Overtime

In 2015, five San Jose police officers each made more than $400,000:

“It is routine now for firefighters to be up over $200,000, $300,000,” said Mark Bucher, chief executive officer of the California Policy Center, a public policy think tank. “Look at just about any city and you’ll see the same thing.”

Take, for example, the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, which covers a portion of southern Contra Costa County.

More than half of the district’s roughly 150 full-time workers — among them battalion chiefs, captains and firefighter paramedics — earned more than $300,000 in total compensation in 2015, according to data collected by Transparent California, a nonprofit watchdog.

The county’s median household income is roughly $80,000.

One reason for the high compensation: It can be cheaper for jurisdictions to pay big overtime — at 1.5 times or double regular pay — than it would be to add staff because of the pension liabilities attached to each new hire.

For San Ramon firefighters, every dollar of salary means roughly one more dollar in pension contributions, said Paige Meyer, the fire chief. “When I’m paying over $2 for a full-time employee and I can pay a dollar and a half for overtime,” he said, “I’ve got a substantial savings.”

I’ll say this: I’d much rather see a guy or gal running into burning buildings make a six-figure income than some asshole at Goldman Sachs gambling with other peoples’ money.

The article does point out some pension programs are or will eventually be untenable for many cities.

Categories:

Career

Working was never our forte.

Let’s face it, jobs have always been a necessary evil. A means to an end — unless you’re one of those people who has a career and loves what they do. Showoff.

Don’t fret!

Computer scientists, programmers, engineers, and all the other smart people on planet Earth have been working hard to ensure we don’t have to work hard anymore.

Over at Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow describes a study done by university economists who concluded these jobs ain’t coming back:

In Disappearing Routine Jobs: Who, How, and Why? economists from USC, UBC and Manchester University document how the automation of “routine” jobs (welders, bank tellers, etc) that pay middle class wages has pushed those workers out of the job market entirely, or pushed them into low-paying, insecure employment.

The study links the phenomenon of unemployment with automation — an obvious-seeming connection — by establishing a causal relationship that goes beyond mere correlation: people stop working because robots take their jobs. Robots don’t just co-occur with unemployment, they cause it.

The share of Americans working in routine jobs has fallen from 40.5% in 1979 to 31.2% in 2014, according to the paper. The federal government’s official measure of Americans age 16 and over who are working or seeking work has fallen from a recent high of 67.3% in 2000 to 62.7% in November 2016.

“Routine jobs are disappearing and more and more prime-age Americans aren’t working,” said Mr. Siu. “These things are two sides of the same coin.”

Last week the Guardian published an article by Justin McCurry on Japanese insurance firm Fukoku Mutual Life replacing 34 employees with IBM’s Watson Explorer AI:

A future in which human workers are replaced by machines is about to become a reality at an insurance firm in Japan, where more than 30 employees are being laid off and replaced with an artificial intelligence system that can calculate payouts to policyholders.

Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance believes it will increase productivity by 30% and see a return on its investment in less than two years. The firm said it would save about 140m yen (£1m) a year after the 200m yen (£1.4m) AI system is installed this month. Maintaining it will cost about 15m yen (£100k) a year.

Productivity, what’s that? Work extra hard so I can make the same salary and my boss can get a bigger bonus? Ha! Yeah right!

The problem with artificial intelligence and automation is that we’ve only solved half of the problem. We’ve figured out how to replace a human with a robot or a computer.

What we need to do now — what should have been done in tandem with the first part — is figure out a way to allow these redundant humans to stay employed through alternate means.

Some people say job automation and AI are necessitating a system like universal basic income while others said it’s not economically feasible.

I don’t know what the solution is, but we have to figure something out because shit is going to get real very soon.

Universal Basic Income

Free Cash in Finland. Must Be Jobless.:

Now, the Finnish government is exploring how to change that calculus, initiating an experiment in a form of social welfare: universal basic income. Early next year, the government plans to randomly select roughly 2,000 unemployed people — from white-collar coders to blue-collar construction workers. It will give them benefits automatically, absent bureaucratic hassle and minus penalties for amassing extra income.

The government is eager to see what happens next. Will more people pursue jobs or start businesses? How many will stop working and squander their money on vodka? Will those liberated from the time-sucking entanglements of the unemployment system use their freedom to gain education, setting themselves up for promising new careers? These areas of inquiry extend beyond economic policy, into the realm of human nature.

Like climate change, we’re beginning to understand how robots and artificial intelligence will affect us and our employment on Planet Earth (at least those of us who don’t have their heads buried in the sand).

We can’t just automate every job, lay millions of people off, and expect things to just work themselves out. It may mean universal basic income and it may not, but countermeasures have to be made to ensure we’ll be ok.

