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    On the whole I agree with the article. I have worked for 3 startups and been burned 3 times. I’m much happier with the mega-corps now. That said; I keep seeing these types of articles talking about $250K packages for a senior programmer and how you can work from anywhere with this kind of salary.

    This has not been my experience and the Bureau of Labor Statistics seems to be more apt from what I have experienced


    I’m well above the BLS median, but not even half of $250K. Is this really achievable as “the norm” from anywhere in the USA, and if so where are all of these opportunities that I’m so obviously missing?

    How much of that $250K is actual salary and then how much of it is “value of benefits”? This is the other piece that is a head scratcher since the $250K always includes “value of benefits” I feel like it is a bit of sleight of hand that hides the lower actual salary.

    Here is the BLS breakdown by state, which is also interesting, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151131.htm#st California median is around 89K and Washington seems to have the highest median, still only 115K.

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      Note that the BLS definition of “Computer programmer” appears to be very low level:

      “…They turn the program designs created by software developers and engineers into instructions that a computer can follow.”

      It’s likely that many of us here who would call ourselves programmers might fit into another statistical bucket for the BLS, like “software developers” - median $97k, or even “Computer and Information Research Scientists”, median $108k. Honestly, even those seem low and so I assume they’re wrapping together some jobs that I wouldn’t consider equivalent.

      In general it seems really hard to tell how much of these stories of high compensation to believe without just asking your peers, something I’m always reluctant to do. Certainly having some idea of what sort of field these offers are being made for is useful - Dan’s article was helpful in pointing out that people in “hot fields” get gobs more money.

      It’s also not always totally clear what being “senior” means. I think I had “senior” in my title once, but I think it means different things at different places. :)

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        How much of that $250K is actual salary and then how much of it is “value of benefits”?

        Zero. A mediocre compensation package for a senior engineer today is $150k salary, $100k/yr of equity that’s not quite as good as cash (but pretty close) and bonuses.

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          It’s certainly not anywhere near that in New York or Boston. Perhaps some SV outliers.

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            That’s what people I know at Google make in Madison, WI. I’ve that numbers in places with a similar cost of living (like Austin, TX) are similar. Numbers are often much higher in SV, of course.

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            Roughly how many years of industry experience does a senior engineer at Google correspond to? (I know that years of experience is a horridly imperfect metric, but it can be useful for HR-type stuff.)

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              A decade, give or take a few.

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                Three or Four or more

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            The interesting work tradeoff has also changed a lot over time, but the change has been… bimodal. The existence of AWS and Azure means that ideas that would have taken millions of dollars in servers and operational expertise can be done with almost no fixed cost and low marginal costs. The scope of things you can do at an early-stage startup that were previously the domain of well funded companies is large and still growing. But at the same time, if you look at the work Google and MS are publishing at top systems conferences, startups are farther from being able to reproduce the scale-dependent work than ever before (and a lot of the most interesting work doesn’t get published). Depending on what sort of work you’re interested in, things might look relatively better or relative worse at big companies.

            Beyond scale in the computational/data sense, big companies are also sometimes (though not always) more willing to invest in R&D at a longer timescale. Not necessarily as good as academia in that respect, but at least a slightly longer timescale than what startups staring at the end of a 6-month funding runway are willing to allow. Even if you ignore pure R&D divisions like Microsoft Research, the more “researchy” parts of the regular product teams at places like Microsoft and Google are doing research with 12-24 month outlooks, not 3-6-month outlooks. They also typically are more willing to let you publish papers (and pay for you to travel to conferences to present them), if that’s your thing.

            Despite the phrase “technology startup”, imo what really differentiates startups is that they aren’t really focused on technology R&D, but much more on something like “business R&D”. The VC funding model is to take technology that exists (not technology that needs serious R&D before it exists), but has not yet been productized, and iterate on how to productize it. That may involve some technology R&D, but often it involves a lot more iteration on things like monetization models, customer acquisition, etc. Some of which can also be interesting, but it’s a different kind of work.

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              My favorite part was the Tumblr at the end: http://totalgarb.tumblr.com/tagged/startupbullshit

              That being said, I think we all make the startup equity mistake once. These days, I much prefer being paid hourly, as I feel my interests and the client’s are more aligned.

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                Wow, that is quite the eye-opener.