Lion of the Blogosphere

A career in computer programming sucks in China

A Chinese commenter writes:

I’ve lived in Mainland China and worked there as a Biz Analyst/PM, so in IT. Here is what I can tell you. Wages are low. There is an oversupply of programmers because too many people studied that for the market, so in Shanghai the average programmer probably gets only 10,000 rmb month (not much in such an expensive city), I was making 3X that, and over the age of 30, something strange happens…if they don’t move up to management or laterally to some other area (like Systems Analyst, Business Analyst) they disappear. It is rare to see a computer programmer in China over 35, VERY RARE. The reason why is pretty obvious, companies in China focus on cost over quality, and they will hire cheaper younger people and take the hit on quality. It is not just Mainland China, Taiwan is similar, IT job (including programming) are very low pay. Comp Engineers and designers who work on circuit boards are a bit different, but this is also a waning industry in Taiwan as they lose competitiveness to Mainland China, South Korea, Malaysia, etc.

Since most Mainland Chinese families require a man have a house and a car before they can marry (at least a university educated woman) and property prices around the big cities are similar to U.S. levels or higher (although wages are 1/4 the U.S. level) programming SUCKS. Women know this. If you say you work in IT and you are not a manger, most women don’t want to talk to you, unless it is a university sweet heart or maybe a peasant girl.

Computer programming in China sounds a lot like computer programming in the United States. In both countries, it’s a career with a limited lifespan. If you are unable to get promoted to a better job before you turn 35, you are screwed.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 19, 2014 at 6:49 PM

Posted in International

101 Responses

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  1. The difference is that very software is actually produced in China, or any Asian country for that matter. Bangalore’s a notable exception because unlike East Asia they use the Latin alphabet. But most stuff done in Bangalore is very low level. You don’t see anything like very important work like the Google Search Algorithm group, the Microsoft kernel team or the Apple iOS interface designers anywhere in Asia. Most Chinese programmers are going to be developers for internal IT projects, which is the bottom rung of the software industry in America as well.

    But in the US a good developer can move into writing top-tier software. The kind of work that gets you stock options in Silicon Valley. For example prestige hackers like Linus Torvalds and Guido van Rossum have made hundreds of millions just by being pure programmers. I’m not even talking about guys like Larry Page or Bill Gates who start out as programmers than take over the business side. Reaching that level as a programmer is never going to happen in China, because there is no Chinese Linus Torvalds.

    Doug

    April 19, 2014 at 7:28 PM

  2. The commenter said he has lived in China. I don’t think it’s safe to assume that he’s Chinese or even ABC.

    anon

    April 19, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    • Why would a non-Chinese person work as a low-paid computer-programmer in China?

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      April 20, 2014 at 1:11 AM

      • He says he’s making 3X what a local IT guy makes. Which either means he’s not employed as a local (foreign expat) or he’s in a niche area of expertise. Either way, nothing about what he wrote suggest he’s even Chinese. I would assume he’s an expat employed in come capacity in the IT industry in China. I don’t think too many local Chinese IT guys are stumbling onto Lion’s blog; with the Great Firewall of China and reading about values transference, though there’s bound to be some.

        L

        April 20, 2014 at 3:46 PM

      • though there’s bound to be some.

        there’re.

        jorge videla

        April 21, 2014 at 2:09 AM

  3. Yep. And, yet, journalists, politicians, and career advisors keep calling for more women in IT.

    E. Rekshun

    April 19, 2014 at 8:32 PM

  4. All work sucks, everywhere.

    If you spend 8, 9, 10 hours a day at the beck and call of someone else, you’re a slave, no matter how many money and honors are involved.

    Logan Circle Dreaming

    April 19, 2014 at 8:35 PM

    • Indeed. Thus the esteem placed on Ivy League education is flawed because all it entitles you to is a place as a well paid galley slave in the belly of the politically correct machine towing the party line. That Princeton degree in the humanities put you on a par with MIchelle Obama, congratulations! Perhaps something like using a math degree to land university tenure would maximize self actualization, while providing secure employment in the least PC element of academia with a decent amount of autonomy.

      Sanjuro

      April 20, 2014 at 9:49 AM

      • Most people would want to self actualize with a Humanities degree than a STEM degree.

        Anyone who works for a paycheck because they have to, is in a proledom state, and that includes those espoused by Lion, such as the BIGLAW and Finance types, who work to the bone at a job that they don’t “really” like, so they can make a lot of money in return. The counter-argument is that if you are in these fields, you can make a lot of money, and this would be enjoyable. More people go into these fields for the sake of money than for career enjoyment.

        JS

        April 20, 2014 at 5:34 PM

      • False, if you have a Wharton or Harvard MBA you’re much more likely to convince the people required to give you the capital and contracts required to be the slaveowner rather than the slave.

        Doug

        April 20, 2014 at 9:17 PM

      • I am not impressed by Harvard/Wharton MBA, or any other one for that matter. If I invest in a business I look for actual product and industry knowledge, not merely “business”.

        Michael

        April 21, 2014 at 9:58 AM

      • then michael you should invest outside the us. in no other country are technical people so under-represented among high ranking executives.

        jorge videla

        April 22, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    • The way to lessen the undesired effects of work is to become an entrepreneur, or to have a self actualization career, work that you strongly suits your interest and in the case of running your own business, you set the rules.

      JS

      April 20, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      • A lot of Internet sages extol “be your own boss” yadda yadda but most small businesses have no more leverage with their major clients than a “wage slave” has with his boss.

        ATC

        April 20, 2014 at 9:10 PM

      • Bingo.

        driveallnight

        April 20, 2014 at 11:00 PM

      • Depends on how you define leverage. Flexible hours and paying less taxes are 2 things I can think of. And telling what clients is right is another. You can’t say that to a boss.

        Most importantly, no feminazis and male sociopaths to give you a run in office politics. They might be your employees, but you’ll fire them.

