The Midwest Pays Software Engineers Much Better Than Silicon Valley

About twice a year, I get an email from a recruiter asking if I would like to fly out to the west coast and interview with Google/Amazon/Facebook. I’m not bragging about this, it isn’t actually that exceptional. The west coast poaches young, naive tech studs out of the mid-west on a regular basis.
Why do I never go? If you haven’t heard, Silicon Valley isn’t all segways and cash poking out of peoples assholes. There’s been reports of software engineers living in the parking lot of Google  and numerous other examples of sky high salaries meeting a sky high cost of living. In economics, everything is relative and there’s no better example of this than California.

San Jose VS Saint Louis

Entry salary software engineer:
San Jose: $100,548
Saint Louis: $66,666
Adjusted for cost of living: $127,000
Winner: Saint Louis ($27,000)

Average salary software engineer
San Jose: $136,000
Saint Louis: $86,284
Adjusted for cost of living: $164,545
Winner: Saint Louis ($28,545)

Cost of living adjustments where made using this website

I won’t lie, coming back to the midwest with a tech giant on your resume gives you prestige and maybe a few points salary-wise over your local guys. That appears to come at a cost of nearly $30,000 a year that you stay out on the west coast. It’s going to be hard to make that pay off in the end.

But also: you work more… a LOT more

I had to interview a developer who was coming from Electronic Arts (nothing cool, he had worked on “The Sims: Dating Pack”). I asked him at the end of the interview if there was anything we would need to do to accommodate him at the company. He looked at me with his cold dead eyes, eyes that looked as those they seen a lot of war, and said “No. Overtime”. I laughed and told him we maybe did two weekends a year as I got up, he grabbed my arm and looked straight into my eyes “NO… overtime…”.
The fact is for every young tech stud heading out to the west coast with dollars in their eyes and glory in their dreams, there’s 200 vultures waiting for them to come so that they can chain them to their desks. The offices may seem chic, but that only serves to mask the reality that they are actually nerd holding cells. About the sixth impossible deadline these kids pull off, they start realizing they are just being exploited and become bitter. As their productivity dries up, they get moved aside (or fired) and replaced with a new wave of fresh young blood.


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