And for all those people who say, “Sure, but a computer will never be able to do my job doing [insert your trade].”

Never say never.

The Ability to Be Critical of Yourself

Basecamp CEO Jason Fried on the response a potential hire gave after working on a paid ‘homework assignment’ to test her skills:

It takes real confidence and self-awareness to talk to someone who’s considering hiring you and telling them that you aren’t sure you like what you did. We dug into it. It wasn’t the idea at large — she was very happy with that — it was a specific flow, a specific part of the design. She did it, but she wasn’t thrilled with it.

That’s how I feel about a lot of my work too. Especially in the early phases. I designed something, or I wrote something, but I’m not sure I really like it yet. While it’s easy to tell yourself that, it’s hard to tell someone else that — especially if they’re evaluating your work.

First off, it’s great Basecamp pays designers for design tests they’re given during the interview process. I’ve done many for potential employers where I’ve never been paid.

Secondly, Jason touches on a topic I’ve talked about with junior designers before which is the ability to be critical of yourself and understanding you and your work are not one and the same.

Part of being a great designer is being able to take criticism: from yourself and from others. You have to know how to listen.

Categories:

Career

Weave In, Weave Out

Well, this sucks.

I joined Weave a few months ago as a way to meet more people and grow my professional network. It’s important to meet people face-to-face and not just text like 13-year-olds.

Hey humans! It’s important to be human.

So i’ve been on a total of 2 coffee dates and then I get this in my inbox earlier today:

It seems I was too tremendous for Weave and I broke the system.

It’s too bad, I think Weave was a great service and I was way closer to upgrading to a premium account than I was for LinkedIn (especially now that Microsoft owns LinkedIn).

Categories:

Career

Tags:

 /  / 

How About You Learn to Think Before You Learn to Code?

Over at TechCrunch, Basel Farag doesn’t want you to learn to code:

There’s an idea that’s been gaining ground in the tech community lately: Everyone should learn to code. But here’s the problem with that idea: Coding is not the new literacy.

If you regularly pay attention to the cultural shenanigans of Silicon Valley, you’ve no doubt heard of the “Learn to Code” movement. Politicians, nonprofit organizations like Code.org and even former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City have evangelized what they view as a necessary skill for tomorrow’s workforce.

There may be some truth to that, especially since the United States’ need for engineers shows no sign of slowing down.

But the picture is more complicated.

Farag’s basic premise is people should learn to problem solve before they learn to code. I agree with this. Even though I’m a designer I started teaching myself how to code over 15 years ago because I have a technical side to me that thinks coding can be fun. Other times I’ve learned certain aspects of coding because of a project requirement.

As the years have gone by I touch code less and less, but my basic understanding of code and development helps me as a designer when I collaborate with front-end and back-end developers.

The question, “Should I learn to code?” is similar to, “Should I start a blog?” and “Should I start a podcast?” The answer to all these is the same: do you have a problem that coding, a blog, or a podcast will help solve?

For me, learning to code in the early 2000s made me employable in the early days of the Internet and web design. I started this blog in 2006 because I needed a place to capture my thoughts and react to news. I started my podcast in 2014 as an extension of this site.

The other very important puzzle piece to this is persistence:

It took me more than a year of self-taught study before I got a freelance gig. Even then, the pay was poor. There were countless times I was refused even an interview because I didn’t have a computer science degree.

There were times when I could not afford a place to stay and had to rely on the kindness of friends to keep me going. There were many nights when I wanted to give up. But I found the strength to keep going.

It was — and is — persistence that allows me to stay in this field.

In varying degrees, I’ve stuck with my endeavors. Some scratch an itch (podcast), while others have more impact on my career (coding, blog).

Categories:

Career

Where Did All the Good Jobs Go?

Seth Godin: The computer, the network and the economy:

When a pre-employed person says, “I don’t know how to code and I’m not interested in selling,” we need to pause for a moment and think about what we built school for. When he continues, “I don’t really have anything interesting to say, and I’m not committed to making a particular change in the world, but I’m pretty good at following instructions,” we’re on the edge of a seismic shift in our culture. And not a positive one.

No, the good jobs aren’t coming back. But yes, there’s a whole host of a new kind of good job, one that feels fundamentally different from the old days. It doesn’t look like a job used to look, but it’s the chance of lifetime if we can shift gears fast enough.

You don’t have to like this shift, but ignoring it, yelling about it, cutting ourselves off from it is a recipe for a downward spiral. It’s an opportunity if we let it be one.

The mutants will survive.

