Back in 2014 was when I got my first job where I made $200,000. I was CTO at a Series A company with a small engineering department of 4 people in San Francisco. I felt rich.
In 2022, I was working as a Chief Software Architect for a Series A company. My base salary? $200,000. The same salary despite having 8 more years of experience under my belt. Not once during the time in between had my base ever exceeded that amount. That’s a 21% pay cut due to inflation. I obviously made more since I rarely only worked one job (and we’ll cover that more in a bit) but the fact that I never seemed able to get beyond that base had really started to bother me.
I always knew I could try to go work at a FAANG or a larger corporation, but I wasn’t built for bureaucracy. I’m a do-er. I once heard a story from a friend who worked a Google, who frequently told me the only hard part of his $800k/year job was the interview process. He told me he was once assigned what was described as an urgent task. He completed it in a few days and then submitted it for code review. He then asked if he should work on something else. He was told to wait until it was reviewed. So he waited. And waited. And ended up waiting three weeks……and doing nothing during that time.
Personally, I’d have gone insane. That kind of job isn’t for me, no matter the compensation. So I have always worked at small startups where I can be challenged, stay busy, and directly see the impact of your work almost daily, but as you age, life becomes more expensive and the math starts to no longer add up.