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Businesses The Almighty Buck Google

The Mystery/Myth of the $3 Million Google Engineer 173

jfruh writes "Recently Business Insider caused a minor stir among developers with dreams of riches with a story about a nameless Google engineer who's making $3 million a year. Who is this person, and how unusual are pay scales like this inside the Googleplex? Phil Johnson uses public information to try to figure out the answer. His conclusion: the $3 million engineer may exist, but is a rare bird indeed if so."
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The Mystery/Myth of the $3 Million Google Engineer

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  • by asmkm22 ( 1902712 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @01:11AM (#45961901)

    What startup could even offer 500k salary in the first place?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:06AM (#45962191)

    No, no they really don't. Here's a source for Software Engineers: []

    Note that these are *averages*, not maximums. And maximums will be a multiple of the average.

  • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:30AM (#45962281)
    I don't know his salary, but clearly someone like Petr [], currently working at Google, deserves such an allowance (Petr is known for his genius talent in algorithmics). $3 million is 30 times what makes a good engineer - is it worth it? Or, should Google replace Petr with 30 engineers, for the same price? The thing is that at the level of Petr, none of the 30 engineers are likely to solve the complex problems that require complex algorithms. To be convinced, try to practice (or ask your best programmer friend) some of the Google Code Jam [] finale problems, or from topcoder...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @03:13AM (#45962467)

    In software:
    60k is wage to do work
    120k is wage to do meaningful work
    200k is wage to be lead on important work
    300k+ is wage for work that is high risk and critical path to business success

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @03:42AM (#45962577)

    What startup could even offer 500k salary in the first place?

    Some ~$500,000 jobs for an experienced person:

    Assuming you have experience and/or the degrees to back it up, Futures Group IT, LLC in NY is offering a starting salary of $250,000-$300,000 for Java/Python developers capable of doing systems architecture for a Quant Trading System.

    A similar job for a C#/WPF developer for Westbourne Partners in Chicago, IL is offering $300,000-$350,000 to start.

    The Hagan-Ricci Group is offering $300,000-$400,000 to start for a Senior Equities C++ Developer in Chicago with SQL, Java, and Linux experience bumping the number up to the higher number. They are also offering $250,000-$450,000 for a Low Latency Equities C++ Developer, with your choice of NY or Chicago.

    There's a UK company offering 250,000 GBP - ~$410,000 at current exchange rates - for trading systems work in London.

    A lot for the willingness of the finance industry to part with this level of cash might have something to do with what happened to Sergey Aleynikov, but probably not. It's just the kind of numbers they tend to throw around.

    Note that all of the above salaries are starting, and come with discretionary performance bonuses, and for the startups, can include stock options and signing bonuses.

  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:14AM (#45962721)

    uhm, as a silicon valley engineer (20+ yrs in the bay area), I can confirm that number is WAY wrong. even in this economy, $120k in the bay area is actually kind of low for anyone with experience and 4 yrs is enough to be at the 120k level.

    engineering in the bay area stays to top out (right now) at the 160-170 level. if you are at that level, you are damned near the top in terms of being a 'working engineer' (vs a manager).

  • My Jeff Dean story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @08:14AM (#45963675)

    I was friends with Jeff Dean in high school and he was my roommate in college for a year. We don't keep in touch much but he was in Minneapolis last fall and we got together for breakfast.

    If Jeff Dean is making $3M a year, you wouldn't know it. He's one of the least materialistic people I've ever known and I'd guess that between salary and stock options he could if he wanted to live a pretty high-end lifestyle. But he doesn't.

    When we were planning our breakfast, he was staying St. Paul because a charity his wife is involved with was having a board meeting. He wanted to pick a place he could WALK to, which is kind of challenge if you're in downtown St. Paul. I was thinking "Walk? You don't have a town car? A rental? Or a self-driving car?"

    Anyone else making a $3M a year wouldn't be walking or would want to have some kind of fancy brunch at the St. Paul Hotel (which I don't think he was staying in, either).

    I even asked him as gently as I could -- "How much do you still work? I mean, you don't need to, do you?" His answer was "only about 50 hours a week." "Why?" "There's still a lot of interesting problems."

    I don't think Jeff works for the money or even cares that much.

    I also asked him about the NSA revelations and he said that they were "really pissed" and "making internal changes to make it a lot harder to get any useful information."

Mr. Cole's Axiom: The sum of the intelligence on the planet is a constant; the population is growing.