Varying levels of economic security are represented in this checklist. Not every item is unique to technology, but all of them affect power relations between employers and employees, and between people who are ostensibly each other's peers, in tech.
Not every privilege on this list applies to everyone who is an economically secure tech worker. Rather, it's about noticing patterns and observing which unearned advantages you may have enjoyed or lacked.
As an economically secure tech worker:
Choice in employment
- You can choose to alienate or decline a potential employer if its hiring/screening practices strike you as unethical, such as demanding social media login information.
- You can choose to decline a potential employer if its greater business practices strike you as bad, such as deliberately building back doors into enterprise software.
- You can choose to decline a potential employer if the task you would be hired to do would be distasteful or against your ethics, such as designing user interfaces to trick users into making questionable choices.
- You can afford to turn down a job that is overly grabby of your non-work-related intellectual property.
- If a workplace becomes abusive or otherwise intolerable, you feel as though you have the option of just leaving, even if you do not have a new job lined up immediately.
- You find it hard to understand why someone might choose not to leave a workplace that has become intolerable, if they are a skilled tech worker who could surely find a new job quickly.
- You can choose to turn down or leave a job if the work is not exciting or fulfilling, even if it is tolerable and pays well.
- You feel free to negotiate your salary and benefits with a potential employer, confident in the knowledge that you don't have to just accept the first offer that comes along for the sake of paying rent for the next month.
- Even if it sets back your long-term financial goals, you have retirement savings or other assets that you can draw on if your regular savings run low between jobs.
- You have relatives or close connections whose economic support you can fall back on in case of extended unemployment.
- You have sufficient privilege and experience to work as a consultant or independent contractor, giving you the freedom to choose your own working conditions and choose which clients to perform services for. You have sufficient savings to deal with the risks inherent in not working for a bigger company.
- You have the option of working for a very early startup, because you know that if the company goes under, you'll have enough savings to support yourself while looking for a new job.
- You have the freedom to start your own company, because you can pay for startup costs and/or have enough savings to support yourself for a period of time if your business fails.
- You can change careers if you want to, without feeling like you need to stay in a lucrative but personally unfulfilling job in order to pay off debts or support a family.
- You have a spouse or partner who has a secure income and who you can rely on at least temporarily if you lose your own job.
- If you want to, you can experiment with working in a much-lower-paying job in a different profession, because you can fall back on savings.
- You feel less trapped than your less-well-off peers because even while working full-time, you know you have the freedom to take unpaid time off if you so choose.
- If you want or need to, you can take potentially several years off from working in tech to find yourself, relax, de-stress, recover from physical or mental health issues, travel, explore hobbies, or explore potential alternate careers.
Advantages in job-hunting
- Your interview to hire ratio may have given you a positive feeling about the interview process that someone who has interviewed extensively without getting hired does not have.
- In general, recruiters contact you, and you turn them down, rather than the other way around.
- You have the leisure time to contribute to open source projects.
- Even if most of your paid work is under NDA, you can point to your open source contributions.
- Employers don't have to take your word that you're good, they can see your exact work.
- If you screw up a whiteboard portion of an interview, you could still get hired if your open source work is good.
- When searching for a new job, you can afford to spend multiple days of unpaid time -- per company -- on interviews.
- You can afford to buy clothing for job interviews that will suggest to your interviewers that you're a good culture fit (whether that means a suit or the right kind of messenger bag).
- You don't have children or aging parents to care for, or chronic illnesses requiring ongoing medical care and thus are free to work as a contractor, without benefits.
- You know your skills are in demand, and you are likely to find another job if you need one, before your savings run out. (Some otherwise economically secure people such as women or people of color who are perceived to be less likely to be technically skilled may be disadvantaged here.)
- If you're offered an appealing job in another city (or even country), you can afford to move.
Security about employment
- You suffer from less performance anxiety about your job because you know that if you were fired, you could easily find another one and would have enough savings to support yourself in the interim.
- Because your past employers have paid you well, you trust that future employers will feel justified or compelled to pay you similarly well.
- If you accepted a job with lower pay than you have received in the past, you are confident that future employers will not use the lower paying job as a reason to pay you less than you feel you should receive.
- If you accepted a job with lower pay, you could still live comfortably, even if it meant investing less, saving less, or reducing your expenses.
