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> Meg called to talk about our hiring practices. Here is what she said. Google is the talk of the valley because we are driving salaries up across the board. Then Eric Schmidt says: > I would prefer Omid do it verbally since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later

So Silicon Valley execs were illegally conspiring to drive down wages, and who knows how much more was done outside of the paper trail mentioned.

Then we have an article discussion yesterday and blog posts etc. in the past few weeks about how companies can't find great engineers, and how we need immigration law changes that blocks Mexicans etc. but brings in more engineers to drive down engineer wages etc.

Maybe if CEO's weren't illegally conspiring to drive wages below their market value, there wouldn't be a so-called "engineer shortage"?

I mean it's risible. They conspire illegally to drive down wages, then whine that not enough people want to work in this field where wages have been artificially and illegally deflated.




Then Eric Schmidt says: > I would prefer Omid do it verbally since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later

How does someone this stupid rise to such a high position of wealth and influence? Are we talking luck here, or are Faustian bargains involved? Where do I get some of that action?

I'm only being half-facetious; this is weapons grade stupid. "Let's take this conversation offline because we'll get sued or indicted if it gets out." Yeah, that will totally work in a grand jury room.

If low IQ isn't the explanation, and I don't see how it could be -- given the respect and reputation we all accord Eric Schmidt for his other achievements -- what is? Drugs? Mental illness? Distraction? Forgery? Did he fail a saving throw versus reality distortion on one of his walks on the beach with Jobs? What?


I like "weapons grade stupid" as an adjective but I would not use it with regard to Eric. Eric is actually quite smart and also quite politically savvy. The other folks in this equation made a few missteps.

You can be sued over lots of things, whether or not they have merit, and keeping things verbal is one of the "standard" techniques of defending against that. In this case, were this the only document in the pile, Eric would be in a position to either not recall the conversation he had with Omid, or deny its content. Further he would argue that it is a general state of mind for a CEO that they don't want to create paper trails over anything that could be construed by a litigious opponent as evidence if misdeeds.

The problem in this case is that there is a bunch of other circumstantial evidence that makes it pretty clear that everyone on Google's EMG was on the same page with respect to this particular policy. I note however that Google has yet to settle in the class action, so they may still believe they can defend their position.

That said, the "valley" has always been a really small place with regard to hiring. If you work here for any length of time a tapestry of opinions about you will be formed and those opinions will affect to a larger or smaller degree who offers you work and who doesn't. Is that legal? I don't know. There are folks I have decided to never work with again, and people for whom I would change jobs in a heartbeat. Is my private 'blacklist' and 'whitelist' of good and bad co-workers legal? As a generic engineer? What about now that I'm a VP and perhaps these folks are trying to get a job at my company? Do you know how many people are sued each year because someone suspects (or knows) that they told a potential employer that they personally wouldn't hire them? My point is that people and employment and fuzzy criteria is a fertile ground for lawsuits, so paper trails are always bad.


>> keeping things verbal is one of the "standard" techniques of defending against that

That's all fine and dandy, but what is 'weapons grade stupid' is to not only have the conversation in email, but then to use a key word like 'paper trail' to lead any investigation straight to his conversation. And in that exact email, say WHY he wants it done in-person. I mean, 'paper trail' has to be up there with 'take this offline' and 'this is sooo illegal' for phrases that serve up incriminating evidence on a silver platter to the DOJ.

A non-WGS response would have been, "Come up to my office: we'll discuss further."


Indeed. My wife works for a legal discovery company, and this is exactly the sort of thing that plaintiff's attorneys hope to discover when they requests vast troves of corporate documents.


The reference to "sued" leads the conversation astray. Substitute "prosecuted" for "sued" to see the full spectrum of ignorance here. Conspiring with a competitor to fix costs may be deemed a "contract in restraint of trade" under the Sherman Act. The CEO of a company should know this at some fundamental level, under the category of "things that could send me to jail". Yes, most anti-trust violations are settled with fines and only companies are fined, but violations are a felony and can result in individual fines of up to $1 million (written back when this was a lot of money) and, more significantly for Eric Schmidt, in jail terms of up to 10 years.


Well in this particular case Google and the rest have already been prosecuted and fined for the criminal misconduct. The criminal case was settled in 2010, this particular story is really about the on-going civil litigation where Google is named as a defendant in a class action suit. Some of the defendants have already settled.


> That said, the "valley" has always been a really small place with regard to hiring. If you work here for any length of time a tapestry of opinions about you will be formed and those opinions will affect to a larger or smaller degree who offers you work and who doesn't.

Reminds me of another industry-centered town in that part of the country. How do people feel about Silicon Valley becoming the next Hollywood?


Its always been like that, there is a joke that you stop a random person on the street in LA and ask them how their screen play is coming, they will look at you suspiciously and ask "How did you know I was working on a screen play?" and similarly if you ask the random person in the Bay Area how their business plan is coming, they will respond identically.


