Why I Left 3 Consecutive Jobs

Sloan on January 23, 2018

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In some countries, salaries are public information. Not sure what prevents that from being the norm here.

One of the things I've learned the hard way is the value of work-life balance.

A friend of mine works at a company that is known in the industry as a grueling 80+ hour a week company. Lots of stories about people burning out there. I won't mention the company, because it isn't relevant.

My friend takes the bus to work, and puts in an 8 hour day. Works 5 days a week. A 40 hour week.

So I asked him, "Don't they ask you to work 80+ hours a week?"

He said, "Nope. You can if you want. I don't want to do that. I do a solid 40 a week, and I'm done, and go home. There's more to life than work. No one has asked me to work more than a full work week."

Hmmm. So those people that are putting in the long hours there and burning out... self-inflicted. Maybe competitiveness and peer pressure are big factors, too. But still, ultimately, self-inflicted.

I've had bosses where I was putting in 60+ hour weeks. That set the bar, and became the expectation. Was that extra effort appreciated? Rewarded? Nope and nope.

The lesson I learned is I was allowing myself to be taken advantage of. And I wasn't even asked to put in that extra effort, I had done it to myself, voluntarily. Self-inflicted. I don't blame anyone but myself.

What about deadlines? About all the work that has to get done? I've discovered that I'm a software developer... I'm not the project manager. It's the PM's job to worry about deadlines. It's my job to work on what needs to work on, as prioritized by the PM.

If the PM wants to know how long it will take me to get something done, I'll give my best estimate. I don't pad it long, nor try to be overly optimistic. But it is just that: an estimate, not a commitment.

But if the PM just pulls the numbers out of thin air and scribbles those imaginary numbers on the Gantt chart... well, garbage in, garbage out. Gantt charts are just a planning tool, not gospel.

 

Great write up. I have never lasted more than a year and a half at any place so the fact that you lasted 2 years is pretty amazing. Early on I found out that only guaranteed way to get a raise was to learn as much as possible and then find another job. The faster I did this the higher my salary got.

You mentioned this but in California employers are not allowed to ask for salary history but you can ask for salary range and they have to tell you. So if you're a programmer then California is a pretty good place to be because there is always a shortage of programmers and programmers have a pretty good bargaining position.

 

Thank you to person sharing their experiences. As a newer woman in tech, I feel so completely lost when navigating the corporate world. Posts like this help me get an idea of what I should expect and how important it is for me to be assertive about my value and place in the industry.

 
 

It's definitely not same for guys. Yes, it's hard for all, but it's still at least somewhat harder for women.

 

Thank you so much for sharing this. I didn't negotiate at my first job because I, too, was taken aback by the amount (it was way more than I'd ever made before going into tech). It took me about a year to discover that I was making less than my peers. I was lucky enough to have managers who supported and advocated for me to actually rectify the situation, but I see the opposite is true more often than not. Thank you for your story, and especially for this great advice! I second putting your salary info on Glassdoor and doing the right thing.

 

I would add a few points to "What men/women could do", since I don't think this is gender only problem. I saw a lot of people being worried about outcome of salary negotiation, it depends on nature of person. Unfortunately people you usually negotiate with are trained for these situations. So basically, you just need to prepare as well.

If you are already employed and looking for raise be prepared to leave. Contact few recruiters, maybe go on few selected interviews, see what the market can offer. Once you see that you cannot achieve the salary you want in current job then leave. I know it's not always about money, but you can always persuade some of your colleagues to go with you ;)

If your not working for a under-budgeted startup having a solid salary raise shouldn't be a problem. If you get arguments like "we cannot afford to give you this kind of money" it usually means "we can, but I was told not to". You shouldn't be personal when it come to this, it's not your bosses money, but money of the company.

 

Just to add a couple thoughts to this…

The salary thing is more about marketing yourself and your worth to the company and less about the day to day tasks you perform during your job.

For instance, you mention that it was two years without a review. That’s a huge red flag because every company should be giving you constant feedback on how you’re contributing to their success.

In general, if you keep your head down, complete your tasks on time, do extra work on the weekends, have your co-workers send you emails of appreciation and praise then that will get you the bare minimum of raises. And after your review it’s pretty much too late to get an adjustment because a lot of budgets are approved and set at that point and a manager isn’t necessarily going to go to bat for you after they have submitted all their numbers – because that would be admitting they got your review wrong.

Instead, you have to be constantly marketing yourself and the business value you are bringing to the company to show what an excellent investment you are.

As an example, you might say something like, “I completed all my tasks for Project Unicorn on time and helped some of the other developers with their assigned tasks. We also came up with some great ideas for future enhancements.” And that would be a true statement, but there’s no motivation from the company to necessarily reward that behavior because isn’t that what they are paying you for to begin with?

Now instead, if you said, “Working on Project Unicorn, I delivered on time allowing the company to implement a $750K project and realize over $2MM is profits for the fiscal year. In addition, I mentored several team members to increase the overall expertise of the project team. During the course of the project we worked collaboratively with the rest of the team and were able to propose several additional features that are projected to make the company over $1MM in the next two years.”