        JS

        April 22, 2014 at 10:35 PM

    • “a well paid galley slave”

      An HYPS degree made starting my business much easier. It offers instant credibility plus connections. Easier financing and easier to hire people, plus a je ne sais quoi that drives business your way by distinguishing you from competitors.

      bob

      April 20, 2014 at 4:51 PM

      • “an” is used before h only when the h begins an unstressed syllable in a polysyllabic word.

        thank you “meritocracy” for promoting the pushy, obedient, strivers,

        jorge videla

        April 21, 2014 at 2:15 AM

      • @ jorge you’re clearly incorrect in this instance. OP used “an” correctly. Get a life.

        Ryan_Clark

        April 21, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    • Absolutely. If I’ve learned anything from my time in corporate IT, it’s unless you’re really good at what you do and you understand how to maneuver in corporate environments and you understand networking, don’t bother trying real hard. It’s a lost cause. If it’s too late, try hard enough to get buy and at least get better at maneuvering.

      IT scumbag

      April 20, 2014 at 7:02 PM

      • america’s commisars aren’t too bright. they’d simply define networking and maneuvering as “people skills”.

        whetever it takes to “succeed” is ipso facto virtue…the summit of ideology.

        jorge videla

        April 21, 2014 at 2:17 AM

    • and most of what became the developed world agreed with you in the 19th c. it was called “wage slavery”.

      jorge videla

      April 21, 2014 at 2:10 AM

  5. But, according to what I just read, the average monthly wage for an urban worker is 5,000 RMB/month. So IT workers are relatively well paid it would seem.

    CamelCaseRob

    April 19, 2014 at 8:42 PM

  6. I’m in Canada, I am 34, and I earn $100,000 per year as a senior software developer.

    My advice to developers who want to make a good living is to work for small, product focused, software companies and to continually improve your skills. These companies are the most likely to see the value of what you do and be willing to pay for it.

    Large companies, companies that are in different industries, or consulting software firms mostly want to keep total costs down and will never pay for a quality developer.

    PeppermintPanda

    April 19, 2014 at 10:07 PM

    • I’m in a similar situation and I actually like my job. I work for a smaller company so I’m also included in the design process as well as the coding. The pay is great, the hours are 9 to 5 and I enjoy it. I am essentially paid to build cool tools all day. If you find the right company, it can be a pretty good job. I think its infinitely better than being a nurse or lawyer or many other jobs. I’m also not a beta omega or anything and I have regular girlfriends. Plus I’d be bored stiff examining financial data or looking to make business processes more efficient like in consulting. Ugh.
      I’ts obviously not a guaranteed career like a government academia job (most of which seem extremely boring) and I’m taking steps to be prepared to exit should I need too. But id rather not!

      richard

      April 20, 2014 at 8:30 AM

      • Government computer jobs are easier to get than anything else in government. Pay is below private sector but, as Lion says, most of the private sector will kick to the curb all but superstar programmers when they hit middle age.

        bob

        April 20, 2014 at 4:53 PM

      • Richard, good luck to you. The stereotypical way things go to shit is when the laid-back company attracts enough attention to get bought out by a bigger fish. Suddenly, people who were fine before now “just don’t fit.”

        Try to negotiate an equity stake in your current employer if you haven’t already.

        ATC

        April 20, 2014 at 9:18 PM

  7. For conversion purposes, he says programmers make about US$19,500/year.

    No, you can’t live well in Shanghai on that. If you can save $5,000 a year though, you can retire in the countryside.

    lodola

    April 20, 2014 at 12:26 AM

  8. “Since most Mainland Chinese families require a man have a house and a car before they can marry ”

    This is how the Roman elite died out. To marry a woman of your own class, you either needed your father to die early and inherit, or work for money and status until you were about 35-40, which for the Roman elite meant overseeing a country farm, the military, or overseeing a provincial government.

    lodola

    April 20, 2014 at 12:29 AM

  9. This is what Chinese women I guess need to read:

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303663604579503800504978432

    “The Upside of ‘Marrying Down’
    Today’s ambitious women need husbands who are collaborators, not traditional breadwinners”

    uatu

    April 20, 2014 at 12:42 AM

    • it’s not always up to the women, it’s often up to parents and family who can and will veto marriage to a lower income guy, and this is across the board in non western cultures not just China.

      Miss Minnie

      April 20, 2014 at 3:13 AM

    • but in most U.S. cities, single, childless women under 30 now make more money than their male peers

      equal rights really means what then?

      double the workforce and wages go down. who would have thought?

      jorge videla

      April 21, 2014 at 2:55 AM

  10. Camel: Average monthly wage in Shanghai is about 10-12K, only waiters or something are making 5K, I think massage girl prostitutes are making more than 5K…5K is a national average. That’s probably a 2nd tier city like Qingdao, Chengdu, etc.

    Lion: I am not Chinese (ethnic or a citizen), I am African American. Yep…lol I also speak intermediate Mandarin, although I’m not literate. And no I am not half white or almost white, I am 90% African in ancestry according to 23&me, and I’m 6’3″ and dark skinned. LOL I’ve worked projects in Singapore, Taiwan, Mainland China (Shanghai and out in Chengdu), Japan, and Switzerland. Yes, pay is low in China for everyone actually, but I love Asia. I’m going back in a few months for a job in KL (Malaysia). I just returned from Shanghai last month after a year in China.

    I was working for a a U.S. based marketing consulting firm, basically a CRM shop. We were doing work for an American Fortune 500 that is doing sales in Asia-Pacific. I am not a programmer. Last time I actually did dev work was in 2001, I was doing some Java front-end for a Sybase db set-up to track oil import inventories. That sucked. 6 months was enough. I never did it again. Now I only work with dev team leads, and product owners (managers). For many years I did support work for CRM/ERP systems, front-end and back-end. I eventually moved into Business Systems Analyst roles, and now into PM roles. I worked with Dev teams in China, and have friends there who are actively working at developers, so I got to know their job market, and it is quite bleak. It also sucks in Taiwan for the same reason. In Singapore they just bring in a crap load of Indians (from India) who work for cheap, so even PMs get paid scraps, but Singapore is not a cheap place, it’s not HK, but more expensive than Tokyo, but an IT PM at a multinational bank can make as little as US$60,000 a year!! I can make more money in Ohio, where I was born.

