Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




2 offers, which one to take?

after being unemployed for 4-5 months, I have 2 offers, one with a small startup, which has a really good product and in growth mode. The other is with a large consulting firm involving travel every week, coming home on the weekends, and basically working as a consultant at client sites.
The pay scales are roughly the same,what I am really looking for is a place to grow technically and a stable job.
The consulting company is 100% travel, it appears kind of glamerous, but thinking long term, how will it be a year or two out in the future? also they seem more concerned with presentation, and are doing a lot of rewrites, that has me a bit suspecious. I don't have a family right now, but
when I do decide to start one, the travel might be a bit of a problem.
Everything in the startup is fine, except maybe if they tank off, which I think they won't, and is just 5 minutes from home.
I have to make a decision in a few days,
what do people think?
I have 2 years previous experience, and think I'm kind of lucky to get 2 offers, but it was a lot of hard work and 10 interviews.
Any opinions appreciated.

Confused
Friday, April 02, 2004

Definitely the startup. You have a chance to do something useful, build expertise and gain employable skills.

In the consulting firm - tell me it's not one of the accountants - you're just a suit that flies to places and fills out the timesheets. They will offshore your job the first chance they get ( just because you fly around doesn't mean you're not vulnerable.)

When you go for your nest job, your experience will be superficial b.shit.

JM
Friday, April 02, 2004

If the consulting company is the one I think it might be (the description sounds awfully familiar), and if they're growing as fast as they claim to be, then you may well have another shot at them in a year or two if the startup does tank.

Think I just interviewed there myself recently...
Friday, April 02, 2004

"The consulting company is 100% travel, it appears kind of glamerous, but thinking long term, how will it be a year or two out in the future?"

My mother-in-law does this and she hates it!  The travel wears you down.

Almost Anonymous
Friday, April 02, 2004

100% business travel is not glamorous.  That's just a lie people tell themselves and others to justify the crap they're putting themselves through.  I saw an airline advertisement once that summed the experience up really well:  It was a grid of 9 photos of conference rooms;  Under each was the name of some major city:  "London", "New York", "Tokyo", "Paris", etc..  The rooms varied a bit in keeping with the cultures they were intended to represent.  But really, they were just a bunch of bland conference rooms.

I worked that kind of job for about a year after I first got out of school.  I abandoned it for a job at Ars Digita.  I've never regretted that decision, even when AD crashed and burned.  And, frankly, your startup sounds like it's got a better chance than AD did.

Somebody
Saturday, April 03, 2004

Would working at different client sites mean expanding your professional network of contacts, which can help in the future?

Confused
Saturday, April 03, 2004

> Would working at different client sites mean expanding your professional network of contacts, which can help in the future?

No. Not if you're a fly-in suit. You wouldn't have any useful skill or capability that people would care about.

JM
Saturday, April 03, 2004

Working with a smaller company:

(1) You get to learn more because you are not simply developing software. You might be expected to write manuals, proposals, interact with clients, market your product, conduct interviews, create tools for automating internal process etc.

(2) Your work is noticed. In no time, you can become a super star, indispensible for the employer.

(3) You work near your place, so you are less vulnerable to physical malaise. This is an important consideration. It has been over an year now that I have been working 42 kilometers away from home, and I travel up and down everyday. Today, I feel like I am ten years above my age. It has taken a toll on my health, my skin is flabby and bones are mushy. I have had no time for family in the last 1 year. I am now considering shifting near by with my family.

(4) Burnouts are common.

Working far off with a big company:
==========================

(1) The purview of the functions you will be performing is going to be fairly limited. You might be maintaining lots of documents, and coding lesser than you expected to.

(2) You either commute up and down daily or you maintain two establishments - one near your office and the other where your family stays.

(3) A burnout is a blue moon occurance.

(4) You may get more real benefits than the monetary benefits you recieve. You might, for instance, have a healthier work environment, a cleaner ambience, better food, a better office canteen, pick up and drop facility etc.

(5) When you apply for your next job, you have a big name on your resume. As a result, you get your next job easier.

