Developer = 2 * Social Worker + Teacher ?

In the last couple of months I Interviewed five great candidates  who really wanted to contribute to society and humankind but ended up in Hi-Tech.

While not all their stories were the same ,there is a lot of resemblance. I slightly changed the details to protect the anonymity.

Two left Hi-Tech to become school teachers, but went back to hi-tech after a lot of frustration. One thought the system is the problem and the other one blamed himself, but the result was the same.

A third left the business world to help mentally challenged disabled adults , but could not afford to continue this line of work, and is looking to move back into

The fourth one was a very senior executive  in NGO for kids, managing logistics and strategy  for more than 10,000 kids. Financially he had to move into the for-profit world to make a living.

The fifth moved from academic career in science to become a high school teacher and was also working in an NGO for kids as a senior manager. He is now pursing a career in finance.

All five are highly brilliant, have great grades and track record of excellence as managers and people. They all chose the non-profit world from a real desire to make a difference, not due to lack of options. They were ready to work for much lower wages (30% less) but could not live with 50-80% less.

I had great time interviewing them. It was a pretty different experience than the usual software development interviews.

It is extremely sad that as a society , the compensation we are providing to social workers,psychologists in the public sector, teachers and senior managers for NGO’s is so low that we scare the brightest entrepreneurs away.

A junior developer with zero experience would make at least  twice as much than a social worker with ten years of experience and a second degree. I’m not sure it makes sense.

I don’t buy into the “Free Market” explanation either. During my MBA studies, a very annoying  student  tried to justify the low salaries for social workers. He just happened to be a lawyer. He said “They can go and work in another job. They choose to work for such salary”. Dr. Itzik Sporta answered : “Who will take care of the people in need, if they do leave?”  and “The government is a monopsony for social workers. It is not a free market to begin with”.

Some claim the reason for the high wages is that we need the brightest people in the world and should pay accordingly. While this is partially true, I’m familiar with not-so-bright technical people, who are still l making a lot more money than extremely brilliant art therapists.

I’ll try to conclude with a more positive note (I think it’s positive) . Topaz is a non-profit organization  for social entrepreneurship. We were looking for a new general manager in the last couple of months. We received 200 resumes of extremely talented and impressive  candidates, despite the many challenges.  Seems there are a lot of optimists still out there.

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