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I'm a software developer that's on the market for a job. I was working on a contract with company X. Company X lost the contract and it was awarded to company Y. I spoke with my current employer (X) and expressed interest in pursuing other opportunities that do interest me (nosql, cloud architectures, distributed systems), and they admired that. Unfortunately, neither company X or Y would afford me that opportunity.

I discussed my situation with some family members, a lot of which are business owners. They told me to apply to company Y and ask for a salary increase because they would "need" my knowledge of the system. I disagreed because I wanted something more fun and interesting. Some said that I would be underpaid if I chose to move elsewhere. That was just a way for them to convince me not to leave.

My argument is that I want to ENJOY my job and be with a smart group of engineers. My family's view is that I should never take a salary cut or even equivalent compensation when shifting jobs, I should always make more, and if I need to learn any technology, I could do it on the side. To me, the value of learning things is when they are put to practice, and when learning at home, I'm limited to the resources available and my imagination. Working with others introduces me to new thoughts, helps me understand unclear concepts, and solidifies the things I learn.

How should I answer? Where is the balance between having a good paycheck and having fun at work?

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Is this really a programming question? If not, workplace.stackexchange.com might be more appropriate. –  Kramii Mar 21 '13 at 9:58
    
If in the job you like you win enough to be completely independent(pay all the bills and do the stuff you like without being worried that the payday never comes) just go for it. –  Nuno Freitas Mar 21 '13 at 10:05
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@Kramii as far as I can tell, this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion - which could make it inappropriate for Workplace –  gnat Mar 21 '13 at 12:18
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closed as not constructive by Jim G., gnat, Martijn Pieters, Blrfl, Kramii Mar 21 '13 at 12:39

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5 Answers

Your parents can't live your life, its your and only your decision. Yes, they might have a lot of knowledge and even "wisdom", and you definitely should take advantage of it, but again it is you who decides how applicable it is in your situation. Last but not least IT business is very different from usual ones, and sometimes this is hard to grasp by "outsiders". You need to make your own experiences, and you are in the comfortable situation that one failure doesn't hurt too much, as you have a lot of job opportunities. So you have no reason to be scared, try out what you want to try out, and see if it works for you.

One point your parents probably don't see is that one of your biggest enemies is "burn out". If you love programming, this better shouldn't happen to you, regardless how much money you make. So it is important for you to be happy at your job, to be interested in learning new things, to try things out.

In my case my father still thinks I do some magic mumbo-jumbo that is no "real" work (funny enough he was a lawyer, and I don't want to say what I think about that profession), and so I get from time to time some quite ridiculous advices from his side. So I try to say "you have no clue" in a nice way, and go on with my life. I quit my "safe" job in a big company after 10 years, switched to a more start-up-like company and never looked back.

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Disclaimer: This is entirely made up, based on my feelings and experience. It probably seems naive and a bit foolish, but I'd like to share it anyway.

For me there are three equally important factors that form a desirable job:

  1. Team: I want to work in a great team of brilliant people, nice guys and have some fun. I would even invite them to my birthday party, wedding or you name it.
  2. Tech: I want to like what I'm doing and learn continuously. For example, nothing frustrates me more than to use a legacy and outdated framework, instead of "The Next Big Thing (tm)".
  3. Salary - doesn't really matter as long as it is enough to live, and enough to not make me feel used.

This graph shows a situation where everything is as it should be: Great Team, I like the technology and learn a lot, I am well payed.

All is well

As soon as anythings drops, and the little green triangle no longer includes the center of the circle, I start looking for a new job:

You leave

Well, my team is still great, and i absolutely love the technical parts, but my salary is miserable.

A sidenote: As time goes by any or all of these points will inevitably drop. Tech gets outdated, and some quirks will eventually start to annoy you. As you learn, your team seems to become less smart over time. And for the salary.. I think you will just accustom yourself to it, and rate it differently.

To answer your question: Money doesn't make up for a lousy job, or even a job you don't really like. Neither does a great job or team for a miserable salary. You will have to weigh and decided for yourself.

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Very well illustrated. Me like :) –  fahed Mar 21 '13 at 9:27
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In the case of three axes, "the little green triangle no longer includes the center of the circle" === one or two of the features are negative. But neat diagrams. –  l0b0 Mar 21 '13 at 9:45
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I am probably much closer to your parents age than yours. I was once you, now I am them :)

One day, I found hand written notes from a business management presentation my Boss had been to. It went something like this :

"Employ them young, inexperienced, just out of university. Preferably single, no kids, no hobbies, no distractions. Offer the latest technology, training and toys to play with at the end of the next project, you will only have to pay peanuts. They will work insane hours... You should get 1-2, maybe 3 years before they wise up and leave."

I pinned a copy up on the lunch notice board, and resigned the next day. Took a $20K pay increase with a 15 hour per week reduction. It was a better job, and I had a life.....

So, are your parents right - yes - as long as they want to make sure you do not get taken advantage of, rather than pushing to to earn more for the sake of it. Are you right - provided you are getting paid fair value for what you are doing, not "discounting" because you love it. One thing they are absolutely right about - Never change jobs for the same or less money.

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I don't fit this personality. –  fahed Mar 21 '13 at 8:21
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It comes down to this: Do you enjoy money for its own sake, like Scrooge McDuck diving through gold coins in his money bin, or is it an enabler which allows you to live a satisfying life? If the latter, then there is no point whatsoever measuring your life success by your salary. It makes perfect sense to accept lower wages for the opportunity to work with cool people, or to do stuff you like vs. stuff that bores you. View it as a trade-off like any other: as long as you can meet all your needs with what you make (and it sounds like you can), you should optimize the pleasure of experiencing your life over time, not the account balance.

You also mention the question of whether going down in salary will "look" bad on your C.V. It may be a legitimate concern (I don't know that much about the hiring business, really) - but I think you should make sure it is a danger to you. Remember that if you have to keep going up and up, your options will become less and less because there are fewer acceptable positions as you progress. You risk ending up in a position that isn't all that pleasant but inescapable!

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Yes, an enabler to live a satisfying life. Continuous learning and being with a talented team is what I look for in a job. I do understand that I shouldn't be judged by my salary but can't seemingly get that point across. –  fahed Mar 21 '13 at 8:04
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This may seem a little simplistic and counter-intuitive for a programmer but go with your heart; not your mind. Money != happiness.

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