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    Or, if you want a job as a programmer, do call yourself a programmer:

    “Disagree” is not necessarily the right word - a more precise way to put it would be “it’s different in my experience”. Which is to be expected because both of us are speaking based on our own careers, which have been rather different. Patrick McKenzie is a small business owner running Bingo Card Creator and a successful consultant. I’m a lead chip architect at a billion-dollar company. Both of us have thus traveled some distance away from “purely programming” (whatever that means), but in rather different directions. …

    To me, however, a programmer is who I’m looking for, while a resume full of revenue increases and cost reductions sounds like an “anomalously high-cost parasite who types some mumbo-jumbo into Excel and PowerPoint, claiming credit for others' work”.

    As usual, Yossi is brutally convincing and highly entertaining.

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      (I’m not arguing that McKenzie’s intent was to say the exact opposite of what I’m saying, BTW. I’m just commenting on some quotes and the general atmosphere of the text as I perceived it. A lot of things simply have different meaning when heard by different people; a simple advice like “be wary of others' intentions” is great for someone overly trusting, but not for someone already verging on paranoia. Some people need to hear that coworkers aren’t friends; today I’m writing for the other people.)

      Can you imagine if every debate you had was with a person who approached the topic in question in this fashion, this calmly and amicably?

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        That would be awesome. I have a long way to go to reach Yossi’s level.

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      Absolutely fantastic advice, particularly with regard to “perks” - that free case of beer every week in the office, the Xbox in the lounge, the Aeron chair at your desk, they all sound really great until you realize that you’re talking ~$1500/year and you just gave up $15,000/year in potential salary requirements over them. You can buy all the beer you want with more money.

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        Money: The Unit of Caring is an interesting essay along those lines.

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          Look at it from the opposite point of view. Suppose you’re working for a company that could have made your work life substantially more pleasant by buying a (tax-deductible) Aeron chair, Kinesis keyboard, large monitor, ping-pong table, and beer (if that’s what you’re into; I’m not). But the company decided not to do that, because it would save them $1500 a year. After all, if you really want those things you can spend some of your post-tax salary on them! What does that tell you about the company? It tells you it’s run by people who don’t see themselves as being on the same team you’re on. Rather than considering the company’s employers and investors as a group of people contributing different, necessary contributions to produce something valuable and distribute shares of the value thoughtfully and fairly, that management is more interested in playing the zero-sum game of making sure that as much as possible of whatever value gets produced gets allocated to somebody other than you, even if that’s at the cost of producing less value. [See note at bottom.]

          It tells you the same thing, of course, if they expect you to drop your salary requirements by $15K in exchange for $1.5K of perks. But my experience is that the companies with the “perks” are usually the companies that pay more, too, because the same mentality that leads companies to skimp on chairs also leads them to skimp on salaries.

          There may be other reasons a company with that kind of management is a fantastic place to work. The people you work with directly matter a lot more! But you have to keep in the back of your mind that it’s a company where the management is trying to rip you off. It may well be the kind of place where management will consider drinking beer at work that you bought yourself to be a sort of offense against the company.

          What do I mean by “even at the cost of producing less value”? Think about it: it makes no sense to buy a US$1500 Aeron chair by first paying US$133 in federal payroll tax, then giving US$2007 nominally to the employee, with another US$133 in payroll tax deducted, plus another US$374 for income tax withholding, FICA, and Social Security, leaving the employee with US$1500 to spend on the chair, rather than simply spending the US$1500 directly, at which point you don’t owe any tax at all on it. And it also makes no sense to buy a US$300 office chair instead of a US$1500 Aeron chair for a programmer you’re paying US$120 000 per year. If you depreciate that US$1200 over the GAAP-compliant 7 years, that’s US$171 per year: 0.14% of the employee’s salary. Let’s say that employee produces US$400 000 per year in value for the company, or US$200 per hour. If that chair enables the employee to produce an extra hour’s worth of work per year, because they’re less tired and hurt less, the company is getting more value from the chair than it’s spending.

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            This is a scam used by almost every cool startup on their young employees.

            Having been burned by this before, it is a tough lesson to internalize. The perks do not add up to the lost income. It is just a way for an employer to cut costs.

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              I think just comparing the dollar value of the perks against lost income isn’t really fair. Perks are a signal that company cultures values and encourages the use of those perks. We could look at a company cafeteria as a sinister ploy to keep you in the office longer, but the fact that the place is nice enough that people will stick around says a lot.

              It’s possible to make an informed trade of income for culture without being ripped off.

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                It’s possible to make an informed trade of income for culture without being ripped off.

                Absolutely agreed. I just think that, for particularly very young engineers (say, right out of college or graduate school), they aren’t able to make an informed decision yet due to lack of experience. Culture is valuable; but even when beer and Xbox etc are symptoms of that culture, they’re just symptoms. It’s tricky for a novice to the world of professional employment to make that evaluation - and many of them are fooled.

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              It might still sound great even after considering the pay difference. The benefits for the employer are obvious, it’s up to the employee to decide if what they get out of the deal is worth the pay cut. Would you be comfortable with a lower salary to be able to take an hour off in the middle of the day to sit down with a beer and play some Towerfall, or would you take the extra 15k to sit in a cube all year? Maybe if negotiation skills as important as the article states, you can have your cake and eat it too.

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              This article was one of the things I read before/while I went looking for a new job. Thanks in part to this advice, a 3-sentence email and a 5-minute phone call got me an extra $15k/year. I would TL;DR; it as: learn what real businesses care about, learn to respect yourself, and use that to negotiate in good faith from a position of strength. This will get you respect and piles of money.

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                On somewhat similar lines, learning how to freelance/consult would be a great way of learning many of the negotiation tactics. (I learned it mostly from Ramit Sethi’s Earn1K course).

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                  That is why I call myself a “Software Cosmonaut” so that people know I do stuff with software that is from outer space.