I am a front-end engineer in my early twenties. Right now, 40+ hours a week is doable and I am paid well, but I don't need all of the money I'm earning. I would gladly take a 50% salary cut and work ~20 hours a week.
The only problem with this is that I feel like this is a risky thing to bring up with an employer. Has anyone ever had any success getting a good part-time job or downsizing your position at a company? Every listing for part-time I see seems to be for someone with a lesser skillset.
- Your advancement and promotion chances are basically zero in such a position. Not due to some conspiracy, but just because you're not around for half of the conversations people are having about the direction of the product/team.
- If it isn't standard practice for the whole team, they all start to slightly hate you, no matter the pay difference. Need drewb's input? Oh, it's Tuesday; that will have to wait until Thursday when special-boy is back in the office. I've seen this over and over (including on my own teams) with people who had been granted special work accommodations, and there's nothing you can really do about it, even as a manager.
If you want more time to yourself, I would much more highly recommend attempting to negotiate regular unpaid leaves of absence for a couple of months. Travel the world; really unplug from work; etc. It's both easier to fit into your career and your company's plans.
Or just go into consulting and only take n-month contracts that fit your lifestyle needs.
Unfortunately if you are working from home, you might be building mountains. But no one is seeing you do it, what that generally means is unless you announce explicitly what you are doing people think you are doing nothing.
Contrary to whatever one thinks and the truth is. Perceptions matter a lot more than the reality.
I don't announce anything unless you count commits and issue tracker updates. I am being paid for my work. Those who pay me give me the requirements and know it very well what is being done. Well, since they are paying for it and want it done, how can they not know what is being done?
If only the world worked on facts, and not perceptions...
I posit that "this" is one of those annoying problems of working. If you don't make sure you communicate your success, you won't be successful. People who don't celebrate, share and broadcast their success usually aren't successful. Even when they are in the office 100% of the time.
The second aspect of software development is that a developer working 40 hours a week is more productive than two developers working 20 hours a week. With the sole developer, there less communication overhead, less management overhead, and the ratio of productive time to time learning the system and understanding the interlocking parts is higher. This is the classic mythical man month problem.
The third aspect of software development is that directly measuring output and effort of an engineer is very difficult. So as a proxy, managers look for signs of passion and engagement. If you are passionate and smart, but are slow to implement some feature, management will believe the feature was simply more difficult than anticipated. If you generally are not passionate about your work, and are slow to implement some feature, management will think you are slacking and fire you. Creating an effective company requires creating a culture of passion and hardwork, and having one person only work part-time can decrease the morale of those putting in 40+ hours. Asking to only work half-time betrays a lack of passion, and could be a bad career move.
So the net result of these factors is that a company must work at maximum efficiency, and maximum efficiency comes when all developers are working 40+ hours a week. It is not in the company's interest to let you work only 20 hours a week, and it could indeed be risky if you bring the idea up with management.
I should also note that the above dynamic is not just the case in software, but in virtually all high paying jobs, from professional athlete to corporate lawyer to corporate executive. Virtually all high paying jobs have some sort of competitive, winner take all dynamic in the market at large (the winners being the ones who get paid well), and within the company, the high paid people are the ones with specialized, hard to replace skills, that have a large ramp up time to learn effectively (learning a large code base, learning a set of legal traditions, learning how to hit a curveball, etc, etc). Thus in order to earn the high pay you must work long hours, and you must work many productive hours on top of a base of ramping-up hours.
For some reason, taking a year off to travel, volunteer, or experience the world isn't looked at in the same negative career light that wanting to only work part-time is, particularly if you have demonstrable successes at your last employer. It shows passion, engagement, and the ability to take responsibility for your own life, and many employers assume that will transfer over to your job performance at your next job. You're at a slight disadvantage in salary negotiations because they don't have to lure you away from your existing job, but you can make up for this by applying to many jobs (ideally through connections) at once.
I've heard it's also better on the "life" side of things as well, as you can throw your whole being into whatever you experience in your free time, and not just settle for the scraps you can fit around your job.
I took about a year off to explore alternative careers and personal pursuits after working at a tech firm for 3 years. I returned to the industry and was recruited within a few months back into a spinoff from my original firm.
Of course, this presupposes that you maintain your skills, and that you don't burn any bridges when you leave.
An actual 40 hour a week programmer is an awful asset, if we do more than ~20 hours of work a week the rest is bad code and the shit we are to tired of thinking about to fix/automate. The ones who work 50+ hours have forgotten that things can be automated or even pondered before diving in, or that are powerless to fix the accumulating breakage of their group/project/company.
That being said, a 20 hour a week engineer who is partying the remainder probably isn't great either.
I currently work 3 days a week, but I spend about half of the remainder studying things that interest me, mostly in CS or physical sciences. A few years back, I worked 2.5 days in tech support, while finishing up my BS.
I would say live and breathe it while you are there, you should be senior/mature enough that you don't require mentoring/sponsoring to do your job, be a bit humble about your immediate "importance" and handle those longer term pains, and have a nice (but unapologetic) explanation for how you spend your other time.
