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Monday, September 03, 2012


A reader wrote asking me what I think of "Startup Chutzpah-A Frum Bootcamp to Learn About Entrepreneurship", which is a knockoff of "Startup Weekend" and "3 Day Startup".  My reader thought it "promising."  

Startup Weekend is a global network featuring a "54-hour event where developers, designers, marketers, project managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build projects, and launch startups."  Startup Chutzpah claims that it will "solve a lot of issues, create immense skills and opportunities for those searching for a parnassah, and most of all, be a Kiddush Hashem to create Torah infused companies created and managed by young people."

I wanted to do my homework, so I did some basic research regarding the program that is being rolled out and which is seeking comments and feedback and I am at a complete loss:  The Startup Chutzpah website is an empty template, the online pet supply company that was created does not exist in cyberpace, and no one will "solve a lot of issues" or "create immense skills and opportunities [in the frum community] based on a 54 hour weekend.

Secondly, it is high time we part ways with the hailing of miracles and downright flawed logic.  Yes, Bill Gates (Microsoft) dropped out of Harvard.  Yes, Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) also did.  Each of these great successes had tremendous skill set that they had been developing since childhood and they had experienced great success with their tinkering and ventures up until leaving college.  They had contacts, mentors, and known human resources.  They weren't "dropouts", they were more like NFL players that grabbed the money before graduating and ran with it.  Sometimes an opportunity only comes up once and if you are ready to face the opportunity, great.  But that doesn't render your education or training "neutral".

Programs like Startup Chutzpah certainly capture the imagination, but they are for the seasoned, for those who can lose time and money, and they most certainly should not be promoted to the masses of yeshiva bochurim.  We don't need bootcamps to launch companies, we need solid skill building in elementary, middle, and high school.  We need a Christo Rey program for young people where they can explore industries, get hands on experience in industry, and develop skills that make them valuable employees (and maybe even successful small businessmen and women when they the skills they've built over the years and then launch their business).  I don't oppose entrepreneurship or self-employment (in fact, I've successfully created a fine supplemental income for yours truly), but quite honestly I really think we need more employees and less "entrepreneurs."  I believe that the frum community has more people "in business" than other populations and many of them are "in business" prematurely.

I second DD's comment, although I'm not familiar with the book referenced:  "promoting entrepreneurship for unqualified workers is actually counterproductive and delivers worse ROI than becoming an employee."  This sound and dance has been doing on for quite a while now and the "shortcut" method speaks for itself.  If the shortcuts were working, we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we?


sima said...

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard. But he also got into Harvard. So, if you're brilliant and talented enough that Harvard wants you, maybe you can manage without a college diploma. You can't generalize this experience to a yeshiva guy with almost no secular education, no matter how smart he is.

Charlie Hall said...

I knew Bill Gates in college. (Yeah, I got into Harvard, too.) Your NFL analogy isn't bad.

Other than Gates and Zuckerberg, how many billionaires in the US don't have college degrees?

ProfK said...


According to Forbes, of the 400 billionaires in the US, 63 of them don't have college degrees, a bit more than 15%.

tesyaa said...

ProfK - I don't have any argument with that statistic. But bear in mind that many billionaires made the seeds of their fortunes decades ago, before businesses and technology became so specialized. The fact that 15% of billionaires don't have a college degree does not mean that 15% of future billionaires won't need college degrees.

Miami Al said...

A couple of friends went on leave of absences in school to startup Internet companies (2 at MIT, 1 at Harvard, back when money was flowing in Boston). None of them are billionaires. Ironically, one the of MIT drop outs transferred to Harvard where he finished, and is still an entrepreneur, but not wealthy. The Harvard drop out was fortunate that Harvard let him take a leave of absence, he flopped, went back, finished, and came out the wiser.

The people with the talent and drive to enter those selective schools generally came out okay.

The friends that dropped out of state universities to start businesses have NOT been as fortunate. Many never finished their degree, and have had far less impressive careers than I would have expected.

I think billionaires are the wrong people to look at, those are the outliers.

Too be honest, I think far too much effort is made to promote Frum knockoffs of successful/semi-successful efforts. It would be far more helpful to help observant Jews participate in these sort of events (very difficult to work around Shabbat), or get some sponsors to run a Sunday-Tuesday "startup weekend" than to reinvent the wheel.

I totally get why someone would create a business to offer a knock off, just not sure why the community rallies behind them.

Zach Kessin said...

I have to say that having a startup weekend seems like exactly the wrong model for this community.

I have been in high tech for 20 years and a decent chunk of that around startups. First of all most startups fail. Even with a top team that is true. And many of them take a lot of their founders cash with them. Mind you I plan to keep doing them, but then again I may be crazy.

Second of all in order for a startup to do well it needs a top notch founding team. That means 3-4 people who really know what they are doing. If I were to found a startup I would be looking for a set of co-founders who had some real experience, either in other startups or in College and the Army. Given that team and 48-72 hours in which you work pretty much non stop It *MIGHT* be possible to get to a Minimal Viable Product which could form the basis for a startup. Of course that is assuming you have a good idea of a business model and the technology you plan to use before you start. And of course from there you will need to keep working for months before you ever see a dime.

