickly auto-didact about most of us - but that's another story.


What we need is a healthy culture of interaction between "junior" and "senior".

Reading other people's code is too hard. We go through life trying to do it as little as possible.


Reading other peoples code is a great way to learn, but often other peoples code is not very accessible. How often do you look at the code written by a star dev in another department on another project. I can't:

-identify star devs unless I work with them directly,

-look at the code base of the project they are working on if I am not also working on it,

-find out which portions of the code they wrote (without looking through commit logs)

In many places a <i>healthy culture of interaction between "junior" and "senior".</i> is not facilitated by the employer.


In my experience, it happens through personal interaction and is a matter of culture. Facilitated by employers? Most employers are decades away from knowing how to do that. Or rather, most employers that exist today will never do it.

The interesting question is how many good programmers would be happier working in such a culture. I believe the answer is significantly many, and that this is a competitive edge waiting to be exploited. We hear so much about perks and benefits. My programmer soul says: fuck perks and benefits. Give me an environment that is teeming with creativity where I get to work with great people that I learn from and am inspired to do what seemed impossible.


"We've fallen into a trap of fighting over existing talent," Favaron said, "and that's a zero-sum game that hurts everyone."

Everyone? No, it does not hurt the employees.


Yeah, but they aren't anyone, they're just talent.


May favorite was when a very large corporation started to call their HR department Human Capital Management. Human Resources is bad enough, but once you start calling me captial I'm never going to work for you again.


Here's my gripe about this:

Ok, so startups have limited funds, fair enough. But way too many of them offer way too little in the way of equity to make up for a below-market salary and the risk and opportunity cost of taking the job.

I have zero sympathy for larger firms. When they talk of raising H1-B limits and how tight the market is, what they really mean is that they can't find developers for what they're willing to pay. the work these developers do is critical to the bottom line of the company. Why should a CEO make out like a bandit through compensation or stock prices while the teams that enabled it toil away for a pittance, comparatively speaking? Wages across all industries have been mostly flat for years—its only in the last few years that the IT/development industry is starting to show some movement.

(And before someone points out that everyone in a software company contributes to success, even non-developers, I totally agree—everyone ought to share in success.)


One of the companies mentioned in the article was advertising internships and failed to even call me in for an interview. And it took them 5 weeks to respond saying that they did not have a position that matched my qualifications. It's possible that I suck, but I have a 4.0 GPA advertised on my resume and offered a pretty compelling cover letter.

It's possible that many of these companies have a hard time recruiting talent because their recruitment process is broken.


Notice the quote "I'm not going to pay the California wages".

Keeping salaries low is clearly a priority for these people.

I have a strong feeling this might be a fluff piece to increase the H1B quota.


So what are the actual salaries they are offering in Austin? The HN post says 150k but that's roughly the SF rate anyway.


Why are companies so averse to telecommuting? There is an endless supply of S/D around the world.


Inexperienced management: they're more concerned with supervising task completion than managing deliverables and risk.


The telecommuting issue is separate from the "rest of the world" issue; the former is primarily a communication and culture problem, but the latter is all about concentration of talent around leading technical companies (primarily in the US).

There are indeed many people all over the world with programming knowledge; there are far fewer with experience on a technically sophisticated project. The latter class of talent is highly concentrated around the hotspots of sophisticated technical companies which, on average, keep their most important teams in the US.

If you are just reading and writing rows on a single instance of MySQL you can get all the talent you want from just about anywhere in the world. If you want to roll your own fault-tolerant distributed filesystem your options are (statistically) much more narrow, because anyone who can do that is likely to have been tempted by an offer to work at, e.g., Google in Mountain View.


I don't know about that. I am located in Toronto, Canada and would be interested in a UX design/front end development telecommuting job that paid $120k+.

However, nobody really wants to hire somebody that they can't watch. In the past I have emailed several companies about job postings that list telecommute as an option, and in all but one of the cases they where not open to somebody more than 3 hours away from the office.

I don't really understand this position. I am in ET so the time zone can't be an issue. I am in an English speaking country so there won't be any language barriers. I think companies in the US need to realize that increasingly fever people will want to move there because it the US is become very scary.


The US is only scary for Canadians and Western Europeans perhaps.


I don't doubt what you're saying but I think that sounds in-line with my previous claim that the telecommuting problems are separate from the "rest of the world" problems.

If I understand you correctly, those companies don't want to hire telecommuters that can't come into the office from time to time. This seems unrelated to being in Canada; the same criterion would eliminate a Boston-based developer from working remotely for a Chicago-based startup.