- If your company's pay structure is changing, you know that even if your compensation is reduced, it is only likely to make a difference in your long-term goals, not need an immediate change in your day-to-day life.
- If you have more than one job, it is not because your first job does not provide enough hours or make enough money for you to support yourself and/or your family.
- If you work more than 40 hours per week on a regular basis (at one or more jobs), it is not because 40 hours per week worth of work does not make enough money for you to support yourself and/or your family.
- If your job makes demands of you that causes you to incur extra costs (such as crunch mode with 14 hour shifts requiring meals delivered to the office in order to keep working) you feel confident in asking your job to help cover the extra costs, or you are already in a position where you can cover these costs without straining your budget.
- You work for a company which can probably afford to compensate everyone working crunch mode for an extra meal at the office during the entirety of the crunch time, including delivery costs.
- You feel free to make jokes or be pushy, rude, or insubordinate at work, and enjoy the benefits that these behaviors can have for establishing trust. You don't worry about losing your job as a result of being yourself.
- You have never worried about becoming homeless as a result of losing your job.
- If self-employed, you can afford sufficient health coverage that a major accident or illness would not be financially ruinous. (In the United States, particularly prior to the Affordable Care Act.)
- If you apply to a position which uses financial background checks, you can be sure that there is nothing there that would disqualify you from the position.
- You are unlikely to have suffered a medically related blotch on your credit record, or a bankruptcy related to an unaffordable major illness.
- You approach your job as a pastime and/or way to afford luxuries, while taking your own survival for granted.
- You assume you will always enjoy the level of economic security that you do now.
- You assume that due to your current job security and good compensation/benefits, there is nothing a labor union could assist you with.
Insulation from the Public
The core features of your job are less likely to involve direct contact with the general public.
- You are less likely to have a conversation with someone who dislikes your company specifically in the course of your work.
- Even if you work on a feature that is largely disliked, you are less likely to face someone telling you what they think of it.
- Getting bad feedback from end-users can feel like being unfairly singled out for criticism. (In some cases, individuals with marginalized identities do get unfairly singled out.)
- If you work on software that is ultimately used to violate people's human rights, you are not always called to account for your role.
Ability to work
- Even work that needs close coordination with teammates can usually be done remotely, given a proper computer where you are and a fast, stable internet connection.
- Your job classification is more likely to be listed as requiring a laptop (either as primary machine or sole machine), enabling you to have a suitable work machine with you at all times.
- You're less likely to be late for work or miss work because your car broke down or because the bus you rely on runs behind schedule; because your child was sick and you couldn't afford to pay someone to care for them; or because you have a lengthy commute due to not being able to afford to live near work.
- If your primary means of transportation is out of service or totaled, you can afford the up-front costs to rent a vehicle or otherwise get to work as quickly and reliably, even if insurance does eventually cover those costs.
- Your primary vehicle being totaled will probably not result in the loss of your job, as you will be able to pay for transport to work and get a replacement vehicle.
- You can afford the transit costs to work from the office in distant locations (such as office parks poorly served by public transit) or at atypical hours (when public transit does not run).
- You don't have to worry about losing vacation days if you take time off when you're sick, because your employer tallies vacation days separately from sick days or even has unlimited time off.
- You don't suffer from stress and sleep deprivation arising from having to spend a large part of your day commuting from an area with affordable housing to an area where your tech company's office is.
- Taking an unpaid sick day will not cause you to be unable to pay a bill.
- You have enough choices when it comes to employment that you can work from home -- either reducing your cost of living and increasing your disposable income, or improving the quality of your life and reducing stress.
- If you work remotely, you can afford to pay for a co-working space membership and/or pay for food and drinks at coffee shops regularly, so as to have social contact while working.
- Your job may pay you for certain costs of equipping a home office, such as a chair and desk that will enable you to work a full shift without ergonomic injury, monitors to see enough of your desktop without constantly switching back and forth, and a business quality internet connection.
- You can work long hours because your workplace offers amenities like meals, laundry, and on-site haircuts, or pays you enough that you can easily afford delivery meals at work, laundry services, and so forth, rather than a more time-intensive lower-cost way of meeting these needs.
- Since your physical needs are well taken care of, the quality of your work during long hours is better than that of people with equal skill who cannot afford to pay for delivery meals and other necessary items every day, who is working those same long hours.
Access to and comfort with money/investments
- You have sufficient savings to support yourself and your family for several months.