I'm nowhere near his stature but I would absolutely never write anything like that in a corporate email. It's, as parent said, "weapons grade stupid." I don't know how the Chairman of Google cannot understand that everything he writes in email can and will be used against him following discovery in one of the thousands of lawsuits they are facing at any given time.


No, "weapons grade stupid" is very appropriate in describing Schmidt's email.

I have friends who testified for Microsoft in the DOJ trial in the nineties. Schmidt testified for the DOJ and was well-aware of what happens with corporate email.

He might be smart, but he did a very stupid thing. Whether it amounts to a slip-up or hubris, time will tell.


Personally, I don't like anti discrimination laws for similar reasons.


Being a really smart person doesn't mean being smart in all respects. There are plenty of cases where someone highly-accomplished has turned out to be a complete idiot in something that's not their area of expertise. Think of William Shockley and eugenics, Henry Ford and fascism, Orson Scott Card and homosexuality, Steve Jobs and not being a dick, or Freeman Dyson and global warming.


Einstein and economics comes to mind as well. People need to stop turning off logic and criticism of people tagged as "smart". It relieves cognitive burden, but at a considerable cost.


Aw... Eric Schmidt. I suspect Larry and Sergey would have done a couple times better had VCs not shoved a CEO down their throats. Controlling for company trajectory vector at the time they joined, Eric Schmidt is in the ballpark of John Scully.

I never had a feeling that he's a smart guy watching him talk (in contrast with Larry and Sergey and Zuck) and I generally despise his attention-whore attitude and kissing ass in political circles.

And everyone knows not to use lex.


> Aw... Eric Schmidt. I suspect Larry and Sergey would have done a couple times better

A couple of times better than what? Being multi billionaires and leading one of the most powerful and most respected companies in the world?

Most experts agree that picking Erick Schmidt as CEO was instrumental to Google's success.


Um, it says right there in the headline that Sergey was complicit in this too.


Read the article in more detail.


Not who you replied to, but:

Brin seemed pretty complicit in it. He didn't make the final decision to appease Jobs, but he asked for a temporary stay in recruiting Apple employees and obviously agreed with Schmidt's decision to ban all recruiting.


Um, perhaps you should? The article makes no inference that Schmidt had a bigger role. In fact, the article mentions Brin more often than Schmidt.


"Brin appears to not know what the nature of the agreement is between the two companies."

I actually started another thread discussing this exact topic: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7455116


I don't see your point. Ok, so Jobs talked to Schmidt before talking to Brin. Either way, Brin continued the practice and actively promoted it.


Eric has a BS in CS from Princeton, and MS + PhD in CS from Berkeley. Seems like he has an inner geek, and I would argue that he did a good job at Google.


Uh, it's called a mistake. Smart people make them too.


Do you remember what he said to justify Google's privacy policies?

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

The irony must be pretty painful.


He didn't say that to "justify Google's privacy policies". He said it specifically in response to a question on whether you can trust Google in the face of government investigation.

> "People are treating Google like their most trusted friend. Should they be?"

> "I think judgment matters. If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. But if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time. And it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act. It is possible that information could be made available to the authorities."

Which, in light of the the legal lengths the federal government will go to get their hands on every bit of data--let alone the illegal lengths they'll go--is a pretty important warning.

But we didn't talk about that, because the internet and the media operates on sound bites. It mattered what Eric Schmidt may or may not have approved of (that statement literally takes no position either way), not the important point he made immediately afterwards. Not a lot of PGP and OTR discussions on the internet that day, just knee-jerk "oh the irony!" contentless posts.


You're right, this was before the new Google privacy policies. But he did say that phrase in order to downplay Google's own responsibility in retaining search information. More importantly, propagating the idea that you should only care about privacy when it comes to things "that you don't want anyone to know" is irresponsible, and it's worrying that it comes from the single biggest handler of personal information in the world. Bruce Schneier said that a lot better than myself: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/12/my_reaction_t...

About the new privacy policies, here's another interesting part from that same interview, which to my knowledge hasn't been transcribed anywhere:

But Eric Schmidt says protecting user privacy is Google's top priority.

- Where does all my search info go?

- Well first place our privacy policies are fully disclosed on our website and it's all written down very carefully. The most important thing we do is that after 18 months, the search information that you entered is so-called anonymized, it's literally gotten rid of and we can't go back and track it back to you.

Two years later Google would overhaul the privacy policy and get rid of most safeguards, including that "most important thing". Today, Google could retain your search data for any length of time or use it in unrelated products for any purpose they wish. So much for privacy being "Google's top priority"...

(To be clear, I'm not blaming Eric Schmidt since he was no longer CEO. I just want to highlight the striking fact that his whole defence would fall apart.)


The question itself wasn't about government investigation, Schmidt himself added that. If the context around the question was about that, you should include it.


The documentary explains the issues of government investigation right before that, but it's impossible to say whether it was an editing decision made after Schmidt chose to mention the government or whether the interviewer specifically asked about that.


Haha, yes that quote is hilariously fitting.


> > Then Eric Schmidt says: > I would prefer Omid do it verbally since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later > How does someone this stupid rise to such a high position of wealth and influence?

