Articles / The Intellectual Property W...

The Intellectual Property Wage Slave, or Why You Should Quit Your Job

A study of the productivity of software programmers shows the most talented coders to be over 100 times more efficient than the meanest. It is clear, however, that there is nowhere near a commensurate increase in pay.

Common programmers may expect to earn at least $60,000/year, but it is rare for even superstar programmers to command above $150,000, excepting very specialized markets like kernel driver development.

If we are to assume that companies would not generally hire employees not worth their keep, the talents of the most elite of programmers are going almost wholly unrewarded. The first lesson from this is that companies should seek the brightest programmers, as the brighter the programmer, the more efficient the returns. Put another way, it is well worth a company's time to pay 30% more annually for an engineer who will accomplish many times more work. A secondary discovery is that, if this is true, outsourcing to lesser-skilled programmers as a small cost savings is a foolish conservancy.

As a programmer, however, the most powerful corollary is that wage labor for my skills is insensible. The advantage of software is its easy replication; once formed, a service or product may be readily resold without further expense. The financial success of my labors is scarcely limited by anything but the quality of the marketing performed. Consequently, for most markets, we find software development has almost infinite leverage. In exchange for a fixed amount of labor, there is a nearly unlimited upside. The programmer who accepts a salary for his endeavors sacrifices the leverage of his own work for the comfort and security of a regular check, which must (but for the lowest-skilled) far underestimate the value provided.

In a small sense, this is allayed by stock options and the like, but these serve principally to give the appearance of offering the wage laborer a slice of the success of his efforts. After the first dozen employees, it is rare to find an engineer not a VP or CTO to be in possession of anything but the shyest portion of a company. The feeling of ownership, however false, usually suffices to content the laborer.

Much of the preservation of the status quo in intellectual property is owed to the mild complacency that accompanies a reasonably safe and secure existence. In truth, while the expert engineer may only be seeing but a small portion of the value he creates, he does not find his station unbearable. With six-figure salaries, stock options, large bonuses, retirement plans, and rich benefits, few luxuries of modern life evade his grasp. It is therefore only the most greedy or adventurous that care to break these golden shackles, taking in their place the gritty tackle of a life of uncertainty and profligate challenge.

But in taking the full risk and reward of the enterprise upon himself, the programmer who is not sorely wanting in skills of business development or marketing must soon find himself enjoying the fruits of his labors, albeit many times only after years of difficult and uncertain unpaid labor.

The discovery of wealth is thus to be found at the temporary expense of comfort and security. But, while there may be intervening poverty while the entrepreneur's first efforts are underway, with success is found the ultimate in job security, the freedom to survive without a wage. The freedom enjoyed by the wealthy and self-sufficient in this world is equaled only by the fierceness of the slavery forged by debt. For while there exist industries multiplying the fortunes of the rich, many more exist to multiply the debts of the poor and those impatient for luxury. Wages and debt go hand in hand, for creditors only make loans which can be repaid regularly. Therefore, the single most important question they ask when ascertaining credit is one's present wages. The consumer is then set in a delicate balance of monthly income to monthly expense. Such a balance can ill afford the years of poverty required by independent enterprise, especially when the financial burdens of family and higher education enter in. The wage slavery of intellectual property workers therefore has as much to do with the requisites of servicing debt as it does the soft comfort of a regular paycheck.

It is a bittersweet tale of modern capitalism that so many should, under pressures of debt, dispose of their freedom and leverage, so sacrificing the gains of their labors almost entirely to one who, through prudence or happy circumstance, finds himself to have the time and disposition to form a new endeavor. The further gains of this cycle repeat themselves, excepting a few choice workers who themselves, through chance or talent, came early to join an endeavor and partook, by way of stock, of a not inconsiderable portion of a success. It is this fleeting and elusive happenstance, not entirely unlike a lottery, to which graduating and aspiring engineers are exhorted, though the chances of anything but modest gains are slim.

