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Fair Compensation for SE?
14

Fair Compensation for SE?

Fair Compensation for SE?

(OP)
Hi all,

I've been getting a lot of push-back from my wife at home concerning my job's work culture and her desire to move States. I am pushing hard not to move. I wanted to provide some information and get some feedback from you folks because I am completely unfamiliar with how my job's compensation stacks up to other jobs around the country. Am I spoiled? If I leave my State will I end up working for the DOT somewhere else?

My only Engineering job that I have ever had is my current one and I started it right out of Graduate School (Masters) 7 years ago.

I am a licensed Structural Engineer working for a small (12 Engineers 3 Drafters) private consulting engineering firm that gets the majority of its contracts through the State DOT (either directly or indirectly). We do all sorts of design related to transportation infrastructure but bridge design is our bread and butter.

The State I work in has a technically inept DOT that does hardly any of its own design work and relies on private consultants to provide most of those services.

The job has exposed me to many different projects (many exciting and high exposure). All very challenging.

The summary of my 2019 work year and compensation is as follows:

-Worked a total of 818 Overtime Hours
-Gross Pay = $176,171.00 (This includes straight OT pay, Company Truck, Contribution to Whole Life Insurance policy, and End of Year Bonus)
EDIT -Additional $14,094.00 contributed to Profit Sharing Retirement Savings Account (Not reflected on my W-2 which is why I didn't include it above).
-In addition my company pays 100% of all health insurance premiums (I have a family plan)
-15 days of PTO
-Company pays for any and all engineering books, reference materials, or continuing education I want
-Approx. 1 Engineering related golf tournament each year
-Trip to World of Concrete or International Bridge Conference (or equivalent) every other year
-Attendance to SEA banquet which usually includes 2 night hotel stay every other year

I don't have to do any of my own drafting. I spend 70% of my time doing design work and 30% of my time doing Finite Element Analysis work and/or Bridge Load Ratings. I never work with Architects. If our contract is not directly with the DOT then either the Civil Engineer or the Contractor (Design-Build) is our client.

Benefits:
-I like the work that I do.
-Good pay
-Good benefits
-Get paid for overtime (straight hourly pay)
-Get a pay raise every year
-Flexibility with my daily schedule (I can take a few hours off here and there to go to my kids school performance, or take care of a family matter, or even bring in a sick child to work with me if needed)
-Challenging and exciting work projects
-Not expected by my boss to bring in jobs for the company at this point in my career
-Live in paradise. Great place to raise kids.
-20 minute commute time

Downfalls:
-Work a lot of overtime. Office has a "work first" culture. I personally witnessed my coworker's marriage and family life deteriorate over the past few years due to his workaholic lifestyle.
-My boss is king and pretty much has final say on all matters
-Boss has an expectation of perfection, hates excuses, and has a tendency to yell and belittle people (however the last part has gotten a lot better in the past 3 or so years)
-Very steep learning curve. Especially related to FEA, no one in the office helps with analysis and you pretty much have to teach yourself everything.
-Taking vacation days is frowned upon but is allowed. I'm probably one of the few people in the office that utilizes all the days each year.
-High cost of living (consistently ranked in top 3 cities in the country). Expensive place to raise kids.
-Due to the high work load and my poor time management, I regularly pull all-nighters trying to get projects out by the deadline.

I was hoping to get some of your guys' work experiences and what you are compensated and how you like your job. Feel free to share. Thanks.

Thanks!

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

At first glance I'd say yes, you are spoiled.

Overtime is a pretty rare thing for engineers - the firm where I interned did a straight time OT for engineers, but everywhere I've been since and everywhere any of my friends have gone has been salary - work 38 hours or work 83 hours, pay is flat.

Gross pay looks really generous, but you are in HI...not sure how cost of living stacks up to where I am. As a PE working in buildings in VA with your experience, you'd be looking at $75-$85k. But then, $350k will buy you a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in a decent-to-nice neighborhood if you're willing to drive a little bit to get to work. Groceries for a family of 4 eating great food and a fridge stocked with beer, and full wine rack and liquor cabinet is doable at about $150/week (my wife collects coupons).

I've never heard of anyone getting 100% health insurance. My last firm's insurance broker would always tell us that our employer was spoiling us at about 80% - no other clients paid more than about 65%.

Your downfalls sound pretty universal (apart from the high cost of living), though the "work first" culture is starting to shift.

Perhaps we can trade places - my wife loves Hawaii...

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

My general impression is that you've got it pretty good. It's not perfect buy you'd struggle to do much better and you could a LOT worse. I'd trade places.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

I'm a year younger than you, making slightly more than half of what you do doing buildings (mostly residential, some smaller commercial). I'm in the Charleston, SC, area and after a quick google it looks like we are about 30th in the nation in CoL.

Based on compensation from companies I've worked for in the past and chatting with friends in the industry, I feel more than fairly compensated here. I'm in a small office and the office is empty at 430 every day. I haven't worked any overtime in the past year (knock on wood...). We are pretty much constantly frantically busy like most companies nowadays, but our culture is that when its quitting time, its pencils down and go home to your family.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Your compensation rocks. Plus you get to live in Hawaii? Have you seen about getting a work laptop and working from home for some of that overtime, and maybe paying someone to chores like lawnmowing or whatever so you get more family time?

