Are we really worth 3.5 million?

A news (I use this term loosely) article recently came across TechCrunch about a Google engineer being offered $3.5 million in restricted stock to not leave for Facebook.  Now, I was alway taught to not undervalue myself, and I completely agree with that line of thought.  However, 3.5 million is ridiculous.  How many startups could you fund with that kind of money?  How many lives could be saved through research, aid, or vaccines?   How much good could be done with $3.5 million?

I understand that this may just be a rumor (it is TechCrunch after all), but it brings up a good point.  As programmers we’ve been taught that our skills are irreplaceable, but I don’t believe that.  Yes we have a hard job, and being good at what we do is even harder, but we’re not worth $3.5 million.  $100,000 for a good programmer, sure.  $500,000 for a “rock star”, maybe. But never $3.5 million.

Google is afraid of losing talent, but this seems like a knee-jerk reaction.  There will always be brilliant engineers who want to work for Google, so I say let him/her go.  Put that $3.5 million to use somewhere it can make a difference, not in the pocket of someone who likely already has a ton of cash.  Besides, if this person is leaving for Facebook, they are probably burnt out or looking for a new challenge anyways.  It happens, and no amount of money will change the fact that they are probably going to leave after their contract is up anyways.

By Jack Slingerland

Founder of Working and living in Raleigh, NC. I manage a team of software engineers and work in Python, Django, TypeScript, Node.js, React+Redux, Angular, and PHP. I enjoy hanging out with my wife and son, lifting weights, and advancing in my free time.

14 replies on “Are we really worth 3.5 million?”

We don’t know what time period that supposed $3.5 million was for. Maybe 4 years?

Also, this was for one of Google’s best engineers; it’s likely most wouldn’t fetch anything near that much.

FU man, of course we are worth that kind of money. At least I am. Usually you get that kind of value by developing a startup, but if you already have someone who is doing stellar work…

Don’t misunderstand me, there are people who’s value to a company can’t be judged. As a human being, I don’t think a price can be put on your life. As a programmer, I think we’re commodities and this kind of valuations as to the worth of a programmer (in general) is ridiculous and gives the wrong idea about our profession.

Engineering talent alone is never worth that much money, but combined with business acumen, that kind of value can be created.

I would be willing to bet the most likely case is that his sole responsibility wasn’t engineering, but rather a technical product manager whose responsibilities are both revenue generation and technical architecture.

I understand this completely because I’m one of those who undervalues themselves. However, I’m quickly realizing that your value is not tied to your abilities. Simply, you are worth as much as you think you are. The final value is what you’ll hold out for. If that’s 10k, you’re worth 10k. If it’s 4mil, you’re worth 4mil.

Ultimately it comes down to what you think of yourself.

Isn’t our value to a company not more than the value we help produce for the company? If the company pays us more than that, we are a net loss for the company. If you think you’re worth 4 mil, you better be able to bring in at least $4 mil worth of value to the company (either through increased sales, brand value, etc). Otherwise, the company is losing money by hiring you.

I’m not sure you understand how options work. When firms make a profit, the profit gets “retained” in equity. The company can then create capital (shares) by issuing options from that retained profit. No cash is exchanged, nor is any cash required. For that matter, $3.5M in profit is not required, either; shares are issued at their book value, and the $3.5M figure is market value. “How much good could be done with $3.5 million” is not a question that makes any sense in the context.

If the engineer has a great team or a great patent track record, then he/she could well be worth the money– especially if the money is in stock options vested over years.

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