    Why live in Asia? UHm…I like living in Asia??? Everything is not about money. I made m,ore money in Switzerland than I ever made in my life, but it is boring, rural, and did I mention boring? Europe is a museum continent, Asia is dynamic. I get to do cool stuff, my first PM job was in Singapore, I’m much younger than most PMs in America, because Asia is so dynamic and fast paced there are more opportunities, but it is a harder life, much longer hours, little vacation.

    CA Spears

    April 20, 2014 at 2:19 AM

    • Something still doesn’t compute. The vast majority of people lack the intellectual capacity to work as a tech of any kind, much less a programmer, and still less a developer, in IT. So why are these lesser minds making more money than people in IT? Just what jobs are paying more than IT work?

      CamelCaseRob

      April 20, 2014 at 10:14 AM

      • There’s nothing intellectual about IT work here in the US. Non-Asians who work in IT are generally proles.

        JS

        April 21, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    • CA Spears, I’m happy to see Lion get black American readers. Please don’t let the various racist trolls here scare you away, they are unrepresentative. Lion has promised to try to keep his comments fairly clean, but he’s busy with work a lot.

      BTW I am also a Midwesterner who loves Asia, though I’d prefer France, Spain, or Italy for a long-term job abroad, less pollution and better food. Asian food is good, but their desserts suck, either sugary pastries with no butter in them or bean-curd with food coloring. I never eat Haggan-Daz here, but in Asia that was the only decent dessert I found outside of high-end Euro restaurants.

      bob

      April 20, 2014 at 5:03 PM

      • Unrepresentative of what, exactly? Bob, your impulse to be polite is leading you to mis-characterize the nature of this blog and the majority of the people who read it. If you’d define ‘race realist’ or HBD supporters as ‘racist’, which I think that you, in-particular, would, then you are speaking out of turn.

        CA Spears – Don’t let the apologists put you off either. They have no domain here, even though their privilege in every other part of the social sphere encourages them to speak like they do. I’m going to go out on a limb and speak for Lion, and he can correct me if necessary. You are more than welcome here. It’s just that we speak about non pc-topics without apology and without tolerance for irrational / anti-logic or fallacious rhetoric. In other words, shaming has no sway and, frankly, not many people here will engage anyone in a debate that revolves around the common propaganda. In fact, many of us are here because the debate that rages on in other parts of the interweb is a little bit beneath us at this point. Its more of a discussion place for like minded individuals. Bob and a couple of rare others are the exception, not the rule.

        Jon

        April 22, 2014 at 11:46 PM

      • And all comments go through Lion before they are posted, Bob. You aren’t seeing anything that wasn’t first screened.

        Jon

        April 22, 2014 at 11:47 PM

    • were you living in malibu in 2000?

      jorge videla

      April 21, 2014 at 2:26 AM

  11. The emphasis on youth seems prevalent for many many IQ fields like math, physics, science. Literature, art and history are maybe the only examples where older people can enter the field make contributions. STEM fields seem like a young person’s game.

    grey enlightenment

    April 20, 2014 at 4:50 AM

    • There aren’t many breakthroughs coming from East Asians or other H1B workers in STEM.

      JS

      April 20, 2014 at 11:08 AM

      • Lots of breakthroughs are coming from asians…

        http://icml.cc/2014/index/article/15.htm

        Alex

        April 21, 2014 at 2:30 AM

      • Like what? The cloaking capability of an airplane.

        JS

        April 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM

      • Funny that Alex mentioned ICML. Had not checked this year’s papers. Surprised to see a few classmates in the list; good to know they are doing well.

        I know a lot of you folks hate all tech jobs with a passion. I would just say that many of classmates are making around 200K[1] in Bay Area/ NYC. And that is for people who did not even complete their PhDs but dropped out with a Masters. Though we went to a top 5 CS school, so that is a factor too.

        Though of course, they don’t do IT admin stuff or make vanilla web apps or write testing scripts. Almost all of them are into ‘Data Science’ teams at big companies or post A series startups. Their job is a mixture of writing production code, experimenting with ML/ Stats models, co-ordinating with other teams etc. I put Data Science in quotes because it is a fuzzy term and can mean a lot of things. ETL guys for instance make substantially less.

        As for me, instead of taking the job route, I dropped out to do a startup. We are doing moderately well, but often have second thoughts looking at how well some of classmates are doing just by working on relatively stable and stress-free jobs.

        [1] Counting bonus, but not stock. Startup/ IPO lottery is a major random factor. Many who went to relatively easier jobs ended up becoming millionaires in just 2-3 years. Some joined a hot startup, but it’s not doing that well now.

        theblackswan

        April 22, 2014 at 1:32 PM

      • Should also add that I would not recommend programming for a median or even a 90th percentile analytical aptitude person. A lot of the stuff they do is race to the bottom, and is getting outsourced or taken over by H1Bs. Also, many programming tasks themselves are busy getting automated by virtue of better platforms, packages and maybe in near future ML/ AI.

        I am an Indian who has a H1B, but I totally agree that majority of H1B work can be done by American high-schoolers with some training. I recently moved back home due to parental health issues, and am astounded by cognitive level of majority of workforce, IT or otherwise.

        A majority of my aforementioned friends too are foreigners, mostly Chinese, Indian, Israeli and Eastern European. But they are the kind of people for whom the H1B was really setup for. Many of them are also applying for O visa- the ‘genius’ visa. I have seen few of my seniors being granted one. It becomes a lot easier with a PhD from a top school, and I often regret dropping out with a Masters.

        theblackswan

        April 22, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    • you can be older, but in STEM/Tech fields I think you really need to move to management by 40 or you will get priced out of the market…this is not about high IQ young geniuses making ground breaking discoveries before 30, it is more about economics. Lion is right, programming sucks. You need to move ‘closer to the business” in some planning or liaison role unless you are working for some projectized IT company like Apple, IBM,..but if IT projects aren’t core to your business, then you are either working projects and/or doing some mix of operations or purely in operations (support stuff) at most big companies – banks, pharma/biotech, insurance, military contracting – the list goes on. Project work pays more, because you don’t have SLAs, you really need to think on your feet and deal with other departments or external clients in a dynamic way. Still, IT salaries are low, I think in Washington D.C. (where I used to live) a mid-level IT PM will get around 100K, I guess they are managing million dollar projects, senior PMs are getting around 125-130K depending on industry. If you are some place like Ohio or Georgia you might take 15K a year off of that, Texas will be even less (but cost of living is lower). I much prefer PM work to development work. Thing is most programmers don’t have the personality type, interest, or skill-set that will propel them to management.