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

A couple of thoughts from a mid-sized mid-west engineering firm engineer:

It's hard to put a dollar figure on the cost of your boss being a jerk (or the value of NOT being a jerk). I have worked for a string of not-jerks. Knock on wood.
Nobody lies on their death bed thanking God for the work-first culture which wrecked their health.
I have not been to Hawaii. Not yet anyway.
Averaging 60 hours a week to work for someone else seems like too much to me. Even if it's at time-and-a-half.
I am grateful for my 6 weeks of PTO and know I am lucky to have it.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

I work for a DOT doing similar work to what you describe (except we do very little FEA). By my calculations, I make about 60% of what you do hourly, but I only get overtime sporadically (maybe 100 hours a year on average). However, according to this cost of living calculator, I only need half as much to live on here (assuming we've guessed correctly that you're in Honolulu). So, comparing based on 40 hour weeks, it's fairly even, but without the overtime, you'd be taking a big financial hit. My guess is you'll find that's probably the case with most places that you'd compare.

The weather's obviously not as nice, but the best skiing in the US is close by. Hurricane season, minus the rain, is pretty much year-round (e.g. it's windy here most of the time). For me this is home, but it might be too much of an adjustment for your kids, especially if they're over the age of 8 or so. Somewhere in the South, along the Gulf Coast, maybe, wouldn't be as much of a shock. Most areas of Texas have a low cost of living.

Rod Smith, P.E., The artist formerly known as HotRod10

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

I estimate your hourly rate is around $55, very generously compensated for your experience and position (if not in management), I can understand it makes you very difficult to be compensated similarly somewhere else. But looks like your problem is very simple - wife and family, or money and work satisfactory.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

5
You had me hooked until I read the following:

Quote (STrctPono)

-Work a lot of overtime. Office has a "work first" culture. I personally witnessed my coworker's marriage and family life deteriorate over the past few years due to his workaholic lifestyle.
-Boss has an expectation of perfection, hates excuses, and has a tendency to yell and belittle people (however the last part has gotten a lot better in the past 3 or so years)
-Taking vacation days is frowned upon but is allowed. I'm probably one of the few people in the office that utilizes all the days each year.

No amount of money or job satisfaction can compensate for time which should have been spent with your wife and children.

There is absolutely no excuse for a supervisor belittling his employees in a professional work setting.

DaveAtkins

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Also, well compensated does not automatically equate to living well. My experience might not applicable to you, but for your judgement.

I was interviewed by a company located in the US Virgin Island, all travel costs including food and hotel were covered, so I'd no clue how much each costed. But before leaving the island, the owner gave me a $100 bill and said "buy yourself a lunch at airport, a burger here costs $50, drink and fries are not included". To my later knowledge, there are only 3 types of people live there, government workers, super riches, and commercial service personnel like us (very few), who are likely young, unmarried professionals. The benefits were great, including paid travels to home, and compensation for time during office evacuation for hurricanes. I rejected the offer, as I was married with teenager daughter in school. But, until today, I still feel sorry for myself to missed the chances to design those fancy homes on an isolate island.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Having lived and worked in Hawaii in your field (except buildings, not bridges), you are paid fantastically for only seven years' experience. Now whether it's worth a jerk boss and 50+ hour weeks I can't answer. Everyone's different. I've known people who have worked 60 hour weeks for decades, and I've known people who tapped out at 42.

One thing about the hours that mainlanders might not understand is it's extremely difficult to find qualified people in Hawaii. There's an extremely limited supply of good people already there (university isn't that strong) and because of cost of living and isolation it's really hard to convince people to go out there. So when things get busy, you can't just staff up. There's no one to hire, so the existing staff just has to work more hours. Hopefully they get compensated handsomely for it, fortunately it appears that you are. There's also generally no cost of living adjustment for Hawaii, which makes your pay even more impressive.

If you were to move I would bet you take a significant hit in compensation. Bridge work does seem to be paying better than building work right now, but I'd still guess you're in low six figures at best if you were to move to my current area (Chicago), for instance. And if you want to keep that 20 minute commute (likely to downtown here) your cost of living probably isn't going to be that much lower than Hawaii. Chicago area is cheaper by quite a bit, Chicago within twenty minutes of downtown is not.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Even considering OT.....your hourly rate is fantastic for someone with just 7 years experience. I know guys with 30+ years experience who don't make that. Of course, I am comparing that to salaries in South Carolina (where the cost of living is much cheaper).

In any case, you mentioned family life deteriorating......you also mentioned a lot of all-nighters. You've got to decide if what this is putting you through is worth it. No one here can answer that for you. The question becomes: how big of a strain on your family is this? And will things stay together if this continues? Again: only you know that one.

EDIT: I'll add on a anecdote. My dad made about 200-350k per year (and we are talking 20-30 years ago). It meant a good lifestyle for his family and him retiring (relatively) early. On the other hand, it also meant him coming home at 9pm every weekday and strains in the family. Their marriage is still going strong after 50+ years (and he has a good relationships with us [his sons]).....but the road has been rocky on the way. In any case, I say all this because it illustrates that no situation is perfect and everyone has to find that balance in their lives.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Compensation seems fair to me for a high cost of living state.... If you're working all that overtime, then you deserve the extra pay. Now, a lot of companies will not pay overtime. So, you'd have a decrease in total compensation. However, you wouldn't be expected to average 15+ overtime hours per week. And, you'd be able to spend a lot more time with your wife and family. Are you able to put significant money away (in savings, for retirement, for kids college).

