mtlynch 7 months ago

Ex-Googler here. I was a SWE L4 and left after four years in frustration with the promotion process (

Since then, I:

* Moved out of my $3.3k/mo Manhattan apartment and bought a home for $200k in Western Massachusetts. Paid in cash so I no longer have to pay rent/mortgage. I feel like my time is much less "metered" now because my annual living expenses are so low, I can pursue things for fun without worrying about how much it's costing me in terms of time.

* Attempted to build a startup on top of a distributed storage cryptocurrency ( Didn't work because the underlying platform wasn't mature enough yet, so it was more expensive and less reliable than centralized solutions.

* Attempted to build a business with a ML-powered recipe ingredient parsing service. Found out recipe apps aren't really willing to pay for it. (

* Currently working on toy projects to sharpen my web development skills because I've found that part of my skillset to be a bottleneck with my previous projects.

  • technofiend 7 months ago

    To quote your article:

    The problem, as I discovered at promotion time, was that none of this was quantifiable. I couldn’t prove that anything I did had a positive impact on Google.

    If they hornswoggled me into helping them, it’s evidence of their strong leadership qualities. I was just the mindless peon whose work was so irrelevant that it could be pre-empted at a moment’s notice.

    Don't take this as an ad-homimen attack because it's not. You fell into the same trap some other people do at stack ranked organizations.

    These systems create evolutionary pressure and the people who thrive are those who adapt to the ranking system as much as the job. Right, wrong or indifferent the ranking system is part of the job and in the same situation the people I see getting promoted would have dedicated significant time proving anything they did produced value or they wouldn't have done it.

    That's why (IMHO) it was so difficult to get anyone interested in changing our stack ranked system to anything else; because those who thrived under it were in charge of deciding whether and how to change and already knew how to succeed in the old one.

    • twblalock 7 months ago

      This is spot-on, and it's also true in organizations without stack ranking.

      It's actually not a cynical way to view your job. If what you do doesn't make an impact for customers and/or other teams in the organization, was it really worth doing?

      I've consistently seen that successful engineers focus on work that has an impact, and they are good at making it known. The first part is obviously good, but a lot of engineers disdain self-promotion. However, self-promotion is not a bad thing if you really are good at your job, because it opens up opportunities to have an even greater impact, which is good for you and for the company.

      • rizwan 7 months ago

        > If what you do doesn't make an impact for customers and/or other teams in the organization, was it really worth doing?

        The problem is that, at review time at Google, you have to be able to "quantify" the impact. Many types of impact are quantifiable (e.g. "Made server request scale from 100 query-per-second to 1,300 qps", "reduced code size by 30%", etc.).

        It's much harder to measure, say, the impact of a refactor where you made the code easier to reason about and more maintainable, so that future work can be done on it more easily.

        I witnessed the same thing at Google; I worked on a project that everyone joked only existed because the person who wrote it wanted promo, and the best way to get it was to design a very complex system, and convince others to adopt it. (He did get it, and promptly switched teams.)

        Some things have been made better, though. I've heard that going from L4 → L5 now involves much more influence from your manager, since they would know and, without quantifying something like a refactor, can speak to the positive impact you had in a project.

        • slededit 7 months ago

          > It's much harder to measure, say, the impact of a refactor where you made the code easier to reason about and more maintainable, so that future work can be done on it more easily.

          I've also seen refactors that just made life difficult for everyone else with constant non-functional changes. In the end there is a lot of fashion in programming, and while some refactors are worthwhile most are not in my experience.

          The refactor is supposed to provide payoff in the future, but what normally happens is fashion changes and someone new comes by and says "this code is shit" and starts the process over. The supposed benefits never accrue.

        • gbustomtv5 7 months ago

          You quantified what you said is hard to quantify.

          Measure commits/authors before and after a refactor.

          • rhymenoceros 7 months ago

            The problem is that metric, like any metric, is both easy to game _and_ can provide misleading information.

            Measuring number of commits? Create fewer, larger commits. Measuring commit size? Pull in more third-party libraries, even where it does't make sense. Author count? Add more/less documentation and recruit or inhibit new devs depending on what your goal is.

            Not to mention the number of commits/authors before and after an arbitrary point in time might conflate a successful growing project with a project in a death spiral being passed around from group to group.

            It's a good idea, but in practice simple metrics like this often (but not always) devolve into prime examples of Goodhart's law.

            • twblalock 7 months ago

              Ok, then find another way to measure developer productivity, or reliability in production, or customer features delivered.

              If you can’t find a measurable benefit to a refactoring (or anything else, really) then maybe it was not worth doing in the first place.

              • derefr 7 months ago

                In science, measuring things until you find a benefit is called p-hacking. Every extra test you do that splits your data along a different dimension, is another independent opportunity for "random chance" to look like positive signal.

                There is no programming project in existence with enough developers working on it, that developer-productivity data derived from a change to it would not be considered "underpowered" for the sake of proving anything.

              • friday99 7 months ago

                The obsession with measuring is hilarious. There are plenty of things in life (and jobs) that aren't measurable and are worth doing. Probably all of the important things are actually unmeasurable. Think about it this way, if its so easy you can measure it, it probably isn't very important in the grand scheme of things.

              • jvz 7 months ago

                No metric can escape gaming when you apply it to rational actors (Campbell's Law / Goodhart's Law). Blind devotion to metrics is just as bad as no metrics at all.

              • sdenton4 7 months ago

                I was just yesterday discussing the opportunity cost of infrastructure changes, as a new team member was bemoaning our out of date patterns...

                A high impact infra change will often inconvenience dozens of people and distract from feature work... You know, the shit people actually care about... (this is analogous to how "Twitter, but written in Golang" appeals to approximately no one.)

              • jmmcd 7 months ago

                > find another way to measure developer productivity

                And solve the halting problem while you're at it

            • gbustomtv5 7 months ago

              Normalizing commits number per author is not difficult.


              Goodhart’s law is not applicable to scientific management because metrics have different purpose.

              • friday99 7 months ago

                Goodhart's law is entirely applicable to management (adding scientific in front doesn't actually mean anything). That is one of the prime areas of applicability. People change their behavior to increase a metric at the cost of decreasing other more important things.

      • derefr 7 months ago

        > If what you do doesn't make an impact for customers and/or other teams in the organization, was it really worth doing?

        If what you are doing isn't making an impact, why is it being assigned to you in the first place?

        Or, to put that another way: a worker is hired to do things. Their comparative advantage is in doing; time they spend in any other role than doing is labor that would have been better allocated/delegated to someone else, to clear them up for more doing. (It's very clear when you think of high-status "workers"—for example, surgeons. Time the surgeon spends inside the OR is worth tens of thousands of dollars; time they spend outside the OR isn't worth anything. If you can hire an administrative assistant for $30/hr to take admin-work off the shoulders of the surgeon, to ensure that the surgeon spends even one more hour inside the OR per week, then the admin assistant has paid for themselves.)

        A manager, meanwhile, is hired to prioritize, delegate, lubricate channels of communication, ensure their team of workers has the resources it needs to "do", and then defend the workers from anything that would take away from their "doing" time. These tasks are the manager's wheelhouse; it's where their own comparative advantage lies. Time a worker spends managing themselves is company money wasted, because a manager would have been able to get that work done far more effectively, for less effort and time input.

        You don't want a doctor spending time reading charts to triage patients (i.e. assigning work to themselves.) The intake nurse does that. And you don't want the intake nurse spending time trying to diagnose someone after taking their symptoms. That's what the doctors are for. Each role has their comparative advantage. Let the roles bleed together, and overhead goes up while lives saved goes down.

        Why do "old" organizations like hospitals understand comparative advantage better than FAANG? Why isn't it seen as a failure of management to prioritize effectively when everybody isn't always doing the most important thing they could be doing at that moment?

        • aikinai 7 months ago

          What you say is true in general, but in the specific case of Google it’s not relevant. Googlers, even down to individual rank-and-file engineers, have a lot of autonomy and self-determination. For better or worse, what they do is mostly up to them, so they’re expected to position themselves in a way to make maximum impact. Management only provides very high-level priorities and those priorities only affect what’s easier to get promoted for, not what anyone has to do.

          There are a different set of disadvantages to this system, but I just wanted to point out that in Google’s case, management doesn’t assign anything, so an engineer working on something unimpactful is not seen as a management failure but a choice made by that engineer. It’s fine to do and you can keep your job forever doing work you believe in even if it’s not overtly “impactful,” but if you want to get promoted, it’s up to you to align yourself with the higher-level priorities.

          Edit: That’s not to say Google never wastes highly-paid employees’ time (like your admin example), but the core difference is Google employees aren’t just hired to “do.” They’re also expected to spend a lot of time thinking, prioritizing, and organizing themselves, so that’s not wasted time.

        • derangedHorse 7 months ago

          Yeah but there are also a lot of other things that only they could be doing that don’t fit the job description. Like a software engineer having enough people skills to explain his/her solution to a problem so that someone else can take his place. Or a surgeon being able to teach a newer surgeon some of the wisdom he/she has gained on the job.

          The real problem for organizations is choosing what to optimize for, and how short sighted they can afford to be to survive. Someone below mentioned that the military in a war time environment is probably something that people who subscribe to this kind of thought would think is the ideal work place. The thing is if you look at these organizations in times of crisis, they may optimize for the quickest way to win the war, when it really should be to ensure long standing peace.

        • gregdunn 7 months ago

          Active FAANG employee here, so a bit of my take on it. Personal opinion, of course, and not any sort of official Amazon statement.

          Management DOES do a lot to prioritize/delegate/lubricate channels of communication, etc. That is their primary role.

          But you have more engineers than you have managers. You have more people providing a more varied set of insights into what should be prioritized, what general work needs to be done, what opportunities exist, etc.

          To a certain extent, you have to be willing to let some people sometimes be working a little sub-optimally to allow the autonomy that results in making some of the crazy cool products and services these companies create. That autonomy being available is one of the big things that drew me to Amazon, and it's something I believe I've taken full advantage of to the company's benefit.

          Giving people the latitude to run projects and create PoCs before getting full buy in from management allows people to be creative. But yes, if you've spent a year working on a project, you should be expected to show the results of what you've done. Some stuff is more ambitious, sure - but even when the results aren't immediately obvious, you do need to be able to explain the potential and what data backs up that potential and the ability for the project to reach it.

          From my experiences over the past five years, being able to find opportunities for improvement is hugely important to the culture and the promotion process. You need to be able to identify these opportunities, and that generally means some sort of metric is available to work from, and measure against as you try to improve it. (Of course metrics and statistics can be gamed, but I'd argue it's not good to go through life assuming everyone is a bad actor). It's a skill that sometimes needs to be developed, and it's something I work with people on to help them with the process, but I think it's a very good thing in general. I've seen a lot of positive come out of it.

          My two cents, anyway.

        • mulmen 7 months ago

          This is so right and also so different from reality that I had to read it twice for it to register.

          • derefr 7 months ago

            Assignment-by-comparative-advantage comes pretty close to existing in exactly one case: a military, in war-time, after the war has gone on for a few years, when opportunities to prove one's managerial competence "for real"† have allowed for a winnowing of the incompetent hired-in-peacetime officers, and gaps in the ranks have been filled by promotions for meritorious service.

            This ideal state is what people tend to be vaguely gesturing toward when they say they want "meritocracy." Even this state isn't really meritocratic, but it certainly has a management structure that knows what it wants and is actively steering every action of their subordinates to get the highest-ROI goals accomplished sooner than later; and where there is enough demand for skilled work that skilled workers are reserved to exclusively do the work they do best.

            † The assumption (that seems to cash out at least somewhat) being that when two armies of equal size clash, the winner will be the one with a better leader-of-leaders, the one who has instilled a better management philosophy into their officers, such that the army as a whole ends up being run well. If there was some way to make entire departments of a company "fight", the way that two army battalions can engage in mock battle to determine their overall relative competence, capitalism might actually be able to succeed in evading the Peter Principle. Anyone have a good idea of how to do that?

        • lifeisstillgood 7 months ago

          Why do "old" organizations like hospitals understand comparative advantage better than FAANG? Why isn't it seen as a failure of management to prioritize effectively when everybody isn't always doing the most important thing they could be doing at that moment? reply

          That's so good i want to steal it for a chapter in my book

      • walshemj 7 months ago

        Actually it is deeply cynical I have seen:

        People aggressively going for promotion and as my team leader said "but he hasn't done any real work for 6 months".

        I saw some one going for the first management level spend a million pounds of share holder money and 15 man years redeveloping a system in oracle - Because having a project worth > 1 million and with more than 10 staff was a tick box for promotion.

        • technofiend 7 months ago

          What is deeply cynical is the guy who discovered the corollary to "Never do work unless you can prove its value" which is "If you can disprove the value of someone else's work so much the better." He literally took notes on every employee of his peers and then trotted them out for negative feedback during the end-of-year ranking process.

          The resulting brinksmanship guaranteed his employees were ranked exactly the way he wanted. Ironic but he's now the head of a recruiting agency that purports to find top candidates via "big data" techniques yet he did his very best to subvert the system. So what exactly does he think he's datamining?

      • technofiend 7 months ago

        >...but a lot of engineers disdain self-promotion.

        Assuming you're doing good work your boss should be your strongest advocate and trying to help get you recognized and promoted.

        But if you're not inclined to self-promote then it definitely hurts and lots of folks on HN say they suffer from some level of impostor syndrome. If someone thinks "Should I really be here, am I really good enough?" they may also overly discount the value of their work and think there is nothing worthy of promotion in both senses of the word.

    • sgt101 7 months ago

      Change can come. The factors that I saw that effected it : a purchase of a company that didn't have one and were touted as a wunderorg then the material fact of the audited effort put into the system vs. the lack of evidence that it had any positive impact. Two changes of global HR president as well. But then it went.

      For now...

  • DecayingOrganic 7 months ago

    It's a good idea to improve your web developer skills, but I think the problem lies within your entrepreneur skills. I'd highly recommend the book Disciplined Entrepreneurship to you. It consists of 24 steps that is focused on product conceptualization, which I think you'll pretty much appreciate it.

    • mrlinx 7 months ago

      Could you share why you think that's a problem in his approach/method?

      • rburhum 7 months ago

        The first time I built a business, I made the same mistake as the OP:

        "Then, it struck me: what if ingredient parsing was the business? If this was a problem for me, then surely other developers struggled with it as well. Hopefully, some of them made money and would give some of said money to me if I solved their problem. Thus, the idea was born for Zestful, my ingredient-parsing service."

        Before starting to write a single line of code, you need to do market research and understand the opportunity size. Building a business takes several years of personal investment and you are betting a lot of potential missed opportunity on the "ingredient business" market. This is a common mistake that, again, I have made myself, too.

        • wpietri 7 months ago

          100% agreed. As a coder, the comfortable thing for me is always writing code. But every unshipped line of code is a bet on what I believe users want. It's only when I have people try it that I find out it's useful.

          And really, one can learn so much about what people want without having them use anything. User context interviews are hugely helpful. But my favorite thing is real-world tests even before there's a product. If most of your sales will come via people clicking on an ad and looking at a landing page, test that first! If people won't sign up, there's no point in building anything after that.

          A good example comes from my cofounder at a startup we did in 2010. At the time, we had theories about an app that people would mostly discover through their Facebook feed. We used Greasemonkey to do user tests and found out that although some liked our idea, most people hated it. So we threw that out and did something else. But two other startups went on to build the same idea and fail with it. We estimate we saved $2m in learning what they learned. Ignite talk here:

          • frankida 7 months ago

            Great conversation here. Sort of a mini-MBA in this thread.

        • ashelmire 7 months ago

          This is a great argument for entering into an existing market, rather than trying to find a new one.

          • rpeden 7 months ago

            I'm not sure this is really true. The focus of market research can be to find markets that are currently unserved.

            I suppose that this is still entering an existing market since the people who comprise the market exist already exist, but it's new in the sense that this group of people collectively have a need that isn't being met. And sometimes the goal of market research is just to find one of those unserved (or underserved) markets.

        • was_boring 7 months ago

          Zestful sounds like a feature of Edamam (

          I think the market is not in parsing, but extracting nutrition information.

          • mtlynch 7 months ago

            Yeah, Edamam probably does something similar to what I was doing.

            The project kind of came out of me needing ingredient parsing for a different product and existing solutions being a poor match.

            Edamam requires you to display their logo in your app if you use their API[0], which I found inappropriately intrusive.

            There's a similar service called Spoonacular, but they don't allow you to store results for more than an hour[1], which is crazy. I wanted to build a search index that let users search by ingredient, so it made no sense for me to reprocess my entire corpus of data every hourly.

            But they succeeded and I didn't, so maybe the weird API terms are what they need to survive.



      • DecayingOrganic 7 months ago

        Once you have identified an idea or technology as the basis for your innovation-driven business. Your first goal is to assess the needs of potential customers, focusing on a target customer with the goal of achieving product–market fit—a product that matches what customers in a specific market are interested in buying, which unfortunately he failed accomplishing this step as the customers did not want to buy his product.

        The single necessary and sufficient condition for a business is a paying customer. The day someone pays you money for your product or service, you have a business, and not a day before. You cannot define a business as a product, because if nobody buys your product, you simply do not have a business. The marketplace is the final arbiter of success.