To my fellow programmers and knowledge workers, I then beg of you:

AVOID DEBT
Debt is slavery; debt servicing removes your freedom and flexibility to pursue wealth & happiness. Student loans may be unavoidable and have good rates, but steer clear of credit card debt and don't buy a fancy new car or graphics card until you can pay for it out-of-pocket. Don't exchange future happiness for a present whim.
TAKE RISK IMMEDIATELY
There is no time like the present. While you have plausible reasons why you should not take risks at present, these reasons will only multiply in the future. The sooner you take risk upon you, the easier it will be.
STRIVE ALONE OR IN SMALL GROUPS
While a large company has much to offer in comfort and infrastructure, most IP work doesn't actually require vast amounts of in-house experience. Open Source software can provide an excellent base from which to get started technically, and legal, accounting, and design services can easily be outsourced. Having a small group or working solo will let you see a healthy portion of the value you are creating.

It is terrifying and gratifying to live off the fruits of your labors alone, not coddled or ruled by another.

This, truly, is the American dream. For engineers, there has been no better time to seize upon the travails and rewards of entrepreneurship than the present.

Go get 'em!

RSS Recent comments

21 May 2005 00:45 rhdntd

Invalid one second into reading
"If we are to assume that companies would not generally hire employees not worth their keep ..."

Companies are in general not mature enough to know what they're doing. There are programmers that are worth $10K, or less if they produce negative worth by just making more work for better programmers and aren't just growing into their skills. They get paid $60K like the average ones. Sorry, even if there should be a 100x difference in compensation top to bottom that does not mean $60K belongs at the bottom.

I'm glad the author's age is included in the article. It well explains the feeling that the whole piece is vaporous dreaming. Not that I'm that much older, but ... get back to me in 20 years and see if you can give such advice so unreservedly.

21 May 2005 06:19 polesapart

Risk taking
In the capitalism, the fixed, low salary, is implied as the mainstream method of paymet to the employees. The work force for such a job class is determined by market forces (supply and demand). In most cases there are plenty of suppy (employees), so the salaries tend to be low. On very specific areas, where high training/specialization is required, the proportion may tend to benefit the employees through high salaries (because if one company don't pay a good salary, the others will).

The idea is that the capitalist must pay the risk of having a variable-rate incoming, and so most of the profit is his (as the reward for taking that risk).

The employee pay the price of having security (every month or so he can count on that amount).

Of course there are intermeadiate cases (profit-sharing, productivity rewards, etc), but even so it's clearily a a tradeoff between stability (risk-avoidance) and risk-acceptance.

I used to work as an autonomous programmer, and as such I got both the good and bad sides of being both the capitalist and the employee. My incoming used to be high at some times and low at others, with the average only being sligthly higher than a good job could offer.

But then again, the cost of oportunity must be used to measure the implicit factors: I had benefits employees don't get such as having more free time to spent on my own projects and on my personal life (most employees give up their personal lifes for a project, I don't consider that a thing you should do for your entire life, because otherwise you won't have a life. but that's just my opinion.). I also had other costs: I had to maintain an amount of money as a reserve to cover up my bills on low-incoming months, etc.

Most people tend not to pay the price of being a capitalist (I mean: taking risks), and that price is that most people won't improve their life styles significantly by being good employees.

If a programmer is too skilled but their company won't reward him for that adequately, he would probably consider taking risks and using his productivity in his favour. Productivity is what makes economic advances, and the whole purpose of applied technologies is to increase the productivity.

But that's a personal decision. Money is not among the most important factors for some people, and I think that's ok. Money is just an instrument, not an end in itself. If you cannot use your money to have quality of life, then maybe you shouldn't waste so much time pursuing it.

21 May 2005 07:26 isomorph

Train your finacial skills
By playing a educational boardgame called

'Cashflow 101' I have traint my finansial skills.

And I have learnt that it is posible to become

finansial independed in 2-3 years. And by finasial

independent I mean that it is no longer nesseary to

have income from a job.