(6) These larger companies have got their head backwards. Your job is never secure. You'll have much more politics to deal with, and lesser rights until you attain the seniority of working with them for over an year. This does not apply to smaller firms, because your performance is instantly recognized in smaller places, and your value is realized sooner.

Bottomline:
========
Decision -> Yours

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Saturday, April 03, 2004

Take the bigger company. In the long run it will be for the better.  You will be exposed to a vast variety of people plus get work with a wide range of problems/situation. Your market value will increase substanially. A good grounding in business, technology, people management, understanding the difference between "End" and "Means", get to know the "bad" things to avoid, etc. can be got only when exposed to such large institutions. I'll go so far as to say Joel fould not have been so succeeful, both with FG & JoS, without Microsoft *AND* Juno. Those experiences make a hell of a difference insofar a "success: goes, Also financial stability is assured for 2 year period you mentioned, which is quite a long period by any account.

I made that mistake and am still paying a very high price for it. You could always join startups or better still start one yourself.

Yes, it is boring. Yes, it is tiring. Yes, it is worth it.

If you already have a consderable expperience in large organisations, then, of course, please disregard the above.

Regards

Kaushik Janardhanan

KayJay
Saturday, April 03, 2004

Business travel can be quite costly to you as an employee, especially if the company doesn't provide good enough accommodation and reimbursements.

Will you get a decent per diem?  Will they pay to rent a car for you in cities that don't have a substantial public transportation system (like New York)?  Will the hotels you stay in have a kitchen and fridge?  Can you leave your belongings in the hotel room when you return home for the weekends, or will you have to check-in/check-out every week?  Do you have somebody to organize your personal business back home if you have to work for a weekend or two?  Will being away so often cause you to be sometimes unable to comply with conditions of your apartment's lease or homeowner's association (e.g. leaves must not remain unraked for more than 72 hours)?

Also be aware that you will likely have to file taxes in every state that you set foot in on business, if that state has an income tax.  You probably won't have to *pay* every state's tax, as they have provisions that allow you to subtract the tax paid to one state from the tax owed to another.  But you'll have to file taxes to account for all of that, and of course it is complicated so you'll probably have to pay a professional hundreds of dollars to do it.

I wouldn't take the traveling job unless the pay was at least 15% higher than the local job.  The travel will cost you in ways you never expected.  I've been there, done that, and don't want to do it again.

T. Norman
Saturday, April 03, 2004

Just a couple more points:

Job security, or lack thereof, is probably the same in either case.  The small company may go bankrupt, but the big company may lay you off regardless of their financial situation.  Especially if there is a point in time where they don't have a client for you.

One advantage of working for a big consulting firm is that if you do a good job, you may find that a client wants to hire you for some good money.
How restrictive is the non-compete clause for the big company? If the contract prevents you from working for clients, try to find out how much success former employees of the big company had when leaving to join the clients.  Even though the contract may prevent you from doing so on your own, they may waive the clause if the client is willing to pay a reasonable amount to have you "released".

If the big firm tends to construct big obstacles to movement of their ex-employees, that largely negates the advantage of the opportunities that may arise as a result of working for them.

T. Norman
Saturday, April 03, 2004

Rent me your life for 12 months and I'll make your decision for you. 

Simon Lucy
Saturday, April 03, 2004

"problem domain" knowldege is more valuable, and less likely to be offshored.  --> Small company is better.

Selling a product is much better than selling your time (long term). Problem with the latter is you're always running out of inventory :-)  --> Small company is better.

Flying *first class*  might be glamorous. Flying coach these days is NOT.  My uncle at Delta confirmed: they ave definitely been moving the seats closer together every year.

Mr. Analogy
Saturday, April 03, 2004

"One advantage of working for a big consulting firm is that if you do a good job, you may find that a client wants to hire you for some good money.
"

Excellent point. I hadn't thought of that, although the management consulting company (Engineering, not programming)  I worked for 10 years ago had a non-compete agreement.  They also made an effort not to let me get too cozy with the clients.

Mr. Analogy
Saturday, April 03, 2004

My current job is the result of being hired by a client a couple years ago.  I had a non-compete, but the client was willing to pay my former company whatever the amount was to release me from those bounds. A number of other consultants from the same consulting company were also being billed to the same client, and they wouldn't want to piss off a big client.

