Superstars and Cheap Labor

ugh! Feel kind of low having attempted to gracefully sent off two co-founders from evening of fairly heated discussion of our startup ideas.

There was a moment of genius though. There are two kinds of people one would want to recruit if one were to startup a company in one’s spare time, while working diligently, efficiently, and full time, about  hours a day (sorry, just covering ass in case you are my boss or co-worker, and these are the honest truth).

Once, I had a great boss. great guy, smart, funny, easygoing, and very handsome, impeccably dressed, hair-gelling, hybrid-driving, latte-drinking, Stanford PhD’ing, boss… He has this constant preoccupation with recruiting “superstars”. At the time, I didn’t really have any appreciation for this concept of what a superstar is and what  he does and why my boss really really wants to recruit them. (I mean, weren’t I super enough for you? ;~(….

So now come a time when I consider organizing my own thing. and suddenly it hits me. There was a second type of recruiting that he did, which was that he had a lot of cheap engineers (one of which I was, apparently… not as cheap as most, but still, not superstar pay-grade at the time). There were quite a lot of cheap labors in our group under my boss’s organization. And constantly he seeks superstars.

When it come time for me to make these considerations, suddenly I feel that I have bifurcated desire. One the one hand. I really want to have a coupla people who doesn’t need a lot of pampering (and salary/options, but let that be said parenthetically). You know, the guys who are experienced enough to just hunker down and type out code, and doesn’t demand being praised/bonused/paraded in front of the team for all the accomplishments.

But on the other hand, I find myself unthinkingly wanting. I want a person who takes larger than deserved pride in even one line of code written. I want a guy who types

printf(“hello world!”);

and stands up and raises his fist and says to the team: “Hello!” as if he has lifted the world and spun it around the sun.

I am uncertain where this desire stems. Perhaps due to my own vanity. Certainly there are times when I write a recursion and feel like I am one of a thousand people in the world who can do that. And be that as it possibly may(perhaps around 50k? Interview question after solving a problem: estimate the number of people who in similar situation can write that code), the swell of pride and happiness and relief and forgetting all else, so overwhelming, so high, better than drugs, and cheaper too… 

I want a person like that. Because we would agree on the same thing and s/he would shine and design things according to principles, efficiency, robustness, maintainability, marketability, big-O’s, k-factors, r-naughts, and whatnots. And it would be a superstar who can make things happen when I need it and the way I need it, and most important to me: Make the world spin for us.

Thus, this leaves us with two types of recruitment, forsaking many acceptable social standards and enforcible laws: Cheap labor and Super stars!

  • I need Cheap Labor, and
  • I need Superstars!

And who amongst you think you don’t, must be running a fool’s errand.

Anyway, the core issue here is actually not the existence of this bifurcation but what is fair compensation. All men are created equal, and for the most part, on the average, they work as hard as one another. And I expect each to even if they are cheap or super.

And the question remaining frozen in the airspace in my living room: should they be compensated differently??

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