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    I definitely understand the sentiment here, but I also think this line of thinking is a bit dangerous. You earn your pay for doing your job. Not just the hard parts, all of it. This promotes the idea that jobs should be difficult for them to pay well. This is pretty close to implying that low-difficulty jobs shouldn’t get paid well since they never really “earn” their pay. Labor is labor. It doesn’t really matter how difficult it is perceived to be.

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      Hmmm. Author here.

      Labor is labor

      I’m not sure that I agree with this point. Some labor is more valuable or difficult (two different dimensions) than other. Skills matter. Low difficulty jobs aren’t paid poorly because they don’t earn their pay; in my opinion they aren’t paid well because if the difficulty is low, you have more supply, which means that for a fixed demand the price will be lower.

      I do agree that you earn your pay for doing all of a job. After all, even the easy parts of a job need to get done (otherwise they hopefully wouldn’t be part of the job).

      I guess I wanted to promote the idea that you get paid when you provide value. One way to provide a lot of value is to handle difficult problems, even if the difficult problems are not 100% of the job. (There are other ways, like having a rare talent or specialized training.)

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        The problem is in how you define what labor is more important? I know a lot of software developers that technically provide value (and get paid very well) on projects that make literally no difference in the world. If they disappeared tomorrow, 99.999% of people wouldn’t even know. Who is to say that is more valuable than a waitress that provides food for tons of people throughout a day.

        Supply and demand are dangerous concepts, even when applied correctly, and capitalists consistently undervalue labor using similar arguments to yours. I guess I don’t disagree with what you are saying, but the problem comes in who gets to decide that certain labor is more valuable.

        And all too often in the USA, those who don’t perform “valuable” labor aren’t paid a living wage. I know that isn’t what you are arguing, but unfortunately, these kinds of ideas all too often lead people to the wrong conclusions.

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          I know a lot of software developers that technically provide value (and get paid very well) on projects that make literally no difference in the world. If they disappeared tomorrow, 99.999% of people wouldn’t even know.

          Sometimes it’s hard to know what will make a difference before it makes the difference. I’d guess they’re being paid as a calculated risk by someone who expects to profit off their labour.

          I guess I don’t disagree with what you are saying, but the problem comes in who gets to decide that certain labor is more valuable.

          I think this is what economic planning and the economic calculation problem are about. As I understand it, in most of the world there is no “who” deciding labour what is or isn’t valuable. It’s mostly left up to decentralised markets.

          I think mainstream economists say anyone earning less than a living wage should find a new job. Harsh.

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            Sometimes it’s hard to know what will make a difference before it makes the difference. I’d guess they’re being paid as a calculated risk by someone who expects to profit off their labour.

            Making a profit isn’t the same as providing value. You can be a middleman who doesn’t provide real value but has put yourself in between sick people and their medicine; your business model can be immensely profitable, while providing negative value to society or customers.

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              I think of importance as to society or customers. I think of added value as selling price - cost to produce. I think of (economic) profit as income over and above the opportunity costs.

              Making a profit isn’t the same as providing value.

              Providing value to whom? AIUI making a profit provides value to the business, or seller, possibly the employees, and everyone else involved in the supply chain.

              You can be a middleman who doesn’t provide real value but has put yourself in between sick people and their medicine; your business model can be immensely profitable, while providing negative value to society or customers.

              That’s true. The Martin Shkrelis of the world. Though that reminds me of the classic demotivation poster:

              Mistakes: It Could Be That The Purpose Of Your Life Is Only To Serve As Warning To Others

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                hmm, I don’t think “value = (selling price) - (cost to produce)” is the definition of “value” which /u/wuz used when they said “I know a lot of software developers that technically provide value (and get paid very well) on projects that make literally no difference in the world”.

                I don’t know what their definition would be, but from the argument they wrote, I would guess it’s something along the lines of what actual good the labour does to the world or to customers, not how much it lines the pocket books of their bosses.

                I suppose, under your definition, “I’d guess they’re being paid as a calculated risk by someone who expects to profit off their labour” is trivially compatible with “they’re being paid because their labour is providing value”, because the words “profit” and “value” mean almost the same.

                I would argue that when it comes to who ought to get the most paid, my (interpretation of /u/wuz’s) understanding of value is more important; but when it comes to who actually gets the most paid in current systems, you’re probably right that some combination of irreplacability and profit generated is what determines pay (along with other BS factors, such as name, skin color, ability to negotiate payment, age, etc).