        Now, just because you have a paying customer does not mean you have a good business. In order to have a good, sustainable business, you will need to gain enough customers paying enough money within a relatively short period of time so you do not run out of capital, but instead, become profitable. And as a startup, you have few resources, so every action you take must be hyper-efficient.

        Therefore, you will not start by building a product or hiring developers or recruiting salespeople. Instead, you will take a customer-driven approach by finding an unmet need and building your business around it.

        • fermienrico 7 months ago

          Entrepreneurship is a lot more complicated. Each startup’s failure is unique and has various mix of challenges.

          Suggesting a book for someone who has failed running a startup right away is naive and glib. Also, the OP didn’t put too many details of why his startup failed. Asserting that they have poor entrepreneurial skills - how do you know if it wasn't circumstantial?

          • CydeWeys 7 months ago

            I didn't take the book suggestion to be naive/glib. It could actually be quite helpful. My brief involvement in a failed startup would have gone differently had I known more about the business side of things, and reading a good relevant book is one of the best ways to learn about something.

            • fermienrico 7 months ago

              I strongly and passionately disagree. I’ve read many many startup books. They are all completely and utterly useless in my opinion.

              If you want to know something specific say accounting, read a book about that specific area. If you want to know more about the “general” aspects of startups - listen to interviews of founders about which unique chellenges they faced.

              I strongly discourage anyone starting a business to not listen to Sam Altman’s advice or anyone who gives generic “strategic” advice. These books are akin to “How to become a millionaire”. Yes, I’m talking about books such as “Lean Startup”, etc.

              You get so much value from reading about specific aspects than from general startup books. Learn how each LEGO piece works and learn it well. You know, you’re going to have to rely on these specifics to actually get your business rolling. Strategic advice - you can consult your friends, discuss and determine the best course of action through your own acumen based on data that you have. That startup book on your shelf is not going to help at all.

              • nlowell 7 months ago

                I disagree. Many people doing startups for the first time have no experience running a business and no idea what the actual building blocks are. I think YC's library of advice are a goldmine for them, because of the simple lessons like "validate the market" or "get feedback from people who are not friends or family". It doesn't seem like they're hearing that anywhere else.

              • wilbo 7 months ago

                I’m a big fan of “just in time” learning. When I’m facing a specific challenge I look for books and articles that will educate me more about potential solutions (eg your accounting book example).

                However, for many founders, myself included, there’s an aspect of “you don’t know what you don’t know” and in these cases I find the generalist books quite helpful. For these topics, it is extremely helpful to have a wide but shallow understanding of business, strategy, law, etc so if you encounter a problem you at least understand enough to know where you can dive deeper (or know you need to hire someone else). The advice in general business strategy books certainly lacks nuance. But for anyone who is not already enmeshed in the many many aspects of running a complete business themselves, they are great guides to gain a 10,000 foot view very quickly.

              • ejanus 7 months ago

                I agree with you ,and I also share your opinion.

          • DecayingOrganic 7 months ago

            People usually say that entrepreneurship should not be disciplined, but chaotic and unpredictable—and it is. But that is precisely why a framework to attack problems in a systematic manner is extremely valuable. You already have enough risk with factors that are beyond your control, so the framework provided by disciplined entrepreneurship helps you succeed by reducing your risk in factors that you can have control over.

      • ReverseCold 7 months ago

        Both of the things he mentioned didn't really solve problems.

        The storage thing is already solved, people have no reason to switch from AWS. As he mentioned his product was worse, so even if it was just for the sake of competition...

    • mtlynch 7 months ago

      Thanks for the recommendation! I'll check it out.

  • lemming 7 months ago

    Great article about the promotion process and the employee dynamic at Google. It very accurately summarises much of why I quit there so quickly after coming in via an acquisition.

    That conversation made me realize that I’m not Google. I provide a service to Google in exchange for money.

    I was very lucky to have a friend who taught me that very early (not about Google specifically, the same applies to any company). Working as a contractor just cemented it - I was sitting next to people earning half as much as I was or less, just because I was a contractor and they were an employee. Once you can see this, it's amazing when employees get sucked into killing themselves working crazy hours because they identify so strongly with the company they work for. Companies go to great lengths to promote the idea that we're all one big family, of course, precisely because it allows them to exploit their workers more easily.

    Since leaving Google, I now make a software product I sell online. I have no boss, no employees and no investors. Occasionally I miss having coworkers, but mostly it's great. Freedom is really worth a lot of money, at least for me.

    • mtlynch 7 months ago

      Thanks for reading!

      >Since leaving Google, I now make a software product I sell online. I have no boss, no employees and no investors. Occasionally I miss having coworkers, but mostly it's great. Freedom is really worth a lot of money, at least for me.

      Yeah, that's the thing I miss most. Not just the social interaction, but being around smart people. Within Google, it was so easy to learn because there were experts in every field imaginable. Outside, there's so much bad information floating around, so if I'm not knowledgeable in a particular area, it's hard for me to distinguish between good advice and cargo cult techniques.

      • hef19898 7 months ago

        That is true, and the main thing I miss about Amazon. And the very steep learning curve, I probably learned more at Amazon than during my diploma and masters studies combined. Still, they have been a very good foundation.

    • commandlinefan 7 months ago

      > the promotion process and the employee dynamic at Google

      I'm (apparently) not Google-quality but I can tell you for sure that "out here" everybody else is adopting the same tactics, and it's shifting from "not getting promoted" to "not keeping your job". And then they complain that there's a shortage of "talent".

    • LeifCarrotson 7 months ago

      > I was sitting next to people earning half as much as I was or less, just because I was a contractor and they were an employee.

      Was this still true after all the taxes, insurance, and stability factors are considered, or was this just your hourly rate?

      • lemming 7 months ago

        As a contractor in the UK, I paid less tax than an employee would. HMRC brought in IR35 to try to combat that, but at the time I was contracting (early 2000's) most contractors were still paying less tax - I'm not sure if that's stricter these days.

        I was in London working in web & finance at the time, so it was a fairly distorted market. I did get bitten by the dot com crash, but even so I was only out of work for about 6 months or so and that was a pretty extreme event. Realistically in the current environment job stability in a major IT centre like London is so good that contracting is pretty safe. In a more unstable market there would be a higher element of risk, for sure.

        • daveoflynn 7 months ago

          Contractors still do a bit better than employees, though HMRC keep talking about seriously cracking down on the practice.

          • jgr447 7 months ago

            > Contractors still do a bit better than employees

            Curious if that is actually true when comparing to tier 1 banks/hedge funds full time employee salaries+bonus+retirement+healthcare.

            Assume 600 GBP/day * 22 day/month * 10 months (realistically) full time work, that's 132k/yr.

            From that take out accounting, illness, insurance, healthcare, retirement, travel, possibly more.

            All things considered, once you get above 100k base as employee contracting becomes less attractive. Strictly as a money move that is, there's other dimensions for sure.

            • lemming 7 months ago

              600 seems low - I earned a lot more than that back in the day, and that was a long time ago. A quick search of for just "java" found roles quoting up to 750 on the first page, and if you're any good that'll be negotiable. And if you get into even slightly niche things (Oracle Coherence, in my case) the rates are much higher.

              • jgr447 7 months ago

                I don't think it's very far from the reality of your full stack app developer though.

                Ie. 900+GBP/day is listed rarely and for very specific/niche things.

                Then, the more niche it is the more likely it is that the downtime between contracts becomes longer I imagine.

                Curious what your anecdotal experience has been, to the extent that it can be shared.

          • sjg007 7 months ago

            Cracking down seems like a bad idea.. you lose dynamic flexibility on both sides. What would the upside be?

            • walshemj 7 months ago

              Its interesting that they are not clamping down a "self" employed barristers, I wonder why that might be.

              I suspect IT contractors are not seen as real professionals in the British class structure

            • baq 7 months ago

              Taxes mostly and fairness towards people who are actually employed.

              • sjg007 7 months ago

                In the US you pay more to freelance in taxes than you do as an employee (because the employer pays some on your behalf) but you can have other deductions as a contractor. So I think fairness is not specifically a sufficient motivator. The UK can have a tax advantage for freelancing but these freelancers lose out on employment protections. Dunno..

                • walshemj 7 months ago

                  US contractors don't seem to get anything - they seem to think getting a 20% premium over FTE is good.

                  In the UK you would normally expect 3x for a short 6 month contract.

                  • sjg007 7 months ago

                    Right but UK salaries are about 2-3x lower than US (at least for software engineers).. or at least they use to be.

      • cm2012 7 months ago

        I make 3x what I did as in house doing the same amount of work, after all other expenses.

    • chrisweekly 7 months ago

      I'm in a similar situation wrt self-employment / consulting after many years of trad. FT roles. Now making more $, and have way, way, way more control over how I spend my time.

      When you wrote

      > Freedom is really worth a lot of money, at least for me.

      it seemed to imply you took a paycut to gain your freedom. To a degree, I would make that trade-off too. But, your point about contractors making twice [it can easily be 3x] what FT colleagues do, made it sound like you don't need to trade money for freedom, rather enjoy both. Hope that's the case for you too! If not, know that it can be!

      • lemming 7 months ago

        In my case I was mostly referring to the fact that I left a lot of acquisition money on the table at Google, but it was totally worth it. I've been lucky with what I'm doing now and it's worked out very well financially, and the freedom is priceless, especially now I have a kid.

    • the_clarence 7 months ago

      I have the idea that google enployees are paid a ton of money when they join, so why do they care so much about being promoted?

      • busterarm 7 months ago

        Because until you get to L5, your job is always at risk. If you spend a long enough time at the company without getting to L5 and without a really good justification, it starts to raise red flags.

        Or so I've heard.

    • taysic 7 months ago

      Don't contractors typically make more than employees simply because they aren't getting benefits? Otherwise I agree.

  • sjg007 7 months ago

    Do you feel disconnected in Western Mass? I am not sure how remote you are but I live in a remote area now but work remotely and feel it. Hell, even in the Bay area I was remote-is since the commute was isolating. All I can say about the culture there is that you have to job hop to develop relationships that may lead to future opportunities.

    *Btw your cartoon on your blog is good. If that's your original creation you might consider developing it out.

    • xkcd-sucks 7 months ago

      Western Mass is awesome. The environment's beautiful, housing can be cheap, and drinking water is some of the best in the country. People are generally less rules-oriented and clique-oriented than in the Boston area. The art and music scenes are much better. The "progressive activism" community is thriving, but you can also hunt with a rifle on private property. Food is cheap and there are tons of thriving local farms. If you're constipated you can roll through Springfield and get shot at just like you can in East Cambridge or Mattapan, but outside of that it's quite safe and people are super helpful.

      You basically get the extremes of everything in Boston at a much lower price.

      Possible downsides are long, snowy winters, and far fewer jobs.

      • quickthrower2 7 months ago

        > you're constipated you can roll through Springfield and get shot at just like you can in East Cambridge or Mattapan

        You should write for the Lonely Planet :-)

    • Bartweiss 7 months ago

      One thing that helps is that Western Mass doesn't have to be remote. If you're in Savoy, yeah, you'd better like nature more than people. But the Springfield metro area has pretty cheap rent and is still 600k people with colleges and companies and a great food and music scene up in Northhampton. It's also within tolerable driving or train distance of Boston if there's something you really want to get to.

      Working remote can definitely be isolating anywhere, but I think if I were going to go back to it I'd prefer a midsize city to either rural or dense urban settings. Rural settings are obvious just small, and that's made harder by being isolated while you work. But huge cities tend to feel anonymous - if you're not actively engaging and meeting people it's easy to get forgotten or even miss out on finding out about things you'd like to see and do. It may just be a function of my tastes and hobbies, but somewhere Springfield-sized makes it a bit easier to find a stable group of people outside work to spend time with.

      More broadly, there's a lot to be said for college towns and non-huge cities relying on safe anchors like 'meds and eds' or corporate research. Boulder's probably too big and pricy these days, but Northampton, Rochester NY, Flagstaff, Ithaca, and the Research Triangle are all inviting. Heck, even Fargo ND was shockingly inviting last time I came through - I'd rather live there than Cleveland.

      • awojtasz 7 months ago

        Wow, you know Savoy! I'm a native of the area. You're correct - my favorite towns are Ashfield and Williamsburg near the Northampton area. I'd make a plug for North Adams right now. Williams College is in the the next town over, and Mass Moca is driving a lot of development that has been quietly happening over the past year or so.

      • foldr 7 months ago

        >a great food and music scene up in Northhampton

        The food scene in Northampton is great by the standards of rural MA. There are only 2-3 restaurants there that are any good at all.

        • Bartweiss 7 months ago

          Now that you say it, I was mostly thinking "you can buy unusual foods and quality meat and produce in Northampton".

          Which obviously isn't what people normally mean by "food scene", my brain just approximated the topic as "well, it's better than all those rural places without any good grocery stores".

      • selimthegrim 7 months ago

        Would you say Providence is similar?

        • Bartweiss 7 months ago

          Yeah, now that you mention it. I mostly wasn't counting capital cities because they tend to have higher rents, infrastructure and gridlock issues, and other things I think of as "big city problems". (Or they're too small or run down to be appealing.)

          But Providence is actually a nice exception; lots of events, good food and activities, several colleges, but pretty cheap housing and not terribly dense or gridlocked.

    • mtlynch 7 months ago

      I don't, but I've only been here 7 weeks so far, so it's too early to tell. I'm pretty solitary, so I'm hoping the disconnectedness works out okay.

      I wish I could draw those cartoons. I work with a freelance cartoonist named Loraine Yow ( I wrote a blog post about how the process works:

      • sjg007 7 months ago

        Well you two might have something! Kind of like a new take on dilbert, phd comics, or something.

    • loso 7 months ago

      This is kind of my question also. I used to live in Springfield, Mass. And when I did there was not that much of a tech scene out there. From 97 to 2007. I was wondering if it was better now. When I left NYC I choose to come to Delaware and not Springfield because of family and the amount of tech jobs available. Between here, Philadelphia, DC and a commute back to NYC if I really wanted there are a bunch of tech jobs available. When I looked at Western Mass there were barely any.

  • EpicEng 7 months ago

    >bought a home for $200k in Western Massachusetts. Paid in cash so I no longer have to pay rent/mortgage

    Don't take this the wrong way, I'm sure you considered this, but... why put all that cash down when you almost certainly could have got a low interest mortgage and made more by putting that money in... well anything really?

    • VLM 7 months ago

      Because of the federal real estate capital gains exclusion of half a mil, 20% marginal long term cap gains tax rate, and the difference between historical real estate appreciation vs SP500 returns being maybe 2% at absolute most, an average rate of increase of about 5% on a house, the average transaction cost of obtaining a mortgage is maybe 2% (stock transactions are practically free in comparison), S+P return after inflation is about 7% the median duration of owning a house being about nine years, extremely sloppy back of envelope calculation for $200K would be (200e3 * 9 * 0.07 * 0.8) - (200e3 * .02) or 96K for owning more stock with a mortgage for $200K and a 200e3 mortgage at this time would cost 9 * 12 * 946 in payments (assuming no PMI) or 102K for owning less stock with no mortgage so in the big scheme of things "not having a mortgage" saves about $6K over nine years or $55/month. (Edited, sorry I had to mess with this ten times to get it right)

      You gotta look out for people who argue real estate transactions are as cheap and frictionless as stock market transactions, or insist on weird date ranges in historically bubble economies or rapidly changing demographic economies, or insist tax policy does not exist. Not everything is fundamentally an income stream and you need a plan when a simplification to that fails and you take a massive capital hit. If the error bars on the numbers are large enough, the same number can be interpreted to prove anything. Finally look out for people who confuse average/median with "everyone". All of those are HUGE effects when making financial decisions.

      I'm not OP, but I have no mortgage and its worth pointing out that my personal break-even income is obviously twelve times the monthly payment lower than someone with a mortgage, and given a realistic 1/3 of income going to mortgage for most folks, obviously my runway is 1/3 longer than everyone with a mortgage. Also immensely lower stress.

      • heyoni 7 months ago

        I just learned so much right here, I think I might take a nap now. Thanks for the thorough reply.

    • mtlynch 7 months ago

      Mainly it was just that I didn't want that much debt hanging over me. I could theoretically invest in other stuff, but if there's a recession that affects all of my investments, I don't ever want to have to worry about foreclosures or selling investments at a huge loss to pay my mortgage.

      It was also convenient for making offers. I don't have to jump through the hoops of involving a bank in the process. And for most sellers, a cash offer is more attractive because there's no chance of the bank stalling or killing the deal.

      The house I bought, I saw it the morning it came onto the market and offered cash on the spot to seal the deal. Seller might have accepted with a mortgage anyway, but I think cash was good incentive for them to proceed with me immediately instead of waiting a couple days to gauge interest from other buyers.

    • LargeWu 7 months ago

      Not having debt can be very, very freeing. Same goes for expenses. I'm still a software developer because it pays well, not because I really want to be slinging code anymore. If I didn't have a mortgage and child care to worry about I would have a lot more freedom to switch jobs to do something I would enjoy but pays significantly less.

      • EpicEng 7 months ago

        Sure, that's certainly valid, but it's an emotional perspective. From a financial perspective I'd rather have my money working for me.

        • loso 7 months ago

          A lot of times the emotional impact trumps the financial impact. If thats one less thing I stress about then that makes more room in my mind to make more money if I wanted to.