Now, one of the important points (to me) is that you genuinely like your work. I honestly think a lot of people put too much focus on salary and not enough on how much they enjoy their careers. Therefore, I definitely understand why you'd want to stay. However, it doesn't hurt to look at what types of jobs are available in the locations where your wife might wish to move.

If this were occurring with me and my wife, I would hear her out. I would let her know that while I don't WANT to move, I'm not going to completely slam the door on her desire to relocate. Let her do some research into cost of living differences, relative price of houses, quality of education. Once that's done and she's narrowed down her search a little, then take a look at the job prospects in the area. If the work looks interesting to you, then maybe take a vacation there and go on some interviews.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Somewhat similar to Josh's comment, I find that:

1) My family likes me more when I'm working long hours but in a great mood when I am home because I love how I'm spending my days.

2) My family like me less when I'm home a lot but a sourpuss because I don't feel as though I'm working towards something worthwhile in my career.

The best situation would be for me to be able to put work down entirely when I'm with my family regardless of how satisfied I am with my work situation. Unfortunately, I'm a couple of decades in to this now and still haven't mastered that consistently.

We've been mostly focused on salary but, in my opinion, the actual makeup of your work sounds pretty great too. I would struggle like mad if I made the move, took a large salary cut, and also liked my job 30% less. Unfortunately, in your situation, I'd consider this scenario to be a real possibility.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

(OP)
I really appreciate all the responses so far! I have read all of your posts and value your input. Please keep it coming.

It's understood that finding the proper work/life balance is only something I can do and I am well aware that this is something that I strive for all the time. I just wanted to point out that my personal family life is not deteriorating, however, I watched a fellow coworkers relationship with his wife and children crumble. My wife desperately wants to move to be closer to her family (Mom). This is not a sentiment that I share.

Based on all your input, it does seem to be a consensus that in terms of monetary compensation I would be hard pressed to find an equivalent paying job elsewhere (even taking into consideration cost of living).

I should clarify that although my boss is prone to yelling and belittling, I am not the focus of that attention anymore and I seem to have been immune to it for the past 4 years or so. With that being said, We all walk on egg shells around him and make it a point not to disappoint him. As much as I don't like it, I honestly can see why he is that way. He started this company from the ground up, pulls in large contracts, honors nearly impossible deadlines, is a rather brilliant designer, and takes care of his employees. I can only imagine the amount of stress that he is under in life. He really expects that you get it done, you do it correctly, and you don't make excuses.

Occasionally this equates to me working 80 hour weeks, consuming adderall like candy, and pulling multiple back to back all-nighters working for days at a time. It's this aspect of my job that my wife hates! And honestly from an outside perspective I can understand why it appears ludicrous. But then when the perfect storm subsidies I get a reprieve and all is well again. To me it's one of the downfalls of having a project-based work schedule as opposed to say..... a clinician who can put their day behind them when they leave the office. As Engineers working on Construction projects, our days, weeks, months, sometimes even years run into each other.

At this point, my questions would be:

1. For those who have not offered this information, do the rest of you average 56 hour work weeks? Is this pretty standard?(Regardless of OT pay)
2. Can any of you provide any insight on your experiences with bridge design in your State, as either a private consultant or working for the DOT? I really only have the experience from my isolated world.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

(OP)

Quote (MrHershey)

There's also generally no cost of living adjustment for Hawaii, which makes your pay even more impressive.

Very true! At least for Engineers. I appreciate your insight! Why did you move?

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

(OP)

Quote (canwesteng)

Have you seen about getting a work laptop and working from home for some of that overtime, and maybe paying someone to chores like lawnmowing or whatever so you get more family time?

I have a very interesting work culture. Several of the Senior Level Engineers can barely even figure out how to print their own emails, yet the same day we're coming up with a scheme to externally post tension an existing concrete bridge with carbon fiber strands. Very innovative but technologically cautious. I would love to be able to do this and I think it could work but my boss would never go for it.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

this "expects that you get it done, you do it correctly, and you don't make excuses" seems to be a very generous description of this "prone to yelling and belittling" behaviour.
This "takes care of his employees" sounds odd alongside "prone to yelling and belittling".

the latter sounds like a bully, who needs to be confronted; the former sounds very reasonable. I guess the unreasonable aspect is the time scale. I guess he is getting a premium for meeting "nearly impossible deadlines". I guess if you say "I'm not willing to work "multiple back to back all-nighters"" then he'll say "get a new job". I suspect he's somewhat dubious of your commitment (if you take all you due vacation time off), though probably happy with your work.

How frequent is "occasionally" … 1/month, 1/quarter ? If you can live with these then it's a good deal. If you can't, then don't.

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Quote:

1. For those who have not offered this information, do the rest of you average 56 hour work weeks? Is this pretty standard?(Regardless of OT pay)

When I worked for the big EPC outfits.....50 hrs wasn't unusual. But 56 sounds a little high.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

I never had it quite as bad as you're describing, but my wife had similar feelings about my schedule and the associated stress - that's one of the reasons I left the design firm where I was working for a less demanding schedule elsewhere. Where I was working, minimum billable hours were expected to be 45, and I've found this to be fairly typical in talking to others in the area. My firm didn't enforce this too harshly unless projects were falling behind, but keeping it usually meant at least 50 hours in the office each week (depending on how accurately you measured hours as billable). Busy weeks would be well over 60.

