What we can learn from the Great California Exodus (Sept. 2012)


By turtledove   Follow   Sun, 23 Dec 2012, 3:52pm   9,398 views   148 comments
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I hope this hasn't already been posted. Didn't see this on the site. Thought it was interesting.

http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cr_71.htm

Executive Summary

For decades after World War II, California was a destination for Americans in search of a better life. In many people’s minds, it was the state with more jobs, more space, more sunlight, and more opportunity. They voted with their feet, and California grew spectacularly (its population increased by 137 percent between 1960 and 2010). However, this golden age of migration into the state is over. For the past two decades, California has been sending more people to other American states than it receives from them. Since 1990, the state has lost nearly 3.4 million residents through this migration.

This study describes the great ongoing California exodus, using data from the Census, the Internal Revenue Service, the state’s Department of Finance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and other sources. We map in detail where in California the migrants come from, and where they go when they leave the state. We then analyze the data to determine the likely causes of California’s decline and the lessons that its decline holds for other states.

The data show a pattern of movement over the past decade from California mainly to states in the western and southern U.S.: Texas, Nevada, and Arizona, in that order, are the top magnet states. Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah follow. Rounding out the top ten are two southern states: Georgia and South Carolina.

A finer-grained regional analysis reveals that the main current of migration out of California in the past decade has flowed eastward across the Colorado River, reversing the storied passages of the Dust Bowl era. Southern California had about 55 percent of the state’s population in 2000 but accounted for about 65 percent of the net out-migration in the decade that followed. More than 70 percent of the state’s net migration to Texas came from California’s south.

What has caused California’s transformation from a “pull in” to a “push out” state? The data have revealed several crucial drivers. One is chronic economic adversity (in most years, California unemployment is above the national average). Another is density: the Los Angeles and Orange County region now has a population density of 6,999.3 per square mile—well ahead of New York or Chicago. Dense coastal areas are a source of internal migration, as people seek more space in California’s interior, as well as migration to other states. A third factor is state and local governments’ constant fiscal instability, which sends at least two discouraging messages to businesses and individuals. One is that they cannot count on state and local governments to provide essential services—much less, tax breaks or other incentives. Second, chronically out-of-balance budgets can be seen as tax hikes waiting to happen.

The data also reveal the motives that drive individuals and businesses to leave California. One of these, of course, is work. States with low unemployment rates, such as Texas, are drawing people from California, whose rate is above the national average. Taxation also appears to be a factor, especially as it contributes to the business climate and, in turn, jobs. Most of the destination states favored by Californians have lower taxes. States that have gained the most at California’s expense are rated as having better business climates. The data suggest that many cost drivers—taxes, regulations, the high price of housing and commercial real estate, costly electricity, union power, and high labor costs—are prompting businesses to locate outside California, thus helping to drive the exodus.

Population change, along with the migration patterns that shape it, are important indicators of fiscal and political health. Migration choices reveal an important truth: some states understand how to get richer, while others seem to have lost the touch. California is a state in the latter group, but it can be put back on track. All it takes is the political will.

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  1. Rin


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    69   7:36am Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    lostand confused says

    Out of curiosity, did you start your own hedge fund and how does one become a professional trader? Does one look at their personal trading history over the years or just take people and train them?

    Yes, I'm one of the principals at my firm; so while I'm not the exact founder, I'm in the starting crew and have equity.

    What you're probably referencing is known as a proprietary "prop" trading firm vs an actual hedge fund. A prop trading firm does take in in-experienced persons, with a personal trading history, & allows them to sink or swim. Sometimes, if you have the stomach for it, this can be a way to a low six figure income, if you can get past the first few quarters of bumps/bruises, with minimal prior exposure to the industry. Afterwards, once you're proven, you're in demand. I was told that more than 80% don't make it, through this pathway.

    For HQs, however, most ppl have some experience at either a HQ, an IB, or a prop trading firm, before applying. These folks can perform many tasks from sales (client/account management), to tax services, to prop trading support. As for the quantitative analysts "quants", there are those who get hired by other quant teams, straight out of let's say engineering school with BS to PhDs in Applied Math to EE to Financial Engineering/Operations Research. Typically, these folks work on algorithmic trading strategies but in general, the senior trader uses these tools at his discretion.