        • jexah 7 months ago

          "Life is to be spent, not saved."

        • i_made_a_booboo 7 months ago

          TL;DR - there are other things to optimize for than the maximum amount of money possible. It might not even be a sensible goal.

          An extremely common theme heard from people with a lot of money is to get your money working for you.

          Another extremely common theme is you hear from the same people is after a while they realized it just didn't make them happy like they thought it was going to.

          Theoretically there is a certain maximum level of feeling good that's possible in a day. My goal these days is to optimize for that. I'm not there yet, but I can see a path to it. At some point the pursuit of money puts pressure against some of that happiness in one form or another. At least that's been my experience and observations. It's not an absolute rule but a reasonable hueristic.

          If from an emotional perspective it wasn't possible to feel any better than you did, what would more money actually do for you?

          IMO a lot of people need to dig much deeper on their 'why' for chasing the maximum amount of money possible. It's not 'wrong' to do so, nor am I judging anyone for doing it, I just think it's quite a one sided perspective that that should be the goal and that alone.

          It's mostly about status and getting laid at an instinctive level. I realized this after already having a child, so I've technically passed on my genes and recently a vasectomy, so I can't even pass on any more genes. Yet my instincts are still the same. Chase after status, position yourself to be the fittest mate possible. We just can't turn those drives off, so once we've earned enough money and our happiness is no longer increasing as a function of getting more money at some point after that we actually hit an inflection point and things start to go the other way.

          I can totally see how a roof over your head that can't be taken away from you and low AF overheads makes life feel like a breeze. That's actually worth a lot, just not in Dollars.

    • bdcravens 7 months ago

      A mortgage (or the lack thereof) has a guaranteed rate of return. Any investment that would beat most mortgage rates doesn't.

      • EpicEng 7 months ago

        Two years ago a CD would have beat it. Today it's not quite there, but there are very safe invenstments out there that will almost certainly beat a mortgage rate.

        • negativez 7 months ago

          That would only be true for non-traditional loans (ARM etc). I don't believe you could have obtained a CD APR > 3% two years ago.

    • joshschreuder 7 months ago

      I've never had a mortgage so can't speak for OP, but I would imagine for some people the stresses of debt and recurring repayments outweigh having a bit of extra money from investing elsewhere.

      • EpicEng 7 months ago

        It's not about the extra money, it's about the opportunity cost of not doing anything with all that cash. Mortgage rates are still relatively low, you could easily beat it with most any investment.

  • pjc50 7 months ago

    It seems mad that something like "ingredient parsing" could ever be a business; on the other hand, a decade ago I was sharing a house with a PhD student who was trying to do effectively the same thing with chemistry papers to extract relevant formulae. Worked well for clearly defined things like "1,1,1-trichloroethane", less well for colloquial things like "formaldehyde" or, god help you, "lead".

    (Is a "lead researcher" the head of your team, a person researching the properties of the metal Pb, or a researcher made out of that heavy grey metal? This is practically an unsolved computational linguistics problem)

    • logfromblammo 7 months ago

      Lead (/leed/) researcher - most senior of your research team.

      Plumbologist - a person researching lead (/led/).

      Plumbous researcher - researcher made primarily from lead (/led/). Probably an AI that deeply resents the materials-based engineering flaws in its processor core and robotic reality interface.

      Lead (/leed/) plumbologist - most senior of a research team investigating lead (/led/).

      Plumbous plumbologist - aforementioned AI, but dedicated to self-improvement.

      Lead (/leed/) plumbous plumbologist - most senior of a group of lead-constructed (/led/) AIs, investigating the mystery of why the human progenitors chose such a bad metal for building robots.

      • jkchu 7 months ago

        Well that clears that confusion up :)

  • voltagex_ 7 months ago

    >"Will we be able to maintain this for the next 5 years?” to, “Can this last until I’m promoted?”"

    If that mentality is widespread, it explains so much about Google.

  • toomuchtodo 7 months ago

    Congratulations on buying your freedom and having the ability to work on projects that interest you.

    • mtlynch 7 months ago

      Thanks! I much prefer this to having a job. I hope I can find a way to make it work forever.

  • mindfulplay 7 months ago

    I recommend reading The E-Myth book. It's super insightful I learnt a lot from it and thinking outside the technician box...

    • mtlynch 7 months ago

      Thanks for the recommendation! I've heard great things about it, so it's definitely on my list.

  • walshemj 7 months ago

    Interesting how many slots where open for each promotion round /board (in Uk terminology)

    I have been in a similar situation at British telecom where the competition was even more intense.

    In systems engineering (where most but not all the engineers and developers sat) you would have 16-20 promotion slots from MPG2 to 4 every 15/16 months.

    Several hundred people would get through the paper sift to even get an interview - as my boss said get an interview the company was 100% sure that you where capable of performing at that level I had three successive boards and didn't get it.

    MPG2 was the entry level grade BT had a super flat structure. Some people where so desperate they would join payphones to get a promotion.

    More savvy ones joined the mobile side as they where known for having serious grade inflation

  • megaman8 7 months ago

    It's a great article. But, I'm always surprised to see people are surprised by this: "That conversation made me realize that I’m not Google. I provide a service to Google in exchange for money." And it's doubly surprising when highly educated/smart people don't understand this.

    I think there's something fundamentally flawed about our education system that isn't teaching or preparing people for the real world. I think every child should grow up with a basic understand of economics and how our economy works.

    here's some advice about doing an indie business: When you build your own software business: the rewards are not proportional to how much effort you put in. You may put relatively little and get a huge reward or may work day and night for years with 0 revenue.

    • mtlynch 7 months ago

      I think that's oversimplifying it a bit. I minored in Economics so I'd like to believe I have a decent understanding of it.

      The problem isn't that Google just says, "Hi, donate time to us, your corporate overlords, in exchange for nothing." Instead, they make a very reasonable argument of, "You should help your teammates and colleagues."

      Imagine that you're on a team with a junior developer. Their feedback is basically worthless to promotion committees because they're low-level. If they say, "Hey, can you help me understand why my code is crashing?" the selfish answer is, "No, if I spent two hours helping you, the benefit I provide to you is not measurable or quantifiable and won't help my case for promotion." But it would also be kind of miserable for everyone if you constantly avoid helping your teammates and only do the absolute minimum required to avoid standing out as egregiously unhelpful.

      • negativez 7 months ago

        "You should help your teammates and colleagues." is not, by itself, an argument. It's a moral precept.

        "You should help your teammates and colleagues produce more value for the company because we hired you to produce value for the company" is an argument.

        Now if the company's employee evaluation process doesn't recognize the second-order value you produced here then that's the company's problem, not yours.

        • mtlynch 7 months ago

          >Now if the company's employee evaluation process doesn't recognize the second-order value you produced here then that's the company's problem, not yours.

          I think I personally skewed too far into trying to do unmeasurable things, but I feel like it would be miserable to live on the other extreme where you only do things that are measurable and benefit your career.

          Where does that thinking end? If I don't feel like finding a garbage can, should I just throw my trash on the ground as long as nobody sees me? After all, it's the city's fault that they haven't set up incentives to prevent me from littering.

    • i_made_a_booboo 7 months ago

      The education system isn't flawed. It's working as intended. You just don't see what its design goals actually are, or you disagree with what they should be.

      I would argue if you aren't able to see why the education system produces that result on purpose then you don't understand how the economy works.

  • devy 7 months ago

    > bought a home for $200k in Western Massachusetts. Paid in cash so I no longer have to pay rent/mortgage

    Thanks for sharing your experience Michael in that blog post. Can I read that "$200k paid in case" as in all paid off without loans even from family/friends? If so, $200k seems like a high saving amount considering average American household are in credit card debts. In other words, Google job did pay really well with RSUs and bonuses so that you can save up to buy house in one shot?

    • scylla 7 months ago

      There are literally hundreds of developers in FAANG companies putting down payments a lot more than 200k in the Bay Area. The median compensation including RSUs is over 400k. If you're in a critical org your RSUs can be an order of magnitude more than that.

    • hamstercat 7 months ago

      Considering the salary offered by FAANG and other big tech companies, saving 200k$ is very doable. Yes some people are in credit card debts, and that proportion is higher than it should, but saving that amount of money is not unheard of. Most people just spend all they have (and a little more), which leads to not having that kind of savings.

      Doing so in just 4 years may be harder (again, depends on your spending), but if you have a little nest before then I don't see what's so strange about it.

      • p1esk 7 months ago

        If his total comp was $300k, which is normal for a senior google dev, it's entirely possible to save $100k per year, even if the rent is $3.5k/mo.

    • arcticbull 7 months ago

      Yeah it is except tech workers in the Bay Area working at FAANGs are nowhere close to average Americans. Senior engineer (5+ years, some leadership, even technical leadership) total comps range from $250-600k plus insane benefits a year at those companies, managers make more. Most FAANGs pay for everything you could want, your only expense paid out of your earnings could be your rent. Those are starting too, excluding refresher grants and assuming zero appreciation over 4 years in the equity.

    • dekhn 7 months ago

      My Google pay and rsus were definitely enough to buy a house, just not in the Bay area. A coworker who couldnt buy in santa Clara did a transfer to Ann arbor and was able to buy a massive home in the country.

    • tzakrajs 7 months ago

      That is correct, this is fairly typical compensation for the OP's level.

    • freeone3000 7 months ago

      That was my signing bonus, nevermind pay or RSUs. It's not hard to acquire that much money.

      • timdavila 7 months ago

        >It's not hard to acquire that much money.

        As a privileged developer, this is an extremely untrue and privileged statement. Developers like myself who don't live in SF are lucky to receive any signing bonus, and would be lucky to earn half of that as a yearly salary. Outside the US it's not possible. You are part of a very small and very fortunate group.


        • TomVDB 7 months ago

          The original question is: "ex-FAANG developers...".

          In that context, it's definitely priviledged but far from being extremely untrue.

  • corpMaverick 7 months ago

    How do you pay for your living expenses ? Do you work remotely ?

    • mtlynch 7 months ago

      I had pretty substantial amount of savings when I quit. I expect my annual expenses for the next few years to be $15-20k, so I can either pay that with returns from my investments or drawing down from my savings.

      It's not enough to live the rest of my life on, especially if I want to start a family, but I'm set for the next few years.

      • rdlecler1 7 months ago

        What about healthcare?

        • mtlynch 7 months ago

          Private health insurance is $3k/yr here, so it's part of the $15-20k/yr.

          • lg 7 months ago

            with spending like that if a decent chunk comes from savings rather than income, you probably qualify for MassHealth.

            • mtlynch 7 months ago

              Possibly! I don't think I'd qualify until 2020 because my 2018 income is over the limit because of my earnings at Google in the beginning of the year. My understanding is that it's based on the previous year's income, so I'd have to earn nothing in 2019.

              I'm not sure if I'd apply in any case. I feel like it's questionable ethically to take public assistance when I could earn a high income if I chose to work for an employer.

              • cagenut 7 months ago

                this is how the rich turn the middle class against the poor, by attaching shame to public goods. healthcare should not be means tested, but if you can actually pass the test then by all means do it. you are not better than anyone else.

                • heyoni 7 months ago

                  Nah, I think you’re being pessimistic here. I’m not OP but I’m in the boat and I turn down public assistance because it’s not what it was made for and the system is strained enough...also, I wouldn’t judge anyone else for taking it.

                  • cagenut 7 months ago

                    yes it is me, the pessimist, encouraging you to accept free healthcare. not you, the ideologue, who so deeply believes in your place above the poors that you self-impose austerity.

                    • friday99 7 months ago

                      He specifically said he doesn't judge anyone or attach shame to accepting free health care. He doesn't accept it because he doesn't need it as much as others and does not want to take it from someone in greater need. Your position is anti-social and akin to attending an event where there are treats available for children, but you take them as an adult and some children get none, but you feel no shame.

                      • cagenut 7 months ago

                        I don't judge you, but* you're naive to believe what someone says, not what they do.

                        * this is where you can usually tell someone is judging

                        And your metaphor of the poor as children you wouldn't steal candy from is exactly the kind of ideological superiority i'm talking about.

  • ploggingdev 7 months ago

    > Currently working on toy projects to sharpen my web development skills

    Could you talk about what those projects are about and what languages/frameworks you are using?

    What's next? Are you looking to start another business or taking some time to just learn and work on projects that you find interesting?

    Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your blog posts and forum posts on IH. Good luck!

    • mtlynch 7 months ago

      >Could you talk about what those projects are about and what languages/frameworks you are using?

      Sure, I'm working with Angular now. I might switch to Vue.js because I'm not crazy about Angular and I've heard very good things about Vue, but I'm also wondering if I'd like Angular more once I reached proficiency in it.

      >What's next? Are you looking to start another business or taking some time to just learn and work on projects that you find interesting?

      The project I want to get back to is a keto recipe search engine ( I put it on hold for other projects, but I have more ideas for it and it's a good project for me to stretch my web development skills.

      I may also consider projects targeting customers in Western Mass that nobody else is really going after. When I tell people here I'm a developer, many tell me that the software they're forced to use at work is terrible and old but there's no replacement, so maybe I'll find one I can tackle.

      >Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your blog posts and forum posts on IH. Good luck!


      • rhymenoceros 7 months ago

        > Sure, I'm working with Angular now. I might switch to Vue.js because I'm not crazy about Angular and I've heard very good things about Vue, but I'm also wondering if I'd like Angular more once I reached proficiency in it.

        I am probably preaching to the choir here, but if you are looking to sharpen your skills, it's almost always better to stick with a single tech and learn it really, really well. That doesn't mean it's harmful to step through some Vue tutorials to get a feel for how it is different, however, if you're not careful you can end up losing a ton of time learning about the JS framework du jour and not actually making progress on anything. Especially if you are not in any hurry to build something useful.

        Just about the only constant in JS frameworks is that any decision you make now on which one to use will probably be wrong in a year.

        That's not to say optimizing for development speed isn't a good thing, especially if you are looking to bang out POCs as quickly as possible to vet startup ideas. But if you're not careful this can devolve into "funtime with tech" that could be a major distraction which might not even look or feel like one.

        Speaking from experience :-)

  • mark_l_watson 7 months ago

    I want to do something with AI/ML and recipes also but monetizing a passion is not always possible. Have you seen the NYTs open source recipe ingredient parser?

    +1 for moving to a less expensive area and ‘buying back’ some of your own time. I did this a long time ago and have seldom regretted it.

    • mtlynch 7 months ago

      >Have you seen the NYTs open source recipe ingredient parser?

      That's actually what I based mine on. I wrote a series of blog posts explaining how I did it:

  • jcims 7 months ago

    Have you tried selling your recipe parser to retailers like Kroger. Many of them are firing up features to order online and they’ll have pickers pull your order together so you can grab it later.

    • mtlynch 7 months ago

      I think there's a bit of a delta between where my service is and what they'd need. There would have to be logic to do fuzzy matching from the parsed ingredient to the items in their inventory that customers can purchase. There are competitors in this space that are already far ahead of me in terms of building shopping lists from ingredients, so it would be difficult to compete with them. My idea was to start with smaller developers who prefer my service's improved accuracy and more liberal licensing terms.

      • jcims 7 months ago

        Interesting! I’d been noodling with this idea earlier this summer while chasing a lawnmower about the yard. The SKU match seems tricky. Guess I’m way late to the party haha.

  • timClicks 7 months ago

    Hey Michael - have been following your story for several months. Disappointed to hear that the recipe parsing idea didn't work out for you.

    • mtlynch 7 months ago

      Thanks for reading! Yeah, it's a shame but I expected that I'd have lots of ideas that don't work out. I'm trying to maximize what I learn from them and minimize the amount of time it takes to find out if an idea is viable.

      • heyoni 7 months ago

        I don’t follow your blog but I keep running into it, and it’s a really cool story. I hope you figure it out and keep documenting it because I’m trying to do the same and would love to maintain this level of autonomy.

        Unlike you though, I think I’m taking too long to execute rather than failing to monetize something.

  • tmaly 7 months ago

    Mike, I did not realize you moved. We should meet up one of these days.


    • mtlynch 7 months ago

      Hey Tyson, yes definitely. I do plan to come back for IH NYC meetups on occasion.

  • ejanus 7 months ago

    Which part of web are you learning?

  • dsfyu404ed 7 months ago

    >Moved out of my $3.3k/mo Manhattan apartment and bought a home for $200k in Western Massachusetts

    You have no idea how much the people of Vermont appreciate this. Be sure to tell all your friends who want out of NY how great Western MA is. ;)

    • yazan94 7 months ago

      Are there a lot of tech jobs in western Mass? I am working in NYC and really not feeling the whole big-city vibe.

    • awojtasz 7 months ago

      Ssshhhh don't let anyone in on the secret! This is from a native! :)

jakevoytko 7 months ago

I worked on the same team at Google for 4.5 years, and left 3 years ago. I was bored; I was getting better at doing the same thing, but I wasn't expanding as an engineer. I worked on a free product. We had no market incentives to make time-boxed decisions and could declare anything we did a success whether it was or not, which drove me nuts. I was at the New York office, so when the company got bad press you could usually rationalize it as "oh, it's this Other Google in Mountain View making these really bad decisions and having this weird cultural obsession with needing everything you do to be as hard as putting a man on the moon," but it dampened my enthusiasm for looking for an internal transfer. Staring down the end of my 20s, I ended up taking almost a year off to relax, reconnect with old friends, do a little traveling, fail to start a small business, and eventually interview.