Now your manager can attach a dollar amount to your contribution. When they go to bat for handing out those raises and bonuses they have some real and concrete values for justifying a 10% raise or a 20% bonus. They can’t afford not to keep you happy because you contribute to their success in a tangible way.

In many ways, salaries are not about equal pay for equal tasks or expertise, let’s face it in technology it’s such a rapidly changing world we’re all constantly learning new things – it’s about the impact you make to the company’s bottom line.
Or, to put it another way, which employee would be more valuable to the company’s bottom line?

Employee A: Super experienced with all sorts of technology, spends a year learning amazing technology (say, blockchains for instance), writing code and completing all their assigned work but none of it ever makes it into production.

Employee B: Junior coder who is often late with assigned tasks and on average only writes 10 lines of code a week in QBASIC, but that code is implemented into production.

I know it’s hard sometimes, but you need to be constantly marketing yourself to your manager. No good manager likes writing mediocre reviews. Give them the ammo they need to stuff your review full of specific concrete examples of how you’ve contributed directly to the company’s success. Make it easy for them by forwarding those congratulatory emails to them throughout the year so they can include them in the review, not printing them out after the review to prove how wrong they were about your performance. Discuss your job performance with them every week and connect the dots on how your specific actions are contributing to the company’s success. Write it up in a weekly or monthly email to them that they can go back and easily reference as it comes time for them to write your review. Basically, write your own review throughout the year (and send it to your boss) so when it comes time for them to write everything up, they can just go and copy and paste your review from all the performance update emails you’ve sent them throughout the year.

 

Thanks for having the courage to write about this. It's very important.

I wish, I know it's an utopian thought, that salary were public knowledge everywhere.

I also wish more companies were like Buffer with their "transparent salary" strategy: open.buffer.com/transparent-salaries/

 

Another industry that has a public and transparent salary is... the United States military.

 

Isn't that because it's a government job? Even the Senators salaries are public I guess

 

That's tough but thank you for sharing.

There's a lot of work to bring about equality in tech but I feel more awareness of this kind of thing is a positive move forward.

I have this conversation with my wife quite often. I feel companies only reward those that bring business to a company. Sales, Marketing - these are the departments that deliver cold hard cash to a business whereas Support, Customer Service and Development are required but (in general) don't raise the company's bottom line.

 

I've got about 20 years experience from jobs and positions as described here as well as hiring and having a say in salaries etc.

I'll just make a couple of observations that may or may not apply but I think are important:

1) People with the same responsibilities can have wildly different values and wildly different net impacts
2) People can think they're doing a great job and be doing a TERRRRIBLE job, some can think they are skating on thin ice whilst performing INCREDIBLY. It constantly surprises me the number of incompetent people that are shocked when they're fired for poor performance. Sometimes it is managements' fault for lack of metrics but I've seen truly low performers have the ego Einstein would deserve

With that in mind I think it is much better to remove the gendered part of this discussion as it doesn't add any value. People that have lower ability to judge their own performance and further stand up for what they're worth come in all flavors, shapes, sizes, whatever.

Public salaries are probably a great resource for jobs where the same title exactly describes the requirements otherwise they also need to involve hours worked, output and other important metrics. I've seen developers with the same title put in wildly different hours however the developer putting in extra hours might have a lower net output or net impact. Many people work extra hours to make up for their lack of ability for instance.

This, especially in knowledge based work, isn't as simple as equal pay for equal title. Furthermore if you have a team of developers working on highly technical and difficult work paving the way for developers doing less intense or difficult work how would that break down? This is common practice that in an organisation different skills have different values. I could absolutely see something like all seniors in Team A get $x, all seniors in Team B get $y and so on being perhaps possible.

In the grand scheme of things, especially in jobs where output is difficult to measure and value, I think equal pay for equal work is difficult to achieve by management. I would not want it at my workplace as we do not have the ability to measure it. I am not as a valuable as my colleagues which is not to say I am more or less valuable - just that it is different. To me it is the same problem as tipping in a kitchen. You either realise that we all as a team contribute to output and feel okay about all of us agreeing to this new scheme - or we do not. Having it pushed top down is just another move that is as much collective punishment as reward.

As a team in a previous job we at drinks would play a game where we'd start at $x and as we announced $x+10k, $x+20k we would drop our hands as the figure passed our salary. It gave everybody on the team an idea of where they sat and other than a few instances people were happy with their position - essentially their value on the team.

I'm sad to say but I think this post is probably by someone that either hasn't thought about the problem enough, had enough experience, or just is a overly annoyed to see the issues with what they're suggesting. I really hope people don't think this is a good solution to a problem that in a lot of ways doesn't exist. If it is a problem I would urge you to raise it inside your team and find ways to come up with bottom-up solutions to the issue. Essentially you're building a mini union and collective bargaining is almost always better than the alternative.

 

Yep, pretty much. The better the measurements the better the “equality”.

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