Über-Average Income

Uber data reveals drivers earn less than $13.25 an hour:

Uber is always droning on about how drivers are able to make money by driving their own vehicle, while having the freedom to choose their own schedules. A few years ago, Uber told The Wall Street Journal that a typical driver earns more than $100,000 a year in gross fares. However, new data and calculations based off a million trips reveals a different picture. In three major US markets – Denver, CO, Detroit, MI, and Houston, TX – Uber drivers earned less than $13.25 an hour.

It’s important to note Uber drivers are paid per ride, not by the hour, but $13.25 hourly average is still not much income for a company “valued” at over $60 billion (as of December 2015) and one that classifies its drivers as contractors, not employees.

It would paint a more complete picture if we also knew how many hours a week Uber drivers work.

Categories:

Business, Career

Tags:

 / 

Your Formative Years Are Important

Dropbox founder Drew Houston on his formative years:

Initially, it was about playing games, and when I was about 11, I was pretty sure I was going to make computer games for a living. Part of my interest was also just discovering what makes these games tick. I would get the source code of a game and then modify it to work how I wanted.

That’s how I got my first job, actually. I was a beta tester for this game, and I was frustrated because the developers weren’t moving fast enough. So I started poking around under the hood, and I found all these security problems.

I emailed the developers, saying, “Hey, guys, you’ve got all these problems and here’s how you should fix them.” And they wrote back, “Great, do you want to work for us?” They said I could work remotely, too, so I said, “Is it O.K. if my dad fills out the paperwork, because I’m 14?” They said, “We couldn’t care less.”

Curiosity, drive, and not waiting for permission to do something: you’ll find these qualities in many successful people.

Categories:

Career

Apple Diversity

Apple launched a new page breaking down the diversity across the company:

This kind of reporting and transparency is great, but as CEO Tim Cook admits in his message, there’s a lot more work to be done.

Let’s take a look at the executive board, for instance:

Not many brown people up there. Wait! There’s a black woman VP of HR. Yay!

So yeah, I would agree with Cook. There’s a lot more work to be done.

Categories:

Career

Tags:

 / 

How Much Does Apple Pay Jony Ive?

The salary of the man who has designed every Apple product from the iMac to the Apple Watch has never been disclosed to the SEC or the press. The last time he filed an SEC Form 4 — required whenever there’s a material change in an insider’s position — was July 2009.

According to Apple, Ive is exempt from SEC rules because he’s not what the commission calls a “Section 16” employee. Despite his title — chief design officer — the company does not classify him as a director or officer of the company.

Woah.

Via Daring Fireball

Categories:

Career, Product

Tags:

 / 

Über-Greedy

Uber is going back to court next summer:

Next summer, a federal court in California will hear arguments in a lawsuit that could change Uber forever. The lawsuit challenges the way Uber and other so-called transportation network companies classify their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. But if that case goes poorly for Uber, the ride-hailing company already has a fallback plan: the states.

State governments in Ohio and Florida are considering bills that would statutorily define Uber drivers as independent contractors and not employees entitled to certain benefits and protections, like medical insurance and wage guarantees. They join three other states — Arkansas, North Carolina, and Indiana — that have successfully passed bills classifying drivers for transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft as contractors, according to Reuters.

Uber just received another round of funding that could value it at over $64.6 billion, but they’ll not interested in having any of their actual drivers as employees, just the people behind computers in Silicon Valley.

Sounds greedy as shit to me.

Categories:

Business, Career

Tags:

“Silicon Valley Startups Aren’t Really Creating Many Jobs”

“One theory is that companies over the last 10-15 years, unlike in the ’90s, don’t need to hire as many people because the software — loosely described as machines — is doing the work,” he explained. “It’s the classic case of how many people actually work for Facebook versus its market capitalization. Another theory is that a lot of these companies get bought up or they fail — and if you fail, you can’t hire more workers.”

Economists Suggest Silicon Valley Startups Aren’t Really Creating Many Jobs

Technology is absolutely phasing out jobs permanently but you also have many companies that won’t offer to help educate and modernize employees with skill sets and tools they need to be more relevant in today’s job market.

So just learn on your own, right? Sure. For me that’s pretty easy. I can look at code and read books and pick up new technologies pretty quickly, but most people are not that adept with technology. Technology is scary to a lot of people.

I see it firsthand when I go home for the holidays and I become the ‘gadget fixer’ for everyone. I’m also the IT department for my mother-in-law, and occasionally, her boss. My wife also has an aunt who’s solution to maxing out her iPhone with thousands of photos is to just buy a new iPhone with more capacity.

I’m going off on a bit of a tangent but my point is these average, everyday people I’m describing are the same people that are susceptible to being made redundant by technology.

Categories:

Career, Finance