I ended up at Etsy. A major criteria of mine was "find a business model I want to work for." Etsy checked all the boxes -- I was impressed by the caliber of people that I talked to when I was interviewing, I got a fair offer, I think the business model of selling local goods internationally is a good thing for the world, and I would be working directly on things that affected the bottom line. It hasn't been all sunshine and roses. There were 2 rounds of layoffs and almost everything has changed since I joined. But something that doesn't change very fast at a small established company is its business model, so I've managed to still be motivated to work there despite all the churn around me. It also helped me realize that some of the ennui I felt at Google was really a shifting of interests -- I'm not interested in technology for technology's sake anymore, but instead am motivated to solve problems that I think can be solved via technology.

  • paulcole 7 months ago

    Sadly a lot of what's featured on Etsy now is mass produced crap masquerading as handmade.

    I get why it was essential to the business. You can only grow so much as a small truly handmade market. Then it's OK to sell "vintage" clothing and on and on...

    • jakevoytko 7 months ago

      Yeah, I hear that. Growth is absolutely a factor, and fairness is another factor. Like, how do you define "handmade" without punishing people who get too successful ("oh no, I have more orders than ever and can't make them all myself anymore. Do I have to stop selling if I get help?"), and while still being simple enough that content moderators can fairly and reproducibly apply rules for listings that are challenged. You basically end up at one end of the spectrum or the other, "everything has to be truly handmade, and we're okay being really restrictive" or some variant of "authorship is really the thing we care about".

  • vram22 7 months ago

    Interesting experience.

    >It also helped me realize that some of the ennui I felt at Google was really a shifting of interests -- I'm not interested in technology for technology's sake anymore, but instead am motivated to solve problems that I think can be solved via technology.

    I personally have an interest in both aspects. Still like and find technology interesting, but I guess I had somewhat of a business orientation from earlier, so appreciate that aspect too.

  • luisdfp 7 months ago

    >"I'm not interested in technology for technology's sake anymore, but instead am motivated to solve problems that I think can be solved via technology."

    Words to live by. :)

  • adrice727 7 months ago

    Any advice for someone 3-4 years into their career with the option to work on something that's a "good thing for the world" or something that is more technically interesting and will be better career-wise?

earhart 7 months ago

I did ten years at Microsoft; loved it, but wanted a change, and Google desperately wanted people with VM experience to build GCE.

I was at Google for six years; I had a lot of fun building various parts of cloud, but then at some point realized I didn’t really care a lot about the component I was working on, and looking around, I didn’t see a lot of other projects going on that I really felt passionately about.

I had some savings, and wasn’t really worried about finding •some• other software engineering job in Seattle if that ran low, so I decided to take off to think about what I really wanted to be doing in life. And then a friend reached out to me - he was founding a startup, and was I interested in joining?

So I did an ML startup for a couple of years. It was tremendous fun; lots of work, but I felt very connected to what I was building, why I was building it, &c; it felt good to be really thinking about the product from an end-to-end, “How is this going to delight the customer?” point of view. I think I’d have had to be a director at Google to have the same level of involvement with the entirety of what I was building...

And then, we were bought by Intel. It’s not too different, though - it’s a much bigger company, of course, but I feel pretty connected to the stuff I’m working on; I see and understand the business case, and my role in it. I don’t know that I’ll work at Intel forever, but certainly for the foreseeable future; I’m having fun, and feel pretty fortunate to be working here.

  • krashidov 7 months ago

    It sounds like you're very happy with your career decisions. How long did you work on the startup before it was acquired?

    • earhart 7 months ago

      The startup was; I worked there for a little over two years.

      It was very educational (in a good way), despite the uncertainty around paychecks (just from the higher odds of going under at some point down the road). For people who’re in a financial position to handle some paycheck risk, I’d definitely recommend trying a startup.

johan_larson 7 months ago

I left Google after three years as an SDE because I had really really had enough of my bosses, I wasn't promoted when I figured I deserved it, and a project that meant a lot to me wasn't getting the staffing it needed to succeed.

I left for a more senior position at a smaller, less prestigious software company, though I've moved again since. Right now I'm working remotely from Toronto for a Silicon Valley start-up.

Ultimately, I wish I had approached working for Google a bit differently. I thought it was sort of an overgrown startup, and you were supposed to look for something that needed doing and do it. No. Google is a large highly structured company with a distinctly process-oriented culture. It's a place where you do what you are told. That famous proverb about Japanese nails absolutely applies. I eventually figured that out, but by then it was too late.

  • CydeWeys 7 months ago

    My experience with Google has been the opposite, for what it's worth. I've been rewarded for, as an IC SWE, starting conversations with random people across the entire company to make things happen, and then executing on it. I even presented my launch at I/O this past May. I think it helps that I'm on a smaller team. So from my experience, it still very much seems like a "look for something that needs doing and do it" kind of place. Maybe too much freedom is granted, in that a lot of "boring" things are languishing that shouldn't be simply because no one is interested in (or rewarded for) doing them.

    • bsimpson 7 months ago

      It seems to depend a lot on your team and your manager. It's the first place I've worked where the vibe is: "you're clever: find something useful to do" from my very first day.

      • CydeWeys 7 months ago

        Yes, it matters a lot. I got some great advice from a friend who was already working at a big-ish tech company (Dropbox) when I joined Google. She said the #1 concern when picking a team was to find a manager I'd get along with -- that that's more important than anything else. And it was good advice. Managers set the tone for the entire team, and I'd rather be on a friendly, collaborative, supportive team doing a meh project than be on a dysfunctional team working on something "important". Studies have shown that the #1 factor causing job dissatisfaction is having a poor relationship with your manager, and then #2 is having a poor relationship with your peers.

      • dlor 7 months ago

        Yes, this matches my experience as well. I've been at Google 6 years now in various SWE roles. I can count the number of times I've been directly asked to do something by anyone in my management chain on one hand.

        • dhnsmakala 7 months ago

          What are examples of things you took initiative on (without violating NDA or revealing personal details?) Are we talking about new major products/features? Did you join with past experience/at a senior level? What org/product area?

          • dlor 7 months ago

            It's hard to explain, not because of NDA but because of context specific things. Almost everything I do is open source, but can't fit into a comment.

            My only advice to people at BigCo is to make sure you have a good reason for doing whatever it is you're doing. Your boss telling you to do something is not always a good reason to do it.

            And make sure you have some kind of metrics that show your work is important. If you're told to do something that you don't think is important, make sure you have metrics showing that your work is more important and do that.

            • dhnsmakala 7 months ago

              So say my boss assigns me a task of questionable value. Should I really question it having been there for a few months, or would they take it as I don't trust their judgement?

              I just started recently and was considering leaving for a startup, but have decided to stay and see if it gets better (I have only been at BigCo for few months). Mainly I feel like I'm not really needed, and it's a long existing and complex system so I can't propose some project of my own that easily. Many changes require multiple teams input etc. Feels slow.

              Thanks for the advice, I will definitely keep it in mind.

              • ptero 7 months ago

                I am not the OP, but IMO when you have been at the job for only a few months telling the boss that he is wrong can provide some seriously negative return. You may be right but not understood or listened to or you may be wrong (e.g., because you are not aware of something they take for granted, etc.) and reinforce the "fresh kid who needs a lot of handholding" perception.

                I would either build credibility at your local team first (seems slow given the setup you describe) or find another group that is more dynamic. Look for energetic team leads that run impactful projects, talk to them (face to face) and ask what would it take to join their team. My 2c. Good luck

              • johan_larson 7 months ago

                If your boss tells you to do something, you should do it. "Make your boss happy" is generally the way to thrive in a hierarchy, whatever the stated principles of the organization or how they formally evaluate employees. If your boss is happy with you, it will all turn out ok; if your boss isn't happy with you, nothing will save you in the end.

                I understand the initial project you're assigned may not seem terribly important. But that's because you're new and you don't really know how things work yet, so they can't assign you anything really complicated. Do the initial not-quite-busywork successfully, and more important and interesting work will come along.

              • CydeWeys 7 months ago

                If you've only been there for a few months, how do you even know that the task is of questionable value? I'd take it as a very bad sign if someone who's still relatively new to the team thinks they know better than people who've been doing this stuff for years. Trust that your teammates know what they're doing, and if they really truly don't (which is possible), find a better team.

                It took me around two years in to start feeling comfortable setting direction and priorities at a team-wide level. Of course, I was making my opinion heard long before that, but it was just that, an opinion.

                At only a few months in you're still an unproven quantity. Don't expect to be getting the most important projects just yet. Take whatever you are given and knock it out of the park.

                • dhnsmakala 7 months ago

                  Previous largeish tasks were found to be of questionable value after they were completed, by other mgrs.

                  I like my team and manager, I just don't think they have a lot of time for me or time to think about what I'm assigned and whether it's worth doing. Lots of new ppl on the team recently. It's also possible that I'm just not asking enough questions. I think it is a bit of both.

              • dlor 7 months ago

                Yes! Don't necessarily question it and get into an argument. But both you and your manager have a different set of context and view on what's really important to the team and organization. Neither of you is necessarily more correct then the other.

                If it turns out your manager was right (which is likely given you've only been there a few months), you'll at least get more context to understand why. You can use that context next time

                • dhnsmakala 7 months ago

                  Again, appreciate the time taken to respond. I'll do my best to make this work out, this was my dream job before I joined.

      • rericks 7 months ago

        I recently joined a FANG and this is something that causes me a lot of anxiety. Our repos are hundreds of thousands of lines of code; how on earth can I, as a new hire, decide unilaterally that something needs to be added or reworked? I'm not at a startup, and the company's mission is decided at a level far above my paygrade. I need some degree of management to know what to do.

        I'm also not a very social person, and randomly chatting with people around the company for project ideas is something that I'm seemingly incapable of doing.

        Will this cause me to fail at my job? How do I learn to be more proactive with these kinds of things?

        • exikyut 7 months ago

          It sounds like you're trying to self-discover initiative. Initiative is not a first-class thing of its own; it's an outcome of, for example, staring at an inefficiency until you can't stop twitching.

          But (to use my example) "efficiency" is relative. It requires a good mental model of what fits into what and how. So, to solve for that, you'd focus on absorption, and taking-in as much of the environment you can in as much detail as you can - oh, and focus on the most insignificant things the most. (The idea is to stretch your attention span and make it grow.) Endeavor to absorb at the same rate on day 100 that you do on day 1 (ie, replicating the way you react when things are new/interesting). Not perfectly achievable (I don't think), but that's the approach I've used to get my brain going in the right direction.

          As for sociability, that's something that needs to be practiced in its own right to get stronger, like attention span. A bit like learning to use a new tool, you can't immediately be fast at it without some initial purpose-less practice. (Always fun to bootstrap those kinds of things...)

        • candiodari 7 months ago

          At a very high level you're wanting management, but really you're expecting someone else to solve your problems for you. These companies don't work like that. You have to find a problem and hammer it down.

          If necessary (but only as a last resort) spend an hour each day increasing test coverage. That is just something you can do that will probably also yield further ideas.

          Second, if you're at google, get a mentor. They probably have an internal tool for that, maybe even something hr-like.

  • jacquesm 7 months ago

    > That famous proverb about Japanese nails absolutely applies.

    "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down."

    • tw1010 7 months ago

      I'm guessing there are some "nail dimensions" that get hammered down, and some that are encouraged. (There are some anomalous characteristics that are accepted or incentivized, and some that are penalized.) I'm curious, could you (or someone in this thread working at google) help me understand which these are? Which weird character traits are ok, and which are not?

      • riazrizvi 7 months ago

        I’m going to make a guess here, but based on my experience of this type of culture at other organizations, weird character traits that are okay = anything unusual done by the very senior, generally-accepted-company-success-story people. So if you started a successful spin-off that Google funds and makes a ton of money from, then your penchant for rollerblading around the building is cute and HR smile when describing it to interviewees. However if you are one of the other 99.9% then get those damn things off your feet, your going to hurt someone.

      • jexah 7 months ago

        Be transgendered. Works for me.

    • zwayhowder 7 months ago

      I love that proverb, but look at the flip side, the nail that sticks out gets pulled out and discarded....

      Unless it's a coat hook. The lesson I think is if you're going to stick out, be useful.

    • godelmachine 7 months ago

      I was thinking - "Everything looks like to nail to someone who has a hammer"

  • kamaal 7 months ago

    >>I had really really had enough of my bosses

    Its curious how these companies claim they are totally different or even unique but just turn out to be the very same.

    >>I wasn't promoted when I figured I deserved it

    This is again one of those large company political things. Year long promotion packet building, lobbying your work with promotion committees, getting a willing boss, and doing other routine political ground work to set you up for one.

    Another big thing in these companies, every one joining has to go through a very arduous interviewing process, preparation for which can last weeks to months. So you have rockstars full in all teams, or at-least they like of themselves that way.

    Ultimately regardless whatever people might say about surrounding yourself with smart people, its never generally a great idea to surround yourself with smart competitors in a pyramid hierarchy.

    • bizkitgto 7 months ago

      Big companies are all this way, people don't realize it before they work in one - you are just a cog.

      • tekstar 7 months ago

        Also, in a big company, culture is not homogeneous. Your direct manager and team will create their culture, with mild influence from the surrounding corporation.

        • apohn 7 months ago

          Definitely this. I'm in a large org at a large company and there are drastic differences between groups because of managers. Simply changing groups can completely change your experience from a toxic team to a great one or vice versa.

          If a smaller company has a toxic culture or you have a toxic manager you may have no choice but to leave.

          Bad managers are everywhere!

          • voltagex_ 7 months ago

            Just to add to this, a good manager can insulate a team from problems "outside" that team, but there's a balance. Too much insulation and you'll disappear from everyone else's view (no more funding for you!), not enough and you'll become a dumping ground for people/problems/projects.

    • amyjess 7 months ago

      > This is again one of those large company political things. Year long promotion packet building, lobbying your work with promotion committees, getting a willing boss, and doing other routine political ground work to set you up for one.

      Honestly, I don't care enough about getting promoted to go through that whole rigmarole, nor would I quit a job over having to deal with that in order to get promoted.

      Of course, that's also probably why I don't work at a FAANG and never will.

      • rifung 7 months ago

        > Honestly, I don't care enough about getting promoted to go through that whole rigmarole, nor would I quit a job over having to deal with that in order to get promoted.

        Of course, that's also probably why I don't work at a FAANG and never will.

        I don't think you should let that stop you. I work at Google and don't care about promotion. I expect that I will get it sooner or later but really don't care if I do or not. I get paid enough to live a decent life already so I prefer having the freedom to do what I think matters as opposed to what's good for my career since sadly those don't align as much as they should.

        • jexah 7 months ago

          Here here, why require a raise if you're earning 250k+ a year? That's more than 99.9% of non-execs in most companies.

      • fernandotakai 7 months ago

        that's exactly what i thought -- getting a "promotion packet" is absurd. your promotion packet should be the job you have been doing all year long.

        then again, i hate office politics and i cannot see myself getting to close to this kind of big-company.

        • rifung 7 months ago

          > that's exactly what i thought -- getting a "promotion packet" is absurd. your promotion packet should be the job you have been doing all year long.

          I'm guessing you don't know how the process works? I'd like to give a summary so you have more context. Apologies if that's incorrect.

          Your promotion is decided by a promotion committee, who likely do not know you or what you do. This is done in an attempt to make promotions fair and objective across the company.

          That being the case, you need a promotion packet to describe what you've done to people who are basically strangers.

          Don't get me wrong, the process has many issues but I don't think it's fair to assess them without understanding their purposes and I don't think anyone I've seen who complains about it has been able to come up with something better.

      • twunde 7 months ago

        Keep in mind that at many companies the promotion isn't to manager but to the next class of engineering ie engineer I to engineer II. This is how you increase your pay. Also if you don't get promoted within a certain amount of time, some companies will manage you out

    • frozenport 7 months ago

      They got a rep for being cool in 2006, the real psyop was keeping that reputation going

  • gwbas1c 7 months ago

    > It's a place where you do what you are told

    In my career experience, that has more to do with understanding what really needs to be done, and what brings value to the company.

    I'm sure I've made some junior engineers feel that way after they tried to pull me into a long argument about brace styles, or after they wanted to refactor years of working code to use their favorite framework.

  • asaph 7 months ago

    > I left Google after three years as an SDE

    Were you on a 4 year vest schedule for your stock grant at Google? If so, did you leave some money on the table?

    • mtlynch 7 months ago

      Google gives equity refreshes once per year, so you always have unvested stock. They try to design comp to avoid situations where your total pay suddenly drops 4 years after your initial offer package fully vests.

    • johan_larson 7 months ago

      I don't remember, exactly. I think we had a one-year cliff at the time and then quarterly accrual. I definitely took a pay cut when I left, though.

    • tonfa 7 months ago

      Isn't it standard that grants are renewed yearly? If so you'll always be "leaving money on the table" (but then if you switch company you'd probably get a new grant, right?)

      • brandmeyer 7 months ago

        Nothing is "standard". I've never talked to a startup that offered an equity refresh like GOOG does.

