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In most of the organizations I've worked for you reach a salary cap as an engineer. The only way to make more is to become a manager where you get paid more simply because you're part of the group deciding how much people get paid. The other career path I've seen is the architect route where a skilled developer no longer codes but instead spends their time helping others design good software.

both of those routes is boring - which route involve working in "the trenches", whilst still getting paid management level salaries? Don't say startup because that's just money earned on risk-taking, not guaranteed payment like a salary.

which route involve working in "the trenches", whilst still getting paid management level salaries?

The engineering track at AmaGooBookSoft. You'll earn +/- $200k a year mid-career and have roughly zero market or execution risk.

There exist many options if you're willing to take more than a W-2 employee level of risk. (e.g. Found a boutique consultancy. Redirect the conversation when your W-2 friends ask what your weekly rate is.)

I'm working at a services firm in India and am not good enough to get into AmaGooBookSoft. What do I do ?

Broadly speaking: 1) Try getting a job at AmaGooBookSoft a few times, because many devs I know who believe or believed that they were not good enough are/were wrong (self likely included), 2) Skill up. If you're not finding opportunity for advancement in skill levels at the present job -- which is something I felt when I was doing roughly similar work -- change to a job which does allow you to skill up, or create opportunities for skilling up at your job or outside of it. 3) Consider getting out of the BPO firm and into one of India's emerging software product companies like e.g. VWO or Zoho or what have you. I have no clue what the relative salaries look like but you're virtually guaranteed to learn more.

Finally, the 0th option: if your local economy doesn't have the job you want, make it for yourself.

Improve by working on side projects.

Hey Patrick, could you talk more about the options available to you if you are good enough to get into AmaGooBookSoft, as well as ready to take on plenty of risk?

If you constrain a problem enough it eventually becomes impossible. The odds of staying "in the trenches" and getting a management level salary are extremely low outside of a company you own a large portion of or a consultancy. When you have the same skills everyone else has you can't command a salary appreciably greater than theirs.

Why is it this way? Because there are more programmers who can do your job than there are managers who can manage you. You can argue that's unfair, but it's the way it is. The managers have skills that are in demand, and despite what the general HN attitude towards managers/executives is they are important to the success of most businesses.

Boring is subjective.If that's not your cup of tea it's fine but it doesn't invalidate his point about career paths.

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