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Random Developer and Engineering tech and tech adjacent industryThoughts

Discussion in 'Streetwear and Denim' started by am55, Feb 9, 2019.

  1. am55

    am55 Distinguished Member

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    Spoilering as it's getting off topic..
    Yes USD, it's tough to say more without making it clear which team, and by extension which handful of people may be concerned.

    Let's say the chap was enabling traders to express their ideas succinctly, declaratively and reliably. This goes quite beyond hooking up data sources to Excel, and involves a lot of abstraction and domain knowledge. However the highest paid people I've met generally worked in places where experience is both necessary and hard to find, e.g. running DevOps or databases for the biggest sites in the world (blog posts won't teach you scale or even just the accompanying complexity).

    Decent, at-scale Postgres DBAs, for example, are virtually invisible, even through personal networks, so that's a skill worth picking up - but then again where will you pick it up? How many companies have a 10TB Postgres DB in production with tens of thousands of normalised tables? (Redshift/key-value setups don't count) The last time we had a client like that, finding their real DBA took us getting through 4 layers of obfuscation, the chap being so precious to the business (and busy) he was very, very carefully protected...
     

  2. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    Sorry, but this is stupid advice. I know that because I've not only gotten it, I've given it. It's theoretically what you should do, but then again, so is mitigating global climate change by raising gas taxes so high that most people couldn't afford to drive. You aren't going to get very far before your head is on a spike on the wall. The realities on the ground are much different.

    Many if not most online publishers are firing people or closing doors. There's simply no money for the level of salaries that you are talking about. You can't squeeze blood from a rock.

    On the startup side, I've worked with a fair number of small to midsized start ups, and $200-400K compensation are non-starters. Even with a decent Series B, you are going to lower your runway to about 2 years from 4-5 years, which makes it nearly impossible to be successful. You have to get everything right on the first go, which nearly never happens, and give yourself no time to adjust. And that makes you, no matter how good your devs are and how clean their code is, a dead fish. The numbers I've seen are between $150-$200K for the head devs, and closer to $125-150K for mid-level to senior devs, with limited equity for both. And that is if the startup is well funded.

    If you are in banking, it's a whole different story, because it's all funny money, and there is a lot of it.

    Honestly, I would have happy with some average devs who do serviceable work and don't disappear.
     

  3. am55

    am55 Distinguished Member

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    But startups are a whole different game. Almost all the upside in the startup is in the stock, not cash. The senior dev you'd get to build and lead your team would be getting double digit percent equity, and accept a fraction of total comp as cash (unless and until you had/have a large round). We're talking about mature companies with no stock upside for the devs - like SF.
     

  4. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    I'm not sure what other people think, but considering that the median household income for a household of four in the US is somewhere around $58K, and that the average single person's income is around $38K, it's pretty high, and to most people, it borders on crazy money. I think a lot of people in those industries just don't see a lot of people outside of the major financial centers, and get a very skewed idea of the world around them.
     

  5. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    Yeah, we couldn't afford those salaries either.
     

  6. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    I've seen some of the the compensation packages, and no one, including the founders and/or senior devs, are getting double digit equity. Maybe some VCs are super generous, but I've not seen those. The upside is also (and probably necessarily so, for the sanity of all those involved) highly and regularly over-estimated. Most devs that I know who have been in the game a long while have told me that working for an early startup is a terrible way to get rich, and seeing the numbers, I'm inclined to believe them.
     

  7. am55

    am55 Distinguished Member

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    There are as many ways to run a startup as there are ways to raise a kid, with successful outcomes in vastly different cases (e.g. Bezos vs Larry/Sergei). I know double digit equity technical co-founders, so it's a proof by counter example.

    I agree that startups are not the best idea if you just want hard cash now but that wasn't the point being made. The point being made was that if you are having issues with loyalty and maths skills, you're probably paying under market for people who are loyal and have basic maths skills (where basic is defined by a UC Berkeley scientist ;)). Now, do you need these people? or can you successfully run a framework sweatshop off Bangalore contractors. Chances are the latter (proof: you're not paying those salaries, and SF is up and running). I'm just addressing the former.