Cut it with the crazy US exceptionalism. You might be surprised how many technically sophisticated projects are worked on outside the US. It's not as if the rest of the world still lives in the stone age.


I apologize if I gave that impression; it was not my intention.

I'm merely suggesting that the amount of money in the US for technical research and development is vastly larger than in any other country (as evidenced both by its research universities and its venture-backed economy). This is why, despite its failings in other ways, it still manages to pull talent from all over the world for graduate programs and employment.

To be clear: there are great institutions, companies, and people all over the world. I never meant to suggest otherwise. I was merely making a claim about the economics of R&D, and the resulting distribution of talent.


It is difficult to argue with the sums of money thrown around in the USA.

I remember your original post was kind of condescending to talented people from other parts of the world, implying that the rest of the world only shuffles around a single MySQL table and the only real talent can be found in SV.

And now you prove the point by saying the US is sophisticated because it imports the most talent of all countries.

(Also don't think all or even most talent ends up in the US; some of us simply don't like to move, or don't want to live in the US because they don't like the immigration procedures or political landscape. I've had several offers, but I'd at most telecommute for an US company)


In hindsight I can see how one could read it that way. It was poorly phrased. Sometimes it's hard to see your own text as others will see it :-)

It was certainly not my aim to slight the talent of people originating from anywhere else; I merely wanted to point out that over time the US actively sucks up external talent, and that since there is very little counterbalancing flow out of the US you end up with an unbalanced talent distribution. The quip about the single-instance MySQL was not at all to suggest that this is the only thing (or the typical thing) people outside the US do; it was that this kind of expertise is much less actively recruited into the US and so the distribution of talent is much more uniform across the world.


I think there are 2 parts of the problem.

1-companies want to pay a pittance compared to what the person is actually worth. Face it, if you offer $90K, and your competitor offers $120K, the person has to be insane to take an offer that differs so much.

2-companies have really high requirements when they don't actually need them. If you are doing something simple, you don't need a Google level engineer...especially if you are not willing to pay a proper salary for one.


I moved from CA (Palo Alto and San Diego) to Austin in August to start my PhD at UT. Austin is pretty good in the sense that it's probably the best possible city you could live in that's in middle America.

That said, it's not California. The people in Texas are generally just plain rude and self-centered. There is a lot of "get out of my way" attitude, both metaphorically in how people interact in conversation, and literally on the roadways. It's also landlocked, and I miss the ocean terribly.

I'm here purely because the CS department at UT Austin is the best in the world for my area of research (Evolutionary Algorithms and Neural Networks). However, in a couple of years when my class requirements are done, I'm planning on finishing my dissertation research remotely from a coastal city.

There really is nothing at all I can imagine Austin has to offer me that is worth staying here over SF, SD, or even the east coast like NYC or DC. Maybe I just don't get it.


"That said, it's not California. The people in Texas are generally just plain rude and self-centered."

No offense, but that might be the most backward thing I've ever heard. Have you seen LA or SF? I feel like you might live in a one or two person bubble. Honestly, where are you hanging out in Austin?


I agree. Austin is one of the most chill places in the world. As a matter of fact, the only thing people bitch about are all the self-centered Californians who moved to TX in order to escape high real estate prices.


... Who then drive up real estate prices here in Austin enough that "normal" people have a hard time buying in town.

To the OP: get out of your bubble, man. Austin is one of the friendliest places around.


I left Austin and even I know that Texas is in general much friendlier than the big metro areas in California. :-)

I agree, the OP needs to hang out with more Austinites. Unfortunately, the reason I left Austin was precisely because the ratio of "Austinites" to "Transplants" was headed in the wrong direction FAST. I've been gone almost 4 years now and I hear that it's only getting worse.

Austin still has pockets of cool left, but it's nothing like it was in the 80's, 90's and 00's. It's been on the steady decline for decades.

All that said, it's probably a much better choice than most anywhere else in Texas and probably the south/southwest.


Maybe he's hanging out with transplants? I find that a lot of transplants tend to carry this attitude, no matter where they're originally from.


There is often low level collective hostility toward transplants, or matter where you move to. High prices and congestion are blamed on the outsider/newcomers, rather than life just changing. This can affect a transplant's attitude a lot.


I'm a consultant from NJ and just got back from Austin a couple days ago, meeting with all my clients who live there and pay me to live and work from here. Anyway, the Texan version of rude and self-centered is pretty quaint by my personal standards...

Edit: If I were a Rails dev, I'd imagine I could be making $200/hr down there. The circles I move through are like desert-island desperate for Rails devs. (Started working through Rails 3 in Action on the plane home).