Your boss sounds like the typical entrepreneurial work-a-holic type. The founder of my old firm was a lot like that before he retired, though I don't think I would say he yelled or belittled anyone (at least not that I saw). But he did do the 80 hour weeks designing, reviewing, administering, marketing, schmoozing, etc. That's probably a bit more prevalent at small firms still run by the original founders. There's often an emotional connection there that drives them to protect their "baby" from slackers and no good employees trying to take advantage of their life's hard work (not agreeing, just trying to represent their point of view for argument's sake). If you go to a larger firm or even a smaller one that is a generation or two past the founder, this attitude is usually reduced.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Quote (STrctPono)

Very true! At least for Engineers. I appreciate your insight! Why did you move?

Left Hawaii mainly because of cost of living. I make the exact same now in Chicago as I did in Hawaii. My wife actually got about a 25% pay increase when we moved.

Also am closer to family now, but cost of living was the main one. If I was making what you make, I probably wouldn't have left.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

I will second and expand on what phamENG wrote. If you work for a larger firm there are more staff members to help when project deadlines become nearly impossible. This, and the fact that the benefits tend to be better, is why I work for a large firm and do not plan to work for a small firm ever again.

I average 45 to 50 hours per week, but some of that is due to non-billable hours such as business development, being a manager, etc.

DaveAtkins

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

My experience is no where near yours, but some of my jobs did require 50+ hours per week. First two jobs OT was paid at standard hourly rate. Third and fourth jobs were salaried. Bonuses never covered overtime. Fifth job was hourly. Sixth job paid straight time OT for billable hours above 42 hours per week.

Seventh and last job was hourly, but OT was only paid if all hours were billable. Took me a while to learn this, but a real pain when you were tasked with writing proposals or had other general time (like training, etc.) during the week and then asked to get something out by end of week.

gjc

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

I would never average much more than 40 hours a week at work. Perhaps I'd suck it up for 6 months if the pay was a million. But for 200k no way. My life is worth more than money to me.

Sure, I'd work extra for a while to get jobs done on time, but make sure to compensate myself the next week or month by taking less work.

Maybe in the zombie apocalypse I'll have to work dawn to dusk, but I'll step up if that happens.

www.hellodwell.design

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Quote (STructPono)

-Gross Pay = $176,171.00 (This includes straight OT pay, Company Truck, Companies 10% contribution to Profit Sharing Retirement Plan, Contribution to Whole Life Insurance policy, and End of Year Bonus)

Is the $176k your compensation with OT or is the $176k your include all of the other stuff you included (OT, truck, health insurance etc)?

Either way I suppose you are doing pretty well. If you are unhappy with your job then I suppose the only next step is to go out on your own and see where that leads you. This way you can make your own schedule and decide which projects to take on. However, I would guess if you went this route the 56 hours per week would jump.... at least for the first few years.

If I had to be honest, having never stepped foot in HI, I would say you are doing very well. Anywhere you go may be a step down in terms of pay/benefits (yours are pretty sweet). 8 years ago when I lost my job working for a steel fabricator doing design-build work in the North East. I was making about 40% of what you are now, $0 in overtime, no company retirement match, I had to pay 50% of my health insurance, I had to drive my own vehicle and pay for my own gas (I still remember when the gas cards were cut off an everyone's heads exploded).

Currently I am out on my own. You may still be doing better than I am, but my life is much more flexible than yours is. I can set my own schedule and can pick and choose which jobs I want to take on. I work more hours now than I did before. Paychecks are not steady as either.

The grass may be greener.... but I am not sure how much more green it can be.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

One thing I have heard is that if the grass is greener, their water bill/lawn maintenance must be higher too.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

You can always cut the wife loose as well as another option. You'll have more of that pay in your pocket as a bonus.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

In the Northeast with your qualifications you’d be looking at $125,000 a year with
most consultants working 50 hours a week.
Last time I was in Hawaii milk was $6.50 a gallon. My wife and I had an opportunity to work for the Navy. Thankfully a guy told us the truth and said “You can make a lot of money in Hawaii, but you can’t save a dime”. We didn’t take the jobs, which was great since I got claustrophobic after being on Oahu for 3 weeks. Islands are too small for me!

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

(OP)

Quote (SteelPE)

Is the $171k your compensation with OT or is the $171k your include all of the other stuff you included (OT, truck, health insurance etc)?

The $176k basically breaks down as follows:

$85,500.73 Salary
$33,635.82 Straight Time Overtime Pay
$30,000.00 End of Year Bonus
$4,837.00 Company Truck Lease and Gas
$22,198.16 Whole Life Insurance Policy (A supplementary Retirement Savings Avenue)
$176,171.71 Total

I forgot to mention above that in addition to this the company contributes $14,094 into a Profit Sharing Retirement Account.

As previously mentioned, company pays 100% health insurance premiums.

Not trying to gloat, just giving the facts. I actually don't tell anyone how much I make, even my own parents, so this is a bit weird for me. But since I don't know any of you personally and I am looking for input (partially based on my compensation) I don't see any harm.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

So, salary, OT, bonus amounts to about $150k. Adjusting for the cost of living, you can likely find quite a few places in the continental US that would be comparable or better on an hourly basis, but of course finding something with total compensation comparable would be hard to come by. There are a few large industrial builders (Kiewit, for instance) that I hear have a similar model to your current employer.

