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A Tool For Analyzing H-1B Visa Applications Reveals Tech Salary Secrets 124

Tekla Perry writes: The golden age of engineers is not over,' says a French software engineer who developed a tool for mining U.S. Department of Labor visa application data, but, he says, salaries appear to be leveling off. Indeed, salary inflation for software engineers and other technical professionals at Google and Facebook has slowed dramatically, according to his database, and Airbnb and Dropbox pay is down a little, though Netflix pay is through the roof. The data also shows that some large companies appear to be playing games with titles to deflate salaries, and Microsoft is finally offering technology professionals comparable salaries to Apple and Google. There's a lot more to be discovered in this interactive database, and researchers are getting ready to mine it.
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A Tool For Analyzing H-1B Visa Applications Reveals Tech Salary Secrets

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  • by mystikkman ( 1487801 ) on Thursday May 28, 2015 @10:45AM (#49791419)

    Looks like there are a lot of highly skilled and highly paid people in the companies I looked... the opposite of the Slashdot narrative of indentured servants working on minimum wage.

    • by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Thursday May 28, 2015 @11:05AM (#49791639)

      Of course there's a lot of people who are highly paid. Chances are that those people are highly skilled, or at least have highly specialized skills as well.

      Put another way: if you get a degree in computer science, or you are self-taught using common resources, you probably have a skill set that reflects that reflects the bare minimum that a company will accept and you have a skill set that the market is flooded with. Either way, you are unlikely to receive a good salary and you are probably going to face a lot of competition to get a job.

      On the other hand, those who specialize may enter disciplines with less demand but they are also entering disciplines with far less competition for jobs. If that discipline offers a good return for the investment for a business, those people will frequently garner better salaries. Likewise, if you have that computer science degree but consistently put in the effort to perform beyond expectations chances are that you'll have more opportunities and reap better rewards.

      I'm not going to say that it'll work for everyone. Motivation in the workplace and soft skills count too. Too many people hold themselves back due to psychological rather than intellectual reasons. On the other hand, if you prepare yourself to be a low paid cog you will almost certainly end up being a low paid cog.

      • Put another way: if you get a degree in computer science, or you are self-taught using common resources, you probably have a skill set that reflects that reflects the bare minimum that a company will accept and you have a skill set that the market is flooded with.

        If you have a CS degree from a decent university, you're competing with entry-level grads who just barely took an eight-week-course in programming from some coding bootcamp.

        Somehow those guys manage to find jobs, and a CS degree is already more skilled than them.

      • Of course there's a lot of people who are highly paid. Chances are that those people are highly skilled, or at least have highly specialized skills as well.

        FWIW, at least at Google it isn't about specialization. Google SWEs are expected to be generalists, able to specialize as needed.

        In fact, it's generally recommended that SWEs change teams within the company every few years, and that they intentionally look for a change that requires them to learn new skills. The belief in the company is that this approach serves both engineers and teams, providing fresh perspectives and insights to both, and spreading knowledge across teams (by moving it) and within teams

    • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Thursday May 28, 2015 @11:21AM (#49791783)

      no one ever said 'min wage' for h1b.

      but its minimum in RELATIVE terms because there's no reason to have to pay local salary rates if you don't have to.

      maybe its only 10k less or 5k less but if the workforce is over 50% indian (bay area: its more like 80% or more; wish I was kidding) and a huge percent of those are h1b's, then it adds up.

      there are pay windows or ranges and every h1b salary is on the low end of the range. because, "they can" and they do get away with it.

      the indentured servant is 100% true; once you are onboard, you are abused, overworked and treated like shit. they know that you are stuck there. they brought you in FOR that reason, mostly.

      • the indentured servant is 100% true; once you are onboard, you are abused, overworked and treated like shit. they know that you are stuck there. they brought you in FOR that reason, mostly.

        Good thing they're not working on something where they can secretly insert a backdoor to get their vengeance later.

    • by kilfarsnar ( 561956 ) on Thursday May 28, 2015 @11:27AM (#49791837)

      Looks like there are a lot of highly skilled and highly paid people in the companies I looked... the opposite of the Slashdot narrative of indentured servants working on minimum wage.

      And then there's this from TFA:

      In Négri’s opinion, that could be a trick to bring in a technically skilled worker at a lower cost: “If the title says software engineer, you pay a lot” to stay in compliance with the H-1B laws that require immigrants to be paid the prevailing wage, he says. “If the title says ‘consultant’, instead of $130,000 you might pay $60,000, the gap is that big.” He pointed to a “technology lead” for Infosys in Sunnyvale, Calif., listed in the database as having a salary of $87,000. “That’s not much for Silicon Valley,” Négri says.

