$10K, No Way: Elite Tech Interns Encouraged To Fight For Their Worth

When UC Berkeley undergraduate and self-described serial hacker Rodney Folz released the results of a survey he conducted on intern salaries at a couple dozen local technology companies last week, most of the coverage focused on the crazy numbers.

The offers are genuinely staggering: Fifteen tech firms — Twitter, Uber and Slack to name just a few — supposedly offer more generous compensation than investment bank Goldman Sachs, which itself gives college students nearly $10,000 per month for summer work.

But Folz, who said he will soon be taking a job with Yelp, did not conduct the second annual survey just to brag about the cushy pay in his chosen industry. Releasing the survey results on Twitter under the hashtag #talkpay (https://twitter.com/hashtag/talkpay?lang=en), Folz told SF Weekly that he hopes to encourage prospective interns to bargain for fair pay.

[jump] “I want students to realize their work in internships has real value and they should be compensated accordingly,” Folz said in an interview conducted via Twitter DMs.

That might sound a bit, um, rich, when even Yahoo! Answers clone Quora is apparently offering college students $8,300 per month plus $2,000 in housing benefits for a few months of their time over the summer.

But the absolute numbers are less important than the relative pay — in other words, $5,000 per month might sound great to a starving student with coding abilities, but compared to their real market value, that measly five g’s may actually be a lowball offer. In other words, why take a relatively low-paying internship when the same skill set would fetch a high-paying job?

Folz said his goal is that those looking for internships “feel more confident about their offers & avoid being ripped by unscrupulous companies.” He noted that eighty five percent of respondents to the survey said they did not try to negotiate their offers.

While Folz was aggregating many individual responses he received over six weeks of online survey distribution, the effort for transparency in pay has picked up as the taboo on discussing salaries is eroded.

The Wall Street Journal covered this phenomenon in 2013, reporting that young people are realizing “transparency… helps ensure that people are paid fairly, and reduces discrimination based on gender or other characteristics.”

Folz said his survey did not reveal discrimination based on any protected classes like gender or ethnicity. Still, despite software engineers not exactly being members of the lumpenproletariat they are still laboring away for some phenomenally wealthy corporations and deserve to share in the spoils.

“Knowing your market worth is v important as an employee in a capitalist system,” Folz noted on Twitter.

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