accumulation: contractor vs FTE #XR


You said that we contractors don’t accumulate (积累) as FTE do.

I do agree that after initial 2Y of tough learning, some FTE could reap the monetary rewards whereas consultants are often obliged, due to contract, to leave the team. (Although there are long-term contracts, they don’t always work out as promised.)

Here’s my experience in GS for 2.5Y. My later months had much lower “bandwidth” tension i.e. the later months required less learning and figure-things-out. Less stress, fewer negative feedbacks, less worry about my own competence, more confidence , more in-control because more familiar with the local system. If my compensation had become 150k I would say that money amounts to “reaping the reward”. In reality, the monetary accumulation was an empty promise.

As a developer stays longer, the accumulation in terms of his value-add to the team is natural and likely [1]. Managers like to point out that after a FTE stays in the team for 2Y her competence, her design, her solutions, her suggestions, her value-add per year grows higher every year. If her initial value-add to the company can be quantified as $100k, every year it grows by 30%. Alas, that doesn’t always translate to compensation.

That’s accumulation in personal income. How about accumulation in tech skill? Staying in one system usually means less exposure to other, or newer, technologies. Some developers prefer to be shielded from newer technologies. I embrace them. I feel my technical accumulation is higher when I keep moving from company to company.

[1] There are exceptions. About 5% of the old timers are, in my view, organization /dead-weights/. Their value-add doesn’t grow and is routinely surpassed within a year by bright new joiners. Often company can’t let them go due to political, legal or ethical reasons.

You said IV questions change over time so much (ignoring the superficial changes) that the IV skills we acquire today is useless in 5Y and we have to again learn new IV skills. This is not intuitive to me. Please give one typical example if you can without a lot of explaining (I understand your time constraints). I guess you mean technology churn? If I prepare for a noSQL or big data interview, then I will probably face technology churn.

On the other hand, in my experience, many interview topics remain ever-green including some hard topics — algorithms (classic algos and creative algos), classic data structures, concurrency, java OO, pass-by reference/value, SQL, unix commands, TCP/UDP sockets, garbage collection, asynchronous/synchronous concepts, pub/sub, producer/consumer, thread pool concepts… In the same vein, most coding tests are similar to 10 yeas ago when I first received them. So the study of these topics do accumulate to some extent.

self-degrad`habit: compare with higher flyers

This post is Relevant to parenting, in sports and also in a dev team…

eg: I was very strong in physics at high-school level in a top secondary school. Then other students rose up to be as strong as me. I had a deep sense that my edge was gone and I would no longer be far and away the strongest in my school. One day I suddenly saw myself as a nobody since I was no longer the strongest in at least one major field. The fact that I was still one of the strongest in that Beijing district, and also across China was completely wiped off the table and trashed. At the same time, my math was also in the top 0.1% and I had no weakness academically.

eg: 王傑 (Dave Wong), one of my all-time favorite Taiwan singers became less popular after more than a decade, and lost further ground in terms of “mind share” as he aged past 50. There have been too many new talents. Many of them come and go, and few had the same longevity as Dave. I don’t know how he felt, but a fact that’s easy to lose is, he has a distinct style. Not being the top 20 most popular singer doesn’t wipe out that fact. Many fans still love him even though he can’t sing like 30 years ago.

eg: A great pastor (or preacher) goes to Australia and was wowed to witness another preacher of a similar style, but more powerful (or more eloquent). He soon decided to learn and improve himself, and developed his distinct style. He has unique talent as an individual, and he would sooner or later develop some feature of his own.

eg: A solid movie can be upstaged by a movie of a similar genre, but higher box office. However, every serious movie is unique. If two very similar movies are both good, then invariably the differences will be significant.

I know more than one individual with a habit to degrade, belittle, and dismiss her/his own achievements, strengths and talents. The opposite of “celebrate every little improvement“. An irrational, unfair, self-destructive habit. Because most grown-ups have developed some immunity, doing this thing to other people is not as harmful as doing it to ourselves and loved ones. We will have more to say about parenting…

It’s impractical to dictate “If I’m good at this field than I have to be #1 in the entire school or nothing.” If you are indeed #1, then sooner or later you would meet someone with a higher talent in some part of this field, so your #1 position becomes questionable. Does it diminish your achievements? Possibly, arguably yes, but does it zero out your achievement? No. You are still a valuable player in the team.