    On the "all publishers are out of money" front, it's a bit like my CTO likes to say: "it's your job to find the money". At the end of the day the business guys are responsible for providing the technical guys with resources and those with less resources have less options. You can overcome a 20% premium with charm/cool work/good conditions but not 200%, in aggregate.

    You're probably thinking that I got triggered and you're probably right, it's a contentious topic at the moment in the industry :D
     

  8. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    I've always thought the CTOs saying stuff like that is the cart driving the horse.

    In my experience, there is a fundamental tension between the technical and business sides, in which the business side tells the technical side to use duct tape to keep things together if they need to, and the technical side wants an entire workshop to hammer a few nails.

    Ultimately, there are hard constraints on either side, and the test of whether a business is viable, and even if an industry is viable is whether you can reconcile the needs of both sides.
     

  9. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    Honestly, I find that the already identified "top" people are the most likely to have an inflated sense of self-worth and be more of a hassle then they are worth.

    The best case scenario has you getting someone in the early part of their careers who are talented but risk adverse, or are mid-career and at least adequate, and have other life priorities and simply don't want too much hassle associated with a rat race.

    As for overseas teams, I think that Eastern Europe is generally pretty good. The Indian subcontinent is mixed, the skillset can be inconsistent and there are language issues, but global arbitrage favors them being hungry and eager. My worst experiences and disappointments so far have been with devs out of Western Europe.

    Right now, we subcontract some of our better work through a team through Silicon valley who have done good work for us, mediated through a contractor from our old system. I am fine with that, as we have had a good working relationship for years now, and I'm glad to have someone coordinate the work.
     

  10. am55

    am55 Distinguished Member

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    Instead of digging down the startup path I'd offer a hedge fund analogy. If you ask people who the top funds are today (any strategy) both Bridgewater and RenTec will usually be in the top. Dalio at Bridgewater hires thousands of analysts. It's unclear to what extent the money is made through the top people making the best decisions, or if the swarm generates tons of ideas the best of which get filtered, or if it's a giant survival game (doing what you suggest - picking them up before they show results, and having a strong enough cult to keep them), or if just having the mass produces alpha, but it works. RenTec is the opposite approach: Simons (himself a noteworthy mathematician) prefers hiring a small number of published professors with a great reputation - such as the IBM Research computational linguistics team. They're famously stealthy, but also probably have the best returns in history, the main fund having kicked out all outside investors years ago. Some say it is the only truly decorrelated quant fund. Maybe it is the supreme wisdom, maybe it is, as some claim, "just doing everything properly", maybe it is Mercer's ginormous political financing, who knows. Two almost opposite approaches, two top companies.

    It's hard to think of startups where tech is the edge because they tend to have a lower profile than consumer marketplaces and the like. But I think Google is definitely there. They had tons of mature competition with tons of funding, did not need billboards to grow (and even today Microsoft spends a fortune on telling us how good Bing is, yet nobody uses it), and were led by the technical people for a long time (arguably even when they brought in "adult supervision" it was more of an admin role). It's a very different vibe from the vast majority of startups whose main purpose is gaining a market advantage in a niche using easily replicable technology and methods, and where the CTO is probably replaceable. There's a spectrum and to say that all CTOs just want nice toys will have you miss a good chunk (in my opinion, the most interesting) of the market.

    My hunch is that if you have a really complex, difficult to execute idea, you have no choice but to be patient and find sufficient funding to get it done properly; but also no competition to snipe it from under you, since only a handful of people will get it technically and the others probably don't believe in it enough to go for it. Both YC and entities like the Singapore government are now actively looking for "hard tech" startups for that reason.
     

  11. steveoffice

    steveoffice Distinguished Member

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    just as an intro, i'm a dev at a tier 1 investment bank, doing backend work on front office software. i mostly work with quants, but im not a quant dev.

    i have a cs background in school and i've been a developer for only 2 years, entering 3rd. hoping to learn from others in this thread.
     