Are these companies willing to recruit remote workers? :D


So I've been toying with the idea of relocating to Austin, because New York is f*ing expensive.

I even sent a couple of job applications some time ago before I got my new job in NYC. I'm not a rockstar, but I'm good and my resume shows it. I get a LOT of bites in New York metro area.

However, these Austin companies didn't even bother to respond, except one. The interesting thing about the one that responded was that the job was tailor made for me. It was uncanny...it's almost as if they read my resume and produced the job listing to match. Which is why I sent in the application in the first place.

The response was that they found me unqualified for the job. What a load of horse manure. If you're sending form letters to rejected candidates, please take some time to actually use the right template. I believe this one should've been the "no_relocation" or the "ceos_son-in-law_was_more_qualified" template.


I keep hearing of this huge shortage of developers, but the situation I have encountered while looking for a job seems to be saying something else.

Is there really a lack of good talent, or is the recruiting process so horribly broken that good developers don't make it through the first levels of filtering by non-technical people?


I think you have a point. We are trying to hire at a large company and we don't see many resumes that make it through the HR filter. I still haven't figured out how this process works.


Austin is a great place to live.


Question: how far outside the Austin cocoon can a gay man go without being lynched? (I mean this metaphorically, of course.)

Austin has a great reputation, but it's still in Texas.


I was raised 30 miles southwest of Austin in a rather conservative small town. I have family, friends, and experience in Houston, Dallas, El Paso, San Antonio, Lubbock, Amarillo, etc. Most of the major cities that aren't in the border region.

There are homophobic troglodytes everywhere. However, it is verboten to be openly rude about that sort of thing in all but the most repressive and tiny communities. Those are the ones that creep out straight white males like myself, let alone minorities of any kind, so barring a flat tire I don't think you'll end up there by choice anyway. Actually, being atheist is something I tend to keep to myself, too.

And actually, a lot of rural areas (which is, geographically, most of the state) have hippies in disguise all over the place. The small town of Kerrville is home to a huge hippie music festival every year; Fredericksburg is near the infamous Luckenbach, where Willie Nelson still shows up occasionally; and places like Wimberley are hidden in the sticks but have wiccans and sell quasi-spiritual swag and incense in the local shops.


Houston has an openly lesbian mayor. Even Republicans here are making fun of Rick Perry's recent campaign ad (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PAJNntoRgA). Urban areas in Texas are far from the stereotypes you've heard of. Come visit.


I moved to Austin from SF and was told by a friend prior to moving that "Austin is California surrounded by Alabama."

You can definitely sense a cultural contrast outside of Austin.


I come from Tucson, Arizona actually :) it's the same type of cocoon there, though Tucson is starting to get more conservative as people like me move out (this month even!) and more conservative people move in.

Seeing people smoke pot openly in the streets still messes with me.


The entire urban core of Austin, Round Rock and Cedar Park are tolerant and generally cosmopolitan, save for the East Side (east of I-35), which has a larger Hispanic demographic and tends toward religiosity and traditional social roles. West of Austin for 20-30 miles, though, are wealthy (and mostly liberal) suburbs that aren't going to give any trouble.

That's a long way of saying that, based on my second-hand experience, gay men don't run into trouble in and around Austin or its immediate suburbs.


In general, you can find more opened minded folks in the urban areas of Texas. You start to see more of the crazies as you go farther into the suburbs.

I've had many gay coworkers and they usually stayed close to the city (I live in the DFW area).


You could ask the same question about SF. Northern California isn't the bastion of hippies and free love that most people make it out to be.


I live in Fort Worth. Been to Austin once and it was awesome. I'd live there.


This is good news.. atleast for texas. I'm about 45mins from austin and finding local gigs are always hard. Wonder if they do remote work...


> "We've fallen into a trap of fighting over existing talent," Favaron said, "and that's a zero-sum game that hurts everyone."

If they've made an agreement to not recruit from each other, they're in violation of anti-trust law.

Google, Apple, and at least one other company got busted for this in SV about three years ago.


Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Intuit, ..

http://www.forbes.com/sites/benkerschberg/2011/05/04/apple-a...


Guess I'm moving to Austin!


I think the only reason this article was so popular and generated so many comments was the clever marketed headline


Free beer, taco's and a job interview can't make a good mix. I suppose that if I let one rip before I start slurring my qualifications, and the company isn't interested, then it was never meant to be.


Your son Rip is on line toot.


the biggest obstacle in moving to Austin is not what the article states..

Think about it people..if the developer has a house mortgage will he move? No..

If the dv still has edu debt will he move? no..




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