Compounding Incumbent Advantage

post by adaminoue · 2021-04-07T13:40:31.193Z · LW · GW · 7 comments

This is a link post for https://www.inoue.today/p/compounding-incumbent-advantage

In which I present a hypothesis for why already having experience in a field is a much larger competitive advantage than people often think.

7 comments

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comment by Viliam · 2021-04-07T19:34:45.826Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is great point, that working in some role means 8 hours of experience every day, which you would be unable to get otherwise (if you already have a different day job, and even more so if you have kids).

From the opposite perspective, if you are a community that wants something done, you should find out how to make that a paid job for someone. Because if you do, then you will have a person who gets 8 hours of experience every day. If you don't... expect low quality, because people will only work on it for a short time once in a while, and even that only after they get home tired from the job that pays their bills.

I wonder what is best if you want to start a job without an employer... something like writing online novels and begging people to support you on Patreon. One option is to do it besides your day job. This is safe, from the financial perspective, but the progress will be slow, for the reasons you mentioned here. Another option is to save some money (enough to live on for a year or two), quit your job, and start working on your new project full-time. There is a risk that you run out of money without making the project profitable enough to pay your bills. But if you have the self-discipline, you can get 8 hours of experience every day, so in a year you will probably do and learn more than you would have otherwise done and learned in a decade. (Of course, if you realize this soon enough, the best moment to start doing something like this is probably during high school.)

Replies from: adaminoue
comment by adaminoue · 2021-04-08T13:32:02.094Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

From the opposite perspective, if you are a community that wants something done, you should find out how to make that a paid job for someone. Because if you do, then you will have a person who gets 8 hours of experience every day. If you don't... expect low quality, because people will only work on it for a short time once in a while, and even that only after they get home tired from the job that pays their bills.

Really good point here, and I wish I said this explicitly in the piece. It seems tremendously important for society to allow people to specialize by paying them to do things. I think this point is well-understood in the economics of labor but not often articulated.

Your last paragraph is an excellent distillation of why it can be reasonable (or, at the least, immensely satisfying) to quit your day job and pursue your own project. I never understood my friends who sacrificed high salaries to do this until I realized that they are probably spending quadratically more time doing what they want and learning much more about their desired specialty in the process. While still risky, it does mean that they are likely much more qualified to pivot back to a full-time job in their new area if their own project fails or they tire of it.

comment by Viliam · 2021-04-07T18:57:11.193Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Then I got a job as a software engineer, and after around two months of that, I started to get relatively constant recruitment emails and messages which continue to this day.

Is there such thing as "negative wage"? Like, I will employ you, and you will pay me for the privilege. Because I think I have a business proposal: I will employ you as a "software engineer", you will get a computer and do whatever you want. A year later, you will find another job, but now with "software engineer" in your CV, and I will give you a good reference: I will say that you worked for me, and that I was happy about it -- 100% truth!

Replies from: korin43, adaminoue, crl826
comment by korin43 · 2021-04-08T14:39:07.833Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

College sort-of does this. It's worse than just paying a company to train you but it's a socially-acceptable way to do something resembling working in that field.

comment by adaminoue · 2021-04-08T13:27:08.919Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have very little doubt that this is illegal at least in the US, as it would most likely be considered some sort of employment fraud, but what's funny about this idea is that I think it would've suited me just fine and accelerated my career. Hell, who knows if I would've needed to go to college all that much if I had this arrangement!

I enjoy your idea!

Replies from: Viliam
comment by Viliam · 2021-04-08T22:31:35.119Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What would be the nearest legal version? I would pay minimum wage, you... need to do something useful... but can choose an unrelated job title... and to make it slightly less of a fraud, we will pretend that your job is 50% software development and 50% what you actually do.

Or perhaps, I will employ you for two years. The first year, you do some actual work, but I only pay you 50% of what I would otherwise. The second year, you are a software developer... like, you are supposed to produce "something" except I don't really care, I just need a proof that you actually developed some software... and I pay you the remaining 50% of what you did the last year. (Requires you to be able to make 2× the minimum wage at start.)

Or perhaps a college + fake job. The college is expensive, but I take part of that money aside, and pay it back to you as a minimum wage in the fake job. At the end, you get a college degree + two years of job experience.

Well, if we are already here, I might actually give you a meaningful job... with a safety net... like, if you don't produce anything useful, I promise to not fire you during those two years, and I will assume the money you paid for the expensive college included the minimum wage I will be paying you. But of course, if you produce something useful, you can get a higher salary. Heck, I would even let you choose the technology and the product you want to make (because if it fails, it's not a problem for me).

Even more legal -- how about just making a software company where everyone chooses their technology and project and develops it... if the company can sell the product, you just earned your salary... otherwise you keep getting minimum wage and get fired after two years, but not sooner... we only hire reliable people, such as those recommended by current employees (those who earn their salaries)... or people from the very expensive college (who paid their minimum wages there). Heck, considering how expensive education can get in USA, this might even be a better deal than what already exists! And if at least some employees produce something useful, they provide the cover for everyone else.

comment by crl826 · 2021-04-07T20:54:12.261Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I love it, but since unpaid internships are extremely frowned on and/or explicitly illegal I can only imagine that "you pay me" internships are a non starter.