        • chris11 7 months ago

          Why wouldn't companies offer an equity refresh? I view equity as part of my compensation. So if my compensation dropped after 4 years I'd consider it a paycut and start looking for a new job.

      • hindsightRegret 7 months ago

        And a juicy signing bonus. So yeah, it doesn't actually feel like leaving money on the table most times (unless the equity has appreciates 2x plus)

rsweeney21 7 months ago

Ex-Netflix here. I was a senior dev at Microsoft and Netflix (8 years of professional experience) and decided to switch to freelance for a variety of reasons. Eventually that turned into starting a company that provides a home for ex-FAANG (etc) devs that want to switch to freelancing.

Facet Development is a freelancer network made up exclusively of ex-FAANG engineers. Facet does the work of finding freelancing jobs/projects and then we send them out to devs in the network. We also provide project management and billing/collections, help with taxes, etc, so freelancers get to spend a lot more of their time doing the enjoyable parts of freelancing and not trying to run a small business.

We target FAANG companies and companies that wish they could hire FAANG devs when finding work for our freelancer network. When I was a dev lead at Microsoft, bringing on vendors or outsourcing was a terrible experience, because they always seemed to be below our hiring bar. So I started Facet to solve the problem I had when I was an engineering manager at a FAANG company.

We have more work than we can handle, so if you are a FAANG or ex-FAANG dev that wants to switch to freelancing or already is, you should sign up!

You can read more about the Facet Developer Network here:

  • robszumski 7 months ago

    Wow, this is a great idea. I can see both sides of it:

    "Look, you've always wanted to jump ship to freelance, but it's hard and you're used to being heavily supported by your org. We have that for you."

    "Look, you want to hire these people but you can't. I can, and they can complete your project in a super high quality way, you just need to pay for it. We can be there next week."

    • rsweeney21 7 months ago

      Exactly! :)

      I always wanted to jump ship so I could work on my own startup, but was afraid cause I had no idea how to find work as a freelancer, and was totally not the sales type. I figured there had to be more people out there like me.

  • neerkumar 7 months ago

    I agree, this is actually a really really good business idea. I heard so many times top devs wish something like this would exist.

    Can you give an idea of what an ex-FAANG dev can expect after signing up? Like what's the frequency of projects? (not sure when you started this, if you just started it I understand you might not have a clear answer yet)

    • rsweeney21 7 months ago

      Facet has been in business for many years, so we have several long-term, repeat customers. We've just pivoted into this business model in the past couple of months because we we're getting overwhelmed with new projects and couldn't hire full-time devs fast enough. So instead, we thought we would see if there was an untapped pool of extremely high-quality devs that just wanted to be freelance. Turns out there is!

      We get new projects weekly and our network is sized to match. We want make sure the number of opportunities we find covers 75% of our developer network. Our network is smallish right now (less than 50). If demand for joining exceeds our project capacity we will implement a wait-list for joining until our project volume catches up.

      • jonnycoder 7 months ago

        Wow thanks for sharing. Facet sounds right for me as I work for a big company but looking to expand my experience into a smaller more impactful business/startup/consulting space.

  • seige 7 months ago

    Bookmarking this. Excellent idea :)

  • redokw 7 months ago

    What about non-residents that cannot stay in the US for freelance but can work in a similar timezone like in the US? I mean, if I were to jump ship I wouldn't be allowed to keep working in the US and so I'd need to go back to my home country, where I could actually stretch out the money way better :)

  • PascLeRasc 7 months ago

    Netflix is supposed to have a really great developer culture and work atmosphere/benefits, much more than the other big N. Do you agree with its reputation? Was there any negative aspect that made you leave, or did you just have more of an interest in freelancing?

    • rsweeney21 7 months ago

      My experience at Netflix was amazing. It has to be one of the best places for software engineers. I left because I wanted to work on a startup and never would have had the time while working at Netflix full-time.

      I got lucky in that a very large project (~$500k) fell into my lap while still working full-time at Netflix, so once the contract was signed, I quit my job and started freelancing. My small freelancing business grew into a proper software development agency over a few years. Eventually, I was able to do a "real" startup - I started an analytics company (, raised $16M in VC and grew that for 4 years. I did NOT like working with VCs. So we hired a replacement CEO and I left to do my next thing.

      I still own Facet and after leaving Numetric I had some free time to experiment with ideas on how to grow Facet. That resulted in the creation of the Facet Developer Network.

  • borroka 7 months ago

    Is Facet only for senior devs or also for senior ex-FAANG data scientists?

amirathi 7 months ago

Ex-Amazon engineer here. Worked for ~4 years in the Prime Music team. Contrary to popular belief, I had incredible time at Amazon. Learned a lot, good work life balance, progressed to L5 etc. Primary reason I quit is to start something of my own and not live under a draconian H1-B visa that treats people like second class citizens (will save H1-B rant for some other time).

What am I doing now?

I enjoy building dev tools. I am currently building ReviewNB ( that helps with Jupyter Notebook diffs and commenting. I built earlier this year to help Dev/Ops teams write executable incident runbooks.


I moved back from Seattle to New Delhi, India. Cost of living is less than $2000 per month which gives me enough time to work on my projects without being stressed financially.

  • dhnsmakala 7 months ago

    $2k/mo seemw very high for India (I'm not too familiar), are you supporting a family/spouse as well or is New Delhi just expensive?

    • amirathi 7 months ago

      South Delhi is expensive. I pay $1000/month on rent. That's also because I have a larg'ish space (home office, guest room etc.)

      Living in tier 2 Indian cities or suburban areas can cut down the expense in half. ~$1000/month for a comfortable lifestyle.

      • dhnsmakala 7 months ago

        Ah I see. Yeah, to do <2k in the bay area either roommates or studio + ramen :P

    • rockyj 7 months ago

      I do not think so. Yes, it is ok if you are single but in India and earn 2k/mo, but remember everything is paid for and conditions are not very friendly. e.g. In Delhi you will most likely need a car (unless you WFH or live next to the office) and the fuel prices are among the highest in the world. You have to pay and save for your kids education (which can be pretty steep). Because of the heat and pollution, you have to invest in air-conditioning, air-purifier, water-purifier and the list keeps going on for a comfortable life. Also no health or social safety net means you have to maintain decent savings at all times.

      Finally, the real inflation (not the official one) is high and any saving could potentially be worthless in a few years (except real-estate which is why it has absurd prices) which also means owning a home is quite hard.

    • heyoni 7 months ago

      He must be living like a king. I lived there for a year and struggled to spend more than $20 a day.

    • anoncoward111 7 months ago

      It must be, because I'm living comfortably in NY on less than $2000 a month post tax 0.o

      • dhnsmakala 7 months ago

        Yeah, same here in the bay area.

        • anoncoward111 7 months ago

          And like, I know plenty of people in the US living decently well on $1,000 a month post tax. Most college towns will have bedrooms for like $350-550 a month.

          If you are fortunate enough to live in a very progressive town like Chapel Hill NC, which has a completely free bus system for everyone (paid for by student tuition, state taxes, and grants), then you can get around for pretty much free. The rest could be spent on food and health insurance if one chooses

  • justfor1comment 7 months ago

    Saving this comment as I might go down the same route a few years from now.

Nihilartikel 7 months ago

Ex-Google SWE L5 (Senior) - Left in 2014 after almost 9 years spanning from my late 20's to mid 30's. I really can't complain, and would easily rank it as my most fulfilling and lucrative full-time employment experience so far, though the previous and post employment were in defense and startups.

In short, I left due to burnout, though I think it wasn't so much the team/work as it was my character lends itself to burnout if I'm not very careful to erect work/life barriers and not trample them in spite of myself. I also tried hard but failed to get promotion to L6 SWE, and that left me with a bad taste in my mouth. This was mostly a matter of personal immaturity at the time though. In retrospect my technical skills may have passed muster, but my ability to make things happen in the organizational and interpersonal sphere weren't really at an L6 level. My foot was already half out of the door by then, anyway.

In the intervening time, I've worked on an (unsuccessful) Android game, worked at a startup (again, burnout is easy when you internalize the existential precariousness of this sort of venture), and have since moved back to my hometown, bought a nice house, started a family, and done remote contract work. I have a few projects incubating and am planning on pursuing some entrepreneurial bootstrapping once my current contracts peter out shortly.

I miss the proximity to amazing engineers and casual availability of supercomputing resources, but in the end, I'm grateful to have saved enough to have a great deal of freedom in how I spend my days and to have been fully present for the first few months of my son's life.

Another benefit of time outside of Google is getting acquainted with the equivalent software ecosystem outside of their walled garden. Borg -> Docker/Kubernetes, MapReduce/Millwheel -> Spark, Dremel/bigquery-> Presto, etc etc.

  • the_clarence 7 months ago

    What is L5?

    • mdasen 7 months ago

      L5 is one of Google's internal levels. They're putting it there to let people know where they were in Google's hierarchy and they note that it denotes Senior. From what I know, people generally start at 3 right out of school.

      • antognini 7 months ago

        To expand a little bit, you usually start at L3 as a fresh graduate, and then are expected to be promoted to L4 within ~2-3 years, and then L5 after another 2-3 years (although it could be shorter). L5 is considered a "terminal" position, in the sense that once you get to that level you're no longer expected to get promoted. (L3 and L4 are, by contrast, more "up or out", where if you don't get promoted after long enough you can get fired.) I actually met an L5 engineer at Google who had been there since 2002. Promotions to L6, L7, etc. start to get exponentially more difficult.

        • twiceaday 7 months ago

          This is no longer the case. L4 is the new coasting position.

          • bernardrubble 7 months ago

            Ahh, google finally succumbing to the mediocrity of being huge and boring.

            Must be nice for management to not have to even try and develop employees beyond L4.

        • the_clarence 7 months ago

          What about L1 or L2?

          • acchow 7 months ago

            Google Engineering doesn't have L1 or L2 (you could consider interns as L2)

    • quest88 7 months ago

      Senior Software Engineer.

simonebrunozzi 7 months ago

Ex-Amazon (and ex-Vmware) here.

Worked at AWS from 2008 to 2014 (Europe, then Asia, then USA), then Vmware (also USA) from 2014 to 2016.

I then spent ~1 year at a startup, as CTO - the experience sucked, and I consider it to simply be a big mistake.

1.5 years ago, I left that job, worked on a new idea, and in August 2017 I founded a startup, Fabrica, with two other friends.

I am still there. No salary. Bootstrapped until March, then raised some angel money. Doing ok.

I will never go back to the corporate world. I'm done with it. I have some money on the side, and I firmly believe that money is to buy things that matter to you. To me, not working at a corporation matters.

  • devilmoon 7 months ago

    >I firmly believe that money is to buy things that matter to you. To me, not working at a corporation matters.

    Damn dude that is a very good way of putting it

    • simonebrunozzi 7 months ago

      Not sure I interpret your comment properly, but did you mean that you particularly liked the sentence? Or was there irony instead?

      • darken 7 months ago

        FWIW I interpreted their comment as unambiguously "liked the sentence".

        There's helpful perspective seeing freedom from corporate work as something you're effectively "buying" with less income, rather than avoiding because "it's less enjoyable".

        People tend to be quite loss averse, so reframing it as a feature you're buying rather than loss you'll accept can really change how it feels.

      • devilmoon 7 months ago

        Yeah I meant that I loved the sentence! I worked in corporate before deciding to go back to Uni and it really resonated with me, even though unfortunately I wasn't able to already buy my own freedom to not be in corporate but need to be supported by family still. Hope I can make it one day :)

  • MatthewMcDonald 7 months ago

    > I then spent ~1 year at a startup, as CTO - the experience sucked, and I consider it to simply be a big mistake.

    What about the experience sucked? What was the mistake?

    • simonebrunozzi 7 months ago

      It's a long story, and part of it I am not happy to share publicly.

      Let's say that there were signals that I should have left earlier, and I didn't listen at first; such as: two co-founders fighting often and disagreeing; not a clear product-market fit, and my product proposals were never taken seriously; lots of arrogance; etc.

  • mpweiher 7 months ago

    > money is to buy things that matter to you.


    > To me, not working at a corporation matters.

    Yes. Don't see myself every going back. And don't have to.

    "Money is coined freedom" -- Fyodor Dostoevsky

    If your money is not buying you're doing it wrong. :-)

    • DesiLurker 7 months ago

      dude .. that really gets the point across. I'll remember it.

  • mywittyname 7 months ago

    How is running a startup better than being the CTO of a startup?

    • shimon 7 months ago

      Not OP, but there are some common problems, assuming they were a non-founder CTO:

      - Instead of leading an eng team, maybe CTO meant "our entire tech team".

      - Maybe the founders sucked, or had personal conflicts.

      - Maybe the business was broken in ways a technologist can't fix.

      - Maybe the business was viable but this individual did not enjoy being a part of it. Could be anything from "there are too many salespeople yelling into phones all around me" to "the technical problems were not the sort I am interested in / good at solving".

      • rhymenoceros 7 months ago

        Indeed. Also, non-founder CTOs often find themselves in the odd position of being responsible for success and delivery but not being able to influence overall company strategy, particularly in tech-focused companies. It's almost like being a second-class citizen of the leadership team.

        Not all companies are like this, but smaller ones that are looking for CTOs (whether due to founder splits or turnover) often are.

        The other thing that sometimes happens is when a CTO position is carved out for a company that is doing well but needs "maturity," typically due to missed deadlines/etc. This can be a pretty terrible experience unless this sort of thing floats your boat - a lot of the downsides of working for a large company, but still the risks of working for a small one.

      • simonebrunozzi 7 months ago

        Man, you're good!

        The two co-founders had personal conflicts; the business was broken, and never became viable. And a few other things...

  • callmeed 7 months ago

    Does that mean you would turn down a lucrative acquisition offer from a big corporation?

    That seems to be the paradox of founding a startup for the reason you stated.

    • simonebrunozzi 7 months ago

      That's a good point. I am not against being acquired, and I hope I will be a good leader and accept what's best for the company, not just for me.

      I guess if the acquisition happens, I can happily accept it as a necessary evil to get more "freedom" in the form of money, and to make my co-founders and workers happy.

a13n 7 months ago

Running my own bootstrapped SaaS startup, Canny ( I've always wanted to do a startup.

Last year I wrote a blog post about the biggest lessons learned during the transition. Seems pretty relevant.

Also left SF to be a digital nomad. SF is so expensive and if you aren't fundraising you don't need to be there. There's so much of the world to see, and it's easy to be productive anywhere there's internet.

  • MoBattah 7 months ago

    Digital nomad - are you AirBnBing around various countries or are you staying in coliving/coworking communities?

    I ask because I'm interested in doing that soon.

    • a13n 7 months ago

      Have lived in Airbnbs for the past year and a half :)

  • k__ 7 months ago

    Nice, I saw Canny used by Expo :)

SubuSS 7 months ago

I spent about 7 years at MS and 7 in amazon - mostly around databases. Now I have been with Snap for about 3 years and it has been going great. My reasons were:

- Agility. Snap moves 10x faster than amazon/ms.

- Small size. Our dev community is so much smaller than Fb etc. Last quarter our reported user count was around 188MM? So the amortized # of customers influenced per dev is very high.

- Ownership. I am the tech lead for all of analytics in snap (an uber lead as we call it). In Dynamo I was the TL for the storage part alone, my other offers from fb/twitter/oracle et al were around running parts of their machinery. Nothing came close to the extent of ownership provided by snap. An L1 in snap owns 5x of what an L1 would own in FAANG.

- Rest of the benefits remain equal / better: You are surrounded by smart people, you have hard problems to solve, perks, benefits and comp are very equivalent to / better than fang.

That's pretty much what I tell people during my job sells / interviews as well! If you are looking for the above, you can't beat small companies. On the flip side - FANG do have the scale very few others can only dream of reaching (dynamo did millions of qps per region and ran in 10s of regions). I am obviously hopeful we will make snap that big :)

  • fizwhiz 7 months ago

    That stock tho.

    • parthdesai 7 months ago

      Not much to complain if you are shorting it :P

      • synaesthesisx 7 months ago

        Shorting SNAP via puts was one of the best decisions I've made this year.

anonymousFAANG 7 months ago

Several years at Google, but got bored/frustrated like every Googler, and left to do a startup. That started off great but eventually fizzled, we got acquihired into a lame-ass company that I rode out for a couple of years, and then tried to do another startup never got off the ground. Now several years later, I'm at another FAANG. Fairly certain that my savings, salary and stock, career development, and overall confidence would be an order of magnitude higher had I stayed put and used the leverage I had at Google, to find a better project instead of leaving.

I don't actively regret all this -- I took the risk and did not come out on top. But the warning I'd give to others is that since 10 year ago, FAANGs probably give you the best possible deal, despite what VCs and entrepreneur bloggers want to tell you.

Throwaway2Trax 7 months ago

Ex-Amazonian, not in a software related position. I left for the same reason a lot of the fellow commenter did, internal politics, promotion / development and shitty bosses (two levels up, but that's where it counts).

For one, as great as Amazons Leadership Principles are in theory, in practice they are used more than a weapon than anything else. Once the higher ups have made up their mind about a person, no amount of feed-back will change that. In the end perf reviews resemble court-martial, except in a decent court-martial you are present to defend your self.

I realized that too late. Internal "voting rings" self-promoting members at the expense of other are aggravating this even further. I would still do it again though, only with a clear exit strategy from day one. Rough guideline, if you failed to get promoted or transfer internally by year 2 - 3 you are by default dead. A transfer buys you another 2 odd years of runway.