      CA Spears

      April 20, 2014 at 12:04 PM

      • do you have a masters in math? i may know you.

        jorge videla

        April 21, 2014 at 2:44 AM

  12. OT: there’s an unintentionally funny article in the Times that epitomizes upper-class idiocy. A woman with a very expensive house in Forest Hills Gardens is in a battle with the homeowners’ association about raising “heritage” chickens on her property. Mom is worried that her 5-year-old daughter is “developing too fast” (I’m trying not to think too hard about just what that means) and therefore wants to raise her on a hormone-free diet. Hence she feeds the child eggs from the chickens, which she raises without hormones.

    What Mom is too dense to realize is that by federal law, ALL eggs sold in the United States are from chickens raised without hormones!
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/19/nyregion/in-queens-chickens-clash-with-the-rules.html?smid=pl-share

    Peter

    ironrailsironweights

    April 20, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    • Early puberty in girls is 90% caused by excess sugar and obesity, with soy running a very distant second. I feel sorry for the various chubby 8 and 9 year old girls I see with breasts. No carefree tween years of running around the playgrounds without a bra for them. Their adult height will also be lower because of this and menopause might come early too.

      There was exactly one girl in my 2nd grade class that had breasts, out of maybe 14. Now it is probably around 35%.

      bob

      April 20, 2014 at 5:09 PM

      • Thank goodness I was fairly thin and had a very late menarche. Youth should be treasured.

        I still look childish.

        Latias

        April 20, 2014 at 9:33 PM

  13. Looks like China did not even need mass immigration to achieve the same results.

    outsider

    April 20, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    • China has “mass immigration” from rural areas that function on a fourth world level to urban areas on a second or first world level. Some older citizens need to learn the Mandarin dialect as well if they haven’t been to school, and about fifty percent of the population speaks Mandarin as a “second language” so to speak. India has like the same situation.

      Miss Minnie

      April 20, 2014 at 5:45 PM

  14. IT work is for chumps. Unless you run a businesses and need to understand the technology, or implement a startup, a career in IT is for losers. Long hours and a constant need to learn new technologies are the drawbacks, not to mention, it’s gives off a low status SMV for men, when it comes to women.

    That’s why we have East Asians and East Indians.

    JS

    April 20, 2014 at 8:12 PM

    • That’s why we have East Asians and East Indians.

      you’re confusing cause and effect. if it weren’t for foreign programmers, natives would make more and have higher smv.

      jorge videla

      April 21, 2014 at 2:33 AM

      • No, they would not. IT is not just programming, but also network administration and IT security which are still prole and have substantial less Asians in these sub-domains of Info-Tech, when compared to monkey coding.

        JS

        April 21, 2014 at 10:04 AM

  15. If you are unable to get promoted to a better job before you turn 35, you are screwed.

    This is exacerbated by current corporate religion which says you should glass-ceiling programmers because *opens Business Bro Bible* they are Heads Down Coders who don’t understand Teh Bizness, you know…all the Real Work relating to Core Functionality *closes Business Bro Bible* (ironically, with tools whose business rules were baked in by IT, hmmm).

    ATC

    April 20, 2014 at 9:29 PM

    • The thing is… I’d love to see that claim backed up with some actual numbers.

      trumwill

      April 20, 2014 at 11:50 PM

      • The WSJ has reported on this. No numbers but I consider their reporting to be trustworthy. Note that they are coming at it from the bias of “suh-weeet, this is a GOOD trend,” i.e. the opposite of Lion’s POV.

        For most of the 20th century, CIOs were often viewed as boiler room technicians…additionally, the CIO is increasingly drawn from business and not IT ranks…

        http://mobile.blogs.wsj.com/cio/2012/06/20/cios-may-evolve-as-leaders-of-global-corporate-services/

        Fiddlesticks

        April 21, 2014 at 9:41 AM

      • So you can’t even hope to rise to CIO by starting out in IT and climbing the IT ladder.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        April 21, 2014 at 8:20 PM

      • Wharton professor Tom Gerrity has also acknowledged this trend. Maybe if you ask him nice he’ll give you the numbers you seek.

        While many CIOs still come up from the technology organization, more are drawn from other parts of the business. “More and more companies are seeing mobility across the organization,” Gerrity said.

        http://executiveeducation.wharton.upenn.edu/ebuzz/0708/thoughtleaders.html

        Fiddlesticks

        April 21, 2014 at 9:46 AM

      • The data I want is “What happens to the coders?”

        How much is the average 45 or 50 year old computer science major making? How does that compare to other majors? How much does the average person who was coding at 30 make when he’s 45 or 50?

        If computer programming is such a bad career track, that ought to be demonstrated by troublesome numbers.

        trumwill

        April 21, 2014 at 10:49 PM

      • They are numbers that no one wants to collect.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        April 22, 2014 at 6:45 AM

      • The mid-career numbers for computer science degreed individuals are collected and pretty solid. It’s possible that everything goes to hell right after that, but at this point I would need to see that demonstrated.

        Most of my mid-thirties (as I am) friends in IT generally and software development specifically are still doing pretty well. That’s anecdata, of course, but most of the arguments I read about how terrible it is are anecdata or something close to it (Trend Pieces and the like).

        trumwill

        April 22, 2014 at 2:18 PM

      • There’s a huge difference between mid 30s and mid 40s. I think that’s where the big fallout occurs.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        April 22, 2014 at 4:20 PM

      • Perhaps. I’d still like to see some numbers. My impressions still run along these lines and I still haven’t found anything to contradict it, apart from anecdotes and trend pieces.

        trumwill

        April 22, 2014 at 9:22 PM

      • There’s a logic to avoiding a career in pure IT/programming that is independent of numbers. It’s an economic logic that determines that careers in IT will mostly be a dead end with a low-enough salary ceiling. This logic will (and does in China) win out over the anecdotal experience of you and your work buddies. Any exception to the rule in the USA is likely a temporal anomaly, independent of the economics of the value that you provide. It is most likely, especially as we progress into the second machine age and globalism progresses, that this anomaly will eventually be smoothed over and all programmers will meet at even water.