To say most programmers have never taken a class is just flat out wrong. While there are many of us who do not have a degree in CS (mine is actually in Physics) I took a LOT of computer science in college and have been learning constantly ever since. If you want to be a programmer you should learn a new programming language every 12-18 months! Don't get me wrong I love programming and but it is not a field for the passive.

Bob Miller said...

As usual, results vary with the person and situation.

But to tout any experiment as a cure-all and not an experiment is misleading, especially when its method is untested and, of course, unproven.

The individual needs to take stock of himself and not fantasize that he's Bill Gates.

thegameiam said...

You are precisely correct - in any group, the vast majority are tempramentally suited to be employees, and a minority are suited to be entrepreneurs. Of the entrepreneurs, only a tiny minority are suited to the modern start-up concept - most are suited to doing something which has been done before, just well (restaurant owner, plumber...)

LifeAct said...

The list of billionaires may or may not be relevant, but it would be remiss to leave out two names from that strata that the community is familiar with:

Pinky Green
Shalom Weiss

The relevant question is did THEY earn college degrees or not. Don't bring proofs from Bill Gates and Mark Z, that's not who "our" entrepreneurs aspire to be.

Avi Greengart said...


Fortunately, I had to Google Green & Weiss just to figure out who they are, while I'm quite familiar with BillG and Zuckerberg (not personally). If you're suggesting that "members of our community" aspire to engage in theft and fraud... that's slanderous (to the klal, not to those two crooks).

I do agree that there's a lot of fantastical thinking in the frum world. You can be an ilui in gemara and it has no bearing on your ability to define new products and needs, assess risk, assemble partners, develop a product, market and sell it. What's more, there are people out there who have spent their entire lives focused on breaking into [insert industry here], why would you think that you can just waltz in and do it better?

JS said...

I find these kinds of ideas mind-boggling. It plays on the idea of Jewish (Orthodox Jewish?) exceptionalism - that somehow we're better and smarter than everyone else. So much so, that we don't even need to follow traditional routes to success.

I also find it funny to look to billionaires as the goal - as if a few million is just chump change.

Here's the real test: what do the supposed drop-outs do for their own children's education? I'd bet my last dollar their kids receive the best education money can buy, whether through private tutors or institutions of learning.

If you want to look up to Gates or Zuckerberg, why not emulate their charitable giving. Gates has given away tens of BILLIONS and is only leaving behind a minuscule amount for his kids. He's gotten other rich people to give away their fortunes as well (e.g., Buffett). Zuckerberg has signed on to Gates' charity as well (the pledge is to give nearly all of one's wealth to charity). He most recently made news for giving away $100m to educate Newark's children.

Interesting that we look to these people's wealth and not their acts of chesed and tzedakah. Maybe I'm cynical, but I can't imagine a billionaire Orthodox Jew giving away this kind of money - and ESPECIALLY not to help the poorest and most vulnerable of the world's people (as opposed to private schools for "middle class" Orthodox Jews).

Miami Al said...

BTW, Zuckerberg is Jewish, and identifies as such. He's an alum of Harvard AEPi, the Jewish fraternity's Harvard chapter.

JS said...

I did say Orthodox Jew.

My point was, for example, if someone struck it rich off this startup program he'd give the money to yeshivas (private school for Orthodox Jews) or some kollel and not to stop malaria in Africa or help cure AIDS, etc.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing inherently wrong with workshops for would be entrepeneurs - in fact its a great idea. The problem comes in with suggesting that anyone can be a successful entrepeneur and strike it rich or that a work shop, conference or boot camp can be a substitute for education, training, hard work in the field and experience, rather than a supplement to it. The suggestion that all you need is a 3 or 4 day workshop is the same type of magical thinking behind other get rich quick schemes,such as the ponzi schemes, directing marketing programs, and seguelas that have become all to common.

ps- SL: either I need your glasses or your proove you are not a robot setting is way too strict - very hard to read the smushed up letters.

Zach Kessin said...

The other problem here is the type of company they chose to try and create. An online pet supply company really doesn't work for this idea. First of all setting up an online store is easy, can be done in a few hours with existing software. But more importantly if you are selling physical goods you need to set up the logistics to actually ship and sell them and everything that goes with it. If you are going to make a 3 day startup work you need an entirely online operation (think pinterest) which can build online community.

Orthonomics said...

I am removing word verification because I don't see any settings, just yes or no. Let's see how it works out.

Orthonomics said...

If we stuck it rich, we'd likely use some of the money to help Jewish education in our way. I don't see supporting a cause you believe in as a flaw.

Zach Kessin said...

I also want to say that I am kind of frustrated with so many people taking my profession and assuming it is easy. (Its not) It takes years go become a solid programmer, even with a good college education. Its not something that you can pick up in a weekend, or even a short class. For sure to have skills on the level needed to pull of a 3 day startup would require some real experience in a lot of different areas.

Dave said...


That's why my startup is to run "54 Hour Smicha Bootcamp". A few days of intensive training, and you'll be set to be a Rabbi! No previous experience required.

For those who aren't already Jewish, there will be a special "36 Hour Conversion Bootcamp" first.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Chabad smicha is along the lines of Dave's 54 hour smicha program.

LifeAct said...