- You know how to manage money carefully because you grew up with wealth and learned about money management from your parents, rather than overspending because as a tech worker you feel unbelievably rich.
- You have never felt deprived as the result of a lack of money (not being able to afford necessities, entertainment, or occasional luxuries) so you are not tempted to overspend in order to stock up/treat yourself now that you have money.
- You feel comfortable managing stock options, stock grants, and other investments that can be part of a compensation package, because you grew up in a socioeconomic stratum where investing was a normal activity.
- You are secure in starting your own company, because you are familiar with the process of incorporation as a matter of course, and will not risk your personal assets beyond what you have invested in the company if something goes terribly wrong.
- You can afford novel investments such as cryptocurrencies, because you can afford the loss if it collapses or otherwise goes away.
- If an online payment method linked to one of your bank accounts goes amok, it will not cause you to go hungry, have utilities shut off, or lose your home, as you have money in other accounts and ability to access it quickly.
- You do not have to have to be hypervigilant over your micropayment budget (for small apps, single pieces of music, inexpensive ebooks) because it is unlikely to become a significant portion of your entertainment budget, or result in skipping a meal or outing if you miscalculate.
- When you get a raise or a bonus, you know you have the option of saving or investing the money, rather than paying off debt.
- You feel entitled to the salary and benefits you enjoy, rather than experiencing survivor's guilt over making much more money than your family members and peers from childhood.
- You can lease an expensive luxury car rather than buying it outright even when you have the money to do so, and describe this choice as "kind of frugal".
- You assume that all of your colleagues in tech have the same economic privileges that you do.
- You feel that anyone could have achieved the level of economic security that you have, just by going to school and working hard.
- If you got to your current level of economic security by working hard, educating yourself, and saving aggressively, you can discount the level of luck necessary that a series of poorly timed disasters did not wipe out most or all of your progress.
- If you experienced a poorly timed disaster that you survived financially because you got an interest-free or low-interest loan from a relative or friend, you can still feel comfortable taking credit for your financial survival without acknowledging that the economic security of your close connections playing a crucial role.
- You identify individualist reasons for the existence of people less economically secure than you are (e.g. "They need to try harder"), rather than structural reasons (e.g. "The maintenance of a permanent underclass is essential to a capitalist economy").
Access to technology
- If your primary personal computer breaks/is stolen, you can obtain another sufficiently powerful machine without neglecting other financial responsibilities.
- You can afford to pay for offsite and/or redundant backups, reducing the chance you will suffer data loss if your local machine breaks down or is stolen.
- You have a personal machine which is suitable for development work on current technologies.
- Since your personal machine is suitable for technical work, you can work on side projects (personal, charity, other jobs) with less fear that your primary workplace would try to lay claim to that work or accuse you of using their resources inappropriately.
- When your personal machine becomes unsuitable for modern development, you can upgrade or replace it.
- Your home internet is always on, stable, and fast enough. (Yes, this is an issue even in the San Francisco Bay Area.)
- If power, phone, cellphone, or internet connectivity go out in your area, service will be quickly restored because your neighborhood has a substantial collective clout and will lawyer up if utilities are neglected.
- You can choose indefinitely recurring paid technical necessities (such as a $40/year email plan) because you know you will always have the money available when it is needed, therefore you do not need an ad-supported free version.
- You can afford to buy a new technology in order to try it, even if it does not turn out to work as well as anticipated.
- If you need to return malfunctioning technology, or something you turned out not to need, you are likely to have the same debit or credit card you used to pay for it, even if you don't have the receipt. If you paid cash and don't have the receipt, you are less likely to be accused of having shoplifted it to try to get a refund.
- You can afford to invest in tools you're not sure you will use, or for projects you may never get around to completing.
- You feel comfortable denouncing tradeoffs that economically insecure people make to get access to technology as ideologically wrong, in their presence.
- Your proposed solutions for fixing a problem involving an "evil" choice that economically insecure people take to get access to technology all tend to involve that person paying money for the technology or losing access to the technology, without any suggestion how that person would get the money other than deducting it from their food-and-drinks-at-coffee-shops budget.
- You can participate in expensive hobbies (e.g. "maker culture"), travel, and/or costly social events like Burning Man, giving you something to talk about with your co-workers as part of establishing informal working relationships.
