Author Topic: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!  (Read 6251 times)

sideways

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Friends,

I have a wonderful dilemma regarding my job situation, and I would be very grateful to hear your thoughts, opinions, experiences, and stories.

I am a successful software engineer, looking at leaving my current job.  I am entertaining two offers from other companies, and not sure which to choose.

The Google Job

Offer 1 is from the almighty Google (I haven’t received it yet, but I’ve been informed it’s coming). I expect they’ll offer me a salary in the range of $160k to $200k, and stock in the range of $650-$900k, vesting over 4-5 years (which means at least $130k more a year). A fantastic income, obviously.

My biggest concern about Google is the blind allocation: I have no idea what I would be working on. I worry I will be stuck doing something soul-grinding, like optimizing ad selection.

On the other hand, the additional money (stock) would be life changing - over $100k a year, assuming GOOG doesn’t collapse (which, at a P/E of 30, is a real possibility). Two years, college fully funded for my kids. Three years, house paid off. I may hate or love the job, but either way I’ll have gobs more money, and a wonderful financial independence in reach in a few short years.

The Startup Job

Offer 2 is from a moderately scrappy startup, with an exciting product. I have a firm offer of $160k salary, plus 15k stock options. The options are hard to value, since the company is not public, so I discount them to zero, but I suppose there's a slim chance they could be worth in the low six figures.

While startup would “only” pay $160k, its product (a consumer electronic) excites me personally, and its technology is revolutionary. I know and really like the person I would be working for. I would have a chance to make a real difference in the success of the company. I would feel pride in showing people what I worked on. Being in a startup, I would be exposed to more, have more responsibilities. I would learn and grow as an engineer. GOOG will still be there in five years, but this startup opportunity may not be. And if I turns out I hate the startup job, I won’t have the money, but I will at least *know* - I won’t have to wonder if I missed out.

Decision Time

Have you quit or turned down a high paying job? Or have you rejected an exciting opportunity because a boring one paid better? Either way, how did it turn out? Did you regret the decision?

When I am older, will I regret risking my happiness for money, turning down an exciting opportunity out of pure financial greed? What is all this for, if not to work on things that excite you? Or will I regret risking my income for happiness: “buying” job excitement like I might buy an exciting sports car, a terrible investment?

I am grateful for any and all stories, insights, advice, or opinions you have to offer.

For background, I am 32, wife is 33, with a daughter (2) and son (1). I currently have $1mm in stock, $200k in retirement accounts, and a $330k mortgage on a house worth $800k (Silicon Valley real estate!)

(Note: In case there is any doubt, I am sincerely looking for advice, not bragging. I am very lucky, but I am also well aware that there are people reading this who are far more bad-ass than me, in all sorts of ways.)

SAP5243

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2013, 06:56:23 PM »
Wow, sounds like a great "dilemma" to be a part of!  I am a only recent graduate but could shed some light from a family member who was in a situation similar to yours.

When he graduated with a Masters in Computer Science, he had offers from Google as well as a startup for SE positions.  Google offered him $120k + stock options while the startup offered him $85k + stock options.  He picked the startup because of his interest and faith in the future success of the product, and boy did he make the right decision.  Not only does he love what he does, but he was instrumental to the rapid growth of the company and was compensated handsomely for his contributions.  It is worth noting that when he made his decision, he was in $90k of student loan debt and didn't have the savings, investments, or assets that you did.  Also, he joined this startup in their early stages of funding.

If I were you, I would go with the startup.  $160k + stock options is more than enough, plus you will love what you are doing and be able to make more of an impact on the company.  Like you said, Google will always be there, and with your experience I believe it wouldn't be too difficult to make a transition if you wanted to later.  The startup on the other hand could blow up while you sit in your cubicle at Google, wishing you could have been a part of it.  That's just my take on it though!  I'm a lot younger and less experienced than you but just thought I would share what I know :).

mm1970

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2013, 07:18:20 PM »
It is a very good dilemma!  Dang, I'm an engineer in semiconductors, and I picked the wrong field, or wrong location, or... truthfully, I cannot program my way out of a paper bag, so software was just never in the cards.

So, I am on my 2nd startup.  The first got bought out a few months in, so it doesn't really count.  My stock was worth about $200k all told.

I have been at this one for 5 years.  I started at the 1.5 year point.  I was employee #21.

Definitely some pretty awesome opportunities to grow, learn, and try new things.  The only thing that has held me back is me (I had a second child and declined a few promotions that would have required 60 hour weeks).