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          You get paid when you enable your employer to capture value.

          It happens to be the case that capturing value is easier to do when you have created some, but it’s easy to create value in ways that are hard to capture too (eg most roads are not toll roads).

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          I’ve been thinking on this a lot and have come to this conclusion:

          • You earn your pay when you do your job.
          • You earn your eventual promotion, and personal pride, when you do it well even under adverse conditions.
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          The hard lesson for me was that I earn my pay when customers I build for pay money. Sometimes that involves hard work, lots of expertise and clever code, but at best these things are necessary but not sufficient.

          I’ve fixed tough issues and written beautifully-engineered code for startups which ultimately failed. And there were times when I’ve earned more than my salary with simple config changes, by saying “no”, or just by charging more.

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            Isn’t that a mindbender? I think that’s why senior engineers get paid more–not necessarily because they can crank out more code, but because they can get you to the solution quicker (partially because of all the mistakes they’ve made in the past).

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              You’re a senior developer IFF you crank out less code. Writing code is easy, figuring out how to not write code is where things get fun.

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                Yup. The best coder in the world comes in, listens to your problem, asks questions, and then says “You don’t need any code at all. Do this.” and leaves. That’s a person that both knows what the tools are for and when it’s appropriate to use each one. The worst coder in the world comes in, asks a question or two, and then fires up what language and tooling system either they use all of the time or have been dying to try out, then disappears, only to reappear 50KLOC of code and framework later.

                It’s a strange concept. We don’t pay doctors to act this way. Or lawyers. Or any professional, for that matter. Yet it is the norm in most of the coding world.

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                  But we do. Doctors will tell you when a surgical intervention is not necessary. Lawyers will tell you when to settle or drop a case.

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                    It’s a strange concept. We don’t pay doctors to act this way. Or lawyers. Or any professional, for that matter. Yet it is the norm in most of the coding world.

                    Maybe because software is so abstract? Not sure why..

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                      I think there are a lot of reasons. The best short answer I have is that it’s because programmers enjoy creating complex puzzles that they can then master. It makes them happy. And so, over time, they make their own and make generalized versions that other programmers can master too. We do what makes us happy.

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                  Senior people get paid more partly because the decisions they make shape spending for months and years to come, and partly for the experience you mention.

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                    I actually have an opposite experience. Senior people in my company (more senior than me) actually slow down getting to the solution, mostly by insisting on the documentation, processes, defining OKRs in a beautiful and measurable way. That seems quite ok for a company that has stable directions and billions in bank, but for a startup that is a killer (ihmo).

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                      Depends on the person and the job, it sounds like. I work in a place that is in the process of going from a startup to a company that needs more of the documentation and processes. We have some excellent senior engineers who have been there since it was a small startup, they are fantastic problem-solvers, and getting them to commit to stuff more far-reaching than “it works for the next demo” is like pulling teeth.

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                        Absolutely true. The seniority goes hand in hand with past experiences. Startups generally need stuff that works, discovery and documentation is left as less important. In big companies is the other way round. But both optimize for the most important items first.

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                    For me it’s those moments in my career where either the situation or my own stupid choices have pushed me past the point where I’m feeling tired and into the realm of physically and mentally exhausted.

                    Sorry, I don’t understand. You feel like you earn your pay when you’re “physically and mentally exhausted”? Is that because you continue to deliver even though you are exhausted? What am I missing?

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                      You’re right. I think I was reacting to the phrase as a euphemism rather than the actual intent of the article. Comment removed.

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                    I’m on the fence there. There are several types of people in a team. Ones who finish ticket after ticket and just get work done (these are usually easy and medium problems). Some strive when facing unexpected hard problems. Some just want to be left alone and do the deep thinking to create your algorithms. In my hypothetical scenario #1 wouldn’t be faced with any hard problems, because #3 picked the hard pieces and #2 is fighting fire so that the other 2 can work.

                    There are several roles, and yes, sometimes you earn your pay with the hard stuff, but sometimes you also just work reliable and fast and maybe finish 50% of the product of your own and 3 other people seem to finish the other 50%. I can’t rate this, but this is my experience where teams add to be more than the sum of their parts.

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                      That’s a really interesting point. Another one is that what is hard and enjoyable varies from person to person.

                      I might add that finishing ticket after ticket at a given quality level and speed isn’t want I’d consider an “easy or medium”. Sure, the individual pieces might be, but the cumulative task isn’t.

                      You’re absolutely right, for a team to thrive requires all kinds of workers.