Author Topic: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice  (Read 7230 times)

ModernIncantations

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I am looking to cash in on those sweet tech city salaries on the west coast -- Washington and California especially,
but I am open to other suggestions.

Are there any software developers here in those locations now with inflated salaries? As a developer with 2 years
experience what companies should I target, what salary range, and what area? Skill set is below. I am happy to
answer detailed questions.

edit: 2 years working experience post college, not necessarily <= 2 years with each technology below.

I am a web application developer. My technology experience worth nothing, from strongest to weakest:

Java, JavaScript (+popular frameworks), HTML(5), CSS(3), Tomcat, SQL (SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle), C#, C/C++, Python

seattlecyclone

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2013, 04:16:01 PM »
General advice: if you're looking to build wealth as quickly as possible, Seattle beats California hands down for tech workers. California has a greater quantity of companies and slightly higher salaries. It also has massively higher housing costs and a high state income tax (Washington has no state income tax). Seattle is also a better place than Silicon Valley for people who want to save money by walking and biking to work and other locations. San Francisco is a fine densely-populated city that is walkable in many areas (perhaps even moreso than Seattle), but most of the jobs are in the suburban car-dependent areas an hour drive south of SF.

dadof4

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2013, 05:07:45 PM »
General advice: if you're looking to build wealth as quickly as possible, Seattle beats California hands down for tech workers. California has a greater quantity of companies and slightly higher salaries. It also has massively higher housing costs and a high state income tax (Washington has no state income tax). Seattle is also a better place than Silicon Valley for people who want to save money by walking and biking to work and other locations. San Francisco is a fine densely-populated city that is walkable in many areas (perhaps even moreso than Seattle), but most of the jobs are in the suburban car-dependent areas an hour drive south of SF.
It depends.
For a family, I tend to agree with seattlecyclone.

For a single guy, especially a mustachian, who can survive in a small apartment and has few other expenses, the actual cost of living difference will be small. And it will mostly be made up for by the higher salaries and job opportunities available in SV.

In my first year in Silicon Valley, I rented close to my job, and biked to work. Except for the two days a year when it rained :)

ModernIncantations

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2013, 05:25:44 PM »
Thanks for the analysis guys. I'm married with no kids, so Seattle might be better for us. Also, I've always wanted to work for Amazon.
We'd love to live in Boulder, CO, but the cost to income ratio is just about the worst I've ever seen.

zinethstache

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2013, 05:47:04 PM »
Amazon will work you to the bone. I've a couple of friends that like it there, others that either found something else or were laid off. There are lots of tech jobs all around Seattle and Bellevue so there's no need to limit to Amazon, however, Amazon posts lots of jobs.

Jack

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2013, 06:00:08 PM »
I have a related question: I was born and raised in Atlanta, and still live here (in one of the more Portland-esque neighborhoods) and like it. Is the West Coast™ really so much better that it's worth it to move?

ModernIncantations

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2013, 06:36:16 PM »
I have a related question: I was born and raised in Atlanta, and still live here (in one of the more Portland-esque neighborhoods) and like it. Is the West Coast™ really so much better that it's worth it to move?

Sounds like you live in Little 5 Points. I'm out near Marietta.

Amazon will work you to the bone. I've a couple of friends that like it there, others that either found something else or were laid off. There are lots of tech jobs all around Seattle and Bellevue so there's no need to limit to Amazon, however, Amazon posts lots of jobs.

But what a great resume line though. A year at Amazon would open up a lot of doors. Not to mention I would only need to be worked to the bone for 5-7 years (+wife income) to hit FI. Compared to my current 10-12  year outlook here in Atlanta.

Jack

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2013, 07:43:23 PM »
I have a related question: I was born and raised in Atlanta, and still live here (in one of the more Portland-esque neighborhoods) and like it. Is the West Coast™ really so much better that it's worth it to move?

Sounds like you live in Little 5 Points. I'm out near Marietta.

Amazon will work you to the bone. I've a couple of friends that like it there, others that either found something else or were laid off. There are lots of tech jobs all around Seattle and Bellevue so there's no need to limit to Amazon, however, Amazon posts lots of jobs.

But what a great resume line though. A year at Amazon would open up a lot of doors. Not to mention I would only need to be worked to the bone for 5-7 years (+wife income) to hit FI. Compared to my current 10-12  year outlook here in Atlanta.

Ah, what a coincidence -- I didn't realize you were also in Atlanta when I asked my question. I'm not in Little Five Points, but you're not too far off.

So the computer programmer salaries out west really are that much better than Atlanta, in your opinion? I just got a $65k entry-level position (which I think is pretty good given that I'm switching from civil engineering and haven't programmed in a while)...

How do y'all feel about Portland, Oregon? My wife's family recently moved there and talk about how much they think we'd like it.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2013, 07:45:35 PM by Jack »

seattlecyclone

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2013, 08:14:09 PM »
Per Glassdoor.com, Amazon "Software Development Engineer I" salaries these days range between $75-110k, with $90k as an average. SDE-I is mostly an entry-level position. Those who manage to survive at Amazon for 2-3 years usually get promoted to SDE-II in that timeframe. The SDE-II pay scale ranges from $82-135k.

