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Electronic Design

What's All This Compensation Stuff, Anyhow? (Part II)

When you read the following joke, you'll understand why this column should have been subtitled: Outlandish expectations or what? This old joke came over the web. My friend Nathan posted one copy on a bulletin board and brought another over to me:

Reaching the end of a job interview, the human-resources person asked the hotshot, young engineer fresh out of MIT, "And what starting salary were you looking for?" The engineer coolly responded, "In the neighborhood of $125,000 a year, depending on the benefits package."

The interviewer replied, "Well, what would you say to a package that included five weeks of vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental insurance, company-matched retirement- fund contributions of up to 50% of your salary, and a company car leased every two years. For starters, how about a red Corvette?"

The engineer tried to control his excitement, but sat straight up and said, "Wow! Are you kidding?" The interviewer shrugged, "Yeah, but you started it."

One guy observed sardonically, "This story got it wrong. That's the kind of offer that would be made to some high- school dropout, writing software for an Internet startup company."

Another guy giggled, "OHHHHHH! Now I finally got the joke. It's absurdity humor because it's about a technically oriented person who receives an offer that would, in reality, be given only to a marketing or management person. Very clever!"

I put in my two cents. With a straight face I asked,"Okay, Nathan. What's so funny about that? What's the point? What's supposed to be funny here? Is that the end of the joke? Or did the punchline get lost?"

"After all, out here, some of the best young engineers DO get such deals." (Well, most of the guys commanding money like that are fairly accomplished. They're not just green kids out of school with a shiny new BSEE. Some actually ARE bright Masters and PhDs that are really worth that money—and they can get it.)

Then I saw the point. "Ohhhhh! I see the point of the story! Hilarious! This hotshot kid is supposed to be so DAMN SMART. Yet he didn't even see that the fairly splashy-looking benefits package didn't mention any STOCK OPTIONS!

"Dumb kid. I guess he failed the test. I would never take an offer like that without stock options. Sometimes big companies tend to slough off. Startups, though, wouldn't be foolish enough to offer a job without stock options, unless they wanted to see if the kid was sloppy or inattentive." Nathan had to agree that the kid wasn't very sharp.

Earlier this year, a story on page B1 of the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that the starting salary for young lawyers just joining law firms in San Francisco had escalated from $100k to $125k. Maybe some of them should make that money. I know some that are worth it. You certainly want to keep your new lawyers HAPPY while you find out if they are good enough to KEEP. (And they understand that if they perform, they have a chance to become a partner.)

Experts on software teams writing new computer games get paid well, too. And the bonuses for a winning team on a profitable video game can be very rewarding. Of course, they are usually the TOP software writers working on a hot, high-priority team. Most aren't inexperienced, just right out of school.

Should any young engineers, just out of school, make such high figures? Yeah, a few! Those are the ones I want to keep. In about another month, I'll comment on, "Do we want to have a LOT of engineers or just some GOOD ones?" You can guess my opinion and my thoughts about stock options for the good ones....

So although this old joke (that was out of date even when it first came around on the WEB a couple of years ago) has some silly stuff involved, we can still learn something from it! I suppose I might have called this column, "What's All this Stock Option Stuff, Anyhow?" But.... that would have given away the story too soon.

All for now. / Comments invited!
RAP / Robert A. Pease / Engineer
[email protected]—or:

Mail Stop D2597A
National Semiconductor
P.O. Box 58090
Santa Clara, CA 95052-8090

P.S. Any engineer hired who did NOT get $125k should not feel insulted. This is just a hypothetical case. Even here at NSC, it doesn't happen every day! /rap

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