With a talent shortage and strong economy, Silicon Valley hiring practices often treat employees as commodities. Apple recently hired a prominent Netflix engineer to scale Apple TV+.
By Chand Bellur
January 29, 2020 at 7:03 p.m. PDT
Apple Hires Ruslan Meshenberg from Netflix
Netflix is known for running reliable operations. Although their data center is hosted by Amazon, services are developed by Netflix.
Ruslan Meshenberg worked at Netflix, developing a scalable streaming infrastructure. Most engineers can develop a web application. Developing a service oriented architecture that scales to handle tens of millions of users is an entirely different matter. Such talent is rare, but surprisingly not rewarded as such, leaving the door open for other opportunities.
Apple, with vast piles of cash, can throw a lot of money at a problem. While they excel at creating innovative devices, services have proven elusive. The iTunes Store, for example, is mostly stable, but not as reliable as Netflix. With dwindling iPhone sales, the Cupertino company couldn’t risk Apple TV+ flopping.
Employees are, for the most part, free to quit and seek employment elsewhere. Apple made Meshenberg an offer he couldn’t refuse, and they recruited top talent away from their future competitor. For now, Apple TV+ is an adjunct to Netflix. The move to hire Meshenberg is akin to a shot across the bow at the Silicon Valley streaming giant.
Engineers Should be Compensated Fairly
The lesson that likely won’t be learned is that mission critical engineers should be compensated appropriately. If your engineer created software that generates billions of dollars, and he or she is only being paid a salary and stock options with high strike prices, expect their departure.
Most Silicon Valley business executives are well aware of who’s talented and deserves to be compensated fairly. The problem is, a lot of Silicon Valley companies don’t value highly skilled engineers and view software developers as interchangeable parts. When they’re treated like commodities, they tend to become just that, abandoning an employer with no remorse or attachment. In fact, if anything, there may be resentment.
Engineers like Meshenberg weren’t really “poached” per se. They’re treated and handled as commodities. No corporation can expect loyalty when some of the most talented engineers are compensated only slightly better than hacks.