Martin Tithonium (tithonium) wrote,
Martin Tithonium

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Rehashing and new thoughts

So, I started working on this friday; a writeup of amazon vs popcap, to try to figure out what I have, what I could have, and - most importantly - what I want.
What I want, I think, is not to be frustrated and annoyed. Popcap certainly makes a good pitch in that direction, but I'm cynical enough to assume that I'll have no trouble finding things to complain about there.
On the other hand, corivax is apparently looking forward to reading me complain about somewhere other than Amazon for a change.

Money is important.. I'm accustomed to my lifestyle, and it's not cheap. But, it's the little things that make life worth living. Or a constant battle. Whichever. So, money isn't a deciding factor unless it's a really significant difference. This isn't.

So, overall...
Amazon: I make a pretty good - tho highly variable - amount of money to deal with a large beaurucratic organization where I can affect millions of people.
PopCap: I'd make an acceptably good amount of money to deal with a small reasonable organization where I could affect, perhaps, dozens of people.
Neither one presents me with much in the way of interesting career path, but I've never much been interested in a career, either. A job is quite adequate, until I can do my own thing.

Unfortunately, none of this has actually pushed me in either direction as far as making a decision goes.

* Money
Amazon: $70k/y, plus stock that comes out to roughly $20k/year for the next couple years. So, my annual income should be something like $90k, give or take.
The past three years W-2 data: (total wages / stock income / taxes paid = wages-taxes)
2003: $145,111.42 / $86,261.17 / $45,365.80 = $99,745.62
2004: $76,510.69 / $16,338.66 / $20,373.53 = $56,137.16
2005: $106,482.51 / $45434.67 / $29,353.06 = $77,129.42

PopCap: $77k/year, plus an 8% performance-based bonus, which is $6,160. So, $83,160. The options are meaningless. Rough estimate, $58k takehome per year. Equivalent to 2004 at Amazon, wherein the stock was worth shit (at least whenever I could sell) and I only sold what I absolutely had to to pay bills.

So, while my monthly income would increase by 10% (modulated by possible tax bracket changes), my annual takehome would drop.
On the other hand, my annual takehome would become a little more stable. That's not really very comforting.

PopCap pays bimonthly. Amazon pays monthly. Monthly paychecks are a pain in the ass, but Amazon sure does love its float.

Winner: Amazon on dollars, but popcap gets points for being less annoying.

* Morale:
The closest thing to a team lunch we've had since I rejoined C7Y was when our PM left and he and I had lunch and Jim joined us. It was a /little/ better in CSS. Amazon felt more like a family once.
PopCap is small. They have lunch. They have all-hands. In a room, not an amphitheatre.

Popcap encourages the playing of their games. The handbook is poorly written in this regard - if a game isn't 'interactive', it's called Television, guys - but assuming they meant multi-player games for that section, their general game-playing policy is pretty neat. On the other hand, I don't actually spend that much time playing games. I write code instead; totally different subclass of geek.

Winner: Popcap, duh.

* Misc Benefits:
Amazon has an Employee discount. Crappy, but $100 is $100.
Popcap.. I don't know. I would /assume/, but I haven't bothered to ask, that we'd have access to free copies of the registered versions of the games.

Winner: none. $100 ain't much, and if I have to pay for the games I just won't play 'em. Simple enough.

* Power, and a feeling of Being In The Know:
Knowing about stuff before it's available.
I /was/ enrolled in Amazon Prime about 24 hours before it launched. At popcap, I'd know about games before they're released, but that's less directly useful to me. Not sure any of this matters much.

At Amazon, I've got my hooks in things, I can give myself special access and privileges. From outside, I can't give myself short URLs, for example. Or create custom views of wishlists.
At Popcap, I'm not sure there's anything that would be worth such effort.

Winner: Amazon, duh.

* Ego:
At Amazon, I'm a fairly sizable fish in a large lake. I write code that literally affects /millions/ of customers. Several million people per day are going through code I wrote. Hundreds of thousands per day are /seeing/ the results of my code. And that's just on my current project. Wishlists and Registries also get millions of hits per day.

At Popcap, I'd be a small fish in a very small pond. Not nearly the customer impact - I wouldn't be writing customer-facing code, for one. I couldn't cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars with a single mistake, nor could I make the company millions with a single feature.