      While it may not be minimum wage or indentured servitude, the point about wage suppression still has merit.

      • by guru42101 ( 851700 ) on Thursday May 28, 2015 @01:29PM (#49792971)
        The other thing a lot of people overlook is people here working on Visitor B-1 visas, different than an H1B. Basically they're not employed directly by a US company, they're paid by some firm in India or wherever. The visa lasts usually 6 months and they must leave the country and reapply. At my employer we have an army of them contracted from Bristlecone, Wipro, IBM, and probably some others. Most of them are paid significantly less than a US employee, even after their rental car and hotel are covered. One I work with regularly let it slip how much they make in Rupees and it ended up being around 11 USD/h after conversion. From when I relo'd here I know the company has a bank of rooms at the nearby hotel at a significantly discounted rate (probably 30-40/n) and they carpool everywhere. A similar low experience US employee would probably get 25-30/h in this area.
      • by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Thursday May 28, 2015 @01:43PM (#49793109) Homepage

        Looks like there are a lot of highly skilled and highly paid people in the companies I looked... the opposite of the Slashdot narrative of indentured servants working on minimum wage.

        And then there's this from TFA:

        In Négri’s opinion, that could be a trick to bring in a technically skilled worker at a lower cost: “If the title says software engineer, you pay a lot” to stay in compliance with the H-1B laws that require immigrants to be paid the prevailing wage, he says. “If the title says ‘consultant’, instead of $130,000 you might pay $60,000, the gap is that big.” He pointed to a “technology lead” for Infosys in Sunnyvale, Calif., listed in the database as having a salary of $87,000. “That’s not much for Silicon Valley,” Négri says.

        While it may not be minimum wage or indentured servitude, the point about wage suppression still has merit.

        Companies do play games with the titles. Another way that wages are suppressed is by bringing in a foreign worker at the prevailing local rate. Take a look at the numbers for Accenture [jobsintech.io]. The vast majority of their H1-B hires are just barely more than the prevailing rate. In most cases, within $100.

        I have also heard that it is very common for a company to claim on H1-B applications a higher salary than was actually paid to the employee.

        • Ah, Accenture! At HP, they've been gutting the "Global Service Delivery Help Desk" using that company. All the LTE (long term employees, as opposed to FTE or full time employees) people are being forceably converted to contractors via Accenture. Even the "team leads" and "desk managers" are being given the boot. I'm guessing it's at least 100 people...many of them having worked for HP for 5+ years are loosing all their benefits and their basically loosing a few thousand a year...not to even mention what
          • name names. whos in charge of it? whos the person at accenture? give all the info. phone numbers. addresses. where their children go to school.
    • Yea I've worked with plenty of H1-B's. I was reporting to one actually until he became a fully-fledged citizen. The only H1-B I've seen that was incompetent was removed quickly.
    • by Bonzoli ( 932939 )
      I expect we should discuss average and median.
    • Eh, "highly paid" is subjective. Tech Companies got caught in this vicious cycle of inflation because of where they chose to settle, and it's self-perpetuating. We demand these high paychecks for work, or see jobs that pay six figures for whatever, and only after we get the stars out of our eyes and the dollar signs out of our gut that we realize "shit, I'm being paid $250k and the cost of living means I'm keeping less take-home now than i was when i was making $55k at Podunk High." Have friends that took
    • Take a look at the big body shops. Accenture: average salary $66k. Cognizant: $60k. In the tens of thousands of people they sponsor each year, a lot of them are neither highly skilled nor highly paid.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 28, 2015 @10:46AM (#49791443)

    These are all companies based in cities with astronomically high costs of living.

    • How come the parent post is rated as informative/interesting? It has NOTHING to do with the point of TFA but to arouse those who are anti H1B. Of course, TFA highlighted only high number. If you really dig into the data given as a link by TFA, you should at least see what TFA is directed to.

      TFA gave a link -- http://www.flcdatacenter.com/d... [flcdatacenter.com] -- to FLC site which is the list of prevailing wage for all job codes related to areas in the US. The only missing link for comparison in TFA, for me, is the hiring sa

    • Yes and no... they are just confirming what those of those working in 'tier 2' companies have seen over the last 10 years.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There's a simple solution to the H1B problem. Add an additional 50% employement tax on H1B's. That will grossly level the playing field, by increasing the costs of an H1B, but still making it accessible to those companies that can't find US talent.