  2. New Renter


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    70   10:55am Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    bmwman91 says

    New Renter says

    Yes please be precise when spreading such information. That's how kids get the idea STEM careers actually pay off.

    Define "pay off"?

    Most kids won't end up in a position that "pays off" in any field. The top few percent gets the "pay off". Majoring in finance is not a sure-fire recipe for the big bucks either unless you are unusually smart and unusually ruthless.

    OK, I will define "pay off " for you:

    A typical STEM student from a ivy league program will find him/herself actively recruited by multiple companies rather than graduate to an already saturated job market that has no interest in hiring people lacking "real world" experience. Fierce bidding wars are commonplace.

    The STEM jobs will have compensation packages so generous the person will thank their lucky stars they worked their ass off in college to get that STEM degree because now they are doing much better financially than their friends with mere MBAs.

    STEM graduates will be in such high demand they will be able to exit and enter the workforce without fear their skills will be perceived as hopelessly outdated by employers within 6 months.

    STEMs have no job insecurity.

    STEMs can live in the area of their choice and easily find employment which comfortably supports a family of four at a higher than average lifestyle on a single STEM salary.

    Hot groupies will throw themselves at even average looking STEMs as if they were rock stars. The allure of the STEM is that powerful.

    STEM people displace hedge fund managers in the 0.01%

    That'd be a start.

  3. New Renter


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    71   10:59am Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    bmwman91 says

    Define "pay off"?

    Rin says

    I'm an east coaster and for the most part, work in applied chemistry to IT, was capped at $110K-$120K. And for the most part, non-management staff were usually curtailed after that boundary.

    A $100k-$120k cap is NOT what I'd consider a "pay off"...

  4. bmwman91


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    72   11:22am Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    So tell me the percentage of non-STEM majors that end up as financial rock stars like that. As I said before, only the top few percent, if that much, of graduates in any field will make make the big money. I agree that the maximum upside to a job on Wall Street is orders of magnitude higher than that for a STEM job (for the top 1% of performers in those fields), but I do disagree that hitting the "pay off" means making it into the top 0.01%. You don't work your way there; you are born into it.

    All I really gather from your posts is that you have some sort of resentment for people working in STEM.

  5. New Renter


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    73   11:54am Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    bmwman91 says

    So tell me the percentage of non-STEM majors that end up as financial rock stars like that. As I said before, only the top few percent, if that much, of graduates in any field will make make the big money. I agree that the maximum upside to a job on Wall Street is orders of magnitude higher than that for a STEM job (for the top 1% of performers in those fields), but I do disagree that hitting the "pay off" means making it into the top 0.01%. You don't work your way there; you are born into it.

    All I really gather from your posts is that you have some sort of resentment for people working in STEM.

    Resentment for STEMs? How did you get that? I am STEM.

    All I asked is for specifics on which areas of "tech" are financially rewarding. As you yourself admitted "tech" is too broad a term. It seems software engineering EE and IT are doing much better than say MechE. In my field - chemistry/biotech - even senior positions at companies in the SFBA barely make it into the six figures.

    What I resent is the persistent myth of the shortage of STEM employees:

    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2074024,00.html

    http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2011/05/20/confronting-the-coming-american-worker-shortage/

    I have been reading this kind of crap for the last 30+ years. If these shortages were real at least some of my criteria would be satisfied. I take it they are only for a very few graduates in select fields, the rest are left to rot.

  6. Kevin


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    74   12:32pm Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    bmwman91 says

    I agree that the maximum upside to a job on Wall Street is orders of magnitude higher than that for a STEM job

    Not really. The maximum upside in STEM is being an early employee or founder at a startup, which can make you an instant billionaire. Engineers and scientists are the most likely early employees, so they have the best chances of hitting this upside.

    Both models have executive management potential, which can also make you rich.

    I'd be willing to bet money that there are more millionaires from tech backgrounds than there are millionaires from finance backgrounds.