        To wit: You can’t build a career on nothing but technical skill unless you are much more spectacular at that technical skill than almost everyone else. If you are better than everyone else, then you no longer have a career only based in technical skill – you have a career predicated on both technical skill and talent. Technical skill is a commodity in most of the world, is becoming more of a commodity here (look at law for another example), and will continue to be reduced toward its true value in parts of the world where it still enjoys salaries that are most often awarded to rare talent. What do you think the point of H1B programmers are? An actual shortage of programmers coming out of US Universities? No. It’s the conscious process of globalization toward reducing programming salaries to their actual world value. This process even takes precedent over programmer quality, because in the world of commodified skill good enough is good enough.

        A good career is always based in talent. Amazing people can base a career in pure talent (no technical skill – eg: great innovators, great artists, great actors, great speakers, great influencers, great leaders, great thinkers etc.). Most mortals can get buy with less, but not no, talent if they apply it over top of a technical skill. Pure techies are not valuable. If you are a pure techie and well paid, then thank your god that you rode the wave of labor supply inefficiency in your discipline but be ready for it to crash without warning.

        Jon

        April 23, 2014 at 12:05 AM

      • Jon – For some reason, I never understood the idea as to why Wall St guys were paid handsomely. Many of them don’t come off as talented in whatever. But market or irrational human psychology dictates what is hot and what is not. A very good example is someone forking out a large sum of money for rent, so they can live an oversized storage closet, just to be in NYC.

        JS

        April 23, 2014 at 10:22 AM

      • Banking is a necessary function in a modern economy, and those who hold monopoly power over that function can extract huge amounts of profit. This doesn’t mean that the people who work in the industry are creating value.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        April 23, 2014 at 11:41 AM

      • What’s funny is that a blog that I contribute to has another writer who very much agrees with Lion on this. He’s a law grad essentially trying to downtalk other options that many would consider to be wiser. Which is usually the case and makes Lion and a lot of the folks around here a bit of an anomaly (except, of course, Lion also has a law degree).

        The question of whether or not computer programming is a “good” choice depends on what one’s other options are. There may be better ones – sometimes I think I made the wrong choice by going into computers – but it still seems to me to be a remarkably better career path than most. Along with certain types of engineering, it seems to have been the best option among my social circles (a social circle that includes physicians, I should add).

        If there is a problem right now, it should be borne out by data. Data is light, but what data there is supports the career path as being significantly better than most. That could change in the future, along the lines of what Jon is talking about or the massive outsourcing that has been right around the corner for twenty years now. Nothing is ever guaranteed. But I haven’t seen much beyond say-so to suggest that the situation for software developers (or computer science majors) is more precarious than the situation for the vast majority of other jobs in the United States.

        trumwill

        April 23, 2014 at 12:16 PM

      • The data is very confusing because people who collect the data don’t seem to think there’s any difference between Harvard and a directional state school, and they think that all college degrees are the same, and there isn’t good longitudinal career data. There aren’t very many software engineeers in their 40s, what happened to the ones who didn’t get promoted to management?

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        April 23, 2014 at 12:55 PM

      • There seems to be more of a stigma in society for people who studied the Liberal Arts, and then fritter their lives away after college trying to self actualize, than any STEM nerd, who usually is able to secure steady employment that pays a living wage.

        Going into a STEM field is a losing proposition for those who want to attain status via monetary means. Of course, this is a Northeastern – Value Transference point of view, in absolute terms.

        In a land of herbivores without a strong lust for women and all things status inducing, such as the SF- SV Bay Area, there is a less predatory need to define status, basically a zero sum gain that you find with the Value Transference types in NYC as an example.

        JS

        April 23, 2014 at 3:21 PM

      • People with degrees from Harvard (or MIT or whatever) shouldn’t factor into the statistics too much. There are too few of them. They’re swamped by the Texas A&Ms and Central Floridas. If there is a drop-off, it’ll show up statistically somewhere.

        trumwill

        April 23, 2014 at 11:12 PM

    • the Business Bro Bible doesn’t exist outside the anglosphere, that is,, the prole-osphere.

      jorge videla

      April 21, 2014 at 2:36 AM

      • In comparison to continental Europe, England and much of the Anglo-Prolesphere world (with a White majority) come across as 2nd rate. The food, culture, and of course handicrafts are a few things to note. A simple observation of bibles currently produced in England and the United States, seem rather unremarkable to those bounded in continental Europe.

        JS

        April 23, 2014 at 1:35 PM

  16. Ok so can we confirm what the great jobs are? Top 14 law, investment banking, finance, government bureaucrat, academic bureaucrat. Anything else?

    richard

    April 21, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    • Medical doctor.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      April 21, 2014 at 8:21 PM

      • It’s not uniformly a great job at all, and I’ve seen it up close. Dermatology is a good career because it offers avenues into cash-based cosmetics and the call duties are minimal. Orthopedics and cardiology have a worse lifestyle but still pay well. Family practice, pediatrics, general internal medicine and many of the non-procedural internal medicine specialties have bad hours and pay poorly relative to the time spent in training and the debt accrued during that time. And there are a lot more residency positions allotted to those specialties than there are to dermatology or orthopedics. An average or slightly above average medical school student has almost no chance of landing the best specialties and will end up in one of the more miserable ones. Then consider that reimbursement will be progressively cut over the next decade. Lastly, consider that automation will take a huge bite out of medicine in the future. It may be a good career for someone in his late forties now who has experienced some of the good years, but is medical practice a good bet for a twenty year old college student who won’t see much money for ten years after he begins training and needs to work until his sixties 2055-2065)?

        nebbish

        April 21, 2014 at 10:51 PM

      • Unless you’re a woman, apparently:

        Click to access GenderNPV_WorkingPaper.pdf

        trumwill

        April 22, 2014 at 12:39 AM

      • Correct! Being a medical doctor sucks nowadays. Intense studying which can span to your 30s and even reaching to your middle age, is the norm to become a physician. On the brightside, there are those who are passionate about medicine, and not because of the monetary rewards it brings, which is harder to achieve, with the corporatization of the medical field.

