Movin’ on up (Common Man Edition)

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15 May 2018
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2 min read

I regularly have a hard time justifying working for large tech (and non-tech) companies in the bay area. With the whole movement to “stick it to the man”, I really wonder what the benefit and advantages are of working for Corporate America. This especially comes to a head when I think about how social mobility and how people move forward and upward in their lives.

I firmly believe that while the American Dream used to be to own a house with a backyard, the new American Dream will be to sell out your start-up and live off of the profits. As an idealist, this seems really self-serving. However, I have realized that there are ways that the average individual can climb their social mobility ladder.

An example of this was in 1914 when Henry Ford raised the average wage at the Ford Motor Company from $2.34 a day to $5 a day. While there as a high reliance on machines to build the automobiles, Ford had a high reliance to have stable people running those machines. With a high turnover of employees, he hoped that the $5/day would sustain them. There was a tradeoff (read about the Ford Sociological Department), but for the first time, the made it possible for the average man to buy a car. The cost of the car also decreased from $850 in 1908 (equivalent to $16,500 today) to $300 in 1920. Ford incentivized employees to buy the cars that they were making themselves on the line. While Henry Ford as a man was NOT perfect by any means, this is an interesting social mobility concept to think about.

In today’s day and age, I find it hard to find similar examples that aren’t related to non-profits or large philanthropic institutions giving away money to feel better about their sins. The one I’ve been chewing over for the last couple months is Tesla. While Tesla doesn’t offer the largest compensation out there for technicians (people working on the manufacturing line), they are offered stock options. Depending on your tenure at Tesla, a technician can actually become a millionaire through those stock options. I find this fascinating and a perfect example of social mobility. Obviously it requires time and hard work but it can happen (and especially in a place like the Bay Area)!

*I fully acknowledge that my concept of social mobility is dependent on money and socioeconomic status.

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