    I don't think there's an overall shortage of the number of STEM students, but there's definitely a shortage of competent software engineers (which is why people like me get paid what we do).

  7. New Renter


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    75   12:56pm Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    Not really. The maximum upside in STEM is being an early employee or founder at a startup, which can make you an instant billionaire. Engineers and scientists are the most likely early employees, so they have the best chances of hitting this upside.

    Perhaps if you are in software. In biotech big companies will just steal your product and let you litigate yourself to death.

  8. New Renter


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    76   1:00pm Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    there's definitely a shortage of competent software engineers (which is why people like me get paid what we do).

    Genuine question here, why IS that? I'd have thought there's be a tsunami of competent software engineers by now.

  9. Rin


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    77   5:02pm Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    New Renter says

    In my field - chemistry/biotech - even senior positions at companies in the SFBA barely make it into the six figures.

    Many in biochem/chem are in postdoc positions, not even full time jobs. Thus. there's a huge downward pressure on most scientific areas to contain wages. I suspect that Silicon Valley managers don't sit around and recruit at layoff events at DuPont or Merck, to fill their headcount rosters, or even recruit postdocs with extensive computational backgrounds in let's say molecular modelling or statistical thermodynamics.

    All and all, it's easy to lower STEM salaries. I suspect that the current crop, earning $200K, is an aberration which will work itself out in the next business cycle.

  10. New Renter


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    78   6:07pm Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    Rin says

    New Renter says

    In my field - chemistry/biotech - even senior positions at companies in the SFBA barely make it into the six figures.

    Many in biochem/chem are in postdoc positions, not even full time jobs. Thus. there's a huge downward pressure on most scientific areas to contain wages. I suspect that Silicon Valley managers don't sit around and recruit at layoff events at DuPont or Merck, to fill their headcount rosters, or even recruit postdocs with extensive computational backgrounds in let's say molecular modelling or statistical thermodynamics.

    All and all, it's easy to lower STEM salaries. I suspect that the current crop, earning $200K, is an aberration which will work itself out in the next business cycle.

    A post-doc is a more-than-full-time job. It only pays as part time :(

  11. Kevin


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    79   6:24pm Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    New Renter says

    Kevin says

    Not really. The maximum upside in STEM is being an early employee or founder at a startup, which can make you an instant billionaire. Engineers and scientists are the most likely early employees, so they have the best chances of hitting this upside.

    Perhaps if you are in software. In biotech big companies will just steal your product and let you litigate yourself to death.

    You're awfully cynical. I know several early employees at genentech who got very wealthy. They were scientists. Stealing ideas is hardly unique to any particular field.

    New Renter says

    Kevin says

    there's definitely a shortage of competent software engineers (which is why people like me get paid what we do).

    Genuine question here, why IS that? I'd have thought there's be a tsunami of competent software engineers by now.

    It comes down to two things, really:

    1. It's really hard to be a great software engineer, and not being "great" pretty much makes you worthless. A great SE is worth 10 "good" ones.

    2. Demand is much higher than in other fields, because there's a lot more money floating around. With software, "research and development" is 80-90% of your costs. That's why companies like Microsoft and Google are able to have such ridiculous gross margins.

    Most other "tech" is still just R&D for something else. There are manufacturing costs associated with whatever product that they make. We don't have that problem in software.

  12. Rin


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    80   6:31pm Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    New Renter says

    A post-doc is a more-than-full-time job. It only pays as part time :(

    I think you see the point. If a postdoc in computational structural biochem is working 60 to 70 hrs/wk for $42K, then why can't that same person work in a bioinformatics group at let's say a Novartis Corp for 45 to 50 hrs/wk at $80K? Is the skillset, that disparate? Thus, the notion of $150-$200K is out the window, as it's not too difficult to find techies, who'll settle for a much more modest salary.

  13. Rin


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    81   6:41pm Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    1. It's really hard to be a great software engineer, and not being "great" pretty much makes you worthless. A great SE is worth 10 "good" ones.

    It's a lot harder to find a great trader. Those guys, in effect, set their profit percentage. This means $150K base and anywhere from $500K to $10M per year in profit sharing. And their skillset is hard to measure, as they have an instinct for risk preservation along with the sense to stick with the correct decisions.