        And because of all this, I suggest studying medicine in a great environment free from blacks and proles with great weather. Southern California comes to mind.

        NYC is a terrible place to train in medicine!

        JS

        April 22, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    • Academic and government bureaucrats start with low pay. But they are lower in stress when compared to law and finance, and getting a foot in those fields are harder to achieve.

      Law and finance aren’t great anymore! (Reasons, they are downsizing and there is an oversaturation of candidates)

      JS

      April 22, 2014 at 10:24 AM

  17. There is a big difference between working in the IT department of some random company and working on development/support of a software product at a software company. When you work as a programmer on a software product at a software company, you are working on the companies main product, and that gives you much higher visibility. The IT department of most companies is viewed as a support function. Companies are willing to cut corners to save money on support functions.

    There is also a large range in the productivity of programmers. It was too easy to get into programming in the late 1990s and a lot of people who could not program their way out of a paper bag got 100K+ programming jobs because they knew a bunch of buzz words. Since 2002 or so most of those people have been forced out. In the late 90s lots of programmer salaries got into the 100K+ range, but if you are going to make that much, you need to be more productive than 2 random college graduates or 3-4 programmers in Shanghai. Having worked for years with offshore software development groups in China and India, that is not that hard. Offshore software development is very inefficient. There are lots of communication and management problems with offshore software development.

    Here is Silicon Valley there has also been a lot of buzz about the illegal secret agreements between Apple, Google, and other high tech companies to not compete for programmers on salary. The law suites over those agreements are just starting to find there way through the courts. These kinds of illegal agreements are probably a big factor in holding down programmer salaries in Silicon Valley.

    mikeca

    April 21, 2014 at 5:15 PM

    • Mikca: I agree with you as far as working at an IT company compared to working on in IT departments in another company. I want to clarify something, when you talk about making 100K+ as a programmer? You are speaking about in Silicon Valley?

      CA Spears

      April 21, 2014 at 8:52 PM

      • I’m from Silicon Valley and the 100K+ salaries are Silicon Valley salaries. In the late 90s up to 2001 Silicon Valley was at the center of the Dot.com bubble and salaries went crazy.

        mikeca

        April 21, 2014 at 10:01 PM

  18. Here’s an interesting set of statistics: US Math and IT/Systems people make a lotta $$$:

    http://www.policymic.com/articles/87811/the-best-job-in-america-isn-t-one-most-high-schoolers-dream-about

    rob

    April 22, 2014 at 4:10 AM

    • We know that. They have low status and lower SMV.

      JS

      April 22, 2014 at 10:35 AM

  19. I have read lion’s criticisms of the field and I agree with them. However there are so many articles written by forbes, cnn-money, etc that all frequently elevate software-developer to the top 10 careers year after year.

    I am going to assume that perhaps these articles are written by journalists and people from outside the professions who do not know the hidden “truth” about programming.

    Richard North

    April 22, 2014 at 9:03 AM

  20. Don’t concentrate on salary so much. The big payoff for computer programmers is getting in to a company early, loading up on stock options, and cashing out big. Make $100K a year and then cash in $5M after a few years? Happens all the time.

    peterike

    April 22, 2014 at 9:02 PM

    • It happens “all the time” based on what numbers?

      I’d guess that it happens extremely rarely relative to the number of programmers in the nation.

      Jon

      April 23, 2014 at 12:11 AM

      • Peter was somewhat out of touch with the labor market. It’s as delusional as the guys who form startups, thinking that they might hit the lotto one day when Google or Yahoo buys them out.

        JS

        April 23, 2014 at 10:11 AM

  21. An old post from this blog by a college professor that resonates with Lion’s value transference scheme. Except he proposes that people should live on the government dole because of our failed economic policies.

    http://mitchell-langbert.blogspot.com/2009/08/work-is-for-chumps.html

    JS

    April 22, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    • Well, if there are just fewer jobs out there, someone’s going to have to go on the dole.

      SFG

      April 24, 2014 at 7:29 AM

      • Lion proposes people strive for value transference careers. That professor says because of them, you need to go on welfare. Work is for chumps.

        Further, most people in value transference, including New Yorkers, are solidly upper middle class, not multi- millionaire upper class. A large chunk of their paycheck goes into taxes, which would subsidized the delusional schemes of de Blasio and his liberal ilk.

        JS

        April 24, 2014 at 9:59 AM

  22. Little off topic. I found this article by Robert Locke from 2000. It captures quite well both “Girls” and “Silicon Valley.”

    All –

    Check this out.

    Mark

    VDARE.COM – http://www.vdare.com/locke/locke.htm
    March 01, 2000
    Valhalla of the Idiots Savant
    By Robert Locke

    I recently moved from Manhattan, which I assumed to be America’s zenith of solipsism, materialism and arrogance, to California’s famed Silicon Valley. I have been surprised.

    Don’t get me wrong: people here are nice. But the flip side of this is a thin skin that makes you guard everything you say. People freak out if you are aggressive or sarcastic. Worse, they seem to have forgotten what sarcasm is and take you literally.

    And they are arrogant – indeed more arrogant than New Yorkers, though differently. New York arrogance is an investment banker who thinks he’s better than the rest of the world because he has money. Silicon Valley arrogance is a computer nerd who thinks the rest of the world is irrelevant because he has a mouse. People like him are going to leave the rest of the world behind in a cloud of dust, dontcha know?

    The root of this is that so many of the companies out here are run by entrepreneurs for whom the company is not just a company but their principal creative expression in life. You don’t dare treat their precious baby like just another corporation. There is a whole level of insufferable preciousness about the glory of marginal little halfwit companies that is virtually unheard of anywhere else.