" Avi Greengart said...
If you're suggesting that "members of our community" aspire to engage in theft and fraud... that's slanderous (to the klal, not to those two crooks).

I do agree that there's a lot of fantastical thinking in the frum world."

No, I'm not saying that any of our people aspire to criminality, but those are your orthodox billionaires who did not earn a college degree (or even a high school one for that matter). In terms of role models, it would be a huge leap for a RW yeshiva kid to emulate the technology billionaires such as Gates and Zuckerberg, but pretty commonplace to get involved in buying/selling (it's easy to get started in the "flipping" business) like Weiss and Green.

I guess my overall point is that it does no good for anyone to use billionaires as role models, since each one of them is an exceptional circumstance. Instead of trying to become an exception, we should be showing our kids how to strive for the most likely ways to make an honest and respectable living.

Dave said...

It is worth noting that entry level, fresh out of College, CS graduates will make $100k or so in base salary if they are good enough to get a job at one of the major companies. And the benefits at large companies scale in favor of large families.

Of course, that takes more than a "54 hour" workshop.

Zach Kessin said...

I really doubt that a right out of college programmer will pull down $100k+, even if you went to MIT or Stanford. I did a quick check on monster and it looks like the median salary for "Applications Engineer I" which is more or less a title one might get out of college is about $58,500 in Boston. While that is not a bad is a far cry from $100K.

It is possible to make over $100K as a programmer but you need to be very much on the high end. I am pretty sure if I were in Boston I could pull down that kind of number (I may come close in Tel Aviv) But that is after 20 years in the field and having written books on Erlang and HTML5.

JS said...


I think $100k is a bit high, but you're correct that computer science (and other engineering) majors are very highly compensated straight out of college. Especially so if you went to a good university (I don't know what success in the job market graduates of lower ranked schools are finding, if any).

The major point is that computer science is VERY different than programming. Programming is a skill, of course, but programmers are a dime a dozen. It's not that hard to write code in a particular programming language. What's hard is writing GOOD code in a particular language and understanding the theory behind what you're doing. It's the difference between trying 20 different times and hacking together something that looks like it works and thinking the problem through and arriving at an efficient and correct implementation.

You not only need a university education for that, but it helps to go to an excellent school that focuses more on the theory and underlying math instead of programming skills.

By analogy it's the difference between the engineer who designs a car's engine and transmission and the mechanic that rebuilds it.

Dave said...


You can doubt all you like, I wasn't speaking theoretically. If you are good enough to get into one of the top companies as a college hire, it is right around $100k.

(Experienced people especially those with high demand skill sets, can command significantly more than that)

MIT Alumnus said...

Dave's estimate sounds about right.

Applications Developer is a job you get at a normal school, not from a top school.

Also, anyone with the grades to get those big company gigs will also have the grages for the 5th year Masters program (plus tuition waivers and a research assistant stipend), so you're looking at a base salary in the 85k-110k range right now.

Obviously, Seattle pays less than San Francisco, Boston less than New York, etc., but the competition for talent of that aptitude is quite high.

It really is a different world from the Ivy+ Schools than "normal" Tier 1 schools.

RealEngineer said...

Agree on the importance of the education, but a CS major will not be making $100k/year, even in an expensive area. Bachelors will net you $60k-$80k, Masters maybe $70k-$90k. It will take awhile for an engineer for break 6 figures without going into sales or management.

Mr. Cohen said...

Marvin Schick said this on September 5th, 2012:

“High tuition in the United States is a catalyst to an increased number of younger families considering and making aliya.”


If all Jews made aliyah, would that end the yeshivah tuition crisis, or not?

Anonymous said...

I loved the link to the description of the Christo Rey program. It may not be viable for the middle/upper middle class M.O.'s since its probably a lot harder to get employers to hire these kids than the selling point of the Christo Rey schools to get employers on board - i.e. helping out low income, inner city kids or at least helping a Catholic institution. I'm also not sure it would work for the lower income yeshivish and hassidic and RWMO crowd because of (i) the significant time away from Torah study and (ii) the need for these kids to work in mixed gender/mixed religion, mixed everything environments and because the purpose of Christo Rey is to get many of these kids into and through college - not a goal of many RW jews. However the concept of real world skill training, work experience and welf-discipline is terrific and could be modified.

Zach Kessin said...

It might be the case if you are at the top of your class at MIT or Stanford or the like and you get hired by Microsoft, Apple, IBM or Google you might get $100K out of the gate. But again that is like saying that if you get hired out of law school by a big NYC firm you will be making $100K. It is only true if you were at the top of your class at one of a very few top schools.

If you did well in 8200 or Mamram you can probably get a top job in Tel Aviv or Haifa as well. But again that requires actually doing those things.

Dave said...

Microsoft, Apple, IBM, and Google hire, I suspect, more entry level engineers each year than Big Law does entry level associates.

But yes, that was the tier of companies I was referencing.

And while it takes skills and luck to land those positions, it takes less than to make a fortune running your own startup with no training, no experience, and no network of capital to fund you.

(And, for what its worth, as far as I know all of the companies mentioned cast their college recruiting net very wide, not just at the top name schools)

Zach Kessin said...