Here is some links your might find useful.

all-technology.com/eig...

all-technology.com/eig...

21 May 2005 08:18 oracle2025

Great Article
Couldn't agree more :)

21 May 2005 11:23 everydns

Lunch
Hey Weekly,

Are we still getting together to hack tomorrow?

Oh yeah, good editorial. You know I agree. :)

Thanks,

David Ulevitch

21 May 2005 17:40 dvitanza

with age comes wisdom
I do not intend to flame. However, I do find it very amusing that a 26 year old is giving career advice. The one very sound statement was the one about debt. Debt is slavery.

23 May 2005 12:50 strath

Tiny Cogs
Ignoring for the moment, that productivity measurement for software developers is still largely a mystical art, the big picture is:

It doesn't matter if you are the most productive software developer in your workplace. A company's revenue does not scale with the individual productivity of a single software developer. Your salary, relative to all other costs, is insignificant. Superior marketing typically beats out superior products.

Also, the entrepreneurial route is fraught with risk, and its greatest benefit isn't potentially unlimited income, but rather individual freedom. That said, while software development may have a low cost of entry, most would still need to pay bills (food, shelter, electricity, Internet access, etc) ... unless of course you still live at home with your parents, are being supported by a spouse/partner, or have substantial savings.

24 May 2005 11:23 cweekly

Re: Invalid one second into reading [Not]

> "If we are to assume that companies

> would not generally hire employees not

> worth their keep ..."

>

> Companies are in general not mature

> enough to know what they're doing.

> There are programmers that are worth

> $10K, or less if they produce negative

> worth by just making more work for

> better programmers and aren't just

> growing into their skills. They get

> paid $60K like the average ones. Sorry,

> even if there should be a 100x

> difference in compensation top to bottom

> that does not mean $60K belongs at the

> bottom.

The precise salary amount deserved by the below-average programmer is wholly irrelevant to the key points in this interesting and thoughtful article. And "companies are in general not mature enough to know what they're doing" is a gross generalization. The places I've worked have tried hard to reward the top performers, and have all frequently laid off underperformers. (Case in point: I'm making over three times what I made 7 years ago when I started in my field, and it's almost double what others in my group make.) Anyway, the author's main point was, if you are in the highest level of performance, there is more to be gained by going the entrepreneurial route than by following a more standard mode of employment.

>

> I'm glad the author's age is included in

> the article. It well explains the

> feeling that the whole piece is vaporous

> dreaming. Not that I'm that much older,

> but ... get back to me in 20 years and

> see if you can give such advice so

> unreservedly.

It's not vaporous dreaming; take a look at the author's resume. He's worked for stodgy old software companies (GenRad), failed startups (There.com), biggish software houses (Legato) and University-affiliated initiatives (MIT'S Lincoln Labs and Harvard Physics Lab). He's taking his own advice, and is in the daily company of other (much older, since you care) successful entrepreneurs. His current thoughts on his own career decisions may sound to you like vaporous dreaming, but your replies in turn seem to me like defensiveness, perhaps engendered by regret you don't have his courage and vision.

That last is not intended as a flame; I don't have his courage or vision either (nor his IQ for that matter - I do know the author well).

There is at least one thing we do agree on: I too will be very interested to see the effect the next 20 years have on this very interesting guy. My money says his opinions will only be strengthened when one of his companies makes it big.

24 May 2005 11:54 cweekly

Interesting
I admire your courage, to live this way and to take the risks required to open the door of possibility to huge success.

That said, I have a handful of thoughts to add, which are not necessarily in contradiction, but offer another perspective:

(1) Some debt is worth it

e.g. school loans, mortgage, etc. ...
also even some debt that seems unwise on the face of it may have such a huge and positive, life-changing impact on the debtor that it is a tradeoff absolutely worth making. a personal example: my boat loan. as a person who has lived aboard my boat and learned to navigate and sail oceans and see the planet in a completely different light, I don't regret for a moment the financial liability boat ownership entails.