    Silicon Valley’s fatal flaw is that it is an environment optimized for one thing only. Because there is only one industry here, all the people are interested in that one thing. And they just keep meeting other people who are interested in the same thing. This quickly makes them conclude it is the only important thing in the world.
    New York may be dominated by Wall Street, but it has other industries like the arts and media and fashion and diplomacy, so people are constantly confronted by other people who don’t care about their little corner of the world and don’t mind saying so. Everyone is stimulated and kicked around and forced to have a broader view of the world and what goes on in it. Living here, I have even come to miss – what a thought! – the resentnik Village Voice leftist political nutcases who abound in New York, simply because they perform the valuable service of puncturing self-satisfied capitalist narcissism.

    Of course, Silicon Valley is much better-run, cleaner, more efficient, and generally more pleasant than New York. But this warm place disappoints, nonetheless – particularly given that it represents the technological cutting edge of the planet. The propaganda is that Silicon Valley is giving birth to a whole new world. But in fact it’s just a well-landscaped technological ghetto.

    It’s amazing how ignorant of other things people with advanced technical knowledge can be. This place is truly the Valhalla of the Idiots Savant. What’s worse, they think it’s weird that anyone would want to carry anything around in their head that didn’t have something to do with the job. God forbid you’d want to know where the country you live in came from or why your culture is what it is. The few exceptions to this – it’s acceptable to be an expert on Star Trek lore, for instance – only prove the rule. (Science fiction is the true literary culture of this place – the source of mutually-recognizable references and images.) I suspect a lot of nerds here secretly despise present-day society for not being advanced enough, and feel they were born too soon. People here know a lot about history; it just happens to be history that hasn’t happened yet.

    The profession of computers seems to corrupt people’s understanding of the real world. In this virtual world, where everything is frictionless, the inhabitants forget that there’s a real world which operates according to very different rules. In a computer program, you can pretty much design things the way you want. What works on paper, works. Even the hardware types, who succeed in cramming more transistors onto a chip with each passing year, come to assume that all problems are susceptible to technological brute force. Or to “innovation,” which is a mantra here. If these people ran the government, they’d change the Constitution more often than their socks. If ceaseless change is good in the computer business, it must be good everywhere.

    Silicon Valley people are actively hostile to non-technical intelligence. For example, I suspect the bosses don’t want their employees to be savvy about politics, or they might start asking difficult questions. Not that this place is a Marxist hellhole of exploitation, mind you – even the lower technical people are decently well paid. But they get screwed, nonetheless. The Information Technology Association of America is lobbying for the unlimited right to import cheap foreigners to replace all those expensive Americans. And the rank-and-file don’t complain about it.

    Firstly, the rank-and-file are just too dumb about politics – and too trained in the mantra that politics is irrelevant – to organize to protect their own interests. Secondly, they identify with their employers because they all expect to be stock-option millionaires one day. Thirdly, their minds have been sozzled with the kind of vague libertarianism that doesn’t have the sense to ask whether the freedom of a foreigner to take their job is really the kind of freedom that anyone with more sense than a white mouse would ever support.
    Of course, these “libertarians” are the same people who ran crying to Uncle Sam when some ugly Neanderthal from Seattle ate their lunch. But you can’t expect philosophical consistency from people whose idea of philosophy is Robert Heinlein.

    They can afford a lot of stupidity. Money covers this place like a dull haze, sharpening appetites and dulling wits. There’s a real charade going on here with “non-hierarchical workplaces.” This means that, although the actual salary differentials are the same as in any other industry, everyone wears T-shirts and lunches at the same burrito joints and we pretend we’re living in some brave new world. I just want to know, in a world where CEO’s dress like golf pros, what do golf pros dress like?

    The odd thing is, while this is all done in the name of easy-going tolerance, you don’t dare put on a suit and tie. I’ve tried, and you find yourself apologizing to people, as if you had used overly correct grammar in front of the uneducated.

    The whole tone of Silicon Valley is very un-American. There is no consciousness of national identity at all. Silicon Valley people wouldn’t know what to do with such a thing. Americans are just another ethnic group. And why shouldn’t they be? We don’t care about physical space anymore, now that we have this virtual cyberspace, do we? National borders are surely irrelevant.

    Of course, they find out to their puzzlement that you can’t download the one thing that everyone in America wants: the single-family suburban house. The old hierarchies have a nasty way of reasserting themselves in a mountain-hemmed valley with a limited supply of buildable land.

    Silicon Valley people really do think that this is the first speculative boom in the history of capitalism, the first group of instant millionaires, the first time lives were changed by technology. And they have preposterous ideas about the size of the social changes their technologies are bringing about. I have yet to see a single significant social change brought about by the Web, for example. I recently heard someone say that the world financial system was going to be turned on its head because it was now possible to send $100 million from NY to London at the push of a button. I asked him when this had first become possible. He guessed 1982. No, that would be 1866, when the transatlantic telegraph went on-line.

    Silicon Valley people assume that the more advanced a technology, the bigger its social impact has to be. This is of course first-order nonsense, as anyone can see by comparing the effects of the Freon air conditioner – without which America would have no Sunbelt – to the moon landing, which had no social consequences at all. It’s all part of the assumption – a kind of breezily warmed-over Engelsian Marxism that doesn’t even know that’s what it is – that technology is what really drives history. Everything else is either entertainment or just a sideshow of people squabbling over the products of the machines.

    This leads to a breezy confidence that, since technology is ultimately what matters, and they understand technology, they don’t have to worry about anything else. I had someone tell me the other day that politics is “irrelevant.” Of course, this fellow didn’t think about the fact that everything he does, starting with the very fact that California is (for now) part of the United States and not Mexico, and a capitalist country, is a product of politics.

    A popular silly idea around here is that the Web will soon usher in direct democracy. This in a place that has one of the lowest voter participation rates for any area of comparable affluence in the country. Go figure. Maybe Silicon Valley people will care by then.

    Which may not be a good thing. All that money could make these people politically influential, but they’re not that bright with how they spend it, as shown by the way Bill Gates, after feeding liberal causes for a decade, got bitten by Clinton’s Justice Dept. Should have asked for a receipt for all that protection money! Not everyone here is liberal, but the affluent liberalism you do hear from people has a depressing naiveté about it. They genuinely believe that the Democrats are the party of compassion, and say things like, “I’m rich, and I want to help the less fortunate.” And rich people naturally assume they have great judgment about everything else, so they’re adamant in their opinions. I’m quite sure some even think it’s desperately original to be rich and liberal.