First of all those top flight jobs are probably mostly in places like Seattle, Palo Alto or San Francisco, which are not exactly frum hotspots. (though from what I can gather are quite nice) also are very expensive.

That and I don't know about the others, but getting hired by Google is hard. They are supper picky about who they take. Despite the fact that I wrote a book on HTML and have been doing this for 20 years I never made it past a phone screen for a HTML5 developer job.

Zach Kessin said...

First of all those top flight jobs are probably mostly in places like Seattle, Palo Alto or San Francisco, which are not exactly frum hotspots. (though from what I can gather are quite nice) also are very expensive.

That and I don't know about the others, but getting hired by Google is hard. They are supper picky about who they take. Despite the fact that I wrote a book on HTML and have been doing this for 20 years I never made it past a phone screen for a HTML5 developer job.

Anonymous said...

I did know a frum family who lived in Palo Alto while the husband worked in high tech. FWIW, the family moved to Israel because of yeshiva tuition.

Dave said...

I know that Microsoft and IBM have some high tech jobs in the NYC area; I don't know about Google or Apple.

But yes, in general, the bulk of those jobs are on the West Coast.

Anonymous said...

I figured out that I am making $87,500 (estimate) this year doing secretarial work, for which you need no degree, just a professional attitude and high level word processing skills and the ability to show up on time every day. That's not enough for a family, but it's a good income for a wife. If she doesn't have to take care of a family, prepare for Shabbos and Yom Tov, or clean the house. Just thought I'd mention it, with all these wives taking masters degrees in the therapies, then faced with student loans.

JS said...


I assume from past comments that you are a legal secretary. It can definitely be a very good career, especially if you end up working for a partner or other senior associates.

However, I'm not sure if there are still as many opportunities as their used to be only a few years ago. Most firms are not hiring many new secretaries and are letting the existing ones go through attrition or lay offs. The expectation is that lawyers can handle their own calls, typing, etc. I expect this trend to continue as the senior partners who are not used to computers and expect dictation services retire.

That said, for those who can break in it is a good career assuming you work for nice people (and I think the stereotype of screaming lawyers is a bit overdone - demanding yes, screaming not so much anymore).

Why do you say it's not a good career for those with family or those who need to prepare food or clean? Many couples work long hours and manage this just fine. Plus, if you make a good salary you can afford to hire help where necessary.

Anonymous said...

Anon: 12:18 - Can you share with us in what city, what type of job and with how many years of experience a secretary makes $87,500 - and how much is base salary and how much is overtime? The national average for secretarial pay is probably in the 40's.

I am very familiar with legal secretary salaries in top (i.e. amlaw 100) firms in Boston. A highly skilled patent secretary might make that type of money or even more with 15-20 years experience. A starting secretary with only a few year's experience would be closer to 50K. If you are in a mediocre small firm, think closer to 35-40K. Also, don't forget that years ago there were one or two secretaries per attorney. Now the norm is closer to 4 lawyers per secretary. As younger, technologically self-sufficient lawyers fill the ranks and everything is done electronically meaning no copying, no filing, etc., and when voice recognition technology gets really good as it will, those ratios are going to keep changing, meaning fewer secretarial jobs. I assume the trends are the same in other industries. Also, these days, to get a higher paying secretarial position, at least an associates degree and excellent language skills (i.e. grammar, spelling (spell catcher doesn't pick up everything) are key. So, yes, it can be a great and lucrative job for some but I'm not sure I'd recommend this as a career path for people starting out or encourage someone to skip college and go to secretarial school.

tesyaa said...

Perhaps the commenter earning $87K doing secretarial work is doing it on a consulting or freelance basis? She may earn more than a salaried secretary, and she may not need employer-subsidized health insurance. She may also be subject to self-employment taxes (around 7%, correct me if I'm wrong). She may also put in extra hours finding employment and negotiating employment. Freelance work can certainly pay more than salaried work, but it's not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Anonymous said...

I work for an excellent high level law firm in Manhattan. We get all benefits, including generous profit-sharing. My estimated salary includes 3 part time jobs which don't take very much of my time - from attorneys and contacts I made in previous jobs. Those I do at home.

You are absolutely right that the field has contracted with the recession and anyone who is not top notch has been laid off. I have survived - but I've been doing this for a long time. Of course you need excellent English skills and have to make a polished impression. I think it's going to be hard to break into, but I spent every summer since I was 17 during college (and after) doing legal secretarial work. Years ago, there was no competition for jobs like today, because every woman with a degree wanted to be an executive. Gloria Steinem told them pink collar jobs were demeaning to women! So I took advantage of a shortage. I never had trouble finding a job. I was hired at the first firm I applied at, a large white shoe firm. I work for 3 attorneys here, and there's no yelling and screaming, everyone is very well mannered but businesslike.

If you want to get your foot in the door, you start in a large firm as a floater and make much less - but if you stay with it, you work your way to a permanent spot then transfer to another mid-sized firm working for more money.

I agree you should have some college, today you have to have two years. When I started, I went straight from high school graduation to my first temp job for the summer.

Dave said...

The thing is, there is currently a known path (if you have the aptitude, are able to get enough of an education as a child to get into a decent college and are willing to put in the work) to a very predictably upper-middleclass income.