If overall I spend less than 25-30 hours a week thinking about the field then expect to gradually feel rusty. But then CS is not a good field to mentally slow down in.
Office as we know it, is more than a workplace for an individual. Its a place where people meet together to collaborate with each other. Its also a social network where people eat lunch, drink coffee and talk about life, and such stuff together. If you are not there 50% of the time, unfortunately I don't see how you will fit in with everybody else. Nobody likes calling and discussing things over phone/chat/email what could easily be discussed by meeting at ones cubicle and talking over it for 5 minutes.
Coding might be your 20 hour job, but the other 20 hours is many other things apart from coding. And trust me that is equally important for your career progression.
At least, you're wrong in stating your opinion so forcefully in the second two paragraphs after a (to me) flippant caveat in the first.
The important question isn't whether there're 10% scenarios where company cultures are actually meritocratic, but how much the proportion changes over time.
I'll submit my anecdotal evidence that it is growing. And my career continues to grow. In fact, I would say that the work culture at my company is why my career progression has grown. I'm invested and happy with my situation and therefore work smarter by not overextending myself in the ambition of being there at least 50% of the time just to be there so I can fit in.
In fact, I work remote most of the time and so do I good portion of my colleagues.
That is the reason why working remote is helping you. Since most of your colleagues are working remotely too.
In Rome, behave like a Roman.
I'd submit that remote work is neither helping me nor hurting me. Because the company culture recognizes the value of intrinsically motivated employees, we ensure that employees are happy. Working remote is one of the manifestations of that focus.
Specifically, working remote is orthogonal to my success in my career specifically but fundamental to my happiness and willingness to work towards a successful career in the first place. Does that clarify where I'm coming from?
I am not there 100% of the time and I fit just fine.
> Nobody likes calling and discussing things over phone/chat/email what could easily be discussed by meeting at ones cubicle and talking over it for 5 minutes.
I like email, wiki, IM and issue trackers. Gather your damn thoughts and put then in writing. Dropping by in-person or skype calls are for stage setting. And what makes you think I like being interrupted by someone for something that can be said in the IM?
Oh, and it wasn't any different when I was holding a day job.
Of course since you are a hacker yourself so you are likely to be open to such a environment which you yourself like working in. But I'm talking of a general corporate job kind of a scenario where a lot of people work together in collaboration. Things go a lot smoothly when every one works together, of course they can go smooth either way too. Provided everyone co operates, especially the managers.
I am unsure that this is true in all circumstances.
So the net result of these factors is that a company must work at maximum efficiency, and maximum efficiency comes when all developers are working 40+ hours a week.
I know for a fact that this isn't always true - since I've repeatedly seen teams of developers doing 45+ hour weeks become more productive by every metric we had to hand by dropping their working week to 40 hours (with only about 6 hours a day of that being coding).
I talk about this in a little bit more over here before (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3883362)... copy/paste below.
There is something deeply broken about equating hours to productivity.
It's been my experience that folk are very good at deceiving themselves about their productivity (myself included :-)
One team I worked with had a serious problem with overtime. They were putting in stupid hours and it was showing in the quality of work going out. So I ran an experiment where we all agreed to work "normal" hours for six weeks.
I was "only" working about 45 hours a week at this point, when other people on the team were regularly working 50-60. I was relatively young, didn't have any family pressure, enjoyed my work and felt very productive doing those hours. I wasn't one of the people with a "problem" as I saw it. We were running the experiment for the other folk on the team.
In the experiment we dropped to a 40 hours week (6 hours coding per day, 2 hours for breaks, meetings & lunch). After a couple of weeks adjustment my productivity went way up. I also felt a lot better in myself - generally sharper and more on the ball.
People seem to have quite a wide bad of "this feels okay" that subsumes the much narrower "I'm performing at my best".
Also people don't jump from a 35 hour week to 60 hours a week. It creeps up a few minutes at a time as pressure increases on the team. People have enough time to adjust to it being "normal" and don't notice the drop in productivity that goes with it.
Currently I work roughly 25-30 hours a week and am just as productive by all metrics that I have available to me as when I worked 40-50.
I would strongly urge people to experiment. Pick some metrics, try working shorter hours for a month, see what happens.
(The only caveat I would add is that with folks doing silly hours - anything over 50 I would say - there is often a couple of weeks where things go to hell as the body adjusts. On the team from the story practically everybody caught a bug and felt crap for the first week or so before productivity rose again).
The real productivity killer, for me, is driving a lot. That really sucks it out of me. Face-time too. I could do a few meetings a day, but that's it.
Eventually the company went out of business, but I had great success with working part time.
I've been looking into jobs that work few hours but are highly qualified and they're usually outside consultants that get called in a couple of days a week. Apart from them there was one person who worked in a refinery that only had to be at work 20ish hours a week. She spent most of the rest at home on call or simply working from home. I recall that she enjoyed it.
I've never been able to get up after a day of work and do something. I'm just done after working for 8 hours. I'd just sit and do nothing wait to recover "energy" and as soon as I recover back to normal work starts again.