What is stupid exactly?

Saying "We should discuss this verbally so we don't risk to get sued" is not illegal. It's not even acknowledging doing something illegal. You could even argue in court that you are explicitly taking an action to not do something illegal.


You could even argue in court that you are explicitly taking an action to not do something illegal.

You could argue that, but you'd have to be pretty deluded to think anyone would believe you.


> You could argue that, but you'd have to be pretty deluded to think anyone would believe you.

It doesn't matter, courts need to prove you're guilty. My point was that this sentence in an email doesn't get the prosecution any closer to that goal.


It doesn't matter, courts need to prove you're guilty.

True, but you don't have to be quite so helpful.


It's stupid to put that request in writing.


> what is?

Maybe the fact that so few executives ever receive any negative feedback (jail, fines, firing, etc).


Eric Schmidt is considered one of the genuine genius of his generation.

I think you thought to much into that line.


Colluding to hold down wages is terrible and I hope they get in a lot of trouble for it. But this doesn't follow:

> Maybe if CEO's weren't illegally conspiring to drive wages below their market value, there wouldn't be a so-called "engineer shortage"?

What illegally driven-down wages mean is that the shortage is more acute that previously thought. That's because the main way to measure the relationship of supply and demand is through price; i.e. the more the salaries grow, the less supply there is relative to demand. So if salaries have been held down, some of that evidence was masked.

Secondly, it means that non-giant companies could be competitive in making job offers, whereas perhaps in a more free labor market they might not be able to compete salarywise with Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. Thus, as seen from say, a startup's vantage point, this check on the upward price pressure actually kept the supply of affordable engineers up.

So I remain sympathetic to the there-aren't-enough-programmers line of thinking, and certainly don't think of this as hypocritical or antithetical to that line. Of course, that doesn't excuse any of Google's behavior here; they've effectively stolen a great deal of money from all of us through illegal collusion, pocketing the money that an honest market would direct into the engineers' bank accounts. I hope there's hell to pay.

Edit: I suppose it's theoretically possible that if the salaries went up to their natural levels, then people would pour into the field, and perhaps that's what you're trying to say. I think that's very unlikely, since software engineers are already paid a great deal more than most fields, so these people are either people who don't care about money unless it's a lot of money, or they're people who instead chose to be doctors and lawyers. I'm sure more people would say, "hmm, maybe I should be a programmer", but you have to ask why those people aren't doing it now. As economists might put it, this is a structural problem, not a market problem (I hope I'm using those terms right).


> What illegally driven-down wages mean is that the shortage is more acute that previously thought. That's because the main way to measure the relationship of supply and demand is through price; i.e. the more the salaries grow, the less supply there is relative to demand. So if salaries have been held down, some of that evidence was masked.

Not really, price ceilings have a well-known effect of causing shortages because purchasers who should have been priced out of the market use up some of the supply. If the price had been allowed to rise naturally, those willing to pay the higher price would get what they need.


You also can't look at the market statically. Higher wages will create incentives for new people to enter the profession, increasing overall supply (and eventually putting some downward pressure on salaries once again).


That's true in theory, but I don't think there are a lot of people ignoring the tech sector because median pay for a competent engineer is only ~$100k.

Sure, you can find examples of people who went into other areas, but given the very low barriers to entry (put some good stuff on Github repeatably, no industry requirement for an advanced or even undergraduate degree if you have talent, no unions or guilds, no competency certifications required to practice software engineering), I don't think there's such a big pent-up supply.


I live in Australia and work in a small company and $100k just isn't enough to entice me to go over to the US to work for Google et al; It isn't that much more than what I make now, plus I get to live close to home. And yes, I can choose to move to US if I want, due to the E-3 visa.

I'm sure there are a lot more people like me.


Even the bottom level full time software engineers at Google in the US make more than 100k in total compensation.


I've only just graduated from university last year, so...


There are a lot of people like you even in the US. Cost of living in California is part of the issue. Tech companies could find the talent for less pay if their workforce was located outside the most expensive areas.


Wall Street pays much more. Anyone looking for the most lucrative sector to cash in mathematical talent would pick finance if choosing purely based on salary.


100k is a lower salary (adjusted for inflation) than high school dropouts were making in the dot-com boom doing things like server administration for companies like Go/Disney.


That's not the point, though you're right. The point is that $100k is still a lot of money when the median is ?$47k. What are all these people doing instead of accepting a measly $100k to be software engineers? I don't think 4100k jobs are so easily available in the US that people are just turning up their noses at it, but that there may be other reasons (like lack of appropriate skills) for the lack of supply. Of course more people will try to enter the profession if salaries are allowed to rise to a market equilibrium, but SW engineering skills aren't a simple commodity that people will just automatically acquire in accordance with the laws of perfect competition.


Too bad that bubble popped.


TheCoelacanth is looking at the market over the short and medium term, which is the correct way to look at it if we're arguing over whether there is a shortage today.

Furthermore, it's not like quantity supplied is perfectly responsive to price. It takes time for new people to enter the industry.