But it isn't enough if you want a large family and private schools. And since there is a generous safety net (both in the Orthodox world and from the taxpayers) for those who have a large family and poor income, there is no incentive to actually work for what is merely a 95th percentile income.

Hence the emphasis on "get really rich" schemes. Since the difference between "working hard, making decent money" and "not working, at least on the books, living off of everyone else" as far as lifestyle is minimal, there is no perceived downside to high risk high return shtick, but there is for doing what everyone else does, and working.

Avi Greengart said...

Google and Microsoft have offices in NYC, though I don't believe Microsoft hires developers for this office. Google does, and there's kosher food in the cafeteria. There's a lovely frum community in Palo Alto, CA in the heart of Silicon Valley, but housing pricing is astronomical (because Palo Alto is a ridiculously nice place to live, not because there's a shul there). Another issue is that there is no local Orthodox high school, although they are trying to change that.

There is an element of truth to the frum community's misconception of computer programming that anyone can do it; it's a bit like Ratatouille - only extremely talented people make six figure incomes, but those people can come from anywhere with any background if they can establish themselves as elite. Write a best-selling iPhone game, and you're set, even if you don't have a formal CS degree. Want to move into technical project management? You don't need grad school credentials (though it helps) you need PMI certification, which costs $400. The problem is that it takes serious skills to write a good app, never mind a best-selling one. That PMI certification? It requires a few years of actual project management before you can even take the test. You simply can't leave yeshiva, attend a weekend seminar, and jump to a salary that can support a family. It's dangerously naive to think otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Although becoming a legal secretary is not the answer for today's youth due to the shrinking market, I'm glad anon shared her story. There are a lot of important lessons - she worked hard in a real world job starting at 17 - she worked part-time while in school and summers (rather than extended trips to Israel or summering as a senior camp counselor), made and kept good connections and was willing to forge her own path rather than follow whatever was the "in" career path at the time. Kudos to you.

Anonymous said...

Avi: You seem rather fixated on programming. I don't see anyone saying you can become a programmer or top level programmer over a weekend.

JS said...

I think the real issue here is that you don't have a community of workers. This creates many problems.

First is a lack of role models. Even something as simple as looking at a macher in the shul and being told "oh, that guy's a surgeon/ lawyer/ businessman/ etc" makes a huge difference. Kids need examples of success to emulate or be envious of (in a good way, as in "I want that, too.").

Second, there's no one to talk to about the realities of a particular career path. Everyone knows there are rich surgeons, lawyers, and businessmen. But, you need those people to talk to in order to find out how they got there. Those conversations provide a realistic outlook and help one gauge how likely a certain outcome is. Otherwise you have the absurd notion that any yutz can just go to medical school and instantly earn hundreds of thousand.

Third, there's no one to approach for resume builders such as internships or summer jobs. These are critical to get later jobs and to get experience as to what a certain career path is like.

Fourth, you don't have mentors or people to turn to when you need help or advice in your career or education. Should I take this class or that class? Should I emphasize this on the resume or that? My boss is doing X; what should I do?

Fifth, you're walking the path not taken which makes you an outlier and strange. That makes a tough slog even harder.

It's really no different from various minority communities that have been excluded from various professions and educational opportunities. They face the same hardships.

Anonymous said...

Why, thank you Anon. 1:50 PM for your good words. I want to add that women who know I am a secretary are unanimously negative. These are a few of the comments I have received:

"You? You a secretary?"
"Are you still working as a secretary?"
"You don't care about prestige." (I answered, "True, I don't.")

and the best insult I've ever received, and the funniest:

"You're not a writer, you're a secretary!" (I do write for publication; this is a hobby as it pays NEXT TO NOTHING.)

I'd rather be a legal secretary! And have financial security. I really lucked out.

Also, the computer led to a marked increase in salaries for secretaries. Older secretaries couldn't learn the computer and retired early. So again, there was a shortage at both ends of the spectrum - younger women wanting professional prestige and older secretaries retiring because of the new technology.

Anonymous said...

Anon Secretary: I think your career path was brilliant. I am a lawyer and I often would love to trade places with my secretary. I make more than she does BUT she doesn't have to worry constantly if her billable hours or her collection or realization statistics are on par as compared with others in the firm or who gets origination credit for which client, etc. She doesn't have to worry about deadlines and statutes of limitations and when she goes home at night she is done for the day wheras I am worrying about the brief due next week, etc., reading advance sheets, writing articles, editing associates' work .. . On a purely hourly basis, she probably makes more. She is a lot like you - she is smart and could have done something else, but she enjoys her job, is good at it and could not care less that it may not be considered the most presitgious position by some. Instead, she takes pride in doing her best and knowing that her job is to make the lawyers look good, keep us sane (not always doable) and help us take care of clients.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, Anon. 2:43 PM. I know what your job is like, believe me. I can leave at 5:30 and live a life; the attorneys work long hours and do the intellectual heavy lifting, with concommitant responsibility. I'm glad you appreciate your secretary. If there are attorneys out there who appreciate what we do, we are not an endangered species. Yes, I do take pride in my work and I appreciate working for my firm.

tesyaa said...

