Gas station without pumps

2019 April 20

Update on son’s job search

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:47

In MS > PhD I posted

I have once again seen that in engineering fields, a Master of Science is a more valuable degree than a Doctor of Philosophy.  My son (who just finished his M.S .in computer science) has been on the job market for a few weeks and has just gotten his first job offer.  The salary is larger than the salary offered to a new engineering faculty member at UCSC who has a Ph.D. and 3 or 4 years of postdoc training (in fairness, his is a 12-month salary offer while the faculty member’s is a 9-month salary, which could be supplemented another 22% if the faculty member gets grants to fund it).

For that matter, his starting salary would be over three-quarters of my salary as a full professor with a Ph.D. in computer science and 37 years of experience.  It is easy to see why academia has a hard time hanging onto engineering faculty, when industry is willing to pay so much more for shorter hours.

I’ve no idea whether my son will accept the job offer. He has had serious interviews at 4 companies, so may be getting more offers soon—he is down in Santa Barbara for a 2-day interview right now.

As it turned out, my son got three job offers in the past week, each more lucrative than the one before.  He had to make his decision yesterday, which was rather stressful for him, as each of the job offers had its own strong points. One was in San Francisco, near enough to BART, MUNI, and Caltrain that he could live anywhere is a large area and commute to work by public transit (they even pay a commuter allowance). The one that paid the most was in Santa Clara, which has a huge concentration of tech firms, but is a bit short on housing for the tech workers—he would have had to do a long bike commute or taken the light rail for about 45 minutes from Mountain View or San Jose.  The company with the widest variety of different contracts and clients and probably the most stability was in Santa Barbara, where he could get housing in walking distance of the office.

All the job offers paid more than  enough for him to live on, even if he joins the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) crowd and saves half his income for early retirement. They all had decent benefits (health, dental, 401k, stock grants/options, … ), though the details varied.

This was a difficult decision for him—choosing between three highly paid jobs that were well suited to his interests (first-world problems, right?).

In the end he went with the lowest offer, not the highest, because it seemed to be the most exciting work and the best location—the job is near transit in San Francisco, and he is thinking of living in Berkeley.  It was also the smallest company, being a 40-person startup, so he will probably get a variety of different tasks and relatively rapid promotion.  The stock options could become either extremely valuable or worthless, depending what happens to the company in the next two or three years. Berkeley seems to have a few community theater groups, which means he may be able to continue acting, even as he works his day job.


  1. Working for a startup he will likely learn enough about the business side of technology that he will climb the ladder considerably faster, even if the startup goes nowhere, than if he took a tech job from an established company.

    Comment by David Klasppholz — 2019 April 20 @ 11:00 | Reply

    • He started his own company 5 years ago, which is still doing business, but not enough to pay both founders a real salary. So he has already learned quite a bit about the business side of startups, as well as contract manufacturing, design for manufacturing, designing to a price point, supply-chain problems, … . An established company would actually offer him a more different experience from what he has had before.

      There are, of course, some major differences. His own company was a bootstrap startup—I think that they started with only $10k in loans from the other founder’s parent and a KickStarter campaign, and the loans were paid back within the first year—since then their company has funded all new product design and manufacturing out of revenue from prior products, with no loans or venture capital. (For more info on the early days of the company, see my media page for their company.) The company he is joining is making a larger, more complicated product, needing a bigger team and so has had to do more conventional fund raising.

      The experience my son had as CTO of his own startup probably had significant influence on what his salary offers were, as they were all at the high end of what a new MS in computer science could expect. He could honestly claim 5 years of engineering experience, and that experience was over a broader range of engineering and business topics than most engineers have after 5 years working with an established company. As an engineering professor, I wish there were some way to give our students that depth and breadth of experience before they graduated, but I don’t see any way to make it happen at scale.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2019 April 20 @ 13:14 | Reply

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