    In contrast, a software engineer is just another person with a strong applied math a/o algorithms background, found in numerous programs across the countries in the applied sciences and engineering. I suspect that if we pulled a lot of postdocs and corporate serfs out of their respective dungeons, that there'd be no shortage of programmers out there.

    I haven't met a great programmer, who's also a great trader.

  14. Kevin


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    82   8:22pm Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Rin says

    It's a lot harder to find a great trader. Those guys, in effect, set their profit percentage. This means $150K base and anywhere from $500K to $10M per year in profit sharing. And their skillset is hard to measure, as they have an instinct for risk preservation along with the sense to stick with the correct decisions.

    The rarer a person's abilities and the more in demand they are, the more they get paid. It's not really hard to figure that out.

    Rin says

    I haven't met a great programmer, who's also a great trader.

    Great engineers who go into finance write software to do the trading. These are usually quants, and they make such an obscene amount of money it's not fair.

  15. Rin


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    83   8:30pm Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    Rin says

    I haven't met a great programmer, who's also a great trader.

    Great engineers who go into finance write software to do the trading. These are usually quants, and they make such an obscene amount of money it's not fair.

    This is actually not the full story. Quants, who do fully automated trading, make money on scalps. Sure, since the overall system earns money, these quants can earn from $300K to $600K. Granted, that's a great payoff, but in the end, the smart prop trader, uses quants (& their systems), to minimize risk or capture profits, on various setups, and are the guys who earn in the millions per year.

    Realize this, trading is not a type of applied science, like chemistry or physics. Those who earn money, long term in this field, are not techies per se but salesmen (hold onto clients or know how to hold onto clients' monies) and traders (risk management and X factors).

  16. New Renter


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    84   9:05pm Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    You're awfully cynical. I know several early employees at genentech who got very wealthy. They were scientists. Stealing ideas is hardly unique to any particular field.

    My cynicism is borne of the persistent lie regarding the shortage of STEM employees. I know far too many un and under employed STEM people, especially ones who have invested 10+ years in higher education and find there is absolutely NO demand for them, yet the STEM shortage myth soldiers on. Hell, this entire forum was founded on an analogous lie perpetuated by the RE industry. I suppose realtors also can't understand why Patrick is so cynical.

    Sorry, that was a cheap shot :)

    You claim that software engineers can claim compensation packages of $300k+. That lends some credence to the myth. My questions are what does it take to command that kind of salary e.g. what makes great vs good, and how common are such salaries? I know there are resources to answer these questions but I cannot
    get a recent copy of the Radford survey and online salary sites only go so far. I am slowly going through the data on the BLS website but I only have so many hours in the day...

  17. New Renter


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    85   9:08pm Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Rin says

    Realize this, trading is not a type of applied science, like chemistry or physics. Those who earn money, long term in this field, are not techies per se but salesmen (hold onto clients or know how to hold onto clients' monies) and traders (risk management and X factors).

    Yep, the MBA wins again :(

  18. Rin


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    86   9:33pm Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    New Renter says

    You claim that software engineers can claim compensation packages of $300k+. That lends some credence to the myth. My questions are what does it take to command that kind of salary e.g. what makes great vs good, and how common are such salaries?

    I think you can answer this ... the core of programming resolves around data structures/algorithms, the basics of a CS curriculum, found in many undergrad science/engin curricula (even outside of CS per se), freshman or sophomore levels. The rest is experience in various programming tools or environments. All of the above can be found in those earning $100K/yr or less, esp if they're from chemistry postdoc programs.

    What's missing, however, is that a Silicon Valley recruiter doesn't see "Oracle PL/SQL" on the resume of many chemistry postdocs so they assume that the postdoc work on optimizing structural anomalies as irrelevant to an industry when in fact, it's quite relevant. Thus, they instead opt for 'friends of friends' at a particular dept at Carnegie-Mellon or CalTech, over taking a broad stroke at all the available plausible participants.

    I'm convinced that if SV was more astute, they could easily replace many $200K engineers with ones, earning from $70K to $130K, if they did their homework correctly.