    There’s speculation that the vast wealth being piled up in Silicon Valley may soon produce a cultural efflorescence akin to the boom in art, music and architecture that accompanied New York’s rise to prominence in the first half of the 20th century. I doubt it. People here just aren’t interested in such things. Some of the big fortunes here will end up in charitable foundations and some of this will wind up in the arts. But this is likely to happen in San Francisco, which is where interesting people here move to when they’ve made their pile.

    The only conclusion can be that for the foreseeable future, Silicon Valley will be a very efficient production platform for a certain kind of useful machinery. But in terms of making something of itself uniquely interesting as a human community, forget it. All those things are really, in economists’ terms, externalities. And this place is just too efficient to allow any.

    P.S. If you want an accurate depiction of what Silicon Valley is like, read the novel Microserfs by Douglas Coupland. It’s all quite true.

    Robert Locke (email him) is a former associate editor at FrontPageMagazine.com (archive here).

    map

    April 23, 2014 at 12:48 AM

    • New York may be dominated by Wall Street, but it has other industries like the arts and media and fashion and diplomacy, so people are constantly confronted by other people who don’t care about their little corner of the world and don’t mind saying so. Everyone is stimulated and kicked around and forced to have a broader view of the world and what goes on in it.

      New Yorkers can be self serving narcissists with a lot of provincialism. They aren’t different from the Bay Area – SV capitalists. Further, many New Yorkers are recent transplants like their Bay Area SWPL counterparts, whose parochialism stemming from whatever bumblef*ck town they come from, transcends into their behavior in wherever they navigate their lives around the worldly Big Apple. Educated people who actually grew up in NYC seem to be naturally worldly and in tune with the city, than those who came here after college. Just because you bar hop and ride the restaurant carousel ever weekend, it doesn’t make you a well rounded person. The only difference is that the Bay Area was a parochial town to begin with.

      The fashion and arts world in NYC have been co-opted by a bunch of older lower IQ – gold digging women (Stuff Whorish Prunes like), who go hand and glove with the Wall St crowd. It’s another value transference scheme that Lion never mentions. It’s like a merger between the Village Voice and the Wall St Journal. Picture Katy Perry and her party with a group of Wall St bankers at an artsy-fartsy fundraising function.

      I say it’s low brow at best, and SWPLdom in America is Proledom at its finest. (Did you get that?)

      JS

      April 23, 2014 at 12:47 PM

      • “transplants […] whose parochialism stemming from whatever bumblef*ck town they come from”

        ‘bumblef*ck town’ isn’t hyperbolic enough to avoid confusion/imprecision.

        You’re not getting many isolated small town/rural transplants in nyc. The cityscape/culture shock is too foreign to them– they go to mid-size cities. NYC gets middle class-and-up strivers who were born and raised in suburbs.

        “SWPLdom in America is Proledom at its finest”
        That’s blurring valuable and non-trivial distinctions and diluting the meaning of “prole.” The SWPL ersatz superiority complex is distinctly middle class– a manifestation of their insecurity regarding their class. Proles are completely oblivious or otherwise comfortable in their own skin.

        anon

        April 23, 2014 at 4:06 PM

      • There are also many transplants who come to NYC from the “lesser” cities or those mid-sized towns you were referring to.

        Much of the non-TOOS – SWPL population in America, are basically proles in denial. It’s like putting a lipstick on a pig and saying it’s pretty.

        JS

        April 23, 2014 at 7:33 PM

  23. Last night I heard an interesting anecdote about the programming field. I was in the break room at the Major Home Improvement Retailer (hereafter MHIR), where I work at a second job a few evenings a week. One of the guys on the evening freight crew, whom I’d say is in the 40 to 45 age range, was talking a bit about his background.
    Ed (not his real name) was saying that he had been a computer programmer until being laid off during the recession. He didn’t elaborate as to the type of programming or anything else. After two and a half years of unemployment (ugh!), he got the MHIR job, which for him is about 25 hours a week.
    Not long after starting at the MHIR, he actually got hired for a programming job. Ed said he was a bit wary of how well he’d fit into the new job, which he said was at a small company filled with young, dynamic workaholic types. As a result he kept working evenings at the MHIR, even though it made for a very tough schedule. Sure enough, he found it impossible to fit in with a bunch of Red Bull-fueled twentysomethings, and got re-engineered from the computer job after just six months. He was thankful he had stayed at the MHIR, as at least he has something.

    Peter

    ironrailsironweights

    April 23, 2014 at 8:42 PM

  24. being useful sucks, unless you’re one of the few who actually earns his high salary.

    women care only about status. in the 30s in the soviet union they’d get wet for a communists party member. in nazi germany they’d get wet for a nazi party member.

    french women bawled when their german lovers were forced out of france by the allies. and, sad and disgusting but true, i’m sure plenty of “interned” female jews “fell in love” with their ss guards.

    if you make a good living decapitating people and putting their heads in duffel bags, get ready for the female admirers.

    jorge videla

    April 24, 2014 at 11:16 PM

  25. What I find interesting here no one else is talking about, but I am similar to this guy (who turned out to be an American in China. He notes that property prices in China are at US levels, but most people make a quarter of the wages.

    I live in a Latin American country and the dynamic is the same. Or worse, since mortgages are at most 15 years here. How can you pay 200,000 dollars for an apartment on a salary of 20,000 dollars a year? And that’s a good salary, most people here make around 6,000 dollars a year. It’s enough to live on, barely, but social mobility and ownership of anything is out of the question.

    Latin America ain’t China in other respects: even losers can get girls here, and everyone likes to party, and honestly nobody works very hard. But still, it certainly seems like the markers of a middle class lifestyle are getting further out of reach to everyone but the rich all over the world. What’s going on?

    Some Guy

    April 25, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    • It makes sense that Asia is going into a Darwinian phase.

      It goes to show you that the glut of Hispanic Alpha guys south of the border score girls and dump them. Meanwhile, beta providers in East Asia and north of the border (good ol USA that is) are being used by golddiggers.

      JS

      April 25, 2014 at 2:57 PM


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