(2) There are many kinds of debt

there's the debt to yourself, to live well, to live while you're young... for many entrepreneurs (even more so than for salaried engineers) overwork, underplay and a "work==life" mentality are crippling too. you owe it to yourself to live a holistic and interesting life. (note bene: I know that the author actually lives a very varied existence so despite his herculean work hours it doesn't apply so much to him; but it applies to many people to whom his advice is directed)

(3) There's more to be gained from a regular job than a soft lifestyle and "safety"

example: long-lasting, even lifetime friendships and relationships are often established in the workplace. this may be much harder to
come by when you're the ceo/founder and the power dynamic between you and all coworkers is so asymmetrical.

(4) Those who *can* be discouraged from [writing|starting companies|fighting|art]... *should* be.

self-explanatory ;)

25 May 2005 13:17 nomrom

Specific to American companies
What you write is specific to American companies, mainly the application of manufacturing models to knowledge based fields. That economic model is considered inferior by most of the world.

In Asia, programmers are not wage slaves. Programmers in Asia are compensated by being given more responsibility and much higher salaries than U.S.. relative to the cost of living.

In U.S., as you say, there is no compensation for software royalties. In Asia, companies reward programmers by giving them more influence in the company. The software asian programmers create is considered a reinvestment in the company and so are the people who write it. Asian programmers can expect to run the company if they apply themselves to software development.

Asian companies recognized that the tools of software development are equally accessible to everyone and the lowest worker could now be just as influential as the highest executive. Asian companies take in ideas not just from the highest executives but from the lowest programmers. There are no multilayered management structures, actively filtering information from subordinates. Everyone has access to everything.

Compare this to the reality in America, where programmers are expected to play dumb and report to dozens of low end managers. American companies are so backwards in the modern world that when Kim Jong Ill nukes U.S., it's going to be considered a mercy killing.

28 May 2005 16:36 varkhan

American thinking all the way
As someone very justly said, this only applies to the american way of treating employees. Even if, very sadly, some asian and european companies would like to apply the same codes, many have realised the very straightforward equation between the worker's sentiment of being respected (and thus, paid) for his worth, and this same worker's overall productivity and implication in the performance of the company.

The negative effect of such a shortsighted view of economic relation (between dominant investor and submissive employees) on economic performance is, in my opinion, only compensated in this case by the strange disreguard of american workers for the sorts of confort and quality of life that can not be measured in monetary terms.

(Hum, yes. This is partly provocation, I confess. But, outrage aside, think seriously of it: the stress of being self-employed won't improve your quality of life...)

03 Jun 2005 22:29 astyanax

Re: Train your finacial skills

> By playing a educational boardgame

> called

> 'Cashflow 101' I have traint my

> finansial skills.

> And I have learnt that it is posible to

> become

> finansial independed in 2-3 years. And

> by finasial

> independent I mean that it is no longer

> nesseary to

> have income from a job.

>

> Here is some links your might find

> useful.

> all-technology.com/eig...

> all-technology.com/eig...

%

>

Perhaps the next boardgame on your list should be 'Spelling 101' ;-)

15 Jun 2005 14:11 TKO

Employee??
Cashflow was mentioned already. As long as you work for money, you will be a tax slave. Who do you think really makes most of the money in (pick a country)? People who own the business which others work for. The business owner(s) is/are leveraging the employee's skills and labors to their benefit. And Countries pass tax laws favoring the businesses as the businesses provide jobs, taxes, and other benefits to the countries' governments. If you doubt what is said here, research it for yourself. Any country which fails to favor businesses in their tax laws, will pay in the loss of tax base, jobs, etc. Businesses can (and do) pick up and move their operations to a country which has more favorable tax laws.