  19. Patrick


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    87   11:40pm Mon 31 Dec 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    drew_eckhardt says

    For example:Glass door Google Senior Staff Software Engineer in mountainview has a $422K average total pay for the level with 5 data points and $178 minimum total package.

    That's just five data points.

    Consider the 184 data points for Senior software engineers averaging $144K at Google:

    http://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Google-Salaries-E9079.htm

    Or the 2,742 software engineers averaging $113K at Google in that same table.

  20. Kevin


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    88   12:35am Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    The glass door numbers on Google are laughably low. That's all I'll say about that.

    @Rin: those of us who command $300k+ aren't meeting any bullshit technology skill checklist. Its knowledge of and demonstrated proficiency understanding advanced computer science.

    Nobody who has ever gotten hired as a software engineer by apple, Google, amazon, or Facebook was ever asked about specific technologies. Our job is to *invent* those technologies. this is fundamental cs, not learning the syntax of a particular RDBMS.

    I've interviewed plenty of chemistry, physics, and other hard science types who thought learning a little cs and how to write some java would get them a job. They usually don't even finish the interview loop.

    That's not to say that no hard science folks work at these places. One of my former managers had a PhD in physics. He also co founded a successful startup that made use of technology that he invented.

    @New Renter: MBAs have nothing to do with trading. An MBA exists for middle management. Top tier traders come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Many have MBAs, its true, but take a look at how many have technical degrees from MIT,Harvard, or Stanford. What they have in common is that they're smart, not their education,

  21. raindoctor


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    89   1:00am Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    1. I agree that it is hard to find smart, talented software engineers, who can deliver a product. Usually, such types end up work for start ups with big stakes or become a principal engineer pulling out $150K base + bonus + etc in big companies.

    2. Those software guys who write trading platforms, who can incorporate trading strategies make $500K easy on wall street. Not many have all skills: knowledge of finance, solid programming skills, etc. There are not may spots for these skills. It is silly to compare wages from this group of software guys with what an average guy makes in silly con valley.

    3. Post doctoral fellowship = indentureship. Even guys with Ph.D in theoretical computer science from places like Stanford, MIT, and UCB are struggling to find employment. Sure, if these guys have programming knowledge, yes, they can go n work for google, apple, nvidia, etc.

    http://wuphys.wustl.edu/~katz/scientist.html

    4. A great trader on wall street is someone who uses insider knowledge. Just technical and fundamental analysis does not cut it; it is a trivial truth on wall street. Every one there has access to same material, facts, newsletters, analysis, similar algorithms: so, one needs some 'edge' to make it. Look at SAC (Steve A Cohen), Galleon, etc: all their super stars used 'inside' information to trade to make big bucks. If you are working for mutual funds, it is a different story. If you are working for Squid, thats a different story, as most of traders go through GS, etc.

    5. There are not many venues to make great money. Sure, one can say that we all should become pediatric cardiac surgeons to make $1M a year. Professions like these are like pyramids: they block you from getting that specialized residency, etc.

    6. If you don't put such obstacles, Surgery, etc, field becomes like law schools. Look at shitlawjobs.com to see what's going on. Only HYS can make a bit. Otherwise, a JD from lincoln law school won't make $40K a year.

  22. raindoctor


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    90   1:13am Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Patrick

    I consider you one of the smartest software engineers. You even wrote that performance tuning book. Why don't you join a big company as a principal engineer, a job that pays you $400K.

  23. bmwman91


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    91   1:45am Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    raindoctor says

    Patrick

    I consider you one of the smartest software engineers. You even wrote that performance tuning book. Why don't you join a big company as a principal engineer, a job that pays you $400K.

    All of the previous discussion has focused on money. This is a good question, because just like buying a house, there is a lot more to "living" than pulling huge pay checks. I'll let Patrick comment on why he isn't on that path anymore.

  24. Rin


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    92   9:45am Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    SFace says

    A good Software developer to me means they can visualize the end product and not be spinning on wheels. They are problem identifier and solvers. It takes a little experience to get to that point.