I should mention, for comparison purposes, that I earn 8 hours a month of paid sick leave time, and currently 14 hours per month of paid vacation time (started at 8 hours vacation time, bumps 2 hours every 4 years). The state also has a very good health insurance plan, covering my entire family of 8, with less than $100/month out of pocket, and a pension-type retirement system.

It seems it boils down to your family priorities - you having more time to spend with your wife and family in a new place, or having the income you've all become accustomed to. I see some serious talks about lifestyle vs. family life in your future. There are other options to maintain your standard of living, also - you taking on some type of side hustle (Uber, engineering side jobs, teaching, etc.), which is unlikely to pay anything close to the hourly rate of your current OT, or your wife going to work.

Rod Smith, P.E., The artist formerly known as HotRod10

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

So, your salary is OK (maybe not even that good), but it's the benefits that put you over the top. I would consider the benefits where you are extremely good. You might be able to fine a company on the mainland to pay you more of a base, but it will be extremely difficult to find a company with better benefits.

One items you seem to brush by is your 100% health insurance. That's another $18,000-$20,000/year benefit. So in reality with health insurance and retirement contribution you are around $210k in total compensation. My wife carries our health insurance (that's one of the reasons why I was able to go out on my own). Her company pays 90% of the premium. That is an extremely valuable benefit to our family, one that is never overlooked.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Quote (payscale.com)

Popular Employer Salaries for Structural Engineer (base salary only)

The Boeing Company - $79k

Kpff Consulting Engineers, Inc. - $64k

Aecom Corporation - $69k

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc - $84k

HNTB Corporation - $74k

Thornton-Tomasetti Group, Inc - $65k

Northrop Grumman Corporation - $85k

HDR, Inc. - $66k

I think the above figure is the average.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

To give you another point of reference, I work in a small-ish office of a small-ish firm in a city with a pretty high cost of living. We do exclusively bridge work (highway and railway). If I had to guess, my company would offer you a similar base salary +-5k and we pay straight time for OT work. I've been with this firm for about 10 years (since I finished grad school) and probably work an average of 44 hours/week (mostly 40 hour weeks with very occasional 50 hour weeks, and rare 60-70 hour weeks when there's emergency work or a big submittal). My company also pays my health insurance premiums (but they don't pay for your spouse or children) and has a bonus structure that I think would be about 8% of your salary. I'm happy to talk more specifically if there's a way to do it privately.

Relating to your points:

Benefits:
-I like the work that I do. -I think you'd probably like the work you did at my company, but who knows.

-Good pay. -It's hard to compare directly, but I'd guess you're making an effectively similar figure based on your description.

-Good benefits. -My company has decent benefits, but yours seem very good.

-Get paid for overtime (straight hourly pay). -Same

-Get a pay raise every year. -Same. ~3% historically, and 5-15% when promoted to a new position.

-Flexibility with my daily schedule (I can take a few hours off here and there to go to my kids school performance, or take care of a family matter, or even bring in a sick child to work with me if needed). -Same, boss doesn't care as long as 40 hours get put in. Even your personal working hours are adjustable.

-Challenging and exciting work projects. -Same, at least I think so.

-Not expected by my boss to bring in jobs for the company at this point in my career. -Same, I think at my company I'm at a point where I'm starting to help more with proposals and the like, but not actually responsible for getting projects, which I think will happen more when I'm at 13-15 years in.

-Live in paradise. Great place to raise kids. -Definitely not paradise here, but great public and private schools and tons to do.

-20 minute commute time. -Probably looking at 30-40 minutes here, though shorter is definitely possible depending where you live. For a while I lived about 2 miles from the office and would walk to work.

Downfalls:
-Work a lot of overtime. Office has a "work first" culture. I personally witnessed my coworker's marriage and family life deteriorate over the past few years due to his workaholic lifestyle. -Already discussed our overtime, definitely more work-life balance focused.

-My boss is king and pretty much has final say on all matters -My boss (and pretty much everyone above me) is extremely nice and while they have final say about projects they're managing/overseeing, they're all open to good ideas.

-Boss has an expectation of perfection, hates excuses, and has a tendency to yell and belittle people (however the last part has gotten a lot better in the past 3 or so years) -Boss has no expectation of perfection, but of course the more senior you are the fewer mistakes you should be making. The most important part to him is that you learn and don't repeat mistakes. No one at my company has ever yelled at or belittled anyone in my presence.

-Very steep learning curve. Especially related to FEA, no one in the office helps with analysis and you pretty much have to teach yourself everything. -Learning curve with us is there, but I wouldn't call it steep. Everyone helps as they can, but being in a small office, there's not always senior people to go to with the specific expertise and you do have to teach yourself some things.

-Taking vacation days is frowned upon but is allowed. I'm probably one of the few people in the office that utilizes all the days each year. -We're encouraged to take vacation and it's never been denied. My boss just asks that for week+ long trips that we give him a heads up for planning purposes. I think my company starts at 17 days, 22 days after 5 years. In addition to OT, you also have the ability to bank time if you'd rather use it for trips/time off. We also permit you to carry 40 hours into the next year, and any time not used you're compensated for.

-High cost of living (consistently ranked in top 3 cities in the country). Expensive place to raise kids. -Similar here probably (I don't have children).

-Due to the high work load and my poor time management, I regularly pull all-nighters trying to get projects out by the deadline. -In 10 years I haven't had an all-nighter. One of my co-workers did once, but that was related to some plotting issues we were having (we do our own drafting for the most part) and needed to get sorted before a submittal.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Pay package appears awesome, maybe even proportionate with the obvious poor work environment and high workload.