Talking about the long-term is rather pointless because technically, from a theoretical standpoint, everything is supposed to equilibriate over the long term. All shortages self-correct over the long term. Again, this is theoretical.


As the saying goes : In theory, theory amd practice are the same.


You don't seem to understand-- most people simply don't have the ability to think about things in a way that is STEM friendly.

It's not an option for them to re-train, they don't work that way.


You should probably cite something to avoid getting downvoted.

e.g: http://www.bricklin.com/wontprogram.htm


I don't think that explanation quite works. There are two cases:

1. Companies in the Google/Apple/MS cabal

2. Other companies

Companies in 2 can always just pay more for what they want, since they're not governed by the cap. If they did that, of course, they could pull a bunch of people away from 1 and the price level would keep rising. That didn't happen because (mostly) only companies in 1 are able to pay at near the cap level anyway. So there might be inefficient hoarding, but it's just companies in 1 hoarding from each other.

It doesn't analogize exactly to, say, anti-gouging price caps for gasoline in a snowstorm (which, I agree, lead to terrible shortages and inefficient allocations), because this is equivalent to the gas stations setting a price floor (people shop at places with the lowest prices but work for the place with the highest wages). And then some gas station down the street opens a gas station with prices lower than the floor...


Have I missed some news, or is your inclusion of Microsoft in the cabal erroneous?


From the article (quoting Pando):

> ... what began as a secret cartel agreement between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt to illegally fix the labor market for hi-tech workers, expanded within a few years to include companies ranging from Dell, IBM, eBay and Microsoft, to Comcast, Clear Channel, Dreamworks, and London-based public relations behemoth WPP

You can also see Microsoft in the screenshot of Google's "Do not call" list.


Sure, but look at which category the companies complaining about shortages are in.


I assume you mean 1. But if they're complaining they can't get enough engineers, it can hardly be that they're also hoarding them, right? At the very least, the companies that are a) paying the most and b) looking for ways to access a larger labor pool have got to be using the engineers they have at near maximum efficiency. Otherwise, those would be weird levers to pull. They actually are the companies that in an honest market get the engineers anyway; they already pay at the top of the market. That they've dodged paying for it in full doesn't change that.


If you look at it from a more negative perspective though, lobbying for more H1-B visas is an even more effective way to decrease engineer compensation, because you can reduce your salaries further by increasing the pressure on US engineers by threatening them (implicitly or explicitly) with losing their jobs to cheap foreign labor. One could easily argue it looks like two sides of the same coin: using every dirty trick available to avoid paying engineers according to their actual value to the company


I'm completely willing to believe that big companies have poor intentions when lobbying the government. H1-Bs are just more market distortion. (I personally believe we should just hand software engineers green cards at the airport and remove the cheapness from foreign labor. More engineers, but without the bullshit.) I'm just saying it doesn't make the engineer shortage less real. All the ways you hold down salaries are ways that companies are dodging honestly dealing with a legit shortage.


If a company in category 2 (in the above ) pulls enough weight to make a significant change, then the companies in category 1 will add this company and pull it into category 1.

Said company would gladly go along since it benefits as well.


The lower price will further reduce supply, by encouraging potential employees to move to better paying alternatives, outside the domains in which salaries are being fixed.


The bigger problem is that these companies all want "rockstars" at age 22 AND ones that will be "company men".

Neither Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs would get in the DOOR at a tech company today. They didn't finish college... Or the RIGHT college. Their own companies would buy their startup and boot them.

It's a culture of childishness that they have so much money and resources they don't have to value WISDOM that employees might bring. In fact they actively ROOT OUT those employees in their hiring processes.. That's why all the games.. They don't want employees that won't play. They have myopic NIH syndrome hard.


> Neither Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs would get in the DOOR at a tech company today. They didn't finish college... Or the RIGHT college.

It helps a bit if you are filthy rich at the beginning.


Jobs was many things, but not filthy rich at the beginning.


Neither Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs would get in the DOOR at a tech company today.

Oh, I have a feeling they'd squeak by, somehow.


Technically.. wouldn't they start their own companies and be in charge of the door anyway?


> Secondly, it means that non-giant companies could be competitive in making job offers, whereas perhaps in a more free labor market they might not be able to compete salarywise with Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. Thus, as seen from say, a startup's vantage point, this check on the upward price pressure actually kept the supply of affordable engineers up.

Actually, it just gave the non-engineers more leverage. If the engineering rates where higher, there would be more engineers who would be founders. Engineers would have a larger % of the startup, since non-cash compensation would have to be offered.

Also, the artificial deflation caused some engineers to be stuck in a bad job.

That's why I won't be anyone's employee. It's a bad deal for me. It's a bad deal for many engineers who are employees right now.

Unfortunately, it took me a while to learn the game. There's a business side to being an engineer. You don't learn that being an employee. It's against the interest of the management to have their employed engineers think that way.


>What illegally driven-down wages mean is that the shortage is more acute that previously thought.

No, it just means the sense of entitlement amongst tech CEOs is even greater than previously thought.