Anon, my mother had a good "second" career as a legal secretary starting in her late 40s after 15-20 years home with us kids. She also had the disadvantage of never having worked in this country, though she worked in her birth country as a secretary before marriage. She didn't work for a prestigious firm, but she earned a worthwhile second income. I remember her struggle to "learn the computer", but I never realized how crucial it was until I read your comment. While I'm sure she knew that her computer skills were essential, she often said that her biggest advantage was her knowledge of Pitman shorthand. :)

Anonymous said...

My Gregg shorthand has also been extremely useful. Also that I was young enough to pick up the computer easily when it came out. I learned Shakespeare monologues in high school and I'm glad I did. But we took typing and shorthand in 9th grade, and that has been my most valuable class in terms of earning a living. I'm also able to pick up new software which is constantly being rolled out.

Avi Greengart said...

Kudos to our anonymous secretary. I wish I had a secretary...

I'm fixated on computer programming precisely because I've heard over and over again how anyone can become a programmer (apparently overnight), and therefore there's no harm in staying an extra year or three in Israel/yeshiva/kollel and we don't need to overhaul our education system or set realistic expectations.

(What's worse: my wife actually did become a programmer with no educational background or even interest in the subject, and then transitioned to technical project management. When people hear that, it matches their preconceived notions that anyone can do it, and I always point out, "yes, she did. She's BRILLIANT. Are you?")

Sadly, I think Dave has a real point. Even if you do everything right, you still can't afford a large family and private tuition, so you need to strive to be rich. That leads to get-rich-quick schemes or cutting corners which is antithetical to being frum in the first place.

Dave said...

That leads to get-rich-quick schemes or cutting corners which is antithetical to being frum in the first place.

While it may be antithetical to observing the commandments, it is demonstrably not antithetical to being frum.

Anonymous said...

Responding to Anon 1:50 - Thank you for your validation of my choice - but I had no choice! With a large family and my father in a government job, I was responsible for helping pay for the women's religious college I was expected to attend, and did. There was no choice to be a camp counselor or take a jaunt to Israel! That was for the rich, and we were one of the most economically stable families I knew in a community where all the other fathers, who my father still called "refugees", had little groceries or other mom and pop stores. This was in the prosperous sixties!

So don't give me credit for working. I was proud to be able to give a large sum to my father at the end of the summer to pay for college.

My brother worked the summer he was 16 driving an ice cream truck around the neighborhoods. He also had a job bagging groceries in the supermarket and helping people bring their groceries to the car for tips.

So I can't take any credit for working when I was 17. In fact, all the girls in my class had jobs that summer!

Zach Kessin said...

First of all to the various Anons, could you all maybe pick some form of name to post under, just so we can tell you appart.

One nice thing about programming is that if you are good at it. It is a very portable job. I have Lived in Boston, London and Israel and found work in all 3 places. So if you start programming in New York, work for a few years and then want to make Aliyah. I can tell you there are a *LOT* of jobs for programmers around Israel

Anonymous said...

Computer programming is like any other profession. 5% are amazing, 20% are good and 75% are barely cutting it. The good thing is that there is plenty of mindless work in this field such as documentation, testing, graphics, data processing, conversions, configuration management, etc.. to keep these 75% employed. But if any of these 75% people have actual input into design and implementation of core algorithms, then the product will be a mess. There is absolutely no correlation between the 5% that are amazing and their “educational pedigree”. They could be self thought, IVY league, drop outs, community college, etc.. The bottom line is these people’s brains are wired for this kind of work. You cannot learn this talent. Ever! Don’t even try. You can become part of the 20% of the good programmers with lots of training, but you will never be the 5%. Its kind of like looking into those 3D posters. If it takes you more than a few seconds to see it, you already lost.

As far as compensations goes, most people’s salaries top out 8-12 years into a professions. So, the 5% can expect a salary between 150K and 250K, the 20% will get 100K – 175K and the 75% will get 75K-120K. Locations does not matter much in the US, since it’s a global market place out there. There are a few exceptions such as those that start their own companies, start ops, stock options, etc.., but those are rare cases. The Majority of CS people are not wired for business and prefer to become experts and pull in decent salaries.

If you think are you an amazing programmer and are not pulling in 150K by the time you are 30, then either (1) you are providing charity to your employer or (2) your ego is in the way.

Dave said...

In my experience, if your income maxes out in your early 30s as a programmer, you are doing it wrong.

Anonymous said...

or you are just not that good. Not everyone is a Bill Gates

Zach Kessin said...

I have to agree with Dave, i am almost 40 and am definitively moving up. Of course I have also been really working on raising my profile in a number of ways including writing books, giving lectures etc.

Anonymous said...

I would like to stress that I was refering to salaries as a programmer/developer/etc. Obviously your "income" would be affected if you have more then one job, side jobs, write books, transition to management or executive positions. I am also not considerig the 1-5% raises that you get most of your life since these are just cost of living adjustments.

Zach Kessin said...

I was fired from my job last Jan (Thank G-d) and went out as a freelancer. I make less than I did then but its going up and I am having a lot more fun.

The books bring me more money in terms of freelance work then they do in terms of actual direct revenue

Dave said...