There’s a related patten. An individual would still degrade himself if he is indeed the #1 local champion but in a less glamorous field, like a less popular art or sport, or less important domain. Well, that field is valuable and worthwhile. It’s a real fact. For example, my dad is a top researcher in several less glamorous domains.

I think [[Compassion and self-hate]] has something relevant here.

it takes effort to remain in financial IT#Ashish

NY vs NJ — cost is basically the same my friend, in terms of rent, transportation, food … Most of my friends probably live in New York city suburbs. (I know no one who choose to live in NYC, paying 4% city tax.) My cost estimate is always based on my experience living in NYC suburbs.

The “relief” factor you identified is psychological, subtle but fundamental. It resonates in my bones. It’s a movie playing in my head every day.

In the present-day reality, at my age I probably can still find jobs at this salary in Singapore or Hongkong, with growing difficulties. How about in 10 years? Huge uncertainty. If you were me, you have to take a long, hard look into yourself and benchmark yourself against the competing (younger) job seekers. You would find negative evidence regarding your competitiveness on the Asia financial IT job market. That’s the get-the-job aspect. The 2nd aspect is keep-the-job and even tougher for me. Therefore in the U.S. I make myself a free-wheeling contractor!

As I age, I take the growing job market competition as a fact of life. I accept I’m past my prime. I keep working on my fitness.

On both [get|keep ]-the-job, U.S. offers huge psychological relief. Why? Ultimately, it boils down to long term income (and family cash flow). Since I believe U.S. employers can give me a well-paying job more easily, for longer periods, I feel financially more secure. I will hold meaningful jobs till 65 (not teaching in polytechnic, or selling insurance etc). I can plan for the family more confidently. I could plan for a new home.

There are many more pros and cons to consider. Will stick to the bare essentials.

Singapore offers security in terms of the social “safety net”, thanks to government. Even if my Singapore salary drops by half, we still enjoy subsidized healthcare, decent education, frequent reunions with grandparents, among many other benefits (I listed 20 in my blog..).

Besides, I always remind my wife and grandparents that I have overseas properties, some paying reliable rental yield. Under some assumptions, passive income can amount to $5k/mon so the “worry” my dad noticed is effectively addressed. Another huge relief.

As a sort of summary, in my mind these unrelated concerns are interlinked –

· My long-term strength/weakness on job markets

o coding practice, lifelong learning

o green card – a major weakness in me

· family cash flow

o passive incomes

o housing

· Singapore as base camp

Do you notice I didn’t include “job security” in the above list? I basically take job-Insecurity as a foregone conclusion. Most of my friends are the opposite – taking job security as an assumption. This difference defines me as a professional, shapes my outlook, and drives me to keep working on “fitness”.

If I had no kids, I would have already achieved financial freedom and completely free of cash flow concerns. As a couple, our combined burn rate is S$3k-4k/mon but our (inflation-proof) passive income has/will reach that level. Also medical and housing needs are taken care of in Singapore. In reality, kids add S$1k-2k to our monthly burn rate. We are still on our way to financial freedom. So why the “worry”?!


Sent: Thursday, 16 March 2017 8:07 AM
To: Victor Tan
Cc: ‘Bin TAN (Victor)’
Subject: Re: it takes effort to remain in financial IT

That jewish guy and avichal are exceptions . Most of developers struggle and get success by hard work, by spending time with code for atleast 1-2years in any new company. I have not met other fast learners like them. Those are rare to find.

Regarding the worry that your dad always notices , i think this is quite obvious "more money more stress" but yeah this is the right time for you to move to USA where there are plenty of tech jobs . This move will surely give you a shy of relief.

Regarding the cost if living, why would you want to stay in NY , it is indeed costly. How about NJ?


Both mental stress and physical stress. Let’s take a step back and compare the stress intensity during job hunt vs GTD stress on the job.

Many people say it’s too stressful and tiring to keep interviewing compared to a long-term job in a big company. Well, I blogged many times that I need to keep interviewing…. The stress is so far manageable.

On a regular job, the GTD stress levels range from 5 to 7 on a scale of 10 (Donald Trump on women;). Often rise to 8.