    • These are all companies based in cities with astronomically high costs of living.

      Here is a link to the data [jobsintech.io] Go compare salaries somewhere with a lower cost of living.

    • by nobuddy ( 952985 )

      This disregards that those locations are high cost of living because of the long history of highly paid highly skilled tech workers living there.

  • The title game (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clifwlkr ( 614327 ) on Thursday May 28, 2015 @10:56AM (#49791525)
    You can clearly see the way the companies are manipulating the system. Don't hire them as 'engineers', but as 'technology leads' then make up a low salary for them. No, the salary is not minimum wage as posted above, but it is half of what you would have to pay a standard software engineer, and you have their loyalty as it is a hassle to switch jobs. Yes, some companies appear to be above board, but is Google really only paying their software developers 123,000 in Silicon Valley? That seems low for that place. And yes, these salaries look big until you consider where they are. They are pulling salaries from the biggest companies in the most expensive places. Anyone looked into the data yet and see what the consulting sweat shops are paying/claiming? Again, tax the heck out of H1Bs and if there really aren't any engineers available in the US these companies will be happy to pay the penalty. Or better yet, untie H1Bs from a company, make it a 2 year visa, and let them go wherever they want. My guess is the companies will not be so hot on using H1B labor at that point.
    • Re: The title game (Score:4, Insightful)

      by GrantRobertson ( 973370 ) on Thursday May 28, 2015 @11:22AM (#49791801) Homepage Journal

      I like your last idea. It comes off as less punitive and more about "freedom."

    • > but is Google really only paying their software developers 123,000 in Silicon Valley? That seems low for that place

      Those numbers don't include stock options, which are a big part of compensation. The SV companies that don't give stock options have high salaries posted. The amount of ignorance in these comments is amazing.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      123k is a low salary, but you also make 200k more a year in stock options. So typically you are getting ~330k a year in total compensation.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MooseTick ( 895855 )

        "123k is a low salary"

        According to (http://www.whatsmypercent.com/), 123k puts you down in the 97% range. If it weren't for H1B peeps, maybe you'd be making 150k. While 27k is a lot, someone who makes more than 97% of the nation can't complain too much.

        • you have no comprehension of how "cost of living" varies from city to city? Just because it's 97% "nationwide"...it costs far more to live in California as it does in the midwest.
        • by aralin ( 107264 )

          For example in San Ramon, CA, where I live, 123k household income puts you in the 50% range. It is actually exactly the median income for the city in 2012. Now that is 40 min commute to Google HQ. If you want to live closer, it is even worse... FYI.

    • Absolutely, this doesn't just apply to software engineers in Silicon Valley. Looking through the data, I see the same thing for all kinds of engineers in the Midwest. There are "Senior Engineer Design" people making $93k ($73k prevailing), while a "Technical Specialist Advanced Systems Design" makes $80k ($66k prevailing). These are arguably the same position, but the "Engineer" title makes more money.
      • Absolutely, this doesn't just apply to software engineers in Silicon Valley. Looking through the data, I see the same thing for all kinds of engineers in the Midwest. There are "Senior Engineer Design" people making $93k ($73k prevailing), while a "Technical Specialist Advanced Systems Design" makes $80k ($66k prevailing). These are arguably the same position, but the "Engineer" title makes more money.

        It is time that the title "Engineer" was stopped being abused by the IT
        industry.

        The fact is that any goon, whatever his/her qualifications (or lack thereof)
        can apply for a job as a "Software Engineer" and can be interviewed and assessed
        for the post by other "Software Engineers". Hence, the hideous state of a lot
        of codebases.

        Compare with a Mechanical Engineer. In the UK at least, first you have to do
        your degree, then you have to get a job and be trained/handheld by a
        Chartered Engineer for several

        • Actually, there are professional engineering licenses in many US states. They are only really only valuable in the civil engineering field. As an ME, I sat for the "Fundamentals of Engineering" (FE) exam. Passing that exam allowed me to register as an "engineer in training". However, I've found that certification carries little to no value in my field, and so I never went on to get my PE.

          I suspect most H1-B candidates went to school in the US under student visas. They likely have taken the FE exam as
    • by orlanz ( 882574 )

      I always liked this idea. The H1B is tied to the employee, not the company's position. Have the person be similarly powered as a native. And after 2 years, the employee can take it else where. The person would need to continue renewing the H1B. Renewal can't be declined (unless user is a criminal or terrorist, etc) but can't go more than 6 months without a job, else it will expire. If the company fires the person in less than 2 years, the H1B visa expires.