What did definitely not help was stock development. I joined in early 2014, initial RSUs have beem granted nased on 2013 expectations, the value increased by a factor of 10 by now. So AMZN had yet another incentive to reduce the number of employees in my generation of hires. And they did.

Funny side note, around two years after I left they implemented tje two high level solutions I proposed back the day and got axed for.

Since then I had two employers which didn't work out. Mental note: take the sabbatical immediately after leaving, failed to get start-up ofbthe ground and finished my studies.

  • geekbird 7 months ago

    I worked for an Amazon subsidiary for about 4.5 years. By the time that last review & reorg came around, I was mentally already out the door, being burned out. Having my job change to doing mostly Windows help desk (I'm a linux sysadmin) was what made me crazy. Unfortunately, that layoff came right after the "Great Recession" got going, and I was out of work for a year and a half. My nice $125/share stock RSUs had to be sold for living expenses. If the timing hadn't sucked like that I could have paid off my house by now. I still have 5 shares...

    I kind of had a forced sabbatical after that. At least I was not in debt going into it.

    Then I went to work for some big names, this time in Linux operations, some contract, some regular. Since I have the wrong age and plumbing, I constantly have title deflation and other BS to deal with. I'm currently at a university, at a pay drop and title drop, but it's more stable with more time off.

pr0zac 7 months ago

I was a E5 security engineer at Facebook. Left after 4 years because I married a Canadian, was sick of living in the bay area and FB had no way for me to continue working where I wanted to live. I enjoyed the job a lot but non-career stuff (including allowing my wife to start her career after finishing her PhD) was a higher priority.

I moved to Canada and spent two years working remotely as a security manager for Uber which I also enjoyed. I eventually left because of burn out and took a few months off completely. I now live in Montreal and am working on a startup with a few friends in NYC.

  • rasikjain 7 months ago

    Hi, interested in learning more about your security career. Your contact info is not on the profile. Would like to catch up. My email is in the profile :-)

  • evgen 7 months ago

    TFW you now know a former co-worker's HN nick...

  • kd22 7 months ago

    Can you share some details about the startup? I am from Montreal too.

cbzehner 7 months ago

Ex-Facebook. After five years I found my pace of learning had basically plateaued. Combine with organizational politics at any large company and I started looking for something smaller.

Ended up at Atrium, a legal startup in SF. Similar to mtlynch, I didn't expect how much I'd have to hone my front-end chops on leaving a FAANG.

Getting the opportunity to learn what I hadn't been learning and shore up those weaknesses reenforce my decision to switch.

Best parts so far:

* It's 30x smaller than FB was when I joined and 300x smaller than FB was when I left.

* Great people abound. I was worried that this wouldn't be the case at a smaller company but I joined partly on the basis of how intellectually curious the engineers I met were during my interview.

* It's a non-traditional tech company. We work with attorneys and build domain expertise in the problems CEOs and VCs face every day. The hard legal problems of starting a business.

If any of that sounds interesting, we're hiring! Reach out to username at gmail or

drewg123 7 months ago

Does it count if you move from one to the other?

I spent 2 years as a L5 (Senior SWE) at Google in MTV. I could not negotiate a deal to work remotely under my VP or find a team under a different VP allowing remote work that I was interested in (and which was interested in me).. I left after promotion to staff (L6) and went to Netflix where I work on the Openconnect CDN. Netflix is so much smaller that I feel like I have an impact, and I'm not just a cog in the machine.

  • loarabia 7 months ago

    Did Netflix allow you to work remote? I was under the impression they are pretty strict about engineers being in Los Gatos or LA.

  • romed 7 months ago

    Congratulations on making Staff after only 2 years. You’d think it would be alarming to Google how often engineers leave immediately after being promoted.

    • johannes1234321 7 months ago

      What's the benefit of waiting for promotion and then leaving? Any benefits you gain from that? Naïvely I'd assume it'd make sense to collect some of the extra cash for a while.

      • drewg123 7 months ago

        It was in the pipeline, and it seemed silly to leave just weeks before it was in effect because:

        1) If you are a regretted departure, there is a good chance you'll be hired back at your old level with a minimum of fuss. There is a pretty big difference in salary, bonus factor and probably GSU grants between L5 and L6, so I did not want to loose that advantage should I ever want to return.

        2) It was a personal goal. I suck at whiteboarding, so was hired as L5 when I should probably have been L6. So I did not want to leave before I finally got to the level that I thought I should have been at all along.

        3) There is an internal Google system (go/epitaphs) where you can look up an Xoogler, and it will tell you when they worked at Google, what their title was, what their level was, etc. If I ever wanted to join a startup that was being founded by Googlers, I thought it would look better if they could confirm the L6 was claiming on my resume. If I had left after the promo was announced to me, but before it was effective, it would look like I was an L5 and just spinning a story.

        • motxilo 7 months ago

          Being a Staff Engineer vs just Senior gives you more leeway for negotiation with prospective employers.

      • jedberg 7 months ago

        The title is useful and the bump in pay makes vacation payouts worth more. Also, if you want to go back, you get to go back at the higher title at a minimum.

      • mikereedell 7 months ago

        From a strictly money perspective, you get the pay bump from the promotion, then another pay bump from changing jobs.

      • kansface 7 months ago

        The title is useful job hunting.

      • romed 7 months ago

        Maybe for some people it's a game? I have no idea. The pay isn't as progressive as their recruiters claim. A high-performing Senior SWE makes money pretty close to what a newly-promoted Staff SWE makes.

        • Bahamut 7 months ago

          But a newly promoted staff engineer has more ability to move up in pay in annual reviews.

          • romed 7 months ago

            Not really. A newly promoted engineer is very likely to get Meets Expectations, since the criteria for promotion is nominally that the person has already been meeting expectations at the next level.

            • Bahamut 7 months ago

              Yes really based on my own experience in a FAANG - if you hit the top of the pay band, your salary will go up at a minuscule percentage, even with significant outperforms ratings.

    • abc_lisper 7 months ago

      Why do people do this? Wont the promotion mostly pay in stock anyways?

throwaway6119 7 months ago

You won’t see a lot of ex-Apple people posting here because of the deeply-ingrained conditioning to never talk publicly about anything that goes on there, even after you leave.

I’ll say I liked the company in general. The rank and file engineers were smart and nice to work with, a real pleasure. But people were meaner and egos were huger the higher up the org chart they were, and I had to interact regularly (daily) with people 2-3 away from Tim.

Ultimately I made it 4 years, pretty much to the day my last stock vested. Manager said they don’t give refreshes, so I’m not going to take that big a pay drop to keep going there so reluctantly quit. I’d go back in a heartbeat if they weren’t so stingy with pay/RSUs.

  • pdimitar 7 months ago

    I am reading the end of your comment like "Apple does not pay good salaries". Is that true? I have no interest in shares / stock, just the net sum at the end of the month.

myWindoonn 7 months ago

I served at Google as an SRE for 2+yrs. I burnt out and ragequit. Now I'm an SRE at a startup.

I hear that the median time of service for FAANG SREs is just shy of 2yrs. Dirty open secret if it is true.

  • barrow-rider 7 months ago

    > I hear that the median time of service for FAANG SREs is just shy of 2yrs. Dirty open secret if it is true.

    That's most places, FAANGs notwithstanding. 6 months getting up to speed, realizing what a clusterfuck it is by 12 months, dealing with it to 18 months, and then getting to the I-Want-Out point at 24+ months.

    Plus the whole "jump ship every 2-3 years to maximize salary" thing is possible for FAANG-level engineers.

    • cagenut 7 months ago

      devops are like brake pads on trucks, you stomp the hell out of them whenever you didn't look far enough ahead, and when they start to make a squeaking noise you throw them out and get new ones.

      • dekhn 7 months ago

        I know at least ten SREs at Google with ten years service.

  • apohn 7 months ago

    >I hear that the median time of service for FAANG SREs is just shy of 2yrs. Dirty open secret if it is true.

    I wouldn't read too much into this. I've worked at tech companies where 4 years of tenure was considered old and non-tech companies where 8 years was considered young.

    Anecdotal evidence or course, but IME people with strong skills in the tech industry (even if it's tech marketing or tech HR) have a lot more options to change jobs for salary or experience reasons. If you're ambitious you're going to be even more inclined to move up or move out.

    • 7ewis 7 months ago

      I work for a tech company and like you said, I've almost been there for 4 years and apart from my own department I would genuinely struggle to name anyone else on my floor (~100 people). I could probably count the number of people I know on one hand.

      Whereas three years ago, I knew everyone's name across three floors.

      Tech turnover is just so high, even our C Suite have almost all changed twice since I've been here.

      I'm easily one of the longest standing members of staff and we have over 1,000 tech employees.

  • user5994461 7 months ago

    Most of SRE/sysadmin/operations leave the field after a few years, not just the company. It's not a rewarding job to be on call and have to fix issues from other people.

  • bruckie 7 months ago

    You didn't say this, but to be clear for those who may have assumed it:

    2 years median time of service != median employee quit after 2 years

    2 years median time of service can be explained by lots of people quitting, or by lots of people being hired (and usually a mix of both).

    I've noticed at Google that some positions (like recruiting coordinator) seem to churn quickly, while others (like software engineer) churn much more slowly. I haven't seen many engineers quit in less than two years (and certainly not in 1.1, which is the median in the data you linked to)

  • brilee 7 months ago

    If a company doubles in size every 2 years, then mathematically, you cannot have a median tenure of more than 2 years.

    • jkchu 7 months ago

      If the company has hired enough employees recently, then the math would check out.

  • simmanian 7 months ago

    Just curious, did you burn out because of the workload?

ccantana 7 months ago

I was a SWE L3 at Google for three years. I left after having similar problems with the promotion process mentioned by others.

Since then, have moved from SF to Ecuador and started a humor publication explicitly making fun of companies like FANG (

It’s very cathartic...

  • solarkraft 7 months ago

    Hey, uh .... why the f do I need to give you my e-mail address to read your stuff?

    • theunixbeard 7 months ago

      You don't have to, just click "the email" which is a hyperlink to the archives:

      • softawre 7 months ago

        I wonder what % of people you lose right there because you're trying to be smart/clean/whatever with "the email" link.

        • dxhdr 7 months ago

          It lost me until I came back and read this comment; I did not think to click "the email." The page reads as a standard newsletter subscription form so I just closed the tab.

          • ccantana 7 months ago

            Helpful feedback, thanks. Just updated the landing page to make things clearer.

            • solarkraft 7 months ago

              Thanks. Good content! I still believe you're limiting your audience by not running it like a typical blog. But it seems like that's partly what you want to do.

  • stewfortier 7 months ago

    Have been a loyal TechLoaf reader for the past few months. Thank you for making this, it's consistently one of the things I look forward to most each week.

  • synotna 7 months ago

    Fyi, I subscribed and then got the "subscribe now" popup on the "thanks for subscribing" page

    • ccantana 7 months ago

      Good catch, thanks! Fixed now

  • mtlynch 7 months ago

    This is my first time seeing TechLoaf. Really enjoyed it. Great work!

    • ccantana 7 months ago

      Thanks! Comes out every Thursday, so keep your eyes peeled later this morning if you subscribed :)

  • staticautomatic 7 months ago

    Do you accept submissions?

    • ccantana 7 months ago

      Absolutely, to become a regular contributor:

      - Send 10 headlines or premises per week to [email protected]

      - Repeat for 2-3 weeks

      - If the jokes check out, we’ll get you added to the top secret Loaf inner circle of writers and editors.

      Otherwise, more casual contributions are always welcomed if you want to email [email protected] whenever inspiration strikes.

      Hope to hear from you either way!

  • buckylong 7 months ago

    How do I get in on this?

kangax 7 months ago

I was E6 at Facebook for 1.5 years.

Left due to a combination of not finding the right team/project and constant pressure to work on something impactful rather than fixing existing issues I cared about. This seems to be a common issue at FB with senior engineers joining and having to ramp up quickly (2 of the senior teammates left while I was there for the same reasons).

Currently at WeWork where you don't have to write multi-page assessment of all the impactful things you've done during the last half.

It's not perfect but the work-life balance at senior level is better than at FAANG.

  • sjg007 7 months ago

    "multi-page assessment of all the impactful things you've done" ... ?

    So things aren't organized along a product line?

    • kangax 7 months ago

      I was on an infra so the "product" was improving both developer experience and user experience. Thing is — as a senior engineer, you're encouraged to do work that spans across multiple teams. The self-review would include all the impactful things you've done by helping person X or team Y or product Z, etc.

    • napoleonIV 7 months ago

      He is probably referring to performance review.

  • the_clarence 7 months ago

    I’ve heard about that pressure to have an impact (you have an impact score right?)

    What if you refuse to write up how impactful you were? Or what if you do it lightly? I usually don’t care much about this sort of things as long as I’m doing my job.

q3k 7 months ago

Freelancing and consulting. It's fun, pays decently well and is fully remote.

Left Google SRE because of how mentally draining it was, how draconian the IP clauses were (everything you create belongs to Google!), and how generally I didn't see a future for myself there.

  • jpic 7 months ago

    Even something you create in the weekend belongs to google when you are in contract with them ?

    • microtherion 7 months ago

      Some good discussion here:

      Bottom line is that at least in California, employees theoretically have the right to IP developed in their own time on their own hardware, but in practice, there are numerous caveats, and litigation can be extremely risky.

      One of the caveats is that the invention should not overlap with a company's "existing or anticipated line of business", and with the FAANGs being such behemoths, that can cover almost any form of software development.

      • BayAreaSmayArea 7 months ago

        Something that comes up in these discussions is the concept of “company time”.

        Company resources is clear cut, but what is company time for a salaried employee? How does that change with being a remote employee?

        I’ve moved to a strategic product role and honestly work less than an hour a day on average and seldom go into the office. If I decide to work on a side project does that restrict me from git commits between 8-5?

        • thecatspaw 7 months ago

          > Company resources is clear cut, but what is company time for a salaried employee?

          Usually salary comes with an expectation of hours per week/month, and usually also comes with a software where you write down your hours, to track overtime, minus time, etc. So all the time you write down in that system, counts as companytime.

          • notJim 7 months ago

            You've had this at tech jobs? I've definitely never had to track time at any of my tech jobs (nor have I ever been eligible for overtime .)

            • thecatspaw 7 months ago

              Yes, switzerland requires time tracking, including a requirement of certain break times if your shift is long enough.

          • BayAreaSmayArea 7 months ago

            Interesting, I haven’t had a timesheet since I was an intern during college almost 20 years ago.

            I didn’t realize that timesheets we’re still a common part of being a salaried employee in tech.

            • ipsi 7 months ago

              It depends what you do - I've always had to timesheet, but that's because I was working for clients, so we had to at the very least make sure we were estimating correctly, or, at my current job, that we're billing the hours I actually work.

              It's not too onerous, since I only work for one client at a time, and time spent not at work is uncommon and usually in big chunks (e.g. an hour or two for a doctor's visit, days or weeks for vacation).

    • branksy 7 months ago

      Like many companies, yes.

      However, unlike many companies, they actually have a process where you can submit your "weekend projects" for Google to review and "gain back" explicit ownership of them.

      Basically Google just checks to make sure it's not competing with anything Google's already doing, and then contractually assigns it back to you. (And anecdotally, if it does compete, you may be offered the opportunity to join said team, since it shows you're passionate about it.)

      • TACIXAT 7 months ago

        The assignment agreement took away all excitement I had coming to work for Google. It is so shitty. The two things I submitted to that process were rejected. I've kept on building stuff in my spare time (can't stop, won't stop), if they want to come after a side project that I made in my time, on my resources, with my ideas, and my code, that's their PR nightmare.

        I cannot wait until I'm in a position to work on my own stuff full time.

      • delroth 7 months ago

        It's also pretty easy to contribute to FOSS projects on your own time, as long as you're OK with Google being the owner of your contributions (I personally don't care since it's open source licensed anyway). is an almost fully public version of the process Googlers have to follow to contribute stuff to open source projects.

        Disclaimer: works at Google, maintains some FOSS code in my own time, both under my own copyright for some projects and under Google's copyright for others.

        • drewmate 7 months ago

          Have you encountered any project maintainers uneasy with the idea of Google "owning" that part of the source code? In practice it doesn't matter, but that part kind of confuses me.

      • q3k 7 months ago

        This still kills the possibility of quickly collaborating with someone on a project in your free time. Any time you want to even start working on something together, you have to wait a couple of days for approval.

        This simply doesn't work if you want to be active in a hackerspace or any other community where you iterate on projects quickly.

        • joshuamorton 7 months ago

          >This still kills the possibility of quickly collaborating with someone on a project in your free time. Any time you want to even start working on something together, you have to wait a couple of days for approval.

          This depends on the project. If you and the project maintainer are ok with Google maintaining copyright over the code, there's a self-approval process that takes ~2 minutes.

          And of course, that's only necessary if I'm working on the side project using company resources. If I'm not, I literally can't do the self-approval. There's only an issue if you want to maintain copyright should you want to monetize your product. Most hobby projects won't encounter those issues.

    • q3k 7 months ago

      Yes. At least according to their contract in Ireland (and other locations, from what I've asked).