I used to be a full time software engineer for a major tech company in the US, but quit after one year. The low six figures salary wasn't enough incentive for me to stay at that job, given how much I disliked the nature of the work.

But if the salary was higher, there is a good chance that I would have worked at that job for longer than I did. So I think salary does affect labor supply, and the supply of engineering talent is not as inelastic as you may think.


I think your edit hits the nail on the head in regards to higher salaries attracting more people to the profession. I've posted about this a few times here on HN if you care to look at my comment history but basically the efforts our politicians and our bosses go through to bring in foreign workers and suppress wages results in signalling to potential entrants into the tech employment market. If you take a smart person (which we've acknowledged tech workers are, because gosh, we need to drink from the global talent pool to find such smart people), and they have many options including protected professions that are definitely more lucrative and don't have any of this downward pressure, what choice do you think this smart person would make?


If I read it correctly then they are not holding wages down as such, but are trying to avoid employee poaching. Raising wages might be a result of active competition, the question is how much. My guess it would relate to only a small set of exceptional individuals.

Rules for wage negotiation for ordinary employees have generally much bigger impact.


> If I read it correctly then they are not holding wages down as such, but are trying to avoid employee poaching.

Well then you are not reading it correctly. What does it say?

>> Google is the talk of the valley because we are driving salaries up across the board

Schmidt says as plain as day, in e-mails that escaped his admitted attempts to remove a paper trail, that this is about holding down wages. He says it as plain as you can say it. I can read this, and the other HN readers can read this in black and white. That people like you feel the need to deny this happened when they have been caught red-handed says more about you then it does about what happened.


I'm not taking the route of personal insults as I believe this type of comments should not be in HN in first place.

Yes, I read it very well. Schmidt indeed mentioned holding the wages down, BUT from the context it's clear they mean those who are targets of employee poaching. And that's certainly not everyone - quite the opposite, only exceptional individuals or strategy hires.


Then again, policy means you can't, like, make more than your boss or anything like that.


This is true and of course it's hard to quantify how much wage impact this had on the numbers. But since the companies' explicit goal in these poaching rules was to keep salaries in check ("we are driving up salaries across the board"), I think it's safe to say it was substantial. Poaching usually requires giving the poachy a raise.


Switch tech companies a couple times. Note what happens to your salary.

Hint: It doesn't go down.


> Secondly, it means that non-giant companies could be competitive in making job offers, whereas perhaps in a more free labor market they might not be able to compete salarywise with Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. Thus, as seen from say, a startup's vantage point, this check on the upward price pressure actually kept the supply of affordable engineers up.

Amazingly short-sited argument. It forces people to either accept a low paying job in a field they love, or find another field just to make ends meet.


High price isn't simply a signal that there's not enough supply, it's also the mechanism that increases the supply. If engineers get higher pay, more people will choose an engineering career (rather than management, law, medicine or other high paid professional careers Edit: or Wallstreet, which does pay top dollar for math geniuses to create new derivatives that bring down the economy).

The companies themselves have created the shortage they're complaining about.


No, you measure a shortage by the number of unfilled vacancies.


The brilliant Ivy League kids that go into finance are still going into finance. The pay after 3 or 4 years of experience is way better than in the software industry.

When Harvard grads start choosing Google over Goldman Sachs, I'll believe in the engineering shortage. Now excuse me while I return to my 10 hour Craigslist odyssey to find an affordable Bay Area apartment...


There's not nearly as many Wall Street jobs as there used to be, which is why a lot of these smart college grads end up in in S.V. chasing VC money to start companies...


Plenty of CS majors do.

I'm not even sure if finance beats CS pay for those in the top-tier, especially on a per-hour worked basis. It may be hard to track as so much comp in finance is bonus and so much in CS is equity.


It also means that tech giants do not really value the product and output of their engineers. They're willing to screw them over.

It also means that the deflated salaries/compensation may have led to managers/business/finance decisions being all wrong - investing in some projects but not others and skeweing the technical landscape. Im thinking of things like GWT or dartlanguage, and the like, which if engineer prices would have been correct probably would not have been made at all.

The conspiring to lower compensation has hurt the field and profession of software engineering as a whole.

This shortage of "engineers" is another excuse to make government pay for education or take more immigrants and pay for them, their health care costs, language education etc, to make tax-payers pay for recruiting engineers to the tech giants.


> It also means that tech giants do not really value the product and output of their engineers.

I think the opposite. It is not in the best interest of "the product and output" for engineers to keep switching jobs every few months to get increasingly greater salaries for the same work. It creates incentives to not care about the product.


What has switching jobs to do with this?

How many lawyers do you see switching jobs every few months?

Anyway software engineers shouldnt care about the product once the project is completed - the job to take care of the product is with devops or maintanence people. Development, and thats it.


It's all propaganda. There's no engineering shortage. They're all just trying to flood the market with more engineers from all around the world.

It's all propaganda plastered with a nice marmalade of feel goody "let's help the immigrants", or "everything great about our country came from immigrants", or other such variants of rhetoric. It's actually very smart, because it plays to the tune that people dance to.