19 Jun 2005 08:45 otherbeats

Yeah but
I am a developer in Spain (Europe not Mexico or Africa...) and undoubtedly, wages are not up to scratch ( not even the boss makes 60K here in Spain ). What I really find sickening is, in fact, the higer up the "chain of command" the worse the technical skills. I am sure many of you out there have seen plenty of this ( I have never seen different in my 5 year career ). Therefore, who would be in the right position to evaluate the performance and/or productivity equation stated ?

However, prospects are not so bleak. While I have choosen to remain a wage slave (due to my insecurity and lack of experience regarding personal endeavours ), my experience is that if you are willing to work hard and have valuable skills you will never be in lack of job offers, and you will always have the choice of taking a break from toiling away for someone else ( economic crisis permitting ) and you will always be free to move from company to company ( in fact, only in one occassion did I stay for more than a year in the same company ).

While being a programmer, I've also translated books into Spanish and worked as a .Net trainer for third companies. I do not consider myself a .net guru or the best of translators, but i firmly believe that hard work and self-discipline ( with the aim to continuously improve ) will get you there. You will strike a difference against people who crumble into their sofa in the evening and never hone their skills.

However, debt is slavery. I have always held that line of thought. That's why I prefer to "slavetoil" more hours ;)

20 Jun 2005 07:52 katrien_ie

Re: American thinking all the way

> As someone very justly said, this only

> applies to the american way of treating

> employees. Even if, very sadly, some

> asian and european companies would like

> to apply the same codes, many have

> realised the very straightforward

> equation between the worker's sentiment

> of being respected (and thus, paid) for

> his worth, and this same worker's

> overall productivity and implication in

> the performance of the company.

>

>

> The negative effect of such a

> shortsighted view of economic relation

> (between dominant investor and

> submissive employees) on economic

> performance is, in my opinion, only

> compensated in this case by the strange

> disreguard of american workers for the

> sorts of confort and quality of life

> that can not be measured in monetary

> terms.

>

>

> (Hum, yes. This is partly provocation, I

> confess. But, outrage aside, think

> seriously of it: the stress of being

> self-employed won't improve your quality

> of life...)

I am not sure about this distinction between European/Asian and American companies.

I am an Irish European have lived and worked in Ireland and Belgium. As far as I can see, the only difference between European and American employers is that European workers have more protection from the state (more true in Belgium than Ireland). If they had the same laws they would hire and fire at will. The goal of a business is to make money - any other wooly-headed ideas about respecting workers etc is nonsense. Workers are "respected" in order to motivate them to make more money.

I agree with the author and have made the jump to self-emplyoment 3 years ago after making other people rich for 10 years. I'm not rich yet, but have more freedom, control and security (yes it's true!) than could be dreamed of by an employee.

I have more security because I don't have a boss anymore that "has my own best interests at heart" until there is a downturn and he dumps me on the street with a weeks notice. At least if things are going bad in my own business I see it coming a month or two down the track.

So my advice is: stay in your jobs; less competition for me :)

01 Jul 2005 03:09 AndrewCates

But this isn't only true of software...
The productivity gap between best and worst, in my view, is as true of many white collar offices and especially true of research labs as it is in IT. It is also as often true of sales teams. But as mentioned I think the big picture is always that surviving on your own is much harder than doing your job: your job has to fit into a huge mesh of people and relationships to work. BozMo

24 Jul 2005 00:16 SSdavis

Re: American thinking all the way
"But, outrage aside, think seriously of it: the stress of being self-employed won't improve your quality of life..."

Reply:

Interesting discussion.

Actually, whether or not self-employment is considered stressful and a drain on the quality of your life is entirely dependant on the individual.

As for myself, entreprenuership is in my . My dad was an entreprenuer - as were both my grandfathers. I have a total of 9 cousins on both sides, 6 of them are entreprenuers; my husband is self employed and I have helped him build his business for the past 8 years.

Now it's my turn, I am preparing to a launch a web design/development biz.

I know this will sound outrageous to most of you, but I am just now learning how to program, because I recognize I can only get so far as a web DESIGNER. My graphics art background is not enough of a skillset for the types of websites I wish to build. If I don't learn to program the backend, I'll always be dependant on outsourcing or hiring someone else to do the mission-critical programming.