      • soVeryTired 7 months ago

        Has that ever been tested in court? Sounds a bit too draconian to me (but then IANAL).

        • q3k 7 months ago

          Not from what I researched. But then again, would you like to go to court against Google lawyers? I wouldn't.

  • dartdartdart 7 months ago

    I heard from my Google friend that SRE besides the on-call stuff was procedural and had no deadlines. Could you elaborate on the mentally draining part?

  • supahfly_remix 7 months ago

    Do SREs (i.e., site reliability engineers) typically write software? Are there many problems that software can solve for SREs?

    • romed 7 months ago

      At google there are SRE-SWEs and SRE-SysEng. An SRE-SWE has the same responsibilities as any SWE, but is expected to know SRE stuff. A SysEng is not expected to SWE as much, but they do both write software.

      The main difference between SWE and SRE-SWE is that the latter pays better.

      • supahfly_remix 7 months ago

        Thanks for explaining. Does "SRE-SWE" pay better because it's a more demanding job (pager duty to deal with network outages)?

        • romed 7 months ago

          Yeah, oncall bonus.

    • Cthulhu_ 7 months ago

      The message emitted as marketing to the outside world about SRE's is that they spend at least half their time writing code - improving monitoring, fault tolerance, recovery, etc. Because being called out of bed sucks.

      If that's actually true is another question of course.

  • tinktank 7 months ago

    How did you get your first freelancing/consulting customers? Would love to do this, missing the clients.

briantmaurer 7 months ago

Ex SWE at AWS (2013-2014) – I enjoyed working with the team I was on and I learned a lot. It was a great experience, but I've always wanted to work on some ideas I'd written down. I resigned as soon as my student loans were paid off and I'd saved enough money to pursue those ideas for a couple years.

One of the most memorable days of my life was the day after I resigned from Amazon.

For most people, their decisions, stressors, happiness, etc. are largely defined by external forces – whether by school, work, finances, family, etc. For me, this was much more true than I realized. I had always thought of myself as someone who was highly independent. But, that following morning (and most mornings since) I woke up with a feeling of nearly complete autonomy. That feeling was much stronger than I expected. It has been incredibly freeing and has significantly affected how I approach life.

Since, I moved back to Minnesota and am currently working on my second project – Our goal is to make it as easy as possible to play recreational sports. We raised a small seed round and our remaining runway is a little over 1 year.


My first project was put on pause after teaming up a with co-founder (Ex Google) and choosing another idea. I would like to finish the first project some day.

amznthrow01 7 months ago

Throwaway for obvious reasons. Just to add some AMZN perspective:

Amazon has big company problems just as much as any of these. In fact, from what I've heard from friends working for other FAANG and similar companies, AMZN tends to have a bigger proportion of terrible managers. This is because the Leadership Principles can be interpreted in several ways and more often than not, gets interpreted in a way that works for managers to push their agenda. The promotion process is a joke. There's a lot of politics, and you have no control over when you're getting promoted. For those that believe that they had enough leverage on when to get promoted, IMO they simply were at the right place at the right time (or as I've seen, got promoted later than they think they deserved to.)

AMZN managers like to quote Jeff a lot. Two of those have worked terribly at the org I work at:

"good intentions don't work" has introduced so many processes in the org that getting actual work done is getting harder by the day. Engineers don't like to do project management, but all these processes are a micromanager's wet dream.

"Amazon is a great place to fail". It really is not. AMZN is a terrible place to fail because once you fail, they bring it up every single time to ensure you don't have leverage. AMZN managers don't seem to appreciate growth. Or they're intentionally blind towards it to ensure they can squeeze a few more years from you while keeping you at the same level. Title being connected to both compensation and the kind of work you get sucks, and if you joined AMZN after the boom in late 2015, compensation is definitely not a reason to stay.

The only folks who are happy at AMZN are those that aren't deluding themselves by saying they are making a real impact. If you're anywhere below senior SDE you're not making any impact. Of course, exceptions exist.

zellyn 7 months ago

Moved back to Atlanta after five years at YouTube in SF to be close to family and afford a house.

Discovered that Square has an office here, saving me from a descent back into Corporate IT. Haven't looked back. We're hiring :-)

  • ccostes 7 months ago

    Interested in hearing more about what you're up to. What's the best way to get in touch?

    • zellyn 7 months ago

      I'm ${USERNAME} or @${USERNAME} on the Tech404 Slack and Twitter.

  • bluejay2 7 months ago

    In what part of Atlanta is Square’s office?

    • sswezey 7 months ago

      Atlantic Station

acconrad 7 months ago

Does Microsoft count? It's in the same market cap as Amazon and Google.

I've been consulting for the past year while I build a few side-projects, hoping they'll turn into businesses.

I'm making more than I ever have before and this was only year one. My hope is the next few years the time spent marketing myself through blogs, podcasts, and some books I'm working on will pay off either to make raising money easier for a business idea or to solidify higher rates for consulting.

  • zabi_rauf 7 months ago

    Thats great! How did you start with finding consulting projects and building street cred? Has writing blogs bring you more business yet?

    • acconrad 7 months ago

      The million-dollar question: how do you find clients?

      Honestly, the first one approached me via HackerNews. The rest have been from my network.

      Blogging has yet to bring me more business, because my name and brand have not reached the mind-share yet to rely solely on that. But I'm working on it!

      I also realize that this is a long-term play, it will likely take me 3+ years before my name is reputable enough to be the reason someone hires me from all the places they've seen my name.

ex_amazon_sde 7 months ago

Ex-Amazon here. The "people leave bosses, not companies" proverb applies to most people I know.

  • k__ 7 months ago


    And in my experience, there aren't many good bosses out there.

    I always envy the stories of some corporate engineers who had excellent mentors and bosses, but sadly there aren't many of them.

    • rjayatilleka 7 months ago

      This is something I learned recently, but some people who get lucky and find a good manager will just follow them around for a while. At least at Amazon, having a great manager is the most critical external component of having a sustainable job.

    • spike021 7 months ago

      As someone at a non-FAANG, but relatively large tech-based company in San Jose this resonates. I've basically had 3 managers in two years.

      Trying to leave but it's been difficult. My skills have kind of atrophied due to my current situation.

scaleout1 7 months ago

Why are almost all the replies by ex Google engineers? I thought I would see an even distribution from all FAANG companies but replies are pretty heavily skewed toward ex google employees. Is this because 1) Google culture is completely different from other FAANG companies? 2) Engineers at other FAANG companies dont quit their job? 3) or they dont browse HN in their free time?

  • didip 7 months ago

    If I were to guess, don't kill me for this.

    Working for Google creates a much bigger cognitive dissonance compared to other FAANGM.

    Google disproportionately promotes culture as number 1 reason to work there, where as the rest of the companies are just that: companies that make money.

    Imagine the surprise when a person joined Google and realize it's nothing but another large company.

    I have heard that FB has similar issues, but those are just that: rumors or things I read online.

  • Bahamut 7 months ago

    The companies are all of varying sizes and distribution of types of workers. Google has a heavy engineering component to it - Apple and maybe to a lesser degree Amazon does as well, but one thing about Apple is that it has a culture of generally not talking about work as much outside of work, in part due to the whole wanting to keep things secret. Netflix as a company is also just small at around 5000 employees last I heard. Facebook is somewhere around 20k I believe at HQ, although that number seems to go up every time I hear more recent numbers, Google is at ~60kish I remember reading, and Amazon is around 100k I believe? Apple is at a little over 120k employees, but Apple and Amazon both have a lot of non-engineer workers as well (retail and warehouse employees, respectively).

  • joshuamorton 7 months ago

    Probably mostly 3, and that Google is larger than the other faangs where you might (Netflix and Facebook).

    • rjayatilleka 7 months ago

      That doesn't sound accurate. Anecdata, but in my current org in Amazon Retail I think about 1 in 15 engineers browse HN daily. When I was in AWS it was around 1 in 3.

      Why do you think people in Google/Netflix/Facebook browse HN more than Amazon/Apple?

      • joshuamorton 7 months ago

        Historical trends on similar threads. Other "Ask FAAMNG" threads seem to have a disproportionate number of responses from Googlers.

  • ajtulloch 7 months ago

    I think the population you're observing here are people who first joined a FAANG before 2014 (since I imagine most people stayed for their initial four-year grant given FANNG stock performance). Facebook (not sure about the others) in 2014 had ~2k engineers IIRC, but Google IIRC had like 10-15k engineers around that time. The gap has closed in recent years, but looking at current engineering numbers isn't the right approach IMO.

formalsystem 7 months ago

I worked at Microsoft for about 3 years as a product manager and as an applied scientist. Most of the people I worked with were passionate, worked long hours and knew their shit. What drove me to leave eventually was that I had little leverage in deciding what to work on so had little control over what I'd become an expert in.

Right now I'm working solo on a strategy game inspired by the Lebanese Civil war and platforms to make running reinforcement learning algorithms in different environments much easier. TBH, I'm not sure if things will work out but I feel a lot happier and find some comfort in knowing that I'm learning many transferable skills.

As others have mentioned in this thread, I think of this experience as buying out my freedom for a couple of years with a hope that I can extend it should things work out. Contract work would be ideal but I'm still figuring out how to meet good potential clients in my area (Core ML + Data science + Infra)

raphlinus 7 months ago

Now working on a game after 11 years as a Staff SWE at Google. I left for a complex mix of reasons, largely because I can and because I wanted to work on my own stuff, also not least because I don't have a good feeling about the digital world the big companies are creating. I wrote just a bit about this on my blog on leaving.

camtarn 7 months ago

Ex-Amazon here. I spent eight years working at Amazon in Edinburgh, on three different teams - a now-dead music encyclopedia to complement IMDb, a team doing recommendations on the Amazon homepage (we were the 'customers who bought X also bought Y' team!), and finally an ill-fated graphic storyboarding tool for Amazon Studios.

I'm now working at Sequentec, a two-person contracting company providing engineering services, primarily for wave/tidal power startups in Scotland. My boss, a veteran of the industry, is a mechanical/hydraulic/electrical/control systems engineer and general jack of all trades. I write C code for B&R industrial controllers, using a proprietary Windows-based toolchain. I also write a lot of Python to get logged data off the controllers and into databases, and occasionally I'm called on to do fairly random things - reliability analysis, network/VPN engineering, wi-fi antenna selection, wiring and soldering of sensors, and a lot of interfacing to serial peripherals with custom protocols. I've programmed atop a tidal platform in the middle of a large river, and on a gantry above one of the world's most advanced wave tanks. It's great.

I left Amazon for a lot of reasons: eight years is a long time for a graduate job, the culture had changed a lot since I'd joined (less of an emphasis on work-life balance, and growing from 30 to 90 devs meaning that I no longer knew everybody's name), and I needed a job with more flexibility (I now work effectively part-time). It was definitely the right choice for me, even though I took a large pay cut to do so.

  • bitcoinmoney 7 months ago

    I’m curious how much is the TC for doing stuff like this?

    • camtarn 7 months ago

      No idea in general. My chargeable rate, which is apparently cheap for the industry, is £45 an hour. My actual pay rate is £18 an hour, and I'm contracted for 3 days of 7.5 hours a week minimum, with anything over that as overtime. But that was a very custom deal and I suspect others in the industry are paid very differently.

jmillikin 7 months ago

Another ex-Googler. I worked there as an SRE for six years, then left due to lack of career advancement opportunities[0]. Currently I work at Stripe, which is less capable on some narrow technical metrics but a far more pleasant environment.

Stripe is hiring. We list open positions at Email me at [email protected] if you'd like to hear more about the engineering work here.


Good differences:

* It's about 70x smaller than Google (100x smaller when I joined a year ago). My CEO knows engineers by name, knows generally what we're working on, and occasionally DMs us congratulations on especially interesting blog posts (hello Patrick!). The effects of your work (good and bad) are obvious, and people know who's doing what. I'm not sure if there's a "monkeysphere" equivalent for engineers, but in Infra at least we've not yet reached the limit.

* More transparent. Private companies have fewer restrictions on what business metrics they're allowed to share with non-executive employees, and people here are enthusiastic about sharing both (1) what's going well and (2) what could be done better.

* A general feeling of optimism and cheer that is absent at Google. We don't end up in the news for easily avoided own-goals that employees protested for months before they hit the public.

* The business model (supporting business growth across the globe, and scraping a bit off the top) is directly coupled to the success of our customers. At Google there's always a thought in the back of your mind that the people using the product are in conflict with the people generating revenue. At Stripe we're in partnership with our customers, working against people who are not customers (i.e. fraudsters).

* Much more support for remote work. I live in the Bay Area and am planning to go remote some time in the next six months. I don't think this would have been possible at Google, which is focused on offices and especially focused on "main campus" (Mountain View).


Bad differences:

* We use third-party open-source code more than Google does, and the average quality of open-source code is far lower than internal Google code[1]. I've reported critical crashing bugs upstream and gotten nothing but [tumbleweed noises]. At Google I once reported a bug in the getopt() equivalent, and it was personally fixed by Sanjay.

* Fewer engineers mean non-critical bugs in internal tools sometimes don't get fixed. We just don't have time. I've seen more JS stack traces on .corp pages in the last three months then during my entire Google tenure.

* Hiring engineers away from different companies (instead of entire cohorts fresh out of school) can lead to cultural conflict around dev velocity vs reliability. Obviously as an ex-Googler and an SRE I'm double-biased toward reliability, but folks with other backgrounds feel differently and there can be some difficult conversations there.


Overall I'm very happy with the outcome of leaving Google. I attribute most of this to Stripe itself. It turns out I got lucky, and things could have gone much worse (company full of ex-startup engineers = campfire horror stories all day long).


[0] During my last perf cycle, my manager's manager told me "senior engineers don't implement, they write design docs. Implementation is just code writing". Either he was wrong (and I was now stuck under someone who believed my chosen career was low-skill + not valuable), or correct (and I was in a comapany that believed same). Either way, the situation was clearly undesirable.

[1] External Google code is also lower-quality than internal Google code, which shocked me. I've found memory errors in protobuf (, all sorts of wacky stuff in Bazel, and every day I wonder why go-protobuf doesn't have DynamicMessage yet.

  • 2spicy_thrwaway 7 months ago

    >Fewer engineers mean non-critical bugs in internal tools sometimes don't get fixed. We just don't have time.

    This sounds like everywhere I've ever worked. I didn't even realize that the alternative actually existed!

  • plinkplonk 7 months ago

    great reply, thanks for taking the effort.

    I hope to never work for other people again, but if I did, Stripe would be on top of the list of companies I'd apply to (despite their use of Ruby ;-) ). The CEO seems to have his head screwed on straight, and all employees I interact with seem very competent and pleasant.

    This is a great answer, and I particularly appreciate the "bad differences".

  • mleonhard 7 months ago

    I'm glad to recognize another Xoogler in this thread. I'm [email protected] I worked on MDB and then on MSV Packages. I'm glad that you landed in a good job. Your comment resonates a lot with me.

guitarsteve 7 months ago

Ex-Amazonian here.

Aside: Despite the company's not-so-good reputation in the media and forums, I enjoyed working there. For the most part I had good managers and coworkers. And once you've been there a while, you can transfer to a team with more interesting work, less on-call support, etc.

Anyway, my wife is a doctor, and she had to move for her residency. Amazon wasn't willing to consider remote work, and I'm not sure I'd want to be the one "remote guy" anyway, so I switched jobs to a 100% remote company. We're hiring, in case others would like to make a similar jump. :)

justinlilly 7 months ago

I left Google after 3 years to join a startup in the project management space. It was clear that I could work on a product that made lots of money (ads) or was in front of lots of people (maps), but I couldn't actually make a difference in how the company operated. So I joined as employee #2 of a startup and eventually managed some people.

I now work at Amazon. I understand that I'm working for a company who will pay me very well in exchange for me to show up and write code and not think about engineering any other time without prior allowance (lol opensource). This is a bargain that I feel fine with, now that I've entered into it with eyes open.

Eventually, the money won't be enough to keep me and I'll look around for a medium sized startup that sells thing to people for money and has a sustainable business model (aka not into hypergrowth).

oh-kumudo 7 months ago

Ex Amazonian, left Amazon, now rejoin Amazon.

Joined a startup. Had many rosy fantasies about how life could go for me. It turned out not very honky dory after all. The management could be best categorized as directionless, worst completely chaos. In terms of salary, it is less, if not much so, if your startup fails to take flight. So I quit, and rejoin my previous employer, but in a much different group on different things.

Lessons learnt, your situtation won't change dramatically as you might hope by changing companies. Grass is always greener on the other side, and patience is something you only can only learn to gain it.

Ultimately, I want to work on something that I believe is valuable, and useful. That is what will keep me in my position for longer term.

gt5050 7 months ago

Working on my saas

Worked at Amazon from 2010 - 2012. Left because I wanted to create something of my own. Have failed twice at since then, hopefully will succeed this time.

omgbear 7 months ago

Ex-Googler, worked in ads for ~3 years. Wonderful experience, don't regret any of it, had a great manager and director, definitely focused my opinions on what leadership can and should do (Take responsibility, back you up). I really appreciated the engineering culture and learning experiences.