- You can participate in time-consuming hobbies, because your spare time does not have to be put toward more work, extensive commuting, or time-consuming labor in order to save money (like cooking at home and doing your own laundry).
- You don't feel ashamed, awkward, or resentful when co-workers discuss their expensive hobbies in your presence, because you do not have urgent needs which you can barely afford which cost less than their hobbies.
- You can afford to go out to restaurants for lunch with your co-workers, saving yourself the time it takes to pack lunch at home, as well as improving your professional life by giving yourself opportunities for building informal working relationships.
- You do not have to worry about your car looking out of place next to your co-workers' new cars or well-maintained classic cars.
- If you dress casually or in clothes showing visible signs of wear, it is because you like those clothes, not because you cannot afford replacements or to upgrade.
- You can afford high-quality, durable clothing up front, and can store and maintain it to retain its appearance throughout its useful life. Since you can afford the initial investment (and don't have to choose between say a good pair of boots and a car payment that month) you may wind up paying less per year than someone who has to choose lower quality clothes.
- You know you can afford tailoring to make your clothes flatter you to your best advantage.
- Your job does not have a dress code as such, and your physical appearance is not considered relevant to your job function. (Women may still be singled out for appearance-based criticism.)
- You do not worry that people take you less seriously or treat you worse because of your choice of clothes. If you feel the need to increase the formality and/or visible quality of your clothing (for a single occasion or in the long term), you can do so without hardship. (People of size have fewer clothing options at any level of formality, quality, and price point.)
- You can afford high-quality personal grooming services, like skilled hairdressers. If you choose less expensive options, you are being frugal or virtuous by not "wasting" money on "shallow" things like appearance.
- You can afford a gym membership, home gym equipment and the needed space, and training to use the equipment effectively/motivate you, in order to build or maintain visible muscle tone, or otherwise shape your body.
- If your body shape and/or size fluctuates or changes, you can afford a new wardrobe, or can store clothes in all of the sizes that will likely fit you again.
Health and self-care
- You can regularly eat meals which are both delicious to you and nutritionally well-suited to your body, either by having the time and skills to cook for yourself, the support of another household member who cooks, or dining out/getting high-quality takeout meals.
- You can afford to treat high-quality home cooking as an enjoyable hobby, rather than a chore. You have access to fresh ingredients. If you are not fully confident in your cooking skills or ability to cook an interesting variety of meals, you can afford lessons or a meal service which supplies ingredients and mistake-resistant instructions.
- You feel comfortable treating costs related to self-care (e.g. vacations, massages, even therapy) as necessary expenses that keep you able to work, rather than as frivolous excesses.
- You can afford to take the time and money to investigate an unexpected symptom and may catch an illness before it becomes a major thing.
- You can afford a gym membership, home gym equipment and the needed space, and training to use the equipment effectively/motivate you, in order to maintain or improve your physical stamina, and other health benefits of regular physical activity.
- If your workplace supplies meals during a crunch mode session, it is likely not the cheapest option. The selection is varied and includes options which are nutritionally well-suited to your body (e.g. not straight-up pizza for a month, gluten-free items for folks with celiac disease, lactose-free/dairy-free for dairy sensitive folks, enough protein for nursing parents, vegetarian and vegan options). If the food on offer is unsuitable, you can afford to order in something suitable. If you complain, you have faith the complaints won't be used to build a case that you are a troublesome worker who should be dismissed.
- Since finances are unlikely to be a source of major worry, you're less likely to experience depression and anxiety related to them.
- You can afford to seek medical attention any time you need it (in areas which charge/charge a lot for medical care).
- You can afford to pay as much as required in order to get prompt medical attention (in areas which this applies).
- You can afford to take time at home to recover when you are mildly sick, reducing the chances that your illness will get worse.
- Coming into the office while contagious is culturally discouraged, reducing your odds of getting sick in the first place.
- Since your physical needs are well taken care of, your immune system is more likely to make short work of an intruder.
- Medical professionals are more likely to take seriously and properly treat any chronic illness suffered by people in economically secure social classes.
Housing and household
- If you live with people outside of immediate family members/intimate partner(s), it is by choice, rather than not being able to afford individual housing.
- If you live with your parents or similar family members in a dwelling which they are responsible for, it is not because you cannot afford to move out on your own.
- You can afford the housing prices in areas which attract established or rising technical companies.
- You own one or more residences; money you pay towards them is an investment.