However, I was coming from a small, struggling consulting company. The big firms are less dependent on any single client, and may be less willing to allow people to join their clients.

T. Norman
Saturday, April 03, 2004

As someone who traveled quite a bit in my previous job, let me say that business travel gets old quick. It's fun at the beginning to see new places. It's *really* fun to impress your friends by saying "I just flew in from San Francisco, and I'll be in Dallas next week." Plus, if you collect enough frequent flyer miles, your SO can fly for free with you, and you can turn the trip into a mini-vacation. And the food can be good.

After a while though, the travel just becomes one big haze of getting lost in airports, delayed flights, dirty hotels, smelly rental cars, getting lost on subways, never having clean clothes, missing bill payment dates, leaving things in hotel rooms/rental cars, crowded trains, catching colds from recirculated airplane air, jet lag, time away from friends/family, filling out trip reports, lost reservations, trips to Kinko, phone calls at odd hours because of time zone issues, spotty internet access, and so on. It ain't glamourous.

The best thing about working for my self now is knowing that I get to sleep in my own bed every night.

A previous poster said "you will likely have to file taxes in every state that you set foot in on business." I don't think that's correct - I believe state income tax is for residents only.  I've traveled to 26 states in my past job, and I never had HR people or accountants mention filing income taxes in other states. If this were true, I don't think anyone would ever travel for business!

Anechoic
Saturday, April 03, 2004

HR isn't necessarily going to tell you anything. Their withholding obligation is probably limited only to the state where they are headquartered or they state where you reside.  Or perhaps the states you worked in didn't have an income tax or didn't tax non-residents who worked there.

But there are states that demand that you file taxes with them if you work there, regardless of your residence.  I personally know someone who had to file in 4 different states.  Look at the various state tax forms for yourself.

You probably won't have to actually pay taxes to multiple states, but you may have to file taxes everywhere, if only to say that your tax amount is $X minus a credit for $X that was paid to another state. They have a crazy web of rules to determine how each state's tax is credited against the others and how the taxes should be prorated based on the number of days in each state.  Generally, your total tax will not be the sum of the various states but will be equal or close to the highest rate of all the states you touched.  So the added tax burden can be as high as the difference between your home state and the highest-taxed state, plus the cost of paying an accountant to sort out the complexities.

Of course, maybe you could just keep quiet and only file in your home state, and hope the others won't find out since there is no governmental monitoring of who crosses state borders.  But if you get audited, they will investigate the nature of your travels.

T. Norman
Saturday, April 03, 2004

Confused wrote, "I have 2 offers, one with a small startup, which has a really good product and in growth mode. The other is with a large consulting firm involving travel every week, coming home on the weekends, and basically working as a consultant at client sites."

Excluding the 100% travel part, if both offers are pretty much equal I would do the following:

I would try to find out as much as I can about the small company and if everything checks out then I would go with them. My guess is the large consulting firm is Accenture. I say this because your description of the consulting firm fits their MO. This company prefers to hire lots of young wet-behind-the-ears programmers and burn them out by requiring their employees to work lots of unpaid overtime.

I wouldn't put much stock in the "we will fly you home on the weekends" spiel -- it probably ain't going to happen as often as you would like it to. Also, don't be surprised if the consulting firm sends you to a client which is located in the middle of nowhere and requires you to stay in a cheap two bedroom apartment with a roomate.

One Programmer's Opinion
Saturday, April 03, 2004

"> Would working at different client sites mean expanding your professional network of contacts, which can help in the future?

No. Not if you're a fly-in suit. You wouldn't have any useful skill or capability that people would care about."

IMHO this depends 100% on your people skills. If you *act* like a hired gun, you'll be treated like a hired gun. On the other hand, if you act like someone who cares about the company and wants to help them succeed, you'll be remembered and it could pay off if you go looking later.

*****

I'm still in my honeymoon stage on the business travel thing, so it's still fun. However, drawing on my experience as a contractor (every year in a different office building with the same deli in the basement), I can agree that if you're likely to get jaded, you'll get jaded.