  12. bbconair

    bbconair Senior Member

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    i'm mid-level in the "funny money" business - traditional IBD (advisory). All in comp is less than $600k for sure, so that number sounds ridiculous to me (since that sounded like a MO / BO job and not revenue generation). i don't think i get paid nearly enough - i'm in the office 12-14 hours daily, am in the office often on the weekends, and are always on call (ie at any time be willing and able to take an internal or client call). so, i've made a life style choice to have less free time with friends and family to hopefully accelerate my career - but generally, nobody in traditional IBD is making what people were making pre-financial crisis; if i were, then perhaps i would feel that i'm fairly compensated. as is, if you found two 40 hour jobs and did those you probably would make more money than i am.

    i do know that i'm fortunate to have this job / career, and many people would like a shot to do what i'm doing, but honestly most would self-select out of it. not that it is hard (it isn't that hard), but really the general population doesn't want to work more than 40 hours a week.

    random thought and response to funny money
     

  13. am55

    am55 Distinguished Member

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    IBD in general has declined in relative comp since the 1980s for a number of reasons, some of which include the disappearance of rainmakers/commoditisation of bankers (whatever the reason: Goldman model of "talk to one of us you talk to all of us" and replaceable bankers; buy-side picking up the skills in-house, including origination; etc.) and some just plain old supply and demand. I feel like Milken et al. were the turning point where networks, privileged access as a USP kind of broke down, and we're iterating towards a point where IBD is similar to accounting. And as Asia rises in importance in deal flow increasingly those networks are more valuable, esp. since business there is still much more family/network oriented and less meritocratic.

    Looking at what HBS MBAs were getting in bulge bracket banks after graduation was the turning point, it just seemed so... low for the amount of effort and the COL adjustment for being in those locations (whose COL is now further bumped up by foreign money). The only saving grace is that if you are exceptional, maybe just maybe you may have a shot at a decent PE fund whose work ethic will make you miss the desk, and whose carry will pay off in 15-20 years. Otherwise it's underpaid "up or out", or an exit to the comfortable infamy of a F500 finance dept. Not to mention you risk getting denied most of your comp because PR. OTOH if you're from a broke mining town with high unemployment and super low COL, even saving a small % of your comp will rapidly add up and you can support your whole family, which is another reason I've heard many friends giving for sticking around.

    BO/MO roles are increasingly automated and those capable of building the automation are enormously valuable. The billion dollar rebuild at CBA is just one indication: rumour has it they fired a few guys who knew the old system, and had to pay a fortune because they then needed to find COBOL consultants to grok the old codebase ahead of transferring it. How much did saving a few bucks on old programmers cost the bank in extra consulting fees and opportunity cost? Or look at how Google's search team is responsible for virtually all their income. How many core people are there in there, maybe 100-200? WhatsApp sold for close to a billion per developer, more if you don't count the front end types. The only reason I'm not giving finance examples is because I left so long ago I have no idea what it looks like now...

    Been watching tons of Goldman IBD/McKinsey types with (in about a dozen cases) HBS MBA background lateral into startups. They usually struggle like hell because of considering that developers are some kind of intellectually inferior species (same way back office used to be a dirty word and probably still is with IBD types), easily replaced, and their unwillingness to get their hands dirty and learn to code (which makes it difficult to understand how to manage teams writing software of even middling complexity). If they put even 5% of the effort they had put into CFA in understanding the craft from textbooks, not boot camps or online classes, they could leverage their business understanding, connections and drive so much better. Very frustrating to watch...

    Since we're on the topic of failing to hire competent devs, the NotPetya thing was also frustrating to watch. The industry lost a few billion dollars because incompetent CTOs did not bother updating the version of windows they ran on core production machines. Billions. What was it McArthur used to say, "every dollar saved in time of peace is a million gone in war"...

    /rant
     

  14. cyc wid it

    cyc wid it Stylish Dinosaur

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    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019

  15. steveoffice

    steveoffice Distinguished Member

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    Our team works pretty much 40 hours a week and on call one week out of 4-5 weeks (but getting called in after hours is rare).

    Pay wise, base is on par with big tech but no equity, which is made up with higher bonus. Talking to some of my friends who work at Google/Amazon seems like i could get about 10-20K raise if I transfer plus signing bonus is nice too. But I'm still learning, I like my team, and there are opportunities here too.

    The impression I got was that most hf and ibanks don't pay as much as tech companies, which is why i was surprised at the 600k base pay at a 2nd tier bank.
     

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