For most people, this situation wouldn't be sustainable for long. Sounds like cracks are starting to appear (your use of adderall, your wife getting upset).

I would personally make a change sooner than later. whether it be interstate, within your area for less pay, or setting a boundary with your employer regarding working hours. Would he rather lose you entirely as an employee or be willing to live with reasonable working hours, so your life potentially isn't ruined like your co-worker?

If you are going to continue with business as usual, suggest evaluating the situation like an engineer. What are the risk factors of you burning out, your marriage deteriorating, your relationship with your child deteriorating, and put a price tag on those. Is the pay commensurate with the potential cost of those? Whatever you price your relationships at, only you can determine. Cost of divorce, child support and alimony should be easy enough to determine.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

There is a quite a bit that can be said for working from home. I have a deal where I do steady salaried work for a national firm, and side work (different market entirely, but still SE) for myself. All of it from home. My boss talks to me maybe once a month. That arrangement came out of years of working in a high stress environment, very similar to what you describe, especially the work-first mentality. In 2012 I made a conscious decision to carve out a very specific existence for myself within my field, and I made it happen. My only regret is not doing it sooner. My advice is this: if there's something you don't like, change it. Find the path that gives you everything you want, and make it happen.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

I would suggest you consider wealth accumulation potential as more important than salary alone. This would mean the salary, cost of living and cost of your (current/desired) lifestyle. Over time your wealth accumulation is what will give you options in the future. For example the ability to retire early, slow down work, open your own firm, etc.

As for your wife's concerns I suspect they are far more visceral than your own. Discussing the move from objective numbers based approach in not going to work, you may as well both be speaking different languages, I have a lot of experience here and it is a tough learning curve for a lot of technical people.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

It sounds like your wife is very concerned about you, and if I may be so bold, she seems to have reason to be. Taking Adderall in order to be able to do your job is gambling with your health, your future, and frankly, your life. It is one of the legal (only with a prescription) forms of amphetamines, which are all fairly addictive, mood altering, and bad for your health. She's probably seeing what it's doing to you trying to keep up with this job, and she's scared. I would be. I don't really want to get into any details, but I know this from experience.

Rod Smith, P.E., The artist formerly known as HotRod10

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

7
I came out of the gate a very career driven engineer with a particular interest in practicing high-end structural design. I stuck with that life philosophy for a good long while and lived in some US geographic locations that were well aligned with my professional aspirations. I also went out of my way to be as gregarious as I could, wherever I lived, so as to develop a meaningful social network in those places. And I've got a diverse group of fine friends to show for that.

Then, in 2007, I had to return to Alberta, Canada for family reasons. There aren't a lot of skyscrapers in Alberta and there are no earthquakes of any consequence. It's not a structural engineer's paradise.
As a result of the move:

1) I got ten good years of Sunday night scrabble tournaments with my elderly parents.

2) My brother and I say to heck with work every Friday around 3PM and, depending on the time of year, play 8-ball, hit the driving range, or play some tennis. I currently see no reason why this ought not continue for another 20-40 yrs.

3) My one and only niece likes me so much that her parents delicately yanked emergency guardianship away from my remote sister-in-law and conferred it to me. It's about the kids, of course, and not a competition. That said, I've totally won the competition. The key to this was a) putting the time and b) age inappropriate gifting. For her 9th, I got her the kind of drone that shuts down airports while everybody else was getting her educational crap and stuffies. Fools.

4) My wife likes to entertain and, when she throws a family dinner, it's now the real thing. We get a good turnout from people that we actually care about significantly. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, New years, Solstice, MLK... it's a blast.

5) Lining up baby sitting for the kids is a piece of cake and the kids have cultivated meaningful, lifelong relationships with their uncles, aunts, and grandparents. If I were stabbed to death in a Walmart parking lot this afternoon, their lives would go on more or less unaltered. I think of this as the very best possible version of life insurance. And I depend on no employer for it.

6) My wife's relationship with my parents is such that, if they end up having to come to live with us, she's legitimately on board. Well... my mom at least.

So the morals of my story have been this:

- family outweighs job, by a lot.
- KootK job obsession was foolish.

If I had it to do over again, I would actually do even more than just stay near my own family. In addition to that, I also would make a point of marrying someone who's family lived in the same geographical area as mine. My wife has a large family of very gregarious Germans/Poles spread out around Wisconsin and Michigan. It's non-stop celebrations, hunting cabin hangouts, and lake-house water-skiing excursions. If I could have access to all of that and my own people, I'd be living one heck of a life. Granted, the hormone ruled younger version of myself had a 0% chance of being able to exercise this kind of judgement in mate selection.

With respect to these kinds of things, your decision will have much to do with:

- where your people are.
- what quantity and quality of people you have.
- where your wife's people are.
- what quantity and quality of people your wife has.
- How many kids you have or plan to have.
- How old your kids are.

Since you're an analytical guy, I'd make a list like mine and go right ahead and try to put numbers to it. It's a rough science, of course, but when I add up the value of my #1-#6 above, I'm closing in on about $75k/yr. And I'm not an especially warm person.





RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

After looking at your detailed breakdown I think you could come very close to the base salary and bonus with the right company. Many companies are now offering straight time overtime as well so you could recoup some of that income as well.