That said immigration policies do need to change, and immigration is indeed a good thing for this country. Attracting talent is a lot of what makes this country great, but we need to be careful with the fine print of such policies as to not destroy our own economy.


> That said immigration policies do need to change, and immigration is indeed a good thing for this country.

I want them to change too... but in a different way. I'd rather that we take the unwanted and wounded, the homosexuals threatened to receive capital punishment in Uganda, the atheists who worry for their lives in Saudia Arabia, the homeless in Mexico yearning for just a small improvement in the access of opportunity (no matter how small of a step it may be). Let the Indians keep their talented engineers -- let them improve India, god knows it's got enough problem of its own, don't send them to us here so they can make another silly app. Let China keep its engineers, so they may one day create technologies that truly challenge the great firewall.

Seriously, is it just me who sees this aggressive attempt of siphoning the world's talent as being opportunistic and predatorial? This is not the spirit of America that Emma envisioned, this isn't something to be proud of.

    "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
    With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


Idealistic and well-intentioned. But there's little opportunity in many places for Engineers to be fully used. Its a positive good for humanity to get the most out of talented people. That can happen in America.


> Its a positive good for humanity to get the most out of talented people. That can happen in America.

I seriously, honestly doubt this.

Consider the main force behind FWD.us: Mark Zuckerberg.

You're telling me the most positive good for humanity to get out of talented people is at Facebook, where the most valuable people to the company are those who optimize advertisement algorithms that exploit cognitive biases of a population already being challenged in all sorts of horrendous ways?

I really don't think your perspective is getting things right. If the engineers want to make great apps for Android or iOS, they can make it sitting in India or China or Brazil or wherever.


Who says Facebook will be where they end up? Will the legislature make a 'facebook' law? That's disingenuous.

Silicon Valley is definitely a place where talented people can find their own, and thrive.

Americans move there, to take part in the opportunities only available by meeting and visiting personally. Its a second-rate experience to try to do it from afar (this from a guy that is 2000 miles from SF), especially if you've never been there and have no contacts.


Highest delta to GDP is not the most good for humanity.


In this international world, lots of things invented in SF end up helping people all over the world. It doesn't have to be about the money.


> Let China keep its engineers, so they may one day create technologies that truly challenge the great firewall

Aha! Eric Schmidt had to just write a clever email like this instead and he would be applauded instead of criticized. To Apple: We would rather that you keep your Engineers - god knows you've got enough problems with your services! We will keep ours in return!

I guess if the huddled and poor learn programming, get good at it and start working for less - that'd be the right time to send them home to fix problems in their homeland and look for other huddled and poor - lather, rinse, repeat and all of world's problem magically disappear. Hey "the other" people are malleable masses with no ideas/likes/visions of their own - we can do as we please with them. Oh and they all, being Engineers have absolutely magical powers to solve any problem you throw at them - Terrorism, poverty, energy, hunger - you name it and they will solve it no matter how much oppression and apathy and violence confronts them!

Yeah, you made it sound idealistic but it's hypocritical and has no chance of working. It isn't far fetched to say that if the Engineers in China/India saw a way to make great opportunities happen in their own homeland to further their and their country's interests, they would never migrate to whole another continent in the first place. It isn't easy to migrate you know.


>Let the Indians keep their talented engineers -- let them improve India

It's all about the choice, isn't it?

Me staying in my home country doesn't improve it anyhow.

Those who try hard to improve it somehow tend to end up in jail.


Emma was never elected, never had to make a payroll, etc. She was a young woman who won a poetry contest.

So using a short poem as a way to justify the complete overhaul of American immigration policy seems a little odd.


I love how the discussion has gone from wage fixing to keeping out Indians and Chinese in the name of improving their countries. FYI, Indians and Chinese engineers come here because they are just as powerless as your atheists, homosexuals etc in their countries (but not discriminated against directly).


We should give American citizenship to everyone in the world with an IQ test below 80. There is no way this policy would cause any social problems.

Can't make a living in the information economy? Uncle Sam wants you!


There's no engineering shortage. They're all just trying to flood the market with more engineers from all around the world.

You could argue that this is the actual natural order of things. Let the free market decide the value of an engineer, not arbitrary government regulation. It is the Silicon Valley way, after all.


Government control of immigration is a natural consequence of government establishing and defending a border. If you want to take the free market to its logical conclusion, we should get rid of that too, and leave Silicon Valley to its own devices vis-à-vis fending off hostile foreign actors. Historically that sort of thing has not worked out well.


Note that the products/services made by these immigrants are sold globally, not just in the US. Google, for example, acquires more than 50% of it's revenues from outside the US.

If you don't object to google's selling it's services across the world on free-market principles, it'll take a rather large leap of (il)logic to constrain the employment to be restricted to the physical location of the HQ of this global company.


Movement of residents is fundamentally different than movement of goods. Moreover, nothing constrains Google from hiring people in locations outside the US to service those markets.


