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Why "senior software engineer" isn't worth it... (as an ex-Google tech lead)

TechLead2020-10-15
software engineer#senior developer#computer science#senior software engineer#staff software engineer#facebook#google#fang#silicon valley
314K views|3 years ago
💫 Short Summary

Ex-Google and Facebook tech lead provides insights on becoming a senior software engineer, discussing the pros and cons of reaching higher levels in tech companies and suggesting that starting a side hustle for more money and prestige may be a rewarding alternative. In the video, "Why Climbing the Corporate Ladder is Overrated," the speaker, "The Tech Lead," discusses the challenges and diminishing returns of climbing the corporate ladder in tech companies. He highlights the difficulty of finding impactful projects at higher levels, increased levels of responsibility and conflicts, and the fact that many benefits can be obtained just by being within the company. The Tech Lead suggests that having a side hustle and using employment for basic needs and networking may be more valuable than pursuing the traditional career ladder.

✨ Highlights
📊 Transcript
The path to becoming a senior software engineer at top tech companies like Google and Facebook is challenging and can take 10 to 15 years.
00:00
Many people want to become a senior software engineer but may feel under-leveled when they join a company.
It's a competitive field with a lot of pride and a desire for higher status.
Startups often inflate titles as a non-monetary reward.
There may be a point of diminishing returns in terms of effort versus rewards.
Senior software engineers and staff software engineers have high levels of responsibility and are constantly expected to stay on top of everything.
02:21
Staff software engineers, at around level 6, have uncomfortable levels of expectations and are always in the spotlight.
They have to handle all project status updates, even in areas they're not interested in.
They may need to do mundane tasks and clear technical roadblocks for their team.
Project leads are expected to be on call most of the time and be ready to respond to any issues.
There is a constant push for software engineers to reach the next level, but the higher levels come with increased responsibility and commitment.
04:27
Entry-level software engineers have a more relaxed work life, with less pressure and fewer hours.
Senior and staff software engineers have high levels of pride and ego, driving them to seek higher levels.
The race and hustle to reach the next level of seniority never really ends.
The ideal level of seniority for many is around level 5, where there is autonomy and respect without overwhelming responsibility.
Starting a side hustle can be a way to have more control over your career advancement and decision-making, instead of relying on the company's promotion process.
05:28
Senior software engineers often use their personal time to find new initiatives and opportunities for advancement.
Starting a side hustle allows for decision-making control and potential for more money and prestige.
Challenges of Climbing the Career Ladder
06:00
It can be difficult to find impactful projects that lead to promotion within a company like Facebook, as most features and optimizations are already in place.
Senior engineers need to take on larger, more complex projects that may involve dealing with team members and code refactoring.
Higher levels within a company may be important for internal recognition, but external perception often just focuses on the company name.
Senior members are also targeted and face more conflict with other teams, especially in technical discussions.
Differences in Lifestyle and Income Between Entry-Level and Senior Engineers
08:00
Working at a company provides access to benefits like health insurance, life insurance, and maternity/paternity leave.
Senior engineers and entry-level engineers have similar lifestyles in terms of social activities and company-issued tools.
Senior engineers may have higher social status and drive more expensive cars, but housing affordability is still a challenge.
Having a side hustle can significantly increase income and bring the level of financial comfort closer to that of high-ranking employees.
Recommendation for Learning and Self-Development
10:00
Blinkist app offers key insights from non-fiction books, allowing for quick learning in just 15 minutes.
Visiting blinkist.com/techlead grants a free one-week membership, with the option to cancel anytime, and 25% off for full membership.
Question for Viewers
11:00
At what point do you think the additional rewards and respect from climbing the career ladder are not worth the increased time, effort, and stress?
💫 FAQs about This YouTube Video

1. What are the challenges and rewards of becoming a senior software engineer?

Becoming a senior software engineer brings challenges such as increased responsibility and the need to constantly prove oneself, but also comes with the reward of autonomy and respect from peers.

2. Is it worth the effort to climb the career ladder to the staff software engineer level?

Climbing to the staff software engineer level brings a high level of responsibility and commitment, which may not be worth the effort for everyone. The sweet spot may be at the senior level, where there is a good balance of autonomy and respect without being overburdened.

3. What alternative paths can be more rewarding than pursuing the highest levels of software engineering?

Starting a side hustle or focusing on personal projects can be more rewarding than solely pursuing the highest levels of software engineering, as it allows for more control and decision-making in one's career advancement.

4. What are the challenges of climbing the career ladder in a tech company?

Climbing the career ladder in a tech company presents challenges such as the difficulty in finding impactful projects for career advancement, the need to take on larger and more complex projects at higher levels, and the potential for increased conflict and being a target for others.

5. How does the video suggest that the value of working at a tech company can be attained without climbing the career ladder?

The video suggests that the value of working at a tech company can be attained without climbing the career ladder by gaining access to company benefits and perks, such as health insurance, life insurance, and maternity/paternity benefits, and by having a good work-life balance and lifestyle without the added stress and responsibilities of higher-level positions.

6. What difference in lifestyle is mentioned between an entry-level software engineer and a senior engineer at a tech company?

The video mentions that the difference in lifestyle between an entry-level software engineer and a senior engineer at a tech company is not significant, with both levels enjoying similar social and work benefits, and that the additional gains in monetary reward and respect may not always be worth the added time, effort, and stress of climbing the career ladder.

7. How does the video advocate for starting a side hustle or additional business while working at a tech company?

The video advocates for starting a side hustle or additional business while working at a tech company as a way to attain financial comfort and career advancement without the need to climb the traditional career ladder, and emphasizes the potential for a good income and lifestyle through a side business.

8. What is the recommendation given in the video for personal development and career advancement?

The video recommends using the Blinkist app for personal development and career advancement, which provides key insights from non-fiction books in just 15 minutes, covering a wide range of topics from self-help to business and history, allowing for continuous learning and growth.