I'd strongly consider Koot's advice above. There are some relationships that are impossible to put a value to and certainly won't last forever. On your death bed you won't be saying you'd wished you'd spent more time at work.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

I'll have to echo a few others in this thread. Work isn't everything.

Seems like you make a decent living, especially when you simply throw out the 176,000 number (I have seen the breakdown).

However, no amount of money would ever make me work 800+ overtime hours in a single year. This is completely leaving aside the taking of drugs (legal or otherwise) to get the job done. That is insanity to me (I wholly realize that I am not you).

To me, family, and freedom (in one particular sub-category: financial freedom) come long before anything else. I honestly could give a hoot about extending my engineering prowess to a level that puts me in the front of the room.

The extra 15-20 hours of time per week that I am not devoting to the company allows me to work on myself. It allows me to solidify my life at home. It allows me to network with business partners and friends. It allows me to continue acquiring real estate, so that I make roughly 60% as much as you do, from just real estate alone, as you do in an entire year. The kicker? I only 'work' on my rentals for 2-4 hours PER MONTH. I would never have been able to focus on myself to the required level had I been working as hard as you do for someone else.

Now, I will never be the world's most diverse or educated engineer with my workstyle (and maybe that is paramount to you), but by golly 12+ vacations a year and routine 36-40 hour work weeks ain't bad.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

A lot of people would be willing to be in your position /pay rate at your experience.
I can only suggest one thing, since you seem to want more free time, start your own consulting company, but not in HI, even if you are a one man show in bigger cities you could charge $1000 a day, I know from my experience in NYC. You may not be busy every day of the month but that is what you want. with 15 days of work you would be looking at the same gross you are making now, including the benefits you noted, plus you have the rest of the month to your self. One draw back of this set up is that if you go alone you can not grow. I have been thru that in NYC as a PE and now in London, I am focused on growing and partnering with other engineers. SE goes a long way. There is a pattern in all the big companies, almost all of them are 2 or 3 at least partners. It is a parabolic growth when you have partners.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

(OP)
Thank you all for the responses. I definitely got a lot of good information.... even more than I was hoping for.

BridgeSmith... thank you especially for your input.

jrw501, I would like to talk more with you. I'm new to this forum and didn't see a way to send messages privately. I'll keep looking unless there is some way I can send you my email without posting it publicly.

My life is not all doom and gloom, which some of you would believe it to be. I do work a lot of overtime, but I usually get to work several hours before everyone else so I can put in some early morning OT and get work done before people start bothering me with their problems. I do try and leave work at a reasonable time seeing as I've frontloaded my mornings. This allows me to still have dinner with my family, play, do homework, and bedtime routine. On the weekends, I really really try not to go into work. My kids are at the age where I am taking them to the beach, surfing, skatepark, dirtbiking, club sports, hiking... etc. active things that we love. I guess my philosophy is "work hard play hard". Plus, I get warm weather year round which is a huge plus for me cause I hate the cold.

My life is far from perfect and my work schedule could be more ideal but I try to think about how it could be a lot worse too and I may potentially be giving up a good thing while the going is good. A very serious conversation is coming with my wife and I have taken everything you guys said into consideration.

Thanks again for sharing your stories!

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Quote:

... I hate the cold

Well, that eliminates anywhere near me. We haven't hit 50 degrees in several weeks. The Gulf Coast could still be an option for you. I guess southern California would be warm enough, too, but you probably wouldn't do any better financially, and your commute would undoubtedly be longer.

I live on the outskirts of the city, nearly on the opposite side from where I work, and my commute is 8 miles and takes 10 minutes.

Rod Smith, P.E., The artist formerly known as HotRod10

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

If you're popping adderall you should quit and find a new job even if you stay in HI

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

In defense of your boss he most likely gave 99% of his energy and life to build this operation and insisting on perfection is likely part of how he did it. Assuming he's not wrapping a mouse cord around anyone's neck I'd imagine you guys can shrug it off considering your pay and perks. If you're working 60 hours then i'd imagine he's doing 80 and not that much better off than you.

I'm not as appalled by your Adderall and hours. To each his own and it sounds like you're enjoying it.

At the end of the day though the wives usually win. They don't come at you hard like your boss but like the steady work of the tides they'll slowly wear you down until you give in so best bet may be to cave to her wishes now to get a jump on setting up your new situation.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Quote (OP)

I guess my philosophy is "work hard play hard".

That's really the only way to make a go of it, particularly in the private sector.

Piggybacking off of bookowski's comments, is there any chance you could just take over this enterprise via succession and pass the adderall mantle to your minions? It does sound as though your boss had/has the right formula. It also sounds as though you're making that same formula work for you +/- a little divorce scare hear and there. Given how well compensated your are, I feel confident that your boss likes what you've been doing.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Quote (STrctPono)

My life is not all doom and gloom, which some of you would believe it to be.

Quote (STrctPono)

A very serious conversation is coming with my wife.

I think the very serious conversation is the impending doom that I'd be worried about.

It's tough to get a read on your home life since you say things aren't that bad but it sounds like your wife may have a different opinion. Everyone has different expectations when it comes to work/life balance. If I were you, I would make sure that your family and your health come before your professional needs. There isn't a job out there, no matter how much it fulfills my professional needs, that I would want to keep even though its causing major stress on my wife. You could also be driving yourself into the ground without knowing it, especially on adderall. How long can you work like that before it has a negative impact on you? One of my previous bosses told me that he worked like a maniac in his 30's and ended up getting chest pains. Went to the doctor and found out he was very close to having a heart attack. He still works like a maniac but also exercises like one too. Not sure how he had any time for his family but I think that showed in other ways when you rarely met them.