6 hours without reddit, hacker news, meetings, and other distractions, beats 9 hours with those things (as long as you're working on the right thing and not throwing away ALL your time :-)
Before you brush this off what you're talking about is a very tenuous relationship with your employer that isn't providing you any stability, AND more than likely you'll loose your benefits. Those are the same things you'd be giving up if you went freelance so there is little downside to freelance vs part time.
I'm definitely going to do something like this in the future though, but I'm still contemplating whether the 20-hour, 50% salary cut idea is better than working full time and taking a sabbatical afterwards.
Depends on your situation, and it can't hurt to bring it up. Maybe try winding down your hours progressively.
For me, I'm happy that I invested my time into myself, rather than investing money into some mutual funds or something. Very happy.
20 hour work weeks don't usually lead to more life experiences, in my experience. You just have more time to focus on side-projects or hobbies. You'll still be 'working' 40+ hour weeks, but dividing your time between different projects.
As someone commented before, if he wanted experiences, then he should take a few months of unpaid leave of absence, and go exploring the world.
Um, right, by focusing on side-projects and hobbies, you get more life experiences is the idea. Certainly you get more diverse life experiences.
Between now and achieving that 4%, focus on excelling at the things you find the most interesting and building relationships in your industry so that once you cross the freedom line you can take on the occasional consulting gig to keep things interesting.
(I'm pushing 40 now and sincerely wish I had done the above when starting out in my twenties)
The national debt is only 100 billion dollars, and is there primarily to ensure smooth trading with our trading partners. (It was roughly doubled due to liquidity measures in 2008, but supposedly some smart bond trading ensures that this won't have any dramatic effect with regards to making or losing money).
Famous last words...
Also, some historical data from the S&P 500:
Focus-wise maybe not.
Once, at a contract gig, I was offered to work "flexible hours" which meant 16-32 hours a week. That was after putting in 12 months of 40-45 hours a week, essentially proving that I was good, reliable, etc. So it could happen, by switching to hourly pay, and/or becoming a contractor, working for people who already know you. And as theabraham notes, this may result in losing benefits.
I've had a couple jobs where I've done 32 or 36 hour weeks in the past as well.
But I also have a strong reputation in my field so I'm able to leverage a bit of personal branding ("I'll get more done in 32 hours than anyone else you can hire for 40.")
That may be a tough sell for you at this point. But as others have pointed out, contracting may be a good fit for you if you want to work less. My advice if you go this route is to come up with the highest hourly rate you think you can ask for, then ask for at least 25% more (in the US I'd suggest asking for at least $75 per hour even if you don't have much experience).
I made a project for an eCommerce company a few years ago and then left but always kept in touch with people there. I changed jobs and took a remote position working for a US based company here from Brazil so my working hours were 12-9PM due to the timezone difference so I had free mornings.
After a couple of months the first company (eCommerce) made me a proposal for a full time job that I didn't take because it was good working from home at the time. However I said that I could work part time 2-3 hours everyday for them. They took it and it was very good for both of us since I had an extra paycheck (I was earning as much as a full time employee) and they had me working on important stuff with no interruptions since I was there just a little bit everyday and could not be held accountable to day to day things.
I stayed like that for the past 3 years when I went working for them full time because I got tired of working remotely for a company that wasn't really in a remote-work-culture.
Developers are easy to find. Good developers are not. Bottom line is, if your value proposition to the company is good I cannot see why they wouldn't accept you working part time there. If it's good from the business perspective and you can demonstrate that to them it's pretty much a cost-benefit decision and not an emotionally one.
If you are really into it and wanna give it a try (obviously with some risks) you could say: "Shall we try for a month and see what happens?". After the first month there is not going back ;)
Imho a coder is more productive if he focus 4 hours a day, then if he procrastinates 10 hours.
This is probably a fringe case - and I do not recommend you pursue it unless you are in excellent standing with your manager and are not currently overloaded with responsibility. This type of transition doesn't work if many people are solely dependent on you - which may give you something to work towards - others cross trained directly in your task - so you can have time away without impact to the company.
I think you'll have better luck with tiny companies that can be more flexible, and also tend to be more starved for engineering skill. But YMMV.
If you can find yourself a good non-standard situation that works well for you (and your future) take it!
Even on five days a week though, I was working less than 40 hours. Most people I know work 37.5 hours (if you exclude lunch), and the Working Time Directive places restrictions on the number of hours you can be asked to work if you're in the EU.
However, you can accomplish something similar. If you only want half your salary, work full time for a year while saving half your salary, then fund a year long sabbatical for yourself. If at the end of that sabbatical you've done something interesting (created a new open source project, bootstrapped a business), then applying for a job at the end of that year will be easy. Rinse/repeat as desired.
(If the US acted like EVERY other non-poor country and had nationalized health insurance, this would be a LOT easier).
And they actually probably end up getting quite a bit more out of me than actual 80% time, I end up working longer hours on the days I do work than I used to, but not so long that I'm working as much as I used to, and it's worth it to me to get a 3 day weekend every week.