(Actually, in this economy, 5% is a raise raise)

More seriously, if you plan on doing programming into your 40s and 50s (as opposed to leading a team of programmers, going into management, or some other not-actively-cutting-code-direction), you need to keep your skills very very sharp.

There is a strong age-bias against older programmers. A young programmer who doesn't know some particular piece of technology is deemed to be inexperienced but capable of coming up to speed on it. A middle-aged programmer who does not know the desired technology is often deemed hopelessly behind the times.

Need A Name said...

So, besides for programming (which not everyone can do), what are good career paths for the young men and women to aspire to?
We need to come up with a list to recommend neighbors, friends, students ect instead of the "therapies". We have way too many frum speech therapists, special ed teachers and OTs out there without jobs (or decent jobs). While it was a good profession to begin 5 years ago, the fields are now flooded. I know many who want a decent job (and are willing to go for graduate school) but just are out of ideas!

Anonymous said...

I would look for a job as a medical receptionist if I were starting today. Greeting patients and doing whatever was needed. I would move up the ladder as the years progressed - make lateral moves to a hospital where promotions would be available, and go to night college to burnish my resume. I'm the legal secretary. It's clear that legal has contracted, but medical is the wave of the present, to say nothing of the future. If you have ability and common sense and know your way around a computer, you should get a job in medical reception, entry level, right after high school, while working on your AA. Then move on to your BS. You might want to become an RN and move on to nurse practitioner. Those fields are not flooded.

I told a close young relative years ago that there were too many frum girls going into speech therapy, and she would face a lot of competition. Naturally she disregarded my advice. And guess what? I was right. Therapists in Lakewood have to take "undesirable" jobs working for public schools 45 minutes from Lakewood, because all the close in jobs are taken. Now she's trying to build an independent practice.

In fact, if I were graduating from high school, I would look to get my foot in the door at a high quality hospital, take courses while working to improve my qualifictions, and work my way up. If you are a nurse, you can get a master's and become an administrator. Medical is the field of the present moment, and the future.

Anonymous said...

And men should consider becoming RN's, too. They can then go on to study to be a nurse practitioner, while working at a hospital as a RN. It's a slog, but what are your 20's for but to establish your career? That's what a close relative of mine is doing. He can open his own practice as a nurse practitioner in his state.

We also find it very useful to have two nurses in the family to call upon in family medical crises.

But don't do what the crowd is doing! Don't, don't get involved in pyramid schemes. Don't do what your friends are doing. You'll be competing with them. The 18 year old therapy students are not going to find desirable jobs when 28 year olds have had a ten year head start.

Dave said...

Jobs pay well because someone who can afford to pay for them has to pay that much money to get someone to do it.

So anything which is *easy* to do, anything which just *anyone* could do, especially after minimal to no training, will only pay well if it is dangerous, illegal, or both. Because it is the danger (whether physical or legal) which limits the number of potential applicants. Otherwise, the labor supply would simply force the price down.

From this, we can determine that jobs that pay well have some gating factor that prevent the labor market from rapidly rebalancing. Some of these are legal (no matter how bright you are, you still need a law degree in almost every state, if not every state at this point, before you can attempt the Bar Exam). Some deal with aptitude (the innumerate make accountants). Others deal with the time to acquire the skills (no 54 hour Neurosurgery for Dummies workshops available). And still others are risk based; some jobs are just dangerous. However, sheer physical danger does not translate into money, otherwise we'd have a lot of very very wealthy coal miners and fishermen.

And even then, skills which take years to acquire, and are very rare, are still only lucrative if someone with money has a demand for them.

The good news is, the same rules apply to everyone, so there are many articles trying to guess what jobs will be in demand over the next 10 years. Find one that fits your aptitudes, and see what you need to do to qualify.

Dave said...

..the innumerate make poor accountants...

Anonymous said...

It's a pity so many religious people believe making money is done by magic cures - workshops, 3 days of pep talks - rather than taking the slow, study and work route. I haven't heard any Gemorah Kup in 3 Days courses!

Good summation, Dave.

A lot of impatient people trying to make up for lost time by trying alchemy. The only ones who make money from these courses are the (unethical) operators who run them.

Anonymous said...

I agree that nursing, particularly advanced practice nursing is a good field for those with the right dispositions and talents. Just remember that to get the good nursing jobs these days, a BS, not just an associates degree is necessary. You also generally can't do all of it through night school, particularly the clinical components. You will need to get your b.s., work a few years then get a masters and do more training to move on to being a nurse practitioner or working in one of the other advanced nursing practice fields like certified nurse midwife or certified nurse anesthetist. Also remember that you will need to do well in advanced math, biology and chemistry.

Young people should also not only think about what fields (i.e. nursing) are hot today, but where the demand will be in the future. For example, demographics indicate a great coming need for advanced practide nurses specializing in geriatrics.

If nursing is not for you, then look at a warming world and climate change and what that may mean - the agricultural sciences -i.e. developing more drought resistent crops and crops resistent to insects will be important, so will entomolgy. Water shortages mean hydrology and conservation sciences will have a demand, etc.

Anonymous said...