Free market is strongly against "Cartels". Because, yeah, ceo-cartels are another way of arbitrary regulation. See them as a "maximum wage fixed" and you get why.


UH, CEO collusion is the same as "arbitrary [executive] regulation"....

The free market is what the actual value of the engineers is - not how the CEOs choose to work together to suppress prices.


Oh, I know. I wasn't disputing that. Just making an observation on perspective - that the current system of limited immigration is not the fairest, but it's in the interests of developers today to resist it being changed.


The natural order of things is that we have a process in place to create and change government regulation. If someone thinks that process is inflexible or arbitrary doesn't given the prerogative to break the law to get around it.


The natural order of things is the formation of powerful groups that ruthlessly exploit their environment. Ironically the Free Market needs governments to provide the institutions in which it can operate.


> we need to be careful with the fine print of such policies as to not destroy our own economy.

Au contraire. Many Americans and Europeans would get a huge and valuable smack with the clue-bat if there were no immigration restrictions, and if licensing schemes designed to create arbitrary shortages of e.g. doctors were eliminated.


I think immigration policy will eventually be nonexistent, but before then many things need to happen. The developing nations need to achieve a certain quality of living across the board so that the people there don't all just decide to get up, and leave.

Economies need to become less decentralized, and more global in their scope. Which arguable is very much a reality today, but I think this is simply the beginning.

And there's a whole host of other developments that need to happen, but I believe eventually will happen in the coming decades. We'll see a more homogenous world, yet also a more diverse one.


This is prima facie collusion and corruption. These executives should be fired and prosecuted for fraud and collusion. If it doesn't happen, it means our society endorses corruption and encourages this, and we'll see more bad behavior.


It won't happen. Our society does endorse corruption as long as its profitable enough.


Our society also endorses torture by imprisoning the people who exposed it and letting the ones who did it be free...and there are more examples of worse things than this that "our society endorses".


My understanding is the DOJ has closed their case. There won't be any prosecutions.


It could happen at the state level. And many of these co's have physical nexii all over, not just CA.


The whole "immigration reform" is a continued effort by these companies to import cheaper labor...

Don't be fooled by altruistic PR coming from Zuck and others...


This may be heresy on HN but this actually proves the engineer shortage. If there wasn't a shortage, they wouldn't need non-poaching agreements.


Isn't one of the common arguments that they're isn't a shortage the companies just aren't willing to pay enough to get people interested. I mean when I think make BIG money in IT I think startup and all the risks involved or management rather than high level engineer. That will have an effect on who joins the industry.


It supports the idea that the cost of finding someone of similar criteria among the unemployed, or taking a less skilled programmer and investing in them, exceeds the cost of finding them among one's peers.

That's not necessarily a consequence of there being an engineer shortage. You'd expect much the same behaviour if most people who emerged from uni, or worked commonly in IT, didn't have the criteria they were interested in.


Not really... Because companies in Silicon Valley poach employees on purpose to interrupt other companies. It's a real problem in a lot of industries.

I'd note you don't see Microsoft in this because they stayed in Washington and bought employment laws they like. So they can force employees to sign non-competes in Seattle while they poach from California that won't allow companies to do that.

Working in an auto state, I've seen that in other industries and it's actually kind of sickening. In the auto industry it's in bad taste to do that. Many auto suppliers have no-poaching in their business contracts. Which ties up a lot of the industry because everybody does business with everybody. As an EMPLOYEE you can apply to another job, but recruiters aren't allowed to cold-call between companies.

I've worked in an office where we would get cold call agents during work. They'd call all the extensions in the office and it was just offensive being put on the spot like that. I can't imagine working at Apple or Google and getting calls like that... And the work environment becomes "awkward" for the rest of the day because everybody knows everybody got a call... There's nothing good about that type of hiring practice.


"I'd note you don't see Microsoft in this"

Micrsoft was one of the (many) companies listed with which Google had similar non-poaching agreements.


A developer is pretty well paid when compared to other professions regardless of the price fixing scheme. I'm not sure fixed pricing and developer shortage are linked.


Software engineer's salary is nothing compared to doctors, lawyers and financial traders who enjoy protections from their organizations and a reputation of "being just expensive".


Lawyers and financial traders, maybe. Doctors, not so much (at least in the US). The NRMP is a far more effective wage-fixing cabal than anything anyone in silicon valley could ever dream up, and it's 100% legal.


> Software engineer's salary is nothing compared to doctors, lawyers and financial traders who enjoy protections from their organizations and a reputation of "being just expensive".

Not really all that true, for the professions as a whole, except for medical doctors, who are far above any of the others.

Per the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook [1], 2012 Median salaries for various professions:

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents: $71,720

Software developers: $93,350

Lawyers: $113,530

Physicians & Surgeons: >$187,200

[1] http://www.bls.gov/ooh/


In the valley I think I'd rather be a software engineer than a doctor or lawyer if I wanted to maximize my expected career earnings.


I should point out that your Expected career earnings has nothing to do with your profession and everything to do with what you actually do.


Yea, to the contrary, they're actually trying to decrease the upward price pressure of the natural market.