    This, I completely agree with and is probably why SV is still a good place to work in IT vs let's say the northeast (DC, Philly, Boston), where the culture of *management consulting* has infiltrated many venues of work. And this MC effect is one of the major reasons why I'd left STEM for trading, several years ago.

  25. Patrick


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    93   10:14am Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Actually, I'm back on that path starting tomorrow. I could not make enough from Patrick.net to cover my living expenses, and US insurance costs in particular seem designed to prevent entrepreneurs from competing with large companies, so I got a corporate job again.

    I did have four years of trying all kinds of business models and features full time, and I'm grateful I was able to do that simply by not owning a house. I saved so much by renting that I essentially had a four year vacation.

    The site will continue the same as before, but probably without as much new feature development.

  26. Rin


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    94   2:22pm Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    raindoctor says

    Patrick

    I consider you one of the smartest software engineers. You even wrote that performance tuning book. Why don't you join a big company as a principal engineer, a job that pays you $400K.

    Raindoctor, even experienced Performance engineers [ not just Oracle DBA perf types ] can't pull in more than $180K in most northeast areas, outside of NYC's financial sectors. I'd be accused of California Dreaming [ or perhaps, Cali-fornication :-) ], if I talked that way around my former colleagues.

  27. drew_eckhardt


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    95   3:44pm Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Rin says

    I think you can answer this ... the core of programming resolves around data structures/algorithms, the basics of a CS curriculum, found in many undergrad science/engin curricula (even outside of CS per se), freshman or sophomore levels. The rest is experience in various programming tools or environments.

    Hardly.

    Everyone you want to hire can quickly pickup new languages, libraries, and environments which all share common patterns and lineage. Commercial utility doesn't take days and proficiency is there in months. Demarco and Lister note of their coding "war games" in _Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams_ that "There was no correlation between experience and performance except that those with less than six months' experience with the language used in the exercise did not do as well as the rest of the sample" which is in line with how long it takes big companies to recruit competent experienced personnel.

    Some of the significant part is aptitudes which we can't seem to teach

    Saeed Dehnadi's research on programming aptitude

    Some is institutional knowledge that we pick up from working with other people and can be taught. I got turned onto simulating distributed systems and model checking by a Digital Systems Research Center alumni. Working too long in one group or in sub-par organizations preclude that.

    Some is experience. Malcom Gladwell suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at anything. With small fractions of the development cycle devoted to design, significant feedback on how well things work delayed for years (you're more likely to see odd edge conditions in the field once you have thousands of customers not tens, and maintenance problems which are minor after two releases can be severe after half a dozen), and such work going to senior people in large organizations that can be hard to get.

    What's missing, however, is that a Silicon Valley recruiter doesn't see "Oracle PL/SQL" on the resume of many chemistry postdocs so they assume that the postdoc work on optimizing structural anomalies as irrelevant to an industry when in fact, it's quite relevant.

    Good recruiters and engineering organizations don't work that way because it doesn't produce results. Microsoft hired me to do distributed systems in C# which I'd never used or even seen before.

    We do separate meaty from not and at senior levels try for people with sufficiently similar experiences to avoid the mistakes which go with peoples first system and the second system effect (per Brooks' _The Mythical Man Month_).

    Thus, they instead opt for 'friends of friends' at a particular dept at Carnegie-Mellon or CalTech, over taking a broad stroke at all the available plausible participants.

    Nope. Alma mater has little bearing on job performance. Big companies recruit fresh graduates from higher ranked schools in an attempt to secure better talent before it gets recruited elsewhere and becomes unavailable (most good people get their next position through people they worked with before unless they outgrow their peers and don't show up on the job market except in exceptional circumstances like following a significant other to another state). Otherwise hiring that way does not produce results.

    I'm convinced that if SV was more astute, they could easily replace many $200K engineers with ones, earning from $70K to $130K, if they did their homework correctly.

    Doubtful.

    Observations on the speed difference between the best engineers and median show the former at 2-5X as fast.

    In a venture funded startup spending $500K-$1M / month (out of $10-$30M from the first round or two) where you're getting customers for life in a land grab and attempting to dominate a market that's very significant, especially where becoming the gorilla leads to billions of dollars in market cap while settling for chimpanzee isn't a tenth of that.