So, I decided to take programming classes at a local technical college. My focus is the LAMP platform, they offer enough in open source technology to give me a foundation and help me to jumpstart my self studies.

I doubt I'll be anything close to a fantastic programmer in less than two years (DUH!), but I promise you this - I'll make money.

I do not, however, agree that all debt is bad. I took out some student loans. I consider them to be an investment in my business plans. My dad tripled mortgaged our home, had to find outside investors, and crawled on his knees to the banks until his pants wore out when starting his business. The money I'll be investing in my startup is peanuts by comparison, even with the education investment.

For me, working for others means not being able to implement my ideas and plans, having to follow the beat of someone else's drum, being dependant on someone else for a pay raise, time off and project selection, not being able to choose to work only with those whose work ethics and standards I respect (the list goes on).

This all adds up to STRESS - the stress of not being in control of my own life. I could never work in a corporate environment - I don't fit their mold.

From my perspective, the added responsibilities of self-employment are welcomed - not stressful.

On the other hand, I was recently talking with a woman who said she wanted her Java Programmer husband to quit his job - she thought he could make more money as a freelancer, especially since their family could get health insurance through her job. My comment to her was "if the fire is not in his gut to be self-employed, then I doubt he'll be successful at freelancing."

As others have said, we all have to choose what's right for us. I haven chosen the path of entreprenuership because it's the right path for me. It's in my . :-)

My decision to pursue self-employment, even to learn a new trade to accomplish this goal, is not a matter of weighing the financial returns of self-employment versus working for someone else. It's a matter of following the beat of my heart.

Newbie,
SSdavis

24 Aug 2005 01:12 gizmola

An anecdote
If we leave aside the preaching about debt, which in my opinion really detracts from the message, I think the main argument is sound. If you strip out the technology component for a moment, I see two important elements to his argument. The first is that the potential for reward in a capitalist system is constrained by the amount of risk. In fact, the only guaranteed way to achieve substantial financial reward is through ownership. I commend the author on this realization at his age. When I was approximately the same age as the author, I was far more naive. I worked for a large well known corporation. At the time I was paid about $30k per year. Along with another person, I created a system that the corporation used to manage and process some important information. I suppose you could summarize it as, this system gathered, structured and allowed the mining of a lot of disparate information, and helped identify business opportunities that the company hadn't previously realized existed.

Although I didn't really understand it at the time, I (as the designer and one man programmer/analyst/developer) ended up investing a lot of IP into it. A few of my brainstorms were the basis upon which the entire system was balanced. I realized that those were some pretty darn good ideas some years later, and were really the inventions that made the system a success.

I should also say that in the process of creating this system I personally cut corporate red tape at every corner, refused to take no from the naysayers who dwelled in cubicles throughout the corporation, and got myself in a lot of hot water, stepping on toes, and doing things that were against policy, or treaded upon someone's turf who I felt was going to move too slow for my liking.

When review time came around, I got the "maximum allowable raise" for all my hard work, and 7 days a week work ethic. Of course the maximum allowable raise compared against the erosion of corporate benefits, and sky rocketing health care costs, really meant that I was putting a few more dollars in my pocket a week. Still I saw others doing a lot worse, and thought I was doing what the system says you're suppossed to do: climbing the corporate ladder step by step, and working like a dog. Unlike many people, I did enjoy my work, and this sustained me.

I also got a lot of flack for taking liberties like coming in at 10am after I'd worked till 10pm the previous evening, and things of that nature. Naturally I was told: well yes we know you work 100 hours a week, but you see Jerry who makes 3x your salary is disgruntled, and he comes in at 8am every day and leaves at 4. When he sees ou come in at 10 it lowers his morale. The lesson here is that in most corporations, there is really no recognition of the differences in productivity between employees. An avg. clock-puncher may get a 4% raise, and you get 5%, if they're even giving out raises this year.