They decreased inflation immediately prior to a major period of financial instability. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for the foresight demonstrated. Corporate tax cuts for all involved as reward.


The income and standard of living for software engineers in Silicon Valley is so high that low wages are not the constraining factor in engineer population.


I have long told recruiters that I'd need something in the $250k range to even consider working as an engineer for a corporate tech shop. The work is brutal. You sell your mental life to hippie robber barons who write emails in all lowercase while siphoning enough energy out of you to buy second-hand nuclear icebreakers for personal yachts.

None of them has yet taken me seriously, but thankfully this reduced the number of calls I was getting.


> I have long told recruiters that I'd need something in the $250k

I wish more people were like you.

Disclaimer: I do the same.


The average salary for a "software developer, applications" in San Francisco is about $111K a year. In San Jose, it's a bit higher, at 116K a year.

http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/software-developer...

The median price for a 3br house in SF is (I used zillow's numbers for this) 1.1Mil.

(btw, check the pay for the other "top 10" professions in high cost areas like SF. It does make economic sense for top students with good options to choose other fields).


Why do we keep bringing up these issues as if they were mutually exclusive?

The whole conspiracy has not been driven by a desire to bring down wages (most of the involved company can pay the price), but by the instability caused by an already existing shortage.

Yes, driving down wages only makes the issue worse, and lobbying for migrant workers whilst doing so is extremely hypocritical.

But at the end of the day it's a symptom of the problem, not the root cause.


Read the policy. It's basically against poaching executives. It specifically says that anyone at the individual contributor level (ie developers, designers, testers) are all fair game. At the executive level for these places, salaraies are probably $300K-$30M range. I feel like depressing their wages isn't a pressing issue for this country.


In your rush to bash illegally-colluding tech execs for the engineer shortage you seem to have missed the end of the article where the policy is posted. From that document:

"For each of these 'Restricted Hiring' companies...

"3. Additionally there are _no_ restrictions at _any_ level for engeineering candidates"

The majority of the companies included were just on a "Do Not Cold Call" list, but Google would actively recruit people from those companies based on referrals, and of course based on applications.

So, if you worked at Apple and applied to Google, Google would actively recruit you.

I fail to see how this policy has anything to do with an engineering shortage. It may well be deemed illegal, but it's certainly not as bad as you're making it out to be.


This is an interesting fight to watch from here on the sidelines, given that many employees were colluding to drive up wages - here on HN, we had people boasting about having a stable job, then hearing about a job at another BigNameCo, and applying for it just to drive up their own wage. No intention of leaving their own company, and that it was turning into a routine process rather than the odd here-and-there.

I'm sure there will be apologetics, but it's not like one side was behaving ethically.

They conspire illegally to drive down wages, then whine that not enough people want to work in this field where wages have been artificially and illegally deflated.

This field where wages are still significantly above mean values? Where are these engineers going to go en masse for better wages? Into medicine? Hello for another 10 years training. Law? Already overstaffed, and wages are similar for most anyway. Finance gets some, but isn't going to hold them all. If the engineers are in the career for the dollar, restarting in another career that will pay more is going to be difficult as a group.


You are comparing a legal practice that demonstrates real market value to an employer - i.e. here is a document that shows another participant in this market is willing to pay me $X for what I can do - in a salary negotiation to an illegal practice which distorts the market by decreasing competition.

A legal practice which increases competition and increases the allocation of resources to productive individuals can't be compared to an illegal practice which decreases competition.


Are you suggesting US law requires companies to aggressively try and poach each others staff? That would be remarkable and amazing if so. What if you aren't particularly interested in staffing a large recruiting division, and don't cold-call anyone? What if you think cold-calling is like spam and just feel it's not something your company should do? Do you get in trouble for holding down wages?


No, he is suggesting that making a mutual agreement not to do so is illegal, just like a whole range of other actions that have price setting effects are legal when a company does it in isolation but illegal when multiple companies collude to affect the pricing.


Ah, counter ethics with legality? It's legal in some jurisdictions to confiscate the property of a person and sell it before that person has seen the inside of a court. There was an article recently on HN about that, but Jello Biafra spoke of the problem as far back as the 1980s. Using your litmus test, this activity must be ethical because it's legal.

I do not think it's ethical to scare the other party by threatening actions that you have zero intention of carrying out.


The agreement explicitly excludes engineers.


>we had people boasting about having a stable job, then hearing about a job at another BigNameCo, and applying for it just to drive up their own wage. No intention of leaving their own company, and that it was turning into a routine process rather than the odd here-and-there.

Regardless of your opinions about the morality of this practice, there's no basis for calling it collusion.


Sure there is - people here on HN were openly talking about colluding with their friends in other companies to do it.

It's not to say that all engineers were doing it (which I think is a salient point), but in all these arguments, the engineers are painted as naifs who had done nothing as a group to merit this. To be clear, I don't agree with the ethics the companies displayed, I just think it's unfair that the collusion between some engineers gets glossed over amongst all the outrage.




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