If you aren't the richest, why bother doing anything?

The 2022 Self Esteem Murder Post

a website called levels dot fyi aggregates verified tech compensation details and they released their 2022 developer compensation summary.

let me summarize their summary thusly and try not to stab yourself with a razor for each new line.

the pattern

the basic pattern for 2022 tech compensation at BDE tech companies appears to be (per year, USD):

level 2022 usd/year typical how long1 typical age range
interns $125,000 (nothing) 18-20 year olds
entry level $250,000 (school, but no experience) 20-25 year olds
first $350,000 +5 more years of progress (± 3) 23 - 27
second $450,000 +5 more years (± 5) 25 - 33
third $550,000 +5 more years (± 7) 30 - 37
primary $650,000 +5 to ∞ more years (± 10) 35 - 45+ (“you da man!”)
ultimate $750,075 to $3,000,003+2 “one of the best in the world” 38+


if the 21 year olds are making $300k/year, what. does. that. mean.
sure, okay, now the 24 year olds are making $500k/year, let’s do this.
just a casual $100k increase every 3-5 years ex-inflation, what’s not to like?
actually “staff” engineer is considered offensive; we are now EYE OF RA engineers and if you do not pay us $700k/year we will not grant you passage to that sweet afterlife with the reeds.
a milly here a milly there and soon we’re talking real coin
don’t forget managers are people too (are they really though?) — also — and this generally pisses them off — but managers should be a facilitation role and typically shouldn’t make more than their senior reports; don’t confuse “manager” with “creator/director of the technical future of everything holding the world on their shoulders”


If we weren’t in the middle of a global market collapse, those numbers would be 2x3 or 3x higher4.

Population summaries also exclude special circumstance outliers like joining via acquisitions, using startup mechanisms to grant yourself a trillion $0.00000000001 par stock units then growing the stock to $300 per share, or other bubble shenanigans like coinbase hiring some rando for a total comp of $650 million (which subsequently ended up being worth 1/10th as much after stock collapse, but heck, a $65 million signing bonus is still gravy).

basically: each time you get a job title increase, your compensation should increase by a minimum of $100,000/year until you become a globally recognized expert in one or more specialties (and then your comp goes non-linear as you become one of the 1,024 people holding the world together by your singular greatness of will alone).

also, caveat equitor: those figures include usually huge imbalances between “salary” and “equity” and “bonus” compensation where equity varies from ISOs RSUs KDEs BDSMs to such an extent roles can comprise 3x to 10x more unpredictable time-based comp (hopefully liquid!) over the base stable recurring salary you have to actually use to qualify to housing or other lifestyle issues5.

if you have the choice between a $300k/year salary at a small company with no equity versus $700k/year comp at a medium size company but the value is actually split between $140k/year salary and $300k/year stock and optional $260k end-of-year bonus (and the stock can’t be cashed out for 8 years), is it worth “bigger number now, but lower actual disposable income?”

it all depends on if future favors the bold or fortune favors the brave as long as do you like money.

go away now

happy new year you filthy animals.

  1. typical ranges for average/normal personal productivity. can vary wildly based on your own ambitions and actual capabilities and performance (e.g. 25 year old billionaires vs 66 year old thousand-aires vs outright fraud and loathing and outsized legacy ego-vs-impact apperances)

  2. with bonus/incentive comp up to single digit billions

  3. back in 2013, the value of a fully engaged, high productivity, fully autonomous developer was about $3 million per year; and now ten years later (inflation + tech improvements), I’d argue a single full world-scale developer under conditions of employment value capture is worth $5 million salary per year plus an additional $25 million equity comp per year (likely generating multiple billions of dollars in value per year). with new AI models reaching critical mass soon, developers are going to have individual bimodal worth between $0 or $100 billion per year

  4. just in time for “maximum hype cycle” peak before companies start replacing their meat developers with automated AI developer APIs for 1/10th the cost providing 100x more productivity.

  5. nobody qualifying your credit cares about your late-December $800k bonus drop if your recurring stable take home pay is just $1,000 per week all year long.