Winner: Amazon, I should think

* Independence:
My projects at Amazon are entirely driven by middle and upper management; my list of things I should do keeps growing as I never have time to go do them. The only time my backlog gets shorter is when I change teams and drop the entire thing. The constant push for the Next Big Thing at the expense of maintenance or cleanup is a constant frustration. When I told my manager about the PopCap offer, among other things, he noted that he'd like for me to be working on the bigger issues, once we had the resources for it. The problem is that I'm not sure that's ever going to happen. It's not that I think he's lying, I just think he's wrong. If we get more resources, we'll just get more work. More Next Big Things that we can do at once. There's always a backlog of those, too. We could do them, too; do them faster and better and with fewer resources, if we could just NOT do them for a bit. Get our house in order. Embark on some significant refactoring. Redesign some systems. Figure out what we need to change to support where we want to go. Find our pain points and polish them off. We rarely have time to do things Right, and we never have time to do them Over. I've pushed back on some things and gained a little ground on this, but it's all incremental, and incremental isn't enough.

Popcap's got a list of things they need, but it sounds as if, to a large extent, I'd be responsible for my schedule, prioritization, and task management, so long as I'm getting them what they need. I'd kinda be my own little thing, to an extent. Which is good and bad. I hate writing specs. Hate hate. Hate, hate, hate.

Winner: I'm thinking Popcap, no?

* Offices:
At PacMed, the iDistrict is, theoretically, walkable. But I rarely bother unless there's a group of people going somewhere, and there never is. Or I could shuttle down to Union Station.
Popcap is on the other side of downtown. Certainly an easier walk. It's also a few blocks from where loree works, and a block from my hairdresser. I might actually bother getting my hair redone as often as it needs.
Both have good views.

PAC's done in a minimalist variant of the mid-90s retro-industrial that was so popular with the .com's. My own space is basically an extension of the hallway. There are pipes and conduits on the ceiling, and and elevator equipment room thru the door in the back. It's larger than most offices in the building, and it's not shared. I've got a 7' desk, and room for another - I was going to put a couch there - and curtains across the doorway. It's very nice. Dark when I want it to be, quiet enough most of the time.
Popcap's a bit more fitting-ourselves-into-the-space-we've-rented. They've got a nice rec room. At the outset, I'll have a cubicle. They should be getting more space eventually, and there'd probably be something better available then, but it sounds as if, for the predictable future, I'd be in a cube. In their well-lit cube farm. Tho, my amazon curtains can probably be adapted into a tent over the cube. No where to put most of my stuff tho.

Winner: Personal space, Amazon in the short term. Overall office: No winner.

* Career path:
At Amazon, I'm effectively unpromotable. I don't want to go into management (I know too much about the pain of management at Amazon), I don't want to be an SDE. The only thing I could possibly be promoted to is webdev principal, and a) there's never been one of those, and b) I don't do enough of the wde3 companywide outreach to warrant the principal position.

At popcap, I'd be in a tools position. Might end up a lead tools position, given time. I suspect there's a chance I might get roped into frontend web work from time to time. There might eventually be opportunity to move around to other teams, I guess. Not sure what else there I might wanna do.

Winner: none. Loser: me. Way to pigeonhole yourself, dude.

* IT policy:
Amazon's corpsec folks are the guys who were too paranoid to work for the ARM. While I understand the difficulty in creating a flexible policy to cover thousands of employees, it still chafes. Not having admin perms on my own desktop? Right. Piss off. But, at least we have VPN and wireless in the office now. Finally.

I asked about PopCap's policy on external hardware. The answer? Windows systems are required to run their antivirus. Macs probably will be too eventually. They've got VPN. They've got wireless in the office. They're not paranoid psychotics.

At Amazon, I've got my windows laptop. If I wanted a mac laptop, I could probably get one, but it's not always easy. I've got my servers. They're not too hard to get replaced when they're outmoded. Getting additional ones is usually pretty easy too.

At PopCap, I tell them what I want for my desktop and they'll get it. Nifty. I'm honestly torn between a black MacBook and a 15" MacBook Pro. If the MacBook didn't have the glossy screen, there wouldn't be a choice to make. If I decide to take the job, I'll have to pop up to the apple store to compare them.

Winner: Popcap.

* Oncall:
At Amazon, I'm oncall. At the moment, every four weeks. That'll shift to every 6 shortly. This isn't really a big issue; our oncall load is very light. But, I still don't like it.
At Popcap, I wouldn't be part of operations, so no real oncall for me. On the other hand, I'd be the main support contact for the tools I'd be writing, which could be interpreted as permanent oncall. Not likely to be an issue, of course.

Winner: none.

Edited to add:

* Undo:
If I do leave Amazon for PopCap, then decide that the grass is, in fact, a dull dead brown over there, there's probably a good chance I could get rehired back to Amazon, in some position. Perhaps I should reinforce some bridges, just in case.
Tags: amazon, popcap, work
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