I stayed at this company for good part of my youth, and enjoyed my bad boy status, and the latitude extended to me. I rose through the ranks and by the time I left the company I had managed to double my salary, and got a few promotions. I thought i was doing well.

My little system, I later learned was used to generate 100 million dollars the first year it was used. It became the model for a larger version which I worked on, and that project eventually employed quite a few other programmers, fleshing it out, most of whom made substantially more than I did. I never allowed this to bother me much, though because after all, I was the enfant terrible who ran the show, and designed, managed and developed most of this.

Meanwhile, the other business person who partnered with me initially, went from being the equivalent of a secretary in the company to a Sr. Vice President.

During my tenure, I never received even a $1 bonus, although I did recieve some ESOP stock, which was available to any employee of a certain grade who filled out the papers and was smart enough to take advantage of the option.

Without me, that $100m revenue would never have been earned, as I was not only a one man show, but in the end a co-visionary who recognized the value of the information, and got it into a format where the opportunities became visible for the first time. Without my vision and hard work, that money would never have been made, and there was really nobody even interested in what I was doing for the first six months of the project. But my bosses, and my bosses bosses, many of whom not only didn't help me, but actually actively hindered my efforts all saw their stars rise, and received stock, and perks, and bonuses.

Once I finally got up the guts to leave the company, within a few years I had more than doubled what I was making.

What can be learned from this rambling (albeit true) story? Well I hope I may save a few twenty somethings from falling into a similar trap. The first thing to realize is that youth is equated with irresponsibility, gullibility and the acceptability of explotiation. Large corporations really have no interest in what an employee is worth. It's penny wise and pound foolish I know, but we all know that every company has its stars, especially in the areas of IP and product development, while the people who reap any financial rewards are the owners and or/ top echelon executives.

We've all seen the ridiculous salaries CEO's receive, and the reality is, most of them don't deserve 1/100th of their compensation. You would think these people are divine, when you see what their compensation packages entail.

As a young person, you should make no more than two year plans. At least every two years you should seriously consider leaving your current job for a new one. That is often the only way you can escape the rut, and the corporate machinery that is designed to limit you. It is also a nice way to see what your true value is to your employer.

In todays world, there is really no reason to feel or display loyalty to your employer, because companies feel no loyalty to their employees. Corporations are not human beings after all, and they as entities are incapable of valuing human beings. What is sad is that there are many people who seem to believe that corporations only exist as financial instruments. For most technologists, this isn't why we have chosen the life we've chosen, and it's a foreign concept.

I really wish that more people looked at employment as exactly what it is (although yes I acknowledge there are always exceptions to the rule) namely a trade of a substantial portion of your life hour by hour, in return for a few dollars.

In the years following I ended up in executive management in several companies and watched those companies gutted. I've seen brands destroyed and twenty year employees who invested the majority of their lives into building a company, disccarded like toilet paper. I've seen great and storied companies reduced to rubble, thanks to the routine type of shenanigans that are only hinted out in the latest rounds of corporate trials. For every Enron, there's probably 100 companies that are already rubble, gutted at a profit to those who used cooked books to finance corporate mergers and takeovers. I have sadly been a peripheral witness, and been forced into the position of having to hand out the pink slips to people who worked their fingers to the bone and invested a portion of their personal identity into those companies.

Yes indeed, the corporate world will suck your soul from your body if you allow it to, and you will more than likely never make more than a comfortable middle class wage, even as you kid yourself that you're playing the game this way because it's safe and stable.

The only way to escape this trap is to retain ownership of something. You must own something if you want to retain any leverage and probably any self respect. Those people who become financially independent typically do so, because they take that important step towards working for themselves rather than working for others. And when it comes right down to it, what you invent, you own. When you work for others, you own nothing, including your own inventions. I think the important thing that many people see, given time and experience is that the risk is only one of perception, as sadly, far too many people are finding in our "booming economy". Small up and coming companies are bought and disappear. Large companies that seem impervious to such a fate, evaporate in a puff of smoke. Jobs that seem vital, important and integral to the company mission are eliminated in an instant because some "expert" or newly minted executive is able to sell a short term increase in revenue that will help the company make its numbers for the quarter, despite the fact that the net result of these decisions will be substantially negative for the long term welfare of the company mission.

