The Most Important Apple Executive You’ve Never Heard Of covers Johny Srouji voice president for hardware technologies at Apple.

One interesting bit that caught my eye was how Srouji got rewarded for delivering A9X for iPad Pro in 6 months:

Srouji was nicely rewarded for his efforts. In December he became the newest member of Cook’s management team and received about 90,000 additional shares of Apple stock, which vest over a four-year period.

What about the team of engineers who worked day and night under him?

Hacker News user BinaryIdiot had this comment:

ended up with the management pushing the engineers to work harder while the reward went to the people responsible for the mess in the first place.

Unfortunately this is how it almost always works in business. I’ll never forget the times I’ve worked harder to make a newly created deadline only for the management to gain a reward and nothing for me. Who cares I worked until 2am every day for weeks while they left at 5pm because they “weren’t coders”.

I’m sure most in the tech industry goes through this and it’s not healthy. Yeah yeah I know you’re salaried so you shouldn’t expect more but when management gains more because they imposed new deadlines for you to hit, it creates resentment among the developers and eventually an exodus.

I’ve seen it happen 3 times so far in my career. You’d think I’d learn my lesson but it’s hard finding a place that actually rewards both employees and management (or rewards none of them which would be more fair in someways and worse in others considering only the top executives benefit at that point).

Sorry, ranting a bit.

Why is it like this? If world’s most valuable company(and one of the most respected in tech circles) is broken like this when it comes to rewards, it must be something very very hard.

On a completely different note, this puts India’s race for management courses in a new perspective. (Though it does lead to less than 10% of Indian MBAs being employable)

Back to the question, why do engineers have to work hard while management reaps most of the rewards?

One possible answer is that software engineers are more like the construction workers in construction industry! We build the big picture block by block while architects are the one with entire knowledge of the structure.

Hence, management gets more. But is it justified? The above analogy is quite broken.

Broken in the sense that programming is an entirely different field. Unlike other physical labor, programmers vary wildly in productivity.

Given the difference between skills of different level of programmers, it is very hard to put a value on what a software engineer adds to a project.

Management, in classic fashion, has averaged it all. So even the best engineers are paid slightly above average and the bottom ones are paid slightly below average. This is accelerated by consulting firms where only way to get work done is hammer out uninspired students and force them to program, regardless of progress of skill.

Is there a good way to escape this? I can think of two:

  1. Join a company that compensates fairly/has open salaries: A good example would be Buffer. Now I haven’t studied their salary structure in detail but after engineers are among highest paid at Buffer. You can check salaries of Buffer employees on their open blog. There are other companies like them out there that you can join. See yesterday’s post on how to get hired.
  2. Freelance: This means that you have to do a lot of management yourself. But you have only 1 person to manage, it will be easier than managing a big team. It’s a bit risky but can turn out to be more rewarding if you’re disciplined.

What is your opinion? Why does management get all the rewards? Any alternatives for that you can think of?