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Salaries

rhymes profile image rhymes ・7 min read

This is post is super long but there are pictures (of words).

I made a summary this time:

Where I got the idea to write this post

It all started from an article, titled My (somewhat) complete salary history as a software engineer in which the author, Nicholas C. Zakas, decides to publish his salary history. Reasons are the following:

women make less than men for the same job. That’s something that shouldn’t be happening in today’s world and it’s up to us (read: men) to step up and make things right. This is my attempt to do just that.

In the post he also talks about one of the reasons I think most people are uncomfortable about sharing their current salary or their salary history with the public: if future employers know how much you make, they might try to offer you less than they can.

Other reasons, I think, why people don't share their salaries are fear of judgement, guilt, not wanting to deal with comparisons with colleagues, culture and upbringing.

The value of a salary is also subject to local cost of living, quality of life, seniority, different taxations, different type of company, performance, possible stock options and other things that can wildly vary between company and company. So saying "I make this much" is probably not enough information for an accurate comparison.

The author, who is on a hiatus from the profession because of health issues, at some point says something super super true that made me smile:

Plus, as a white man, I know I’m going to be able to negotiate for my salary without backlash when I do start working again.

This other quote instead reminded me of Buffer and their notorious transparency around salaries:

The bottom line is that nothing gets better unless people are willing to share information.

Buffer even has employees salaries in a public Google doc.

The author is the creator of ESLint by the way :-) He also wrote or co-authored a lot of books.

A tale of a salary history

In a table Zakas lists years of experience, companies, title and starting salary (including bonuses, stock options and other things):

He goes from 48K 18 years ago (which are 70K if adjusted for inflation) to 208K at his last job.

As we hinted at earlier the raw numbers aren't enough to get the full picture, so he goes on enumerating details about each job.

Some of those details:

  • his first job was through a connection (70K in 2018 dollars)
  • his second job was through a manager at his first job that went to another company and asked him to join (96K in 2018 dollars)
  • third job he got because of CV alone (105K in 2018 dollars)
  • fourth job saw him move from Massachusetts to California (143K in 2018 dollars), first time he negotiated for a higher salary and was rejected. He got the job because he had written books about JS at the time and was invited to apply (at Yahoo)
  • fifth job had a starting salary at 189K in 2018 dollars + 25K of signing bonus and in the meantime he had started a consulting business. He got the job because of his business as a speaker. He ended is career there at 220K (at Box)

There are more details about how the jobs were like that you should probably read.

Leaving his final notes here:

I have two hopes from sharing this information. First, I hope that having this information will make it easier for women to understand how much they should be paid for similar work and just how their pay should be increasing throughout their career. Second, I hope that other men who are in a similarly independent position will also share their compensation history to benefit others.

What happened on Hacker News

The post made its way on HN and it sparked a super long conversation with a lot people sharing (more or less) anonymously their own salaries or salary histories. You can find people who think they are underpaid, some who think they are fairly paid, some talking about the cost of health insurance and people mentioning how transformative was to become a remote worker.

I've screenshotted some comments from HN here that I find interesting or useful for our purposes (I tried unsuccesfully to avoid the humblebrags and the flame wars):

Security architect in the US with lots of experience

This person went from a big city to a small one working remote. I should make another post about how I think that remote working in software development is going to be the future: companies can tap into international talent without the limitations of visas, people can work and live wherever they want and contribute to the local economy, they can say goodbye to commuting and so on. Yes there are disadvantages but I feel like most companies say no out of principle or because they've never even thought about it.

Everytime I see a company interviewed by the media complaining that "we have a bazillion open positions and nobody wants to work for us" I then check the careers page and usually find zero remote jobs, especially if such companies are based in areas away from tech hubs.

Software dev in Estonia with a few years of experience

Not sure why the title became senior after two years, a testament of how titles can be meaningless :D In their defense they added that the total is 7 years of experience (some not mentioned there as a freelance) and that the title was assigned by the employer.

Another person at some point even says:

I got promoted to "senior" developer less than 6 months out of university because my employer wanted to inflate the credibility of his consulting business.

Anyway, the numbers in this example are closer to my experience in Italy and France.

How different is the Indian market from the west for a principal engineer

(keep in mind that inflation and India's GDP growth are to be taken into account when reading these numbers)

It seems that in India is pretty common to ask for previous salary (which seems less and less common in the west), which can complicate an upward salary trajectory.

Technical trainee in the Netherlands and the perks of living in Europe

Germany, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden etc... We all basically opt for more time off than more pay.
And this is possible in part due to the high taxes; we have no medical bills, no education bills, pension is taken care of, etc.

So yes, you might earn less than in SF but there are other advantages.

The topic of the amount of work also came up. Europeans tend to work less than the American counterparts (I don't know the data about "productivity") and enjoy usually more vacation time (four or five weeks is common).

SRE in Toronto

Tech lead in consulting business in Italy

This person lives in northern Italy outside Milan (the biggest tech hub in the country). His salary is low but it's not totally unheard of. A salary of 100K is usually a manager's salary. Also, Italian companies are not famous for allowing techies their own career track outside of "well, now you have a lot of experience, why don't you switch to management?".