    There are other less studied differences that are harder to quantify.

  28. drew_eckhardt


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    Patrick says

    That's just five data points.

    Consider the 184 data points for Senior software engineers averaging $144K at Google:

    In organizations which use titles (in some everyone who isn't on the executive team is a "senior engineer" or "member of technical staff") "senior engineers" can be people who've had one promotion after 2-3 years of experience. Some large companies have finer gradations which would make it two promotions and 4-6 years of experience. Another promotion after 2-3 years could get them to a staff engineering position. IOW, "senior software engineer" is neither entry level nor mid-career for above average individuals.

    Senior staff engineering positions come after at least three promotions, 10-15 years of experience, and may only be open to the top decile of engineers.

    Level of responsibility and business impact are much (at least an order of magnitude) more significant than at the Senior engineer level. Compensation packages in big companies can be several times the size.

  29. mell


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    97   6:49pm Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    drew_eckhardt says

    Commercial utility doesn't take days and proficiency is there in months. Demarco and Lister note of their coding "war games" in _Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams_ that "There was no correlation between experience and performance except that those with less than six months' experience with the language used in the exercise did not do as well as the rest of the sample" which is in line with how long it takes big companies to recruit competent experienced personnel.

    If you turn that 6 months into 6 years than that statement would have some validity. Sure, occasionally companies manage to hire a rock-star that can outsmart most with just a year of experience, but that is so rare that you cannot plan on it. On average it takes people with average aptitude at least 10 years to become proficient on a senior level, even for "simpler" languages like Java. Even if you assume a very apt junior or mid engineer, there are just so many recurring problems that senior programmers can resolve in seconds just because of their experience (not because they are necessarily smarter) that would even take the smartest guy an hour or two to deduct or dig up on stack-overflow or similar sites.

  30. thomaswong.1986


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    98   7:16pm Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    That's what software engineers with 15 years experience get paid by the top tier companies. I don't work in sv anymore though

    thats BS... we might have had a shortage of SW eng back in early 80s. But we certainly have a glut of SW eng. Globally.

  31. thomaswong.1986


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    99   7:21pm Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (2)   Dislike  

    drew_eckhardt says

    Big companies recruit fresh graduates from higher ranked schools in an attempt to secure better talent before it gets recruited elsewhere and becomes unavailable

    A myth created more recently by the media. Fact is many tech and especially SV tech companies seek at least 3-5 years experience to be considered. And thats been true for decades prior.

  32. mell


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    thomaswong.1986 says

    Kevin says

    That's what software engineers with 15 years experience get paid by the top tier companies. I don't work in sv anymore though

    thats BS... we might have had a shortage of SW eng back in early 80s. But we certainly have a glut of SW eng. Globally.

    Agreed. I have worked in the SW (and a bit of HW) business here in SV for well over a decade and I have never seen any programmer making more than 180K, maybe distinguished programmers at Sun at that time, but those were a miniscule fraction. Right now a skilled senior engineer makes anywhere between 120K-160K depending on the company you work for. For more you either have to become architect/engineering manager or team lead/manager.

  33. thomaswong.1986


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    Patrick says

    Consider the 184 data points for Senior software engineers averaging $144K at Google:

    http://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Google-Salaries-E9079.htm

    Or the 2,742 software engineers averaging $113K at Google in that same table.

    I went ahead and inputed (added) a couple more higher salaries for Engineers at Google.
    $200K, $175K.. and $350K.. just because I felt like it...

    http://www.glassdoor.com/survey/start_input.htm?showSurvey=SALARIES&employer=9079

    How about we add several more 300K salaries and compensation ..

    This hardly sounds like a place to find actual accurate salary information from any employers. There is no employer who will disclose such salary information. Everything else is all fiction.

  34. bmwman91


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    102   7:34pm Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (2)   Dislike  

    Sweet! I can input lots of data stating that MechE's at my employer pull $500k and then go to my boss demanding a raise. I LOVE the internet!

    If it is on the internet, it MUST be true.