Those of us who have been in the corporate trenches have seen the devaluing of IT and technology. The saddest thing is that my story of self explotation is that much less likely an option for those recent graduates and job entry folk, because the job that started my career might very likely today be outsourced to some development house in India. After all why pay a guy $25k + benefits, when that same job can be done by a developer off shore for $5k right?

26 Aug 2005 09:12 creford

Re: with age comes wisdom
Sure:), debt for is very slavery and disturbing for the relationship in the business and life.

29 Aug 2005 15:57 varkhan

Re: An anecdote (AWOL, 2)
Humph!
Reading you would really make me start thinking Americans never, ever, look elsewhere at what is happening. It is fortunate that I know this to be a lie.

What you are saying about the ratio between top salaries and average worker's, about skyrocketting health insurance, about 7 days a week disponibility, and some more, is true ONLY IN THE US (and Japan, I admit). It does not exist, anywhere else, in the very lucky part of the World where more than 90% of the people can afford to work with something else in mind that their daily subsistance.

And then, are wages the only member in your equation? How much do you rate quality of life?
You are rich enough to toil for more than food and shelter. And yet, you yearn for nothing else than more riches... if this is what makes you happy, I can't share your happiness.

22 Sep 2005 14:27 mclaugh2005

I just want to say: "I totally agree!"
Good call David. I uh.. how can I say this. I'm not born to be a drone like so many others. I have been working on side projects almost my entire adult life.

I've started two businesses and made money on both. Right now I'm still slaving away as a code whore, but I'm working on a new site which I am hoping will take off. ahem.. I'm planning will take off.

Anyway, good luck anyone with the tenacity to pursue something better than mediocrity.

Never Hope More Than You Work -- unknown

IT-Ideas.com (www.it-ideas.com/)

04 Oct 2005 20:17 isurge

Re: with age comes wisdom
Wisdom does not come with age. Wisdom comes with experience and or learning through others.

At 26 years of age I had done more than most people will in their entire life. David's career advice is sound you took issue with is age. Funny how old people have made age discrimination an issue when it is young people discriminating against the old.

I own my own business and hold large percentages in two others I helped build and will get percentages in several others over the next few months, because I am financing them and or providing the technology for them. I am a programmer my wife does project management and we both do sales. This year we spent a month in Costa Rica and we take time off from work every month. Our kid goes to one of the best private schools in the SF Bay Area. Next year we will take the whole summer off. David's career advice is dead on.

23 Dec 2005 11:28 ninthwave

Re: An anecdote (AWOL, 2)
And the UK . I think Upper Management to average shop floor employee pay ratio without compensation package in the us is 1:450 but the compensation packages even make that look like a joke. Germany is 1:4 The UK is 1:150, now these are about 3 year old figures. But the UK shows it really isn't a US thing, though you could say anglo-western thing.

And you are right, though I think that the goal should be that the standard of living world wide should be around the style of American middle classes. But hey money and trade and the movement of money is a strange game.

31 Jul 2006 12:04 neoliminal

Quit Your Job - Day
Quit Your Job Day advocates just this idea, but for entire groups of people. I love that you are making this work!

05 Feb 2007 08:07 Drinkingtea

I did the same
Having worked for 7 years at a large compamy getting more and more frustated at half my colleagues being not very productive but earning the same as me I realised I will never make that much working there. Sure the quality of life was good, but the frustation from work goes into your private life.

And is it that big a risk? I know I will be able to go back and find a similar perm job if my start up fails, and probably get a big pay rise into the bargain - in fact, it may even be financially a gain to leave!

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