But the salary kind of sucks and we've started hiring new people in at higher than the current engineers and managers.  While I've really enjoyed the work, now that we are larger it's turned into a not-so-fun place to work (crunch time and funding issues), so not only is it not fun, but the salary sucks.  I loved working here a few  years ago.  The last 9 months? not so much

So I would lean toward the "more money", enough to pay everything off.  But your situation is different in that you are in Silicon Valley.  I live in Santa Barbara, and the price I pay (besides the high cost of living) is that there aren't a ton of job options.  It's harder to switch down here. Like you said, Google will always be there.

chasesfish

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2013, 08:15:47 PM »
I'd say that you already possess F-U money, go do what you want to do.  You could spend 50,000/yr and never have to work again.  You don't need google'a golden handcuffs.

oldtoyota

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2013, 08:27:55 PM »
Since you already have $1MM+ in assets, it seems to me like you could take the "risk" of working for the startup. Since you work in the valley, you are probably familiar with Lean In. Since you're a dude, you might not have read it...but Sheryl Sandberg says "go where there's growth."

And guess what? She ain't at Google no more!

Working at Goog is another kind of "risk," which is why I put it in quotes. Working on a potentially boring project doesn't seem worth it to me. Not knowing what you'll work on is a risk.

If you go back and look at your post, you "come alive" when you are talking about the startup job. I think your answer is in your first post. =-)

Good luck with your final decision!




Bearded Man

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2013, 08:43:55 PM »
Neither is a bad choice. But what is more important to you, stability or high potential reward? The startup could lead to you becoming VP or something if the tech is as revolutionary as you say. Then again it could fail, maybe due to poor timing.

Google will also have it's rewards if you are high output, which it sounds like you are. There is just as much upside potential with google as there is with the startup really, but less risk. GO with google. But keep in mind that they don't offer free food and all those other job perks due to a 40 hour workweek and low stress. But you already knew that anyways, considering the level you're at. :-)

Jamesqf

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2013, 08:51:07 PM »
OTOH, not all startups are successful.  I've worked for several, and none of them really went big.  In one case, we all came in to the office one morning to hear the cheery news "The VCs are shutting us down.  Clean out your desk by 4 PM, and pick up your final check as you leave."

Sounds as though you don't have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck.  If it was me, I would first try to find out what I might be working on at Google - not everything they do is boring ad optimization - and then make my decision on how much the work appealed to me, plus lifestyle factors like expected hours, commute distance, possibility to telecommute, etc.

imustachemystash

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2013, 08:51:35 PM »
First off, congratulations!  My husband is a programmer and he was in a similar situation after our 2nd son was born.  He chose the job that offered more money and worked there for 2 weeks before he realized it wasn't for him.  The other job he took had a more family friendly environment and he is still there after 2 years.   Since you have young children I would also consider which job would allow you to be there for them more.  Update us on what you decide.

LWYRUP

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2013, 10:22:39 AM »

It is clear to me from reading your post that the job you are most excited / passionate about is the startup job.  I think what you are driving at is whether you should choose the job you are less interested in for financial reasons because it is potentially higher paid and more stable.

Answer:

No.  If you were just out of school and in piles of debt and the startup job was extremely low paying, I would advise the opposite, but (1) the startup job already pays way more than you need to live and save a very comfortable percentage of your income in all parts of the country, including SV, and (2) you are already rich.  By my count your net worth is around $1.5 million and in you are in your early 30s.  Assuming that the stock you are referring to is diversified in many investments or will become so soon, if you never saved a penny of earned income for the rest of your life and just restrained yourself from touching that money, it is extremely likely that by the time you are 50 or 60 you will have far more money than you will possibly need to satisfy any needs you may have relating to real / authentic happiness (rather than just socioeconomic climbing).  You discussed the Google job as offering you a "potentially life changing" amount of money.  This is objectively not true.  With the money you have already earned, you could quite easily pay off your house and set up college accounts (with a lesser amount projected to grow to tuition costs in 15 years) and still have a healthy amount for retirement.  All of this money will continue to compoud as you continue to add to it from your startup earnings.  You are already riding the money wave.  You have worked hard to put yourself in a position so that you can go after what is interesting to you, not simply the highest bidder for your time.  Don't throw away all that hard work and this opportunity just so you can amass far more money than a normal person ever needs. 

I am not a software engineer, but based on my field (law), I imagine that if you take the Google job and end up getting pushed into a speciality you don't like, you will become "that ad selection guy" depsite your reservations and will have a hard time smoothly transitioning into something else without a pay and seniority cut.  You will be building skills you DON'T want to have rather than ones you DO, which is very dangerous.  In my short career I have already seen many people who got pushed into things they didn't want to do and ended up either deep in a career they didn't like or they just hit the reset button 5-10 years in and had to restart up a new ladder.  If there's any risk of this, I would not take the job without a clear delineation of your role / responsibilities.     