Median salary in Italy is 30000€, that's why I think the person in the post is a little underpaid having 10 years of experience.

Project manager in large Italian company

Totally not surprised by these numbers, as I mentioned before.

Security engineer at AWS with 15 years of experience

From eastern to western Europe

From Spain to Germany

Some perspective

I LOLed at this

Funny enough being a European citizen working in California seems like the best of both worlds. You'd get very high pay but still have a fallback in the event of illness, injury, unemployment, etc.

Not the first time that I hear about a European coming back to be treated for some illness.

Quality of life over pay and 100K in SF is not a super salary.

My comments

There's much, much more in the HN threads, I didn't read them all. People from all over the world have posted their salary histories. Some full time employees, some consultants, others are freelancers. Most people used throwaways accounts for the reason we listed at the beginning.

It's notable how many mentioned that they got raises only by switching jobs, which has been my experience too so far.

Salaries without cost of living and taxation are just a number.

Conclusions

There are none I want to add, I hope it gives people on dev.to some helpful info, which is the whole point of the initial article.

Posted on Mar 16 '18 by:

rhymes profile

rhymes

@rhymes

Software developer @ DEV

Discussion

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Nice to see that I am basically on 2012 Junior dev level in Romania :D Yeah, Eastern Europe rocks.

 

Btw for the same amount of work as my Western mates & prices are more or less same as in the US.

 
 

Sorry, I'm not sure I understood what you're saying.

I was saying that I'm making like 6k Euro / year for the same amount of work like my western colleagues, which is pretty funny (and prices for the basic commodities in my country are more or less the same as in the US).

What's the median wage in your country?

9000 Euro / year for the last year. But you know that is median, it does not represents average wage for most people in real life.

I know, it sucks, but at least I am motivated to work hard to make my salary better :)

 

Well... I live in Venezuela. I'm a senior developer, I make 16$/month, here the minimum wage is 5$/month. This economics hell forced me to have another job, nights and weekends. I have 3 jobs and isn't enough to buy our monthly food.

 

Hi Gregor, I'm sorry for what you're going through. That's clearly not enough, especially due to the insane inflation the country has been having. Is there any chance that things will start improving?

I don't know enough about what's happening down there honestly.

 

It is difficult, we barely managed and we got used to forgetting about our quality of life. Many people have migrated but we do not give up. There are small opportunities, and I like to have a level of difficulty to improve my skills. Here you can survive with $400 - $500.

oh you can find updated information in english in this web caracaschronicles.com/
I know there are articles in other newspapers, like the washingtonpost newyorktimes and others.

It is difficult, we barely managed and we got used to forgetting about our quality of life. Many people have migrated but we do not give up. There are small opportunities, and I like to have a level of difficulty to improve my skills. Here you can survive with $400 - $500.

I'm sure you thought about it but what about trying to find a remote job? This way you can maybe improve your quality of life a bit and still staying in Venezuela in the meantime. It's not going to be easy to find one, but maybe it's worth it to give it a try. If I'm not mistaken you're also more or less on the same timezone as eastern US, so maybe you can find a remote company based there with which you can collaborate with on the same office time.

Good luck Gregor!

Yes, that exactly. My other 2 jobs are remote. In fact it has become very popular to hire outsourcing from Venezuela. They usually pay from 100 to 200, cheap labor depending on the technology. For now I take my vacation to study more, next year I will change to a better job.

Thank you for worry. There is always a solution

Great attitude Gregor, good luck!

 

Take the Spain table with a pinch of salt.

I'm in Barcelona (born here so...) and I'm making 50k and I'm not the highest paid devel here nor I the highest paid devel amongst my friends. That guy probably worked for a IT consultant firm working on a contract with the government.

Another thing that baffles me is the problems with women and minorities on the states. In here my boss is a woman developer that makes more than me and I have also worked with plenty of women in tech and some had the highest salaries in the company because they were crazy good at their jobs. Same with minorities. Seriously America, get your shit together.

 

Its always crazy in my mind reading other's salary information. I've been stuck making less than 10k-usd/yr while living in the Seattle area simply due to the fact that nobody has been willing to hire me.

 

Hi Vincent, it's quite strange that with the experience you have you can't find a better paid job.

Have you gotten any feedbacks from these interviews you conducted? Do you have any idea about the "why"?

Are you applying for remote jobs as well?

Have you thought about moving?

I'm not American and I don't know very well which tech companies are in your area (apart from Microsoft and Amazon I guess).

 

I wrote up a small overview of this the other day, actually. TLDR the hiring practices in tech in this country as a whole are entirely flawed, despite the constant outcry against them.

twitter.com/DarkainMX/status/10729...

Yeah, I think you should start avoiding companies with those hiring practices at a whole.

I would focus on companies that value experience over whiteboard interviews.

Checkout remoteok.io/ - weworkremotely.com/ - creativemornings.com/jobs and especially @lynnetye 's keyvalues.com/

Good luck!

 

Wow, totally missed this since I don't check HN a lot -- thanks for posting. Fascinating. I would love to see numbers across racial and gender lines, I think that would be even more interesting.

 

I don't either, the HN thread was linked at the end of the post :D