When I was interviewing, *every* interviewer made the point about this job being 30% travel. They were VERY interested in my comfort level with that. This tells me that in the past people have quoted the amount of travel as a reason for switching jobs.

That's 30% - a little more than one week a month. You're talking about 100%...

The previous posters also make good points about quality of travel - do you get to keep your frequent flier miles? (some companies require they be used on business travel) What kinds of hotels do they authorize? What expenses do they pay and what do you have to provide receipts for? (A requirement for receipts over, say, $20 indicates a very conservative attitude about employee spending). Do they pay rental cars/cab fare? Do you get per diem for meals? Do they cover long distance/cell phone expenses?

These are all very fair questions.

Finally, you mentioned that you don't have a family. Does this mean you don't have an SO? Or that you don't have kids? If the former, I'd take the travel job and run with it - enjoy being a bachelor and get out in every city. Heck, let your apartment go, shove some stuff in storage, and don't have a home. Just be a jet-setter. (Remember the comment about weekends, tho - if you're in NYC on Friday and SF on Monday, the company may not cover the weekend)

If you *do* have an SO, this is as much her decision as yours. But be sure to point out that with either job she's likely to see you equal amounts of time - they're both mistresses.

Finally, if you're not married and the comment "when I decide to start a family" refers to getting married, it's an interesting perspective that choosing a life mate and settling down is something you think you have control over...

Philo

Philo
Saturday, April 03, 2004

Philo, Microsoft is a useful company and representing it is a useful role, so I would not apply your experience to that of the typical dumb consulting companies, especially the ones with an accounting background.

I second the comments about Accenture. If that's who it is, go for the startup. Accenture is the master of hiring young grads, charging a lot for them, and not really giving them any useful expertise. All the while they'll tell you you're so lucky and have such great prospects.

JM
Saturday, April 03, 2004

>'Finally, if you're not married and the comment "when I decide to start a family" refers to getting married, it's an interesting perspective that choosing a life mate and settling down is something you think you have control over...'

True ... unless already engaged or close to it, it is unlikely the OP will still be with the same company when it's time for marriage and a family -- whichever company is chosen.

T. Norman
Saturday, April 03, 2004

"But there are states that demand that you file taxes with them if you work there, regardless of your residence.   I personally know someone who had to file in 4 different states.  Look at the various state tax forms for yourself."

Which states?

Anechoic
Saturday, April 03, 2004

"  I personally know someone who had to file in 4 different states.  Look at the various state tax forms for yourself."

And was your acquaitance *directly paid* from firms in those 4 states, or was s/he paid by a firm in her/his home state?

Anechoic
Saturday, April 03, 2004

Job securuty?  A "real company"  making a product, vs, providing overpriced labor to idiots who don't know any better.  You tell me.

The Big6 firm you speak of.  How great is the market demand for $300/hr progammers?  I guess there are still a few retarded firms out there.  But don't bank on this lomng term.  They will lay your ass off the minute you're not staffed.  Big 6 is a glorified chopshop/meatmarket.  You're being billed out for hours. 

Go where you get the best experience.  End of story. 
A 5 min. commute is a big perk,  don't over look this.  This cna translate to your entire gym daily workout, when you save yourself 1-2 hours of daily commute.

Bella
Saturday, April 03, 2004

> , it's an interesting perspective that choosing a life mate and settling down is something you think you have control over...


Philo,  I certainly think this is a decision people consciously make. .., Some choose to go out and find a partner, others do not. 

Bella
Saturday, April 03, 2004

"Philo,  I certainly think this is a decision people consciously make. .., Some choose to go out and find a partner, others do not."

And in both cases true love generally appears where and when you least expect it.

Mind you, if you're a "good catch" then yes, you can ignore everyone until you decide to "find a wife" and will probably land one fairly quickly.

I'll bet you won't be truly happy, tho. ;-)

Philo

Philo
Saturday, April 03, 2004

'And was your acquaitance *directly paid* from firms in those 4 states, or was s/he paid by a firm in her/his home state?'

He was paid only by the firm that directly employed him.