Became 9 or 10 whenever (as FTE) boss gave a negative feedback. I know from several past experiences. In contrast, contract projects felt much better.

(To be fair, I did improve after the negative feedback.)

During my job hunt including the challenging Singapore lap, my stress level felt like 4 to 7, but often positive stress, perhaps due to positive progress and positive energy.

Conclusion — I always felt more confident on the open market than recovering from setback on a job.

quartz platform:too experimental-}%%pain

I now remember Rob, Andy Carlise (5Y Quartz veterans) … spent lots of time struggling with some underlying Quartz platform functionalities. I feel these technologies are experimental and work-in-progress. Seriously inadequate documentation.

Most technologies I use are much better. Consider Python ( Most “routine” tasks are well discussed on StackOverflow. The complex tasks are still tractable.

Consider Autosys or Accurev. Few online resources, but the products are rock solid and less complex.

0%ROTI: perl,php,mysql,javascript@@

2000 – 2002 are the first few years I spent in IT and had a deep impact on my outlook. However, there are many overstatements:

  • Too early to say — javascript had a surprise revival, even on Wall St! I have not decided to go back there.
  • Too early to say — perl was widely used on Wall St and was a key factor to my survival in GS.
  • SQL — skills I acquired in GS is not completely irrelevant. Many (financial etc) systems still use it. Perhaps less used on west coast in web 2.0 shops.
  • php — investment was not 100% lost. It did provide me a job at NBC. I think this is still a valuable skill on west coast. My php confidence is an asset.
  • mysql — investment was not completely lost. I would say my mysql experience gave me enough confidence and competence to take on other database systems.
  • apache — investment gave me valuable insight into network servers. I think apache is still widely used outside Wall St.


techies do quit finance

I have seen several cases, for various reasons I may not know so well. I would say not every likes/tolerates the higher pressure, high workload or the lack of creativity in the typical Wall St tech job. Some can get things done but don’t like it.

  • Many Wall St move “higher” to pure tech firms.
  • Y Li moved from M1 (or another telecom firm) to BofA and left after 2 or 3 years.
  • J Ji went to Murex, then some software vendor, then BofA but left after just 1 or 2 years.
  • Park (GS PWM CPDB team) went from Bloomberg to GS, but lasted just 1 year plus. I think he left for some university. He might return to finance.
  • Q Li moved from OC to UOB but didn’t feel good. I think she may join another bank soon.

labels: cope^pain^threat^GTD

I would say choose one among

gzCope, gzPain, gzThreat, GTD

In rare cases, use simultaneous categories.

Also, the relevant posts in the pripri/open blogs, I feel better move to this blog and mark them private. Easier to manage in one place.

GTD is more specific than Cope. In a sense, all GTD posts are also part of Cope but actually Cope is more about job market, moving up, choosing specializations.

Fwd: techies’ common complaints about jobs

label: orig, z_job

Hi friends,

Most techies (including developers) probably feel undervalued, and

have a lot of potential not utilized on the current job.

We blame our company or our team or our job. Maybe it's too easy;

maybe it's too repetitive; maybe it's too niche. We look up at some

high flyer and ask “what if I'm given that role… I may not do better

than that person, but surely I will be competent and up to the job. It

may be boring and stressful but Hey I will earn so much more!”

In many over-staffed IT departments, about 20% of the roles are

critical and some 20% of the roles are dedicated to “peripheral”

systems that no business users care about. Perhaps that system is

lightly used, and users don't trust the output anyway.

Well, my current job gives me a lot of opportunities to push myself

higher. It's not too niche (like Quartz/Athena/SecDB). It offers

complexity and depth. Not mindless and repetitive. Not something I

feel already too familiar with (and jaded). I can see the impact

quickly. The impact is on many people. The impact is on front office.

Still I'm not so fired-up. I guess there are always better roles out

there. Better condition our mind not to think that way. Instead make

the best use of the current role. “When life gives you lemons, make


which programming languages changed toooo much@@

No elaboration please. Pointers will do.

perl 6?
python 3?  but the excessive changes are not taken up!
php5 was better received.
C# ?
MFC -> winforms -> WPF ? Different technologies. More like delphi/powerBuilder/coldFusion declining than a language evolving.
java 8? not much change. Lambda is the biggest
c++11? not much change. Rval ref is the biggest