the snail shell

Work and Value

More about The Quitting Economy

It’s kind of a truism in the tech world that if you want to get promoted, you should just find a new job. It’s way easier to get promoted that way than internally. A few reasons:

  1. Companies tend to tell employees, “if you want to be promoted from level 3 to level 4, start performing at level 4 and then we’ll promote you at the next promotion cycle.” (probably 6 months.) A watchful reader might notice that, if you’re performing at level 4, company B might want to hire you at level 4, and by taking that offer you can get promoted to level 4 immediately instead of waiting 6 months!
  2. “Performing at level 4” is pretty arbitrary. Companies try to make it not-arbitrary by making rubrics. Those say things like “Level 4 scopes work on their own, takes responsibility for large features, and has department-wide impact.” Each of those is still pretty arbitrary, so “are you performing at level 4 at company A?” is pretty arbitrary. One thing that’s not arbitrary: “Will company B pay me a Level 4 salary?”
  3. Sometimes (always? at least sometimes!) promotions are budgeted out. Maybe your team has 2 people who “are performing at the next level”, but you only have budget for 1 promotion. (The watchful reader might notice that this means every IC1 is always competing with their coworkers! Maybe if you’re in charge of Company A, that’s not the kind of culture you’re trying to create. Alas, it is the culture you have created!)
  4. Certain kinds of personal improvements lead to promotions. “Manager-type” improvements are the best! You’ll become a manager, probably get promoted (though “manager and IC tracks are parallel”), and have much more access to higher ranks in the future. “PM-type” improvements are the second best. If you’re an IC but you can Make Big Projects Happen, then you can say “look, I led to us making $1 zillion” and everyone will nod and definitely promote you. “IC-type” improvements are not so valuable. If you just get better at writing code, you probably will not get promoted. (“but Dan, my company has parallel IC and manager tracks” yes but when you wanna get promoted on the IC track, you should do PM-type work.)

Given how difficult quitting/starting is, this seems not ideal! If I owned a company, I would simply promote my people quicker. ok, memes aside: I’ve joked that if I ran a company, everyone’s salary would just be $X + $Y * your age. This might make it harder to hire young people - but think of how nice it would be on the inside!

Corporate Money and Human Money

The world seems to operate on two scales, about an order of magnitude apart: Corporate Money and Human Money. Corporate Money is for housing, medical bills, college. Cars maybe. Human Money is for basically everything else.

If you earn Corporate Money, this is great: those big expenses get taken care of by the “corporate” part, and you can cover the Human Money part easily. If not, then you have to make all the Human Money costs work out, while also covering a couple of big Corporate Money costs!

This is a bummer because it seems like almost the only way to get Corporate Money is (surprisingly) to work for a corporation.

Playing on Fears on Purpose

Pop culture magnifies some fears and perceptions. For example, after Jaws, everyone got scared about shark attacks even though they’re such a small risk. Similarly, so many shows and movies show cops stopping a violent criminal in the act, that we imagine that this is most of what cops do, even though it’s a tiny, tiny fraction. We also overestimate the risks of being the victim of a violent crime.

I was talking with a friend about immigration, and I wondered what has magnified immigration fears. I don’t remember seeing movies about “immigrants taking our jobs” or whatever. My friend suggested zombie movies: they provoke a more primal fear of “my country is overrun.”

If this is what happens, I imagine that this is occasionally (though not usually) on purpose (more with cop shows than zombie movies).

With cops and immigration, amplifying fears supports the right. So what other movies can we make to play on other fears, in positive ways? Maybe dystopias, 1984 and the like, cultivate healthy fears of fascism? Or is the left at an asymmetric disadvantage here because fear is at its root a pretty right-wing thing?

  1. IC = “individual contributor” = “anyone who’s not a manager” ↩︎

Burned Out on Burnout

We had friends over for dinner and drinks! it was delightful! we’ve got 5/8 vaccine doses between us and we sat on the balcony so it’s cool? anyway it was great, remember the world when you could do this?

my brain’s still half full, here’s some disconnected thoughts:


I feel burned out, but I also feel like I’ve felt that way continually, with brief gaps, since I was about 20. I also feel like everyone around me has also felt that way the whole time too.

(that sounds like something you’d say if you were burned out! yeah yeah…)

“the worst parts of pop psychology… we all just decided to meme out single words to Name Things…" Sorry, maybe I’m languishing. The blessing and curse of labels.

The Quitting Economy - this is a bummer. And it makes you feel like more of a sucker if you find yourself doing work that’s not going to help you get hired somewhere else.

stoicism is not enough

I feel about the same with stoicism as I do about buddhism, which is to say: personally disenchanted, but there’s probably a good core of truth there. People on the internet kinda no-true-scotsman it: I can imagine the response to this article being something like “nihilism? no way! it’s not that nothing matters, it’s that you get less tied to the things you’re craving.” Which is either a Grand Truth, or a way to hide behind an unattainable series of slogans.

I’m kinda just not that interested anymore! Do what feels good, I don’t care.

do what feels good

making babies at the twilight of the empire

more bummers, sorry - though honestly it’s not as much about the content of the article as the title. How does one think about having children when the future is so bleak – or at least closing in. it’s not so bleak yet, but I feel like the best we can hope for them is about 80% of what we’ve got. Which is ok; the last year, we’ve had less than 80% of normal life and it’s still been worth living.

we've got to keep the motor running and accept a little sin

from “long line of cars” by cake, which is actually quite appropriate for this post

A thing I’m not really proud of but I’m not 100% ashamed of and either way I keep talking about and not fixing is: I’ve picked fights with cars a bunch. Sometimes if they y’know come too close to ending my entire life, but also sometimes if they do something like park in the bike lane, I’ll yell something like “don’t park in the bike lane” and they’ll yell something back and then we’ll keep yelling at each other and y’know it’s just road rage and useless and shitty.

This is the tiniest injustice, but is an injustice, and it makes my day feel super like crap. I get mental-bikeshed over this: I could worry about any number of things but my brain won’t let go of these Bad Drivers because they’re Definitely Wrong! Life would be easier if I didn’t worry so much about them. Kinda like how you can’t get too hung up on style while coding, or like how you can’t fuss too much about doing laundry or you’ll never get real stuff down, you can’t get hung up on people being Definitely Wrong (but in mostly harmless ways) 20% of the time.

So much of life would be so much easier if I were just comfortable with 20% of it being really crap! (like these last couple weeks. gosh.)