      This way it benefits everyone equally. The co

    • by Pulzar ( 81031 )

      Or better yet, untie H1Bs from a company, make it a 2 year visa, and let them go wherever they want. My guess is the companies will not be so hot on using H1B labor at that point.

      A lot of people (including, obviously, you), don't understand that that's how H1B works already:

      H1B Visa Transfer FAQ [immihelp.com]

    • by godrik ( 1287354 )

      Or better yet, untie H1Bs from a company, make it a 2 year visa, and let them go wherever they want.

      I am on H1B right now and probably getting a green card soon. Tying the visa to a particular job is in my opinion the worst thing about H1B. From the employee perspective, it is pretty bad. They have no leverage for negociation at all. For the company, it is pretty good, they can keep on paying substandard salary. For the country, it is pretty bad, since it creates small monopolistic job markets.

      Let them compete on the national job market and I think you will solve the problem with tech emigration and the l

  • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Thursday May 28, 2015 @10:58AM (#49791545) Homepage

    They pay the new guys double what the founders are getting.

  • by NCoast ( 3624237 ) on Thursday May 28, 2015 @11:41AM (#49791975)
    I know something about H-1B wages. Follow this federal prevailing wage link (http://www.flcdatacenter.com/OesWizardStart.aspx) and you'll see that they are geographically-specific, and every H-1B wage comes in 4 levels, from entry-level to highly skilled. H-1B employers have to pay at least as much as shown in this federal prevailing wage database and possibly more, if they ordinarily pay people with the same duties in the same location higher than the minimums shown at the above link. BTW, that website can be useful when negotiating your own salary.
    • by ranton ( 36917 )

      Those are some insanely low wages. It put the highest level of wages for Software Developer: Applications in the northwest Chicago suburbs at $91,624. While that is well above entry level wages, it is nowhere near what a senior level developer in that area makes. Add another $30k to get into the ballpark.

  • business models (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Like it or not, programming can be done anywhere. That puts you into competition with the whole world, whether you want to be or not. Very few software jobs can't be shipped to China or India if that makes more economic sense.

    You aren't special, and it isn't anyone else's job to ensure that your business model succeeds. That's usually the slashdot groupthink when it applies to OTHER industries like truckers being put out of jobs by automation. "If their business model isn't working, find a new one" - re

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Greystripe ( 1985692 )
      If that were true then companies would not use H1B's in the first place. Since they are using H1B's then it means that the companies care where the programmer is located.
      • by kylef ( 196302 )

        If that were true then companies would not use H1B's in the first place. Since they are using H1B's then it means that the companies care where the programmer is located.

        Precisely. Very few successful and reasonably large projects are staffed by ad-hoc collections of international programmers located around the world. While it can be done, the efficiency and throughput of such projects is usually quite low. Communication overhead is usually the crippling factor there.

        Offshoring an entire project is much costlier to do, and frequently management is unwilling to cede control and simultaneously unwilling to relocate. Furthermore, the same pressures in the new local market

    • However making programmers cheap increases the tendency for those who pay for coding to want linear increase in human resources to result in linear output. Well designed software does far better than linear output for input effort.

      The only kind of coding that conforms to this is spaghetti coding. That is the crappiest code possible. The crappier the code base the smaller the bit of code each developer can work on. The cheaper the coders the crapper the code base will become. This is 'ok' because th

    • Pretty much anything can be done globally, including management, but we don't see that so much do we?

      Beyond that, there are some things that you don't intelligently outsource, such as things dealing with breakthrough technologies, military secrets, medical/financial systems, etc. Why, because foreign countries don't necessarily follow the same laws and domestic, and even if they do ... good luck putting the genie back in the bottle when they've leaked out and the worked is out-of-country. At least domestica

  • The averages reported for Microsoft, Google, and Apple ($121k, $124k, and $123k, respectively) seem to be more or less in line with what folks at my Westchester County, NY based company are making (arguably as expensive a place to live as those famous West Coast places). I do agree with the assessment that the H1B folks are treated like indentured servants, the management knows they can't easily move to another company and dangles the Greencard like an almost unobtainable carrot, even when the Greencard is company sponsored. This also affects things like workload and yearly salary increases adversely, I've seen it happen firsthand.

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