  35. mell


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    103   7:39pm Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Also don't forget that some coders at big companies that have had a rapidly rising stock price might have gotten a couple of options here and there and that may have augmented their yearly salary to figures like $250K for a couple of years.

  36. raindoctor


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    104   7:51pm Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    If you are a smart software engineer, you can get nice options at app le, like 600 per 4 years. 150 * 500 = $75K Base salary is another $150K. I don;'t know about bonus. Yes, it is possible. I know people who work as sr sys admins at apple, who joined in late 2010. $125K base, and 200 options for 4 years. So, it amounts to 125k + 25k = $150K. If you work for adobe for similar job, you can make more, like $170K in total.

    In the end, you spend that money on that stupid home and you got nothing else to spend except to slave away the life to keep that income coming.

    Many want full time gigs for health insurance.

  37. Rin


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    105   8:28pm Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike (1)  

    mell says

    Right now a skilled senior engineer makes anywhere between 120K-160K depending on the company you work for.

    This is much more in line with what I'd seen in the northeast corridor. It's a salary, just approaching of that of internal medicine physicians, but clearly not in some exalted strata above them.

  38. Kevin


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    106   9:27pm Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike (1)  

    thomaswong.1986 says

    Kevin says

    That's what software engineers with 15 years experience get paid by the top tier companies. I don't work in sv anymore though

    thats BS... we might have had a shortage of SW eng back in early 80s. But we certainly have a glut of SW eng. Globally.

    No, we really don't. Please send me any resumes of people looking for work if you know good SW engineers. I'd love the $5k referral bonus. We have offices in SV, puget sound, NYC, and a few places in between. My team is short 3 people at the moment because we don't have enough skilled candidates.

    Even new grads can make six figures base here, plus bonus and equity.

    Of course, they have to actually be good, not random schmucks who happen to have a CS degree.

    mell says

    Agreed. I have worked in the SW (and a bit of HW) business here in SV for well over a decade and I have never seen any programmer making more than 180K, maybe distinguished programmers at Sun at that time, but those were a miniscule fraction. Right now a skilled senior engineer makes anywhere between 120K-160K depending on the company you work for. For more you either have to become architect/engineering manager or team lead/manager.

    I posit that you are not a very good engineer then. Want to see my W2?

    Like I said, my title is "Senior Software Engineer". I laid out what I make a few posts above. This is what people who work at Google, Apple, Facebook, etc. get paid.

  39. raindoctor


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    107   9:42pm Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    If you read posts on quora, you get some idea:

    https://www.quora.com/How-much-do-Google-employees-get-paid
    https://www.quora.com/Salary-at-Google
    "Base salary seems to be around $100,000 for SWE 2, with a 20 percent increase for each level (SWE 3, Senior, Staff, Sr. Staff, Principal). There's a political-success-based bonus that's targeted to 15% but there's a personal multiplier so, on average, people get 1.3-1.5 times that. Finally, there's a stock package that's about the same size as the bonus at-target."

    Senior SE = $140K base + 15% bonus + 15% stock package = $182K
    Staff = $160 * 1.3 = $208K
    Sr Staff = $180 * 1.3 = $234K
    Principal = $200 * 1.3 = $260K

    Sounds like it.

    Sure, there are exceptions. Lets assume that they are top 10 percentile within a company. Sure, we are not discussing about top 10 percentile. We are talking about 50 to 75 percentile, where many fit in.

  40. mell


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    108   10:08pm Tue 1 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    I posit that you are not a very good engineer then. Want to see my W2?

    Like I said, my title is "Senior Software Engineer". I laid out what I make a few posts above. This is what people who work at Google, Apple, Facebook, etc. get paid.

    That must be it ;) But I am not an SSE anymore as I also do operational/infrastructure planning and work besides leading projects and I also trade stocks. I have a few rock-star friends working at google, apple and the likes, and if they are telling the truth they simply don't make as much as you claim (I am excluding variable bonus and stock options though). Maybe you are talking about the top 5%, if at all, which is not realistic. But I will mention this to the chiefs next time promotions and reviews/re-negotiations are considered, maybe I can bump it up quite a bit!

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