The demand for math and science education is going to continue to grow. Getting a bs and masters in applied math and any of the hard sciences is the was to go - if you don't get a job at a biotech co. or a research lab, then there is always going to be a demand for high school teachers in advanced math, biology and chemistry, and you will always have the option of going on to a PhD. The good thing is you might be able to get into a masters program that has a full scholarship and even a stipend if you stick to the hard sciences, unlike many other graduate degrees that will require another outlay of tuition.

Miami Al said...

In a perfectly competitive market, economic profit goes to zero, therefore the premium for your labor in the market goes to zero. If you wish to make a good income, you need to pick an industry where something prevents the market from being competitive.

That means, you want a "broken" market. What does that?

Some requirements of a perfectly competitive market, and therefore we look for ways this is wrong: "Infinite buyers/sellers, nobody can affect the market," "no barriers to enter/exit," "zero transaction costs," "homogenous products."

So we want markets where this is not true. Examples:

Limited suppliers: an industry where despite high prices, the ability to increase the supply is limited. Elite professional athletes are an example, only so many people are born with the genetic possibility to become one, the marketplace encourages people to try, so you can expand it, but there are only so many people capable of it.

Entry Barriers/Exit Barriers: this is why law seems good, it has a high entrance barrier (JD, Bar Exam), and a high exit barrier (student loans, continuing education requirement... you want to stop practicing, you don't want to risk starting over so you keep your license).

Transaction Costs: once people hire an accountant, it is expensive to switch, because you pay to get someone up to speed.

Non-homogenous products: services can be awful here... with the "therapies," you are paid based on a set insurance rate, so being "better" doesn't help.

Basically, pick a field where you are "stuck" once in it and it's hard to get into it, and there is a significant limitation to doing so.

Terrific field: School Rebbe:

There is a finite supply of potentials (Orthodox Jewish Men), Semicha provides entrance AND exit barriers, you have to get it to become a Rebbe, and you can't ever leave because of the requirements under Jewish Law for Rabbis, the only way out is to cease being an Orthodox Jew, and you can somewhat differentiate your product to extract a premium.

Awful Field: Computer programmer

There is almost no barriers to enter/exit, anyone with a background in logic can pick up the hot language of the day, won't be an awesome hacker, but they can sling some code. Information is out there, you can look at code samples, and for the lower level programmers, it's a pretty homogenous product... oh, and there is almost no transaction cost to hiring someone around the world.

If you want professional fields, I would focus on fields where there is extensive government regulation, the most people in it complain, the better. The more regulated the better, and the more the trade associations are raising barriers over time the better. If your customer has no idea what you do and it's a black box, even better.

Good luck.

Zach Kessin said...

Terrific field: School Rebbe
Awful Field: Computer programmer

I reject your reality and substitute my own.

The problem with being a Rebbe is that many of the schools that would employ you are broke. How often have we read about a school going into bankruptcy or being 6 months behind on payroll?

As for being a programmer, at least being a good one, there are defiantly barriers to entry. They may not be formal ones but let me assure you they exist. Yes any bozo can pick up a bit of PHP and throw together a web page, but being able to be a pro is quite a different story. And the nice thing is that when you are interviewing someone it is quite easy to tell. You just ask them to write some code. And while there are a lot of developers out there, there is also a lot of work to be done! I know that I have as much as I can do and could book a lot more if I could find the time to do it.

though in retrospect I think your comment might have been intended as sarcasm. said...


Yes and no... Software Developer and Computer Programmer are generally distinct jobs and career paths. Most Software Developers have college degrees and enter as professions. Most programmers learn a language or two and hustle to get jobs.

Regarding Rebbes, the "6 months behind" usually means screwing everyone BUT the Rebbes, they tend to get paid, more or less. In addition, their "tuition reduction" is NEVER behind on payment.

Let's have some numbers.

Salary, 75k
Parsonage: 15k

Pay: $90k or $10k/mo

If you 6 kids should cost $72k/year for tuition but your Rabbi discount makes it $27k, and it's taken out of your 9 months of Salary @ $2k/month, so you are paid $8k/mo.

If you aren't a Rebbe, and a business failure costs you a month of salary, you still have your tuition expense AND no income, but as a Rebbe, it's only your net behind.

Let's say the school falls behind 1 month/year, so you're only paid 8 months of Salary, you didn't lost $10k, you lost $8k, because the tuition comes out of your pay.

In fact, since your health care is also "taken out" of your paycheck, but paid by the school, it's even less. The only thing you lose from being "a month behind" is your net pay.

So who is going to have higher net pay, the Yeshiva boy that becomes a Rebbe, or the Yeshiva boy that becomes a programmer and sends his kids to the same Yeshiva?

No Name Yet said...

Miami Al-
And this is the reason (or one of many reasons) that our yeshiva systems are out of whack and are behind. They give out too many benefits to their teachers and in effect encourage all their students to join the same field as the current rebbes, making the job flooded. the schools also have less actually paying students and more on "tuition reduction".

Mr. Cohen said...

In a few hours, it will be Rosh HaShanah. May HASHEM grant all Shomer Shabbat Orthodox Jews their desires for: healing, health, wealth, happiness, shidduchim, shalom bayit, success, teshuvah, mechilah, long and productive life, Gan Eden and everything good.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Cohen: What about the 90% of other jews? Let's wish all a healthy and sweet year.

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