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Need guidance on my career path - Leave for FAANG?

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Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community8 months ago

I have worked at two larger companies and two small startups (currently at one). I'm quite content with my current company and role, as I have ample opportunities for growth and a great work-life balance. However, the only factor that makes me contemplate leaving my current position is that I'm earning less than some of my peers. I'm not comparing myself to the exceptionally high-earning individuals; rather, I'm looking at other senior software engineers who are making around $400K in total compensation. Currently, I'm earning around $250K. It's important to note that I recognize my experience level is relatively young compared to those with 20-30 years of experience, as I have only 6 years of experience.

I want to think about the bigger picture and position myself in the best possible way for the future. When I discuss this with some of my peers, they suggest that I should work at a FAANG company at least once to attract recruiters from better companies. While I've always been drawn to roles with high visibility and a need for velocity, I've found that at larger companies, I tend to work at a slower pace with less visibility. However, if transitioning to a FAANG role is indeed the key to opening up new career opportunities, I'm willing to consider it.

Has anyone else faced a similar dilemma in their career? I would appreciate any insights or advice from individuals who have gone through a similar experience.



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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    8 months ago

    However, the only factor that makes me contemplate leaving my current position is that I'm earning less than some of my peers.

    Compensation should never be your sole motivation for choosing a role unless you literally need the extra money to survive. Pay is important of course, but it's much healthier to treat it as a lagging indicator of your growth as I talk about here: "If my main goal is compensation, would it be wise to learn blockchain tech since it will potentially be the tech of the next couple decades?"

    Here's the framework I follow with my career decisions:

    1. If your current environment is truly fulfilling and comfortable, stay there and soak up as much growth as you possibly can
    2. If you're not in #1, then switch teams/companies until you are

    What many people don't realize about #1 is that your awesome environment will always stop being awesome at some point, and it will happen sooner than you think. This can happen for so many reasons (most of which I have experienced):

    1. Your great manager leaves
    2. Your org hires a really bad director or VP-level person that destroys it from within
    3. A terrible re-org robs you of scope and places you within a team you don't gel with
    4. Your company announces a brutal RTO policy that you can only satisfy by moving or doing a 1 hour+ commute both ways
    5. The macro-economic conditions surrounding your company's market tank, and it's shredded by layoffs and poor morale. Maybe you are part of those layoffs
    6. You simply fall of out love with your work, and it becomes a repetitive chore. This will happen when you hit a growth wall, which is often the case with startups due to structural reasons

    This is actually what happened to me at my 2nd job Course Hero and how I ended up at Meta:

    1. I was paid far less at Course Hero compared to Meta (but still solid by industry standards and definitely enough to live well), but I had a ton of scope as their 1st Android engineer to build their app from scratch.
    2. I was able to learn a lot, and I really loved the team around me. I keep in touch with several of them to this day.
    3. For around 1.5 years, I wasn't thinking about moving at all, despite the non-top-of-market pay. When it comes to happiness levels, I was actually happier at Course Hero overall compared to my time at Meta (despite my Meta TC being 3x higher than Course Hero's by the time I left).
    4. However, Course Hero hired some poor engineering leadership (#2 from my prior list), and my quality of life tanked.
    5. I also started to realize growth was a problem as I was never able to hire an Android engineer more senior than myself.
    6. Because I was hitting severe diminishing returns staying at Course Hero, I decided to leave. I wanted to be with Android engineers 10x better than I was, which is why I went to Meta. The increased pay at Meta just happened to be a bonus as I got the extra learning I sought after.

    Here's another good discussion about this topic I highly recommend: "How much am I hurting my career by staying at a startup? (Pressure to work for big tech)"

    Lastly, $250k TC is a lot for a startup (I assume you're counting equity as 0, so that's a very large salary + bonus). You're doing great 😉

  • 1
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    8 months ago

    What I will say though is that if you have never worked for a FAANG company before, it's probably worth trying. In general, treat the tech space as a buffet where each "dish" is a type of company (startup, scale-up, Big Tech, etc).

    If you want to learn more about the difference between startups and Big Tech and how it affects your career:

    I forgot to share this other discussion as well in my initial response: "How do I not compare myself to others in my career?"

  • 1
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    Tech Leadership Coach • Former Head of Engineering
    8 months ago

    If the only thing that you're not 100% happy with is compensation, I would strongly lean towards staying.

    Switching companies whether it's FAANG or not is rolling the dice on all the other factors that come with the job. Ironically, the only guaranteed thing is the comp you sign on at. I tend to advocate for switching when a new role offers something materially different other than compensation.

    As an example, here are two inflection points where switching made sense in my career:

    1. Moving into people management with a chance to scale a team. The role also let me branch out from AI/ML into Data Engineering.
    2. Moving back to tech consulting in a leadership role where I had country-level scope and shifted focus from managing the work to selling the work to clients.

    All that being said, I think you should try a few things to increase compensation without switching jobs.

    1. If you've had a strong track record so far, you can work towards building a case for promotion (only if you desire) or a pay increase at the current level (may need to demonstrate lateral growth into a new domain or scaling your impact in other ways).
    2. Hunt for a side gig. This is doable, especially if you have a great work-life balance and are willing to exchange some of your spare time for more income. I did this for several years teaching at a bootcamp and career coaching.

    *The extra comp at FAANG has a good chance to eat up your work-life balance, so net you might not be gaining anything vs. the side gig route.

    If you'd like to explore any of these paths further, feel free to DM me on Slack or LinkedIn. I'm happy to help you lay out a gameplan.

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