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Stock options

Developers becoming millionaire
working for start up in the valley.

Is it fairly common or a minority ?

What's the salary of a hot shot Java Developer
in the valley (roughly!)

Friday, December 7, 2001

The skills that make a true hot shot developer are not language specific.

Friday, December 7, 2001

Depends on which burger-flipping joint they work for.  =-)

First of all, the "hot shot programmer" is a myth.  Software engineering isn't about heroic acts of brilliance perpetuated by individual geniuses working in isolation in dark rooms.  No company has room for a prima donna with an ego the size of Texas who can't play nicely with others.  That said ...

Most "silicon valley millionaires" were only millionaires briefly in 1999, and then only on paper.  I have a stepbrother who was CTO of a dotcom in Vegas (different valley, same story) called "" who was at one point a multimillionaire on paper, back when their stock price was at $15 a share.  Of course, those options weren't vested and he spent 18 months trying to keep the company on life support so he could finally exercise them.  He managed to get out with about 75k, but he was one of the two only people to make a dime on their options.

Where is stockup (later renamed to "preference technologies") now?  Read: [ ]

Software engineering pays good as jobs go, but very few ever make millions of dollars.  Like the saying goes, "no one ever got rich working for someone else".

Friday, December 7, 2001

Yeah, I hate to say it, but most of my high school coding buddies have been "dot com millionaires" at one time or another...on paper that is.  Sure, it may pay off, but most likely it won't be worth the paper its printed on.  I don't see anything wrong with taking stock options, but I wouldn't get your hopes up.

As for java developers...well, microsoft has been trying to kill java for some time now and I believe  microsoft.NET will certainly put java away for good. 

Vincent Marquez
Friday, December 7, 2001

But joel said somewhere in one of his article
that some developer at Microsft became millionaire
after 5 years of service for Bill.

Who can comment on that ?

Friday, December 7, 2001

Stock options are potential money, which might turn into real money at some time in the future.  Having them turn into real money depends on a number of factors such as

(a) the share price rising to be above the strike price

(b) this happening at a point after the options have vested and thus can be sold

(c) the tax on the options not being too crippling (this may vary from country to country, but it will be incomprehensible to work out)

(d) mergers & stuff will upst the strike price - you should try to avoid signing a merger agreement with shares at $60, but drop to $20 by the time everything is done, with new options at a strike price of $30 (being 50% of the shares' value - apparently no-one even thought to link the strike price to the actual price at the end of the day, rather than price on the day the deal was signed - they gave us another bunch of options to make up for this at a good price, but unfortunately not good enough)

(e) avoid being laid off or the company being scaled down/off - this might bring up the share price, but it won't help your options if you're down the road

This is all good fun - I would have been a dot-com optionaire, but the share price for our merged company was always less than the strike price of the options (indeed of the options of everyone in our team - whenever someone joined ot got issued more options, the share price fell so absolutely no-one could have cashed in).

Options are a bonus like health insurance for your dog - don't turn them down, but be careful not to get too carried away with them or do something silly like take lower pay for more options - for everyone who made millions like this  there will be a big bunch of people who lost out (Hi Simon).  Also have a look at for his story on options (have a look there anyway - it's full of interesting stuff).

Jamie Anstice
Friday, December 7, 2001

Rats - thats (I'm typing with a very small & wiggly boy in my arms and I've only got half an arm to type with.

Jamie Anstice
Friday, December 7, 2001

Stock options are like the icing on a cake. Its nice, but it doesn't make a dog poo cake taste any better.
Negotiate a good salary and make HR cry. If you are any good at your job, they will be happy in the long run.
Never, ever take options instead of real take-home pay. To many small companies have found that techies think options are the ticket to millions. To management, it is monopoly money.

The only exception is if you are the founder of a company, and you really, really, really believe the product will sell. If you are just one of the first employees, don't believe you are a founder unless it is on paper.
“I went to the college of life, school of hard knocks, and the kindergarten of having the shit kicked out of me.”-Black Adder

Doug Withau
Friday, December 7, 2001

Strangely, Tog doesn't point directly from his site to the article referenced above, which is "How I made a small fortune at Apple ... out of a very large one."

The URL for the story is

I do find it very strange that a design expert doesn't point to an article on his site, and I had to find it from Google.


Bob Crosley
Wednesday, December 19, 2001

It's there.  It's just linked to from [ ] instead of where you might have expected it on the Design section.

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

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