Microsoft's pay scale looks similar.

Portland is a nice town, fun to visit. There aren't nearly as many software jobs in Portland as there are in the Seattle area.

ModernIncantations

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2013, 01:06:58 AM »
So it sounds like Amazon in particular seems to offer a lot of challenge. From what you've heard is it just an immense workload, or is it an environment meant to drive people out?

I mean to say is it a weed out process, or simply more intense than some people want? Do other Seattle companies have the same environment?

SnackDog

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2013, 02:45:05 AM »
If you are a civil engineer, why not the booming oil and gas business? Salaries are crazy and locations are varied domestically and internationally.

chasesfish

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2013, 06:57:40 AM »
Jack might live over in Virginia Highlands

I'm also out in the suburbs, I don't know how much better the salaries are in the NW verses Atlanta, but Atlanta tends to have a great income relative to the cost of living provided you avoid certain housing areas in North Metro.  Unfortunately we also have a lot of crime or a long commute in the lower cost areas.

Jack

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2013, 08:28:14 AM »
If you are a civil engineer, why not the booming oil and gas business? Salaries are crazy and locations are varied domestically and internationally.

Because I'm not that kind of civil engineer (I didn't like fluid mechanics). Plus I'm kind of an environmentalist.

seattlecyclone

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2013, 12:12:55 PM »
So it sounds like Amazon in particular seems to offer a lot of challenge. From what you've heard is it just an immense workload, or is it an environment meant to drive people out?

I mean to say is it a weed out process, or simply more intense than some people want? Do other Seattle companies have the same environment?

The experience people have at Amazon is really dependent on what team they end up on. Some people get to work on really interesting technology (like Amazon Web Services, or the software that runs the fulfillment network). But for every engineer working on that sort of thing, there are a few who are trying to re-design parts of the retail website to make it just a little bit easier for people to buy just a little bit more. Especially for a Mustachian who doesn't care much for consumerism, this type of work can be remarkably unfulfilling. There's also the pager duty -- Amazon doesn't have as much separation between development and operations as many other companies do. Most software developers are part of a pager rotation where they have to be on call and ready to respond on nights and weekends if something goes wrong with their code in production. Some people don't mind the pager duty so much, while it drives others crazy.

Amazon does have a reputation for being more intense than most other companies in the area. Different people will disagree about how well-deserved that reputation is. Microsoft, for example, is generally known for being a pretty great place to work most of the time...just don't expect to see your home much when a ship date is approaching. There are trade-offs wherever you go.

SnackDog

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2013, 12:37:40 PM »
If you are a civil engineer, why not the booming oil and gas business? Salaries are crazy and locations are varied domestically and internationally.

Because I'm not that kind of civil engineer (I didn't like fluid mechanics). Plus I'm kind of an environmentalist.

There is no fluid mechanics in building processing facilities and pipelines.  And you might be surprised how many energy company employees are not only environmentalists, they are more in tune with the environment and how we affect it than the average joe...

Self-employed-swami

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #15 on: September 21, 2013, 01:39:20 PM »

There is no fluid mechanics in building processing facilities and pipelines.  And you might be surprised how many energy company employees are not only environmentalists, they are more in tune with the environment and how we affect it than the average joe...

I agree.  I work in oil and gas, and until the time comes where my job is no longer needed (through use of alternative energies and decrease in usage), I'd rather be the person doing the job, to make sure it is done in the most environmentally and socially responsible manner possible.

mm1970

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #16 on: September 21, 2013, 07:42:39 PM »
Per Glassdoor.com, Amazon "Software Development Engineer I" salaries these days range between $75-110k, with $90k as an average. SDE-I is mostly an entry-level position. Those who manage to survive at Amazon for 2-3 years usually get promoted to SDE-II in that timeframe. The SDE-II pay scale ranges from $82-135k.

Microsoft's pay scale looks similar.

Portland is a nice town, fun to visit. There aren't nearly as many software jobs in Portland as there are in the Seattle area.

Oy, really this is depressing.  I've got 21 years of experience in engineering and am still in that range.

If only I could do software.  Just...can't...do...it.  It's my kryptonite.  Ah well.

Freckles

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #17 on: September 21, 2013, 08:50:10 PM »
Jack, I don't know anything about programmer jobs but I can tell you Portland is a wonderful place to live.  Sounds like you're already hearing that, though.

Roland of Gilead

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Re: Looking to become a West Coast™ Software Engineer, but I need advice
« Reply #18 on: September 21, 2013, 09:47:39 PM »
Watch Portlandia, then choose Seattle!  :-)

My wife makes about 220K a year including bonus as a software engineer in the Seattle area.  No state income tax.  Real estate a bit pricey, but not like Kalifornia.  The good life, lots of trees and mountains...a wee bit liberal, but can't have everything.

edit: I should add that she has been doing software for 20+ years and is best in her class.  Something around $140K after a few years is more realistic for those of us with <175 IQ.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2013, 09:51:12 PM by Roland of Gilead »