Left to join a 4-person startup my friends founded, still there going on ~5 years. Definitely enjoy the freedom and faster pace of changes, but the stress of responsibility is much more real.

puglr 7 months ago

Worked at a few startups gobbled up by Google. Second time decided to stick around. I think Google is an overall incredible company to work for. Far from perfect (and getting worse in some important areas of employee happiness), but I'd do it again.

I just need to be my own boss for a while. Working on things that you're not 100% passionate about can really wear one down.

  • tango24 7 months ago

    > (and getting worse in some important areas of employee happiness)

    Would you mind elaborating?

dekhn 7 months ago

After ten years at Google, I returned to my field of interest and work for a drug discovery/machine learning startup.

jedberg 7 months ago

Ex-Netflix. I left right after my first child was born (this was before the 1 year of parental leave was added) and then I started a startup with some friends. Then we exited that startup and I started another one, which I work on now from home, which lets me play with the kids during my breaks.

The flexibility of working for myself at home is the main reason I do this instead of working at an office or cowering space, because it lets me do daytime events with my kids, like 10am gymnastics class and 4:30pm tap class. If it weren't for the kids I'd still be doing the startup, but I might not be doing it from home. I'd probably be digital nomading instead.

I suppose if the startup thing doesn't work out, once the kids are both in school full time during the day I'll probably try to get a job at another FAANG company and build up the savings again for another startup. :)

arcticbull 7 months ago

I worked at Apple straight out of college for a bit less than 2 years. I left because I worked on a small project that I had trouble connecting to the broader mission, and differences with my manager. Big company experiences will always be heavily situational. You end up on a good team, you’re having a rewarding (personally and professionally) experience. Bad team/manager/whatever, you have a bad time. FAANGS are no different.

I joined a startup after, stayed for many years, they went public, I took some time off, worked at some other startups, and now I’m back at a FAANG. This time, though, I know what to do - and what I want out of working here - so I’m looking forward to a wholly different experience.

I’ll likely throw my hat back into the startup ring in a few years but who knows?

I will say this, I look back fondly on my time at Apple.

mleonhard 7 months ago

I was [email protected] for 2.5 years, [email protected] (failed startup), and then [email protected] for 5 years. Now I'm bootstrapping a dating app business. I'm doing this because:

1) I want to do work that aligns with my passions: technology, making the World a better place, being respected, making money, and feeling peaceful.

2) I'm burned out and this way I can give myself time to rest and recover. Some days I don't work at all.

3) I spent 15 months using the dating apps heavily. They all provide poor experience for people looking for serious relationships. I have a lot of ideas for making the experience better and I want to test them.

If you want to try the app and have influence over its design, send me an email (see my profile) and I'll invite you to the alpha test.

hemantv 7 months ago

Ex Amazon Ex Microsoft here.

Moved to bay area, bought a cheap house in Hayward CA, paid off my mortgage early.

Started my own company Goodly ( I am learning a lot on daily basis and enjoying it throughly. Even though I work crazy hours it doesn't feel like work at all.

  • ultrasounder 7 months ago

    Looks pretty interesting. I work in Hayward too. Let me know if you would like to get away from your computer to stretch your legs and meet for coffee sometime. I work right next to a starbucks!

romed 7 months ago

Retired after 8 years as a Staff SWE at Google. Do I really need a why for retired?

  • sjg007 7 months ago

    Sure! You could've kept working! Why did you retire?

    • drewg123 7 months ago

      I'm guessing "because he could". 8 years of L6 at Google should set you up for life if you move to a moderate cost area of the country.

      • romed 7 months ago

        Exactly. Now some other slob with a job has to pay to feed my family just because I can afford to buy a house and he can’t. The American way. The only practical problem with this scheme is the cost of private medical insurance is astronomical for someone who retires before Medicare age. So I might get some kind of token job just to get group health plan.

        • throwaway5250 7 months ago

          Don't understand first sentence. Are you saying you bought a house and rent it out?

          • drewg123 7 months ago

            I think that must be what he is saying. The rent on a house in Palo Alto, MTV, etc, adds up to $60K-$100K/year, which is more than the US median household income.

          • sjg007 7 months ago

            That's my take on it.

      • tinktank 7 months ago

        What's the net worth of an L6 for 8 years at Google?

        • exhaze 7 months ago

          Other estimates in the thread (and Glassdoor) for annual TC are way off. L6 at G is a big range - 350-700k. Hard to say how much the guy made, because it depends on how much stock he kept vs. sold throughout the years, so I'll do a range. Let's assume he worked from 2010-2018:

          Average TC: $450k - $850k

          Post-tax: $270k - $470k

          Annual expenses: $60k - $120k

          Savings: $1.2m - $3.3m

          Obviously this is a gross simplification, since it ignores other investments and makes pretty broad assumptions about their expenses, but it should give you the broad strokes.

        • oblio 7 months ago

          Since from what I hear a fresh grad in the Bay Area gets $100k+ just in cash, we could extrapolate. I'm guessing that's at least $150k (probably more like $200k+ in today's market) in total compensation for year. Add about $20k+ in cash and probably the close to the same in Google shares per level, that would make it easily $400k per year. So he would have gotten $3.2 million, I can't imagine his expenses being higher than half of that, so he should be worth $1.6 million after 8 years. Probably more.

          I'm curious how off my estimations are :)

          • mywittyname 7 months ago

            Also, if he was in Mountain View, it's likely that he owned a home and that contributed a bit.

            The tech sector stock growth has been amazing/unprecedented over that time period. His first few years of stock grants have tripled or more in value.

            I'm betting it's something like $2.6mm. $1.5mm in saved income, $0.8 in stock appreciation on savings, and $0.3 in housing/misc.

          • rpcastagna 7 months ago

            You're so low it's actually kind of uncomfortable.

            • oblio 7 months ago

              thausamiote thinks I’m at the other end of the spectrum because I forgot taxes :o)

          • thaumasiotes 7 months ago

            ...are you assuming a 0% tax rate?

        • jjasghar 7 months ago
          • romed 7 months ago

            I'm pretty sure glassdoor is a conspiracy by FAANG executives to confuse their employees. If you believe these numbers you will not be able to get what you deserve when negotiating comp at these companies.

            • Zaheer 7 months ago

              I helped make - a lot of folks reference our site as being the most accurate for FANG compensation. I would also check PayScale, Paysa, Blind, etc

              • romed 7 months ago

                Very nice. Your numbers are consistent with my experience, and the presentation is very useful.

          • madeuptempacct 7 months ago

            I have never had Glassdoor give a useful estimate of any job I had, including those at major companies.

  • thrwthrwthrwy 7 months ago

    What advice do you have for junior developers trying to make it? Is there a niched area you specialized in or were you a generalist?

    • romed 7 months ago

      How about: don't believe in yourself because luck is everything? I walked into Google with 15 years of industry experience. I lucked out being in the early days of the web, lucked out in the dot-com boom, lucked out with a referral to Google, lucked out with real estate appreciation.

      • mtnGoat 7 months ago

        got to appreciate the honesty! i've seen some peers whom i felt really sucked at tech rise through what appeared to be luck alone.

      • thrwthrwthrwy 7 months ago

        That is quite amazing. Thanks for the response!

akhilcacharya 7 months ago

It’s strange that there’s nobody from Amazon here, just people from G

  • kevstev 7 months ago

    I am in NYC, and hiring for a place that pays very well, possibly above FAANG salaries. I see a lot of resumes. A lot of those resumes are from Google, but very very few are from Facebook, and I find that to be a very curious thing. FBs office is not quite as large as Google's in NYC, but they have been around awhile and we are hiring out of both coasts and offer relocation.

    I am not sure if it is a quirk of our recruiting pipeline, but this seems to be an indicator that FB is a potentially better place to work.

    • stuxnet79 7 months ago

      That's very interesting. I had a chance to possibly work at the NYC Facebook office which I didn't capitalize on, after reading this I'm having intense FOMO.

      Are you in Big Tech or Finance?

      • kevstev 7 months ago

        In a general sense, both. I am working in finance at a hedge fund now, but for a more or less pure tech group. My previous job was for a large e-commerce player, but before that I spent about a decade doing various forms of algo trading and HFT.

        • thrwthrwthrwy 7 months ago

          What skills do you need to work as a software developer in algo trading and HFT? What sort of job titles should you be searching for? Most jobs in this space seem to want Statistics or Applied Math related majors. I want to look for software development jobs in HFT.

          • kevstev 7 months ago

            Generally low level C++ will do it. I have been out of the game for about 5 years now, but when I left the game was all about speed speed speed. We weren't trading smarter anymore, it was just about trading fast. If you are faster, you don't just put an order out there with an opinion that the market will move in your favor, you get an immediate risk free return (risk free assuming operationally everything works as expected). I also worked on the "benchmark strategy" side- VWAP/TWAP type algos, when they were very new, and there was some statistics involved but the math was fairly simple. I haven't kept up with that side of the space, I am sure they have added complexity, but fundamentally you are looking at how a particular security has traded in the past- IE how much volume does it tend to trade at 10am vs 10:30 vs 11am, compare that with market statistics for the current day- is it high or low volume, is volatility higher- and apply some heuristics about what % of a parent order to put in the market at any given time.

            This is a bit separate from the actual execution in the market, which is called smart order routing, and that just focuses on speed.

            The best book on this still seems to be the now almost 10 year old "Algorithmic Trading and DMA" by Barry Johnson. If you want to get a feel for the strategies involved, this is your best bet:

            As for job titles, they tend to be generic like "infrastructure developer, strategist" but look for key words like "Smart Order Router, Algorithmic Trading, Index Arb (itrage), statistical arbitrage, market making, dark pool. I put two of those in Morgan Stanley's site and got a bunch of relevant hits. Posting numbers 3119617 3120636 are actual jobs in this space.

            A better bet is to just look at job openings for the companies who specialize in this stuff- Virtu, Jump, Hudson River Trading, Citadel Securities, etc...

    • dunpeal 7 months ago

      Can't it be explained simply by relative sizes?

      Most estimates I've heard are that Google has over x10 times the number of software engineers than Facebook.

      • kevstev 7 months ago

        Looking at 10ks filed with the SEC for both from the end of 2017, FB reports 25k employees vs Google's 80k.

        There is no breakdown on how many of those are engineers, but I would assume that the ratios are similar.

        I was interested in looking, because that would be somewhat in line with the ratios I see in terms of resumes, though I don't have real numbers, it feels more like 15:1. I see resumes from google every week, FB... its so rare I can't even give you a consistent interval, once every few months?

        • Itaxpica 7 months ago

          Facebook's NY office is also significantly, disproportionally smaller than Google's. Google's NY office is the largest outside of California and is in many ways a second heart of the company, it really doesn't feel like a remote office. Facebook's NY office is extremely small even considering that Facebook is a smaller company than Google (their largest office outside of California is, IIRC, Seattle).

          • kevstev 7 months ago

            In theory we have just as good a recruiting presence on the west coast, and we have an office out there to be based out of as well (I am all for completely remote, but have yet to get upper mgmt comfortable). In practice, I doubt this is true, and also working for a hedge fund probably has a lot less draw and prestige associated with it out west.

            This may account for it but I still find the discrepancy to be unusual.

        • dunpeal 7 months ago

          In addition to what Itaxpica said (which is very true), I believe I read somewhere that FB does have a lot of non-engineer employees. Can't provide a credible source or even a reason for why that is so.

    • partisan 7 months ago

      What tech stack or skill set are you hiring for? I would be interested, though not ex-FAANG.

  • hazelnut 7 months ago

    I was thinking the same thing but missing Apple

tankdoan 7 months ago

Ex Netflix.

Joined a promising startup with 1 - Great mission 2 - Impressive engineering culture 3 - Super boring name: Farmers Business Network

FBN is the only reason I haven't moved away from the Bay Area.

We're hiring too, if anybody wants to shoot me an email I'll forward it along. [email protected]

  • stillworks 7 months ago

    Can you expand on 2) please if possible ? How it is different from Netflix ?

    • tankdoan 7 months ago

      Sure thing. I was blown away with the intelligence, experience, and humility of the people on the engineering team when interviewing. I went into the process thinking "this could be cool, I like the mission" and left the process with "These people are really sharp and down to earth, I hope this happens." Since we're a small team here (<10) I get to learn something from them every day.

      I don't want to make it sound like I'm bashing my old team, because they very good at the layer they work on. The depth of knowledge across the stack is probably deeper at FBN. For example:

      I was having an issue with Hibernate not doing what I wanted it to do. A knowledgable former team member showed me the bug ticket that had been open for some years and how to work around it.

      At FBN, my first project involved multiple systems + the front end, a I was annoyed by a networking issue. I raised it, was showed a workaround by using socat, and the root cause was fixed a couple days later. I had no idea socat even existed.

  • pdimitar 7 months ago

    What tech are you guys working with? What's your stance on remote?

    • tankdoan 7 months ago

      Python, React, R, and we're actively killing off PHP. Infrastructure is AWS and Docker. Unfortunately, the company is not pro-remote :(

Twirrim 7 months ago

Ex-AWS. I joined when the service I was on was under a year old. It was a good team to be on inside AWS, in general.

That said:

1) I ultimately felt powerless to make changes. Hiring people in to the service was (at the time) proving to be a massive uphill struggle. It just wasn't one of the "sexy" services to be working on, and the ops team didn't have a dedicated manager who could focus on that. It left about 90% of my work consisting of two things. Compliance work, and region builds. Even outside of that, a lot of the things that slowed us down were things like established tooling that had seen _zero_ proper business funding until later in my time there (I some are drastically improved), and this absolutely absurd obsession with re-inventing the wheel in every single team to do exactly the same things, even when the task required months of engineering time (I shudder at the thought of how much money got wasted paying engineers to re-do the same work, and re-discover the same bugs and problems.) I ultimately had no power to drive things forwards.

2) One manager left, and the replacement had absolutely no interest in the operational aspects of the platform. They seemingly only felt empowered to say "yes" to managers above them. Even if that meant their team was working 80 hour weeks. (the manager has since left and things have improved, so I'm told). One of the things that got to be absolutely insane was the amount of effort involved in launching a region. It needed dedicated developer time, and that particular manager just didn't give a damn. That manager's attitude and refusal to work on operational concerns were a big source of my frustration in the team. Looking around AWS, all I could see were other teams that were in a worse operational position, suffering serious levels of burn out, and I just decided I wanted nothing more to do with it.

Here's a big tip: If you make operations a priority, you can land features far faster. You don't keep tying up staff doing manual stuff or fighting fires.

I left AWS and joined Oracle to work on the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, for a number of reasons. Not least of which was that a former manager from the service I worked for in AWS is running the Compute platform. I knew him, knew what he was like, and trusted him when he said one of the most important things to him was keeping operational burden of the platform down. I'd learned to trust his judgement in AWS, and it's something he's continued to deliver on here.

I'll be honest, this is one of the most enjoyable jobs I've ever had. Better pay, better benefits than AWS, great co-workers, senior directors with their priorities straight. Managers that politely but firmly insist you take time off if you ever have to do extra hours (and follow through with you if you don't.)

pyb 7 months ago

At the moment, what are some notable startups founded by ex Googlers ?

  • bsimpson 7 months ago

    Off the top of my head:

    - Pete Koomen left AppEngine to start Optimizely.

    - Kevin Gibbs left AppEngine to start Quip.

    - Dave Byttow left Plus to do Secret, and just became eng director at Snap.

    - Bret Taylor was on Maps before he started Friendfeed with Paul Buchheit (Gmail), becoming Facebook's CTO and now Salesforce's CPO.

draw_down 7 months ago

A lot of the answers are a bit underwhelming. Which is fine. But it makes me think, sure working in a bigco is lackluster, but so are many of the other options, and you might as well get paid for your trouble. “Being the one in charge” seems cold comfort to me if the thing you’re in charge of isn’t all that great itself.

Working in a big company allows you to disconnect a bit, focus on getting done what you need to accomplish that day, and then going on about the rest of your life. And then eventually you can just stop altogether. It seems just fine so long as you don’t get caught up in the internal rat race, and don’t get too wrapped up in the ideas they try to sell you about being part of a community and all that stuff. Just do your piece, every day.

Also, it's darkly ironic that one of the best-case scenarios after leaving is that your new venture gets picked up by... a large company.

  • dhnsmakala 7 months ago

    That's a good attitude to have, 'just do your piece, every day.'

    It makes sense, and after a few years you have much more freedom bc of the savings.

    I'm a recent grad though, and I find my work very boring and tedious. I'm given tasks to do that may not even be useful. The lack of ownership + feeling like a cog makes it hard for me to do good work. I have been rational my whole life, but it is difficult to remain this way. Any advice? How did you like your first job?

  • quickthrower2 7 months ago

    There is a sister dead comment saying 'selection bias' but in some ways this is the opposite. We have a sample of ex FAANG developers who went on and did quite ordinary things, they didn't become Elon Musk, or start an AirBnb. Which is fine.

madeuptempacct 7 months ago

So, this usually gets negged, but I am very curious about the salaries which people are walking away from and whether they can match them elsewhere.

bernardrubble 7 months ago

Was at Amazon. At Microsoft now.

Tired of it but I can't get another job. Feel like I've pretty well tanked my career. Pretty unhappy about it.

scubaguy 7 months ago

Participating in selection bias!

  • quickthrower2 7 months ago

    Hi looks like you've been shadow banned as this comment was dead, and your previous comments look OK (nothing spammy) so not sure what happened there but thought I would let you know.