My Qualifications:  I currently work in demanding corporate job that is not horrible but is often unpleasant in a field I have some genuine interest in but would probably not choose to work in if money was not a consideration, my net worth is a little less than 1/2 of yours (at just a a few years younger) in an area with almost as bad COL, and I am already currently planning to transition to something more interesting / less stressful with a likely lower salary than your startup option.  I don't regret my choices because they were made when I had zero net worth and because I gained skills, experience and money in a bad economy, but I am very much ready to be done with selling most of my waking life to do tasks that are often stressful and boring.  If I had your net worth I would probably quit my job immediately and go work for a nonprofit and never think about money again. 

LWYRUP

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2013, 11:11:06 AM »

My last post was a little emphatic but I wanted to make the point, which you may not realize because you live in SV and are surrounded by a lot of other people that are rich (or are not but spend like they think they are), that:

You have already won.  You and Luigi defeated Bowser, and the Princess is back in the castle and Yoshi is in the barn hanging out with the other green dinosaurs eating whatever it is green dinosaurs eat.  You are now free to do whatever it is you would like to do, whether it be flying around with your cape, stomping on evil turtles, or building the most intricate system of pipes known to man.  You now only need to realize this is the case and go do it. 

Tyler

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2013, 12:03:45 PM »
Great problem to have.

My only advice is to point out that a Google job may not always "be there" for you in the future.  They have a reputation for ageism and fickle hiring practices.  I know a guy who helped write the original code that Google ultimately bought to power Google Maps.  When he applied for a job at Google (in the Maps team) a few years later, the 25-year old hotshot manager told him he wasn't qualified because he wasn't familiar with the latest development jargon. 

If you were a recent grad, I'd say go for Google because it would be the ultimate door-opener on your resume for the rest of your career.  But with an established career and your savings, that's less important.  So follow your gut.  There's no wrong answer in your situation, so your first instinct is probably the right one.

KingCoin

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2013, 01:15:21 PM »
I'd go with Google to get you over the FI finish line. Your job there will almost undoubtedly afford you with tons of networking opportunities and I have no doubt you'll have countless other start-up opportunities cross you desk in the coming years.

There's a chance the start-up will be a massive success and you'll be left fantasizing about what "could have been", but the risk and challenges of start-ups are usually very understated.

Also, I'd think a little more deeply about the value of the options. You don't have to be an investment banker to do some back-of-the-envelope scenario analysis to see what they might be worth.

zurberts

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2013, 02:36:43 PM »
Before making a decision, I would suggest reading and reflecting on this article by Clayton Christensen. I just attended one of his talks and he is quite inspirational. His concepts has gotten me asking myself the same questions as you about my life and work/life balance (I too have children around the same age as yours). I am sure the fundamentals discussed would resonate with most members of this forum.

http://www.pma.org/mda/assets/library/3-3/D%20-%20How%20Will%20You%20Measure%20Your%20Life.pdf

I wish you luck in either path that you decide. Please update the thread when you make a decision!

Melody

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #13 on: November 27, 2013, 04:12:07 PM »
Does having Google on your CV improve your future job prospects? For example in Accounting and Law there are certain "Big" firms, which if you can get those names on your CV will allow you to walk into whatever job you want after you've done your 3 years in one of those firms...
Plus doesn't google let you spend 20% of your day on whatever you want? So Even if you were maximising ad revenue, you would still be able tot work on your own cool project too!
Also in my field I have found the biggest variable for how much enjoyment I get from my job is who I am working with... maybe the ad selection dudes at google are the nicest friendliest team and you all get on super well and have a laugh about it each day, but the start up people/some of the other google teams are bitchy morons...
Also another poster has mentioned Google has a short work-week... If the startup has a longer work week, I would absolutely take google... I'd rather have a slightly less fun job that leaves me time to have my own fun than the other way around!

oldtoyota

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2013, 06:55:25 PM »
My only advice is to point out that a Google job may not always "be there" for you in the future.  They have a reputation for ageism and fickle hiring practices.  I know a guy who helped write the original code that Google ultimately bought to power Google Maps.  When he applied for a job at Google (in the Maps team) a few years later, the 25-year old hotshot manager told him he wasn't qualified because he wasn't familiar with the latest development jargon. 

There you go. Why work for an ageist company? ;-)


Ishmael

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Re: High paying corporate job, or exciting startup? Please help me choose!
« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2013, 06:23:37 AM »
Startup. Your description clearly shows that's where you want to be.

You have enough assets to take a "risk" like that - that's what FI is all about.

Follow your passion - if you can enjoy your work, that's awesome. In your line of work, enjoying your project is key. Enhancing your skill set with a startup will not hurt you in the future.