Leaving paradise is hard. I'm actually in the middle of that dilemma but for opposite reasons (work isn't satisfying). We've found that it was necessary to leave. We're just going to do everything in our power to come back to paradise as much as life allows us.

Best of luck to you. I hope you find a good balance and don't forget to take care of yourself.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Actually there shouldn't be a dilemma to anybody. Do you value yourself higher than your family, or the other wat around. The answer is there for an honest person.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

(OP)

Quote (MTNClimber)

It's tough to get a read on your home life since you say things aren't that bad but it sounds like your wife may have a different opinion.

My wife's biggest complaint is that we have no family out here. We're completely on our own. If we have a sick kid and neither of us can take the day off, we can't just call up a grandparent to come save the day. I love my wife completely, she's a phenomenal mother, but she has a very skewed perception of reality.... her rationalization for things is much more visceral than mine. She lived in PHX (cheap cheap) before moving here so doesn't understand why you can't buy a 4,000 sqft home on a teacher's income in our city. Therefore, any problems that we have are either wholly or partly blamed on where we live. My belief is that even if my work life were perfectly ideal, she would still want to move.

Quote (retired13)

Actually there shouldn't be a dilemma to anybody. Do you value yourself higher than your family, or the other way around. The answer is there for an honest person.

That question can be interpreted differently depending on who you are asking

To some, they may say... "If you value yourself higher then you'll do what you love even if your wife isn't happy"
To others, they may say.... "If you value yourself higher then you'll stop working so much because it's going to kill you"
Even others might say..... "If you value your family higher then you'll stop working so much so you can spend more time with them"
And lastly some might say..... "If you value your family higher then you'll continue to financially support them with private school, large life insurance payouts, and fully stocked 529 plans."

Quote (KootK)

is there any chance you could just take over this enterprise via succession and pass the adderall mantle to your minions? It does sound as though your boss had/has the right formula. It also sounds as though you're making that same formula work for you +/- a little divorce scare hear and there. Given how well compensated your are, I feel confident that your boss likes what you've been doing.

There is a possibility that I could inherit the business one day but not for awhile. Our VP is late 40's I'm mid 30's. There's no one between us in age. With that being said, I don't think I want the job. I'm very different than everyone I work with (mainly because I'm the only non-local) we don't share the same values and I'm pretty sure that my boss never stops working. I have never met anybody in my life that owns their own business that either isn't a workaholic or has constant financial worries/stress. That's why I previously mentioned that the "going is good". I get paid well and don't have to worry about the business side of the business. I get to perform pure technical Engineering. I have however developed good relationships with Civil Engineers over the years that could produce fruitful contracts in the future, that sort of thing is not really my forte. My feeling is that when my boss retires (not sure if that will ever happen since I don't think he will know what to do with himself) the company will lose a lot of credibility and thus a lot of work.

Quote (bookowski)

In defense of your boss he most likely gave 99% of his energy and life to build this operation and insisting on perfection is likely part of how he did it. Assuming he's not wrapping a mouse cord around anyone's neck I'd imagine you guys can shrug it off considering your pay and perks. If you're working 60 hours then i'd imagine he's doing 80 and not that much better off than you.

I'm not as appalled by your Adderall and hours. To each his own and it sounds like you're enjoying it.

At the end of the day though the wives usually win. They don't come at you hard like your boss but like the steady work of the tides they'll slowly wear you down until you give in so best bet may be to cave to her wishes now to get a jump on setting up your new situation.

I appreciate this assessment. Especially the part about the wives. And yes, everyone in the office has grown very thick skin and understands that it's just "Boss being Boss." He's a bit quirky (something that he fully understands) but also has an uncanny ability to get people to like him. He prides himself on honor. He's gregarious and typically enjoys dominating conversations or discussions during meetings. (He's well aware that he's normally the smartest person in the room.) Yet, in some ways he seems to lack total basic social etiquette.

My father-in-law once told me something in the past. He said: "You shouldn't be worried if your employer is hard on you and expects a lot from you, you should be worried when your employer stops paying attention to you because then that means they've given up on you."

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

Honestly speaking, I am a person that values myself above my family in many ways.

I brought my wife to state, she has no relative here, and misses her friends and family quite often. Due to work, more than a quarter of my service life was spent separately from my family (means live in two different cities), the least was 3 hours drive, the longest was 10 hours non-stop. I only got to go back home 1 - 3 months a time for a weekend stay. Did she complain? Yes, she did, but to my deft ears. However, we are going to see our 40 years anniversary this year, not necessarily happily, but still hanging together.

[ADD] My point is if you value yourself higher than others, then make your own choice, and manage everything else later, shall anything happens.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

STrctPono, I don't think there's a way to direct message on this site, but I created a twitter handle (@eng_jrw) if you want to DM.

RE: Fair Compensation for SE?

The money sounds really good BUT, being belittled and all that sounds like you should consider other places. You're doing a legitimate job and you should set certain red lines to yourself. Being an engineer should not be equivalent to prostituting yourself. I had people yell and try to belittle me when I was a young professional (with a lot more qualifications than my boss by the way) and I left immediately. The numbers though are pretty good there where you are my friend.

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