Like it or not, there are a number of states that tax nonresidents.  Massachusetts is one of them:

http://www.dor.state.ma.us/help/nonres.htm#3

"A nonresident is only subject to tax on items of income derived from or effectively connected with:

*  any trade or business, including any employment carried on by the taxpayer in Massachusetts, regardless of the year in which that income is actually received by the taxpayer and regardless of the taxpayer's residence or domicile in the year it is received;"
...

"Some examples of the types of income taxable to a nonresident include:

*  compensation for personal services performed in Massachusetts, including but not limited to wages, salaries, tips, bonuses, commissions, fees, and other compensation which relate to activities carried on in Massachusetts, regardless of where the compensation is paid;"

New York is another such state. They have an 84-page document describing how they tax nonresidents and part-year residents.

http://www.tax.state.ny.us/pdf/2003/inc/it203i_2003.pdf

T. Norman
Sunday, April 04, 2004

This is most definitely not legal advice - this is vague surmising...

I'll bet that the issue is where both parties are, the privity of those parties, where pay is being issued, etc.

Let's say Joe works for ABC Corp, headquartered in Delaware. ABC Corp signs a services agreement with Client, Inc in Boston and sends Joe to do the work.

Joe is not earning any money based on his service in Boston - his earnings are based on salary resulting from a contract signed between two Delaware entities in Delaware. Joe's salary accrues to Joe irrespective of where he is. In other words, his earnings are not based on the service performed in Boston.

Now *ABC Corp* has earnings in Boston, and must file in Boston, but I suspect Joe does not.

I feel confident about that answer because Microsoft hasn't said word one about filing in the states we visit, and I am positive if we had to, they would.

Your friends may have had to file because they were working *directly* for the entitites they visited, in which case they are earning based on services performed in Boston.

Philo

Philo
Sunday, April 04, 2004

Whether or not a specific individual will have to file or pay taxes in multiple states depends on a loooong list of conditions.

But it is a *fact* that some people do have to file taxes in a state(s) in addition to the one where they live, merely as a result of being physically present in that state while doing work, regardless of who pays their salary or where it comes from.

Your employer is not going to wade through the 84-page documents for every state and analyze the situation of every employee so everybody can be told where they need to file.  So the fact that they didn't say anything to you means nothing.  They have certain minimal obligations for tax withholding based on some basic conditions; anything outside of that is up to the individual to sort out.

If you live or work in multiple states with nonzero tax rates and want to know where you do or don't have to file taxes, you won't know what you're really supposed to do unless you spend the time reading through the hundreds of pages of tax laws, or hire an accountant or tax lawyer.

T. Norman
Sunday, April 04, 2004

To the last paragraph I should add:

... or you can use tax software if it has knowledge of how to handle the conditions that apply to your situation.

T. Norman
Sunday, April 04, 2004

Dude, I don't have to read 84 pages. I have to read the first paragraph on page two under "How nonresidents and part-year residents are taxed" which says:

"If you were a nonresident of New York State and received income in 2003 from New York State sources..."

Very simple - ABC Corp in my example above is not a New York State source.

Got any more examples? I suggest you start with California - they generally tax anything they can get away with.

Philo

Philo
Sunday, April 04, 2004

Alas, but you do need to read the 84 pages because the definition of "New York source income" is not what you think it is.  See page 6 to start with.

Your choice - you can talk to an accountant or lawyer who knows the real deal, or ignore it and hope the states don't come after you.

T. Norman
Sunday, April 04, 2004

Here's an interesting description of the issue from a CPA:

http://www.performink.com/Archives/taxes/2003/3-14Taxes.html

"These days, I commonly see multi-state W-2s from management consultants, lawyers and computer geeks whose companies have sent them on assignments around the country."

But this is followed by: "Traditionally, independent contractors have not filed in states they did not live in. The nonresident state would have no reason to expect a tax return from that person, and probably did not even know that person had been there. And even if the state knew, that pesky nexus problem arises again: It is almost impossible for a state to force someone located elsewhere to submit to that state’s jurisdiction."

The message here and elsewhere seems to be that if you're working, even temporarily, in a state where your company has nexus, then you potentially have to pay tax on your income apportioned to that state.

Then there's this scary tidbit: "California... now require[s] withholding on fees paid to any and all nonresident independent contractors." Yow.

John C.
Monday, April 05, 2004

100% travel means you eat meals in hotels by yourself a lot, your never at home, or with your friends, and the places you visit you rarely see because you're too busy working.

Travel isn't glam. It's boring as shit. A plane is just a big bus but you have to deal with the cramped seating for much longer.

Jack of all
Monday, April 05, 2004

Are you a cost center or a value-add?

Admin people are cost centers. Even within a pure IT outsourcing company - client admin is a cost and internal admin is a cost. Cost centers are characterised by their performance vs value-add curve: value-add is *always* negative but tends towards zero as performance increases. Value-adds start negative but cross the threshold at a certain performance point and begin to add value proportionate to performance thereafter.

It is possible to get ahead as a cost-center by being less costly to the company than your neighbours. Highly paid admin staff actually do cost less than their multiple replacements who would be required to replicate their productivity. But beware: if someone else comes along with similar productivity but cheaper costs (*cough* Indian *cough*), your lifestyle is going to take a dive...

Value-add people are found in sales, design and marketing (actuaries are a highly specialised subset of designers - don't know why I threw that in, so shoot me). Executives add value in some 4th or 5th order way by providing the right image (marketing) or by knowing someone who knows something or someone else (sales). Consultants are outsourced designers (note that in-house consultants are a cost center to their employer but value-adds to their clients). In some companies, legal can be a value-add but - if you wanted to work for a company relying on that strategy - I doubt you'd be hanging out on this forum.

Sounds to me like the consulting gig is actually a cost center role (the value-add to the person paying the salary has already been done during the sales cycle before you'd get involved) and the startup a value-add. I know which one I'd choose.

Paul Sharples
Monday, April 05, 2004

Travel is nice up to about 10-15%. It starts to be a real drag above 30%. 100% must be hell.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, April 05, 2004

100% travel must be insane indeed.  Even more insane is to take a job with 100% travel for the same pay as a local one.

NoName
Monday, April 05, 2004

States are now using data mining to find tax evaders all over the place:

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=562&ncid=738&e=3&u=/ap/20040403/ap_on_hi_te/tax_data_mining

T. Norman
Monday, April 05, 2004

100% travel is miserable. You won't have a life. If you're single forget about any social interaction on the weekends. All your friends won't be able to contact you, won't know if you'll be around and will make plans without you. Consider that you will get home later Friday evening and leave early Monday morning (if you actually get to return at all) and will likely be jetlagged.

If you're married, you can count on some level of social life if your spouse organizes it until you get your divorce.

I did it for about a year before i quit.

pdq
Monday, April 05, 2004

The startup definitely.  The experience that you would gain there will certainly make you more ready for future jobs. 

Good luck

KS
Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The startup, the startup.

You have no idea how great it is when you can spend almost no time and money travelling to and from work. No idea. I speak as someone who's spent much of her so-called career travelling 4 hours a day and paying 25-45% of her salary for the privilege.

You may think the BigCorp will pay for all your travel, but there are always hidden costs and you won't discover them until it's too late.

Plus, you're much less likely to be seen as valuable to BigCorp. Most likely they'll see you as a piece of equipment, like a photocopier. Maybe SmallCo will see you that way, too, especially if everyone there has a personality disorder; but at least there's a chance that they won't.

Accept the small job with all possible speed.

Fernanda Stickpot
Tuesday, April 06, 2004

'Travel isn't glam. It's boring as shit. A plane is just a big bus but you have to deal with the cramped seating for much longer. ': I couldn't agree more.

DO NOT accept a job at Accenture, EVER, except if you think you can enjoy living in a Dilbert world. If you think you can, think harder.

The startup can go bust, but so can big companies (remember Arthur Andersen?) and when they do, hundreds of identical resumes come back in the market at the same time...

Please tell us what your decision was?

totoleheros
Thursday, April 08, 2004

Hi All,
Decided to go for the startup in the end

Confused
Thursday, April 08, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home