- Your main economic disaster scenario is "can't afford house payment, sell the house in a downturn, lose my investment, have to buy a less nice house or rent again" rather than homelessness.
- Due to the possibility for remote work, you could own a home somewhere more affordable than many technically focused locations, while still commanding high technical worker wages.
- You could own a vacation or weekend home to retreat to, while still affording to stay (own or rent) close to your job during most work days.
- Your parents or other close relatives have a large enough home that you can live there without being in the way.
- Your parents or other close relatives can afford to let you live with them rent-free if you do not have steady employment.
- You can afford to pay other people to do routine tasks (such as food preparation, laundry, housecleaning, child care) which gives you more available time for work, family, or leisure.
- You have a spouse or partner who is willing to take on a larger share of routine household tasks (such as food preparation, laundry, housecleaning, child care) which gives you more available time for work, family, or leisure.
- You are more likely to have enough rooms in your house to designate a home office space with a door that closes.
- You can afford good household equipment to reduce the impact of housework, such as a dishwasher, in-home laundry, a garbage disposal, a microwave, a robotic vacuum cleaner. If a major appliance breaks, you can afford to have it repaired or replaced promptly.
- If you live in an area with a "bad reputation", it is by choice, rather than economic necessity.
- You can afford to live in an area where obvious displays of wealth such as carrying a high-end smartphone or having a visible white cable (indicating an Apple device) in your parked car does not make you a target for theft or mugging.
- You can afford a room at or near the venue of any conference you attend, even if all rooms with a conference discount have been taken.
- If you need a single room for reasons of personal safety at a conference or other technical event, you can afford it.
- You can afford to attend professional development and networking events (conferences) even if your employer doesn't cover all or some of the costs of traveling to them.
- Because you can afford to stay on-site or near the site of a conference, you have more time and opportunity to make connections (with other people who can also afford this).
- You can afford to attend local professional networking events (meetups) that involve meeting in a bar or restaurant and spending money on meals and/or alcohol.
- You are likely to be in a prestigious, secure, or interesting role which encourages others to connect with you at the event.
- You are likely to have connections in prestigious, secure, and interesting roles, and can easily obtain an introduction to someone looking for someone with your skill sets, who can afford to pay you in the style to which you have become accustomed.
- You had access to computers and/or other technical tools and/or training early in life, because your family was able to afford to give you that access.
- You were able to learn by breaking things very early, because your family could afford the time or cost to repair, or the cost of replacement if you were not able to fix the technology you broke.
- When you were young, you were able to learn technical skills that require workshop space because your family owned a home with a garage or other work space, or had access to such a space. As a result, you gained confidence that you had engineering skills and social capital to be used when proving yourself as someone truly dedicated to the profession (e.g. someone who tinkers).
- If you started hacking open-source software as a teenager, your parents supported or at least tolerated this interest, rather than trying to steer you into paying work or what they saw as more practical skills.
- If you started attempting to "hack" (modify or reverse-engineer) software at a young age, your parents were less likely to consider it a possibly illegal activity or a gateway to illegal activities, and more a valuable skill.
- If you got interested in computers as a young age, your parents saw you as acquiring valuable skills rather than wasting time, and praised you for it.
- You had parents or family who were secure enough to encourage you to try new skills that involved some amount of physical risk.
- As a child, you learned that mistakes and failure were temporary and surmountable, rather than being taught that one wrong move could easily ruin your life.
- You have been able to acquire specialized skills that are more in demand in the industry, but are also more difficult to access for marginalized people (e.g. functional programming, systems programming).
- You can afford to take time off from your job to pursue a graduate degree that will raise your earning potential further, or even have an employer who will pay for you to do so.
- If your employer pays for continuing education contingent upon you remaining in their employ, you have the option of taking another job at any time if you want to because you can pay for the education yourself.
- If you do take time off from a job to go back to school, you will have enough savings that you don't have to worry about living on a limited grad student stipend, or about surviving pay disruptions due to funding agency problems.
- You felt comfortable going straight from an undergrad degree to a job, giving you time to accumulate work experience -- and seniority -- that peers who attempted a Ph.D lost.
- You were able to attend college.
- You were able to graduate from college without taking time off for financial reasons and having to explain to potential employers why you took more than the normative amount of time to graduate.
Benefits and amenities
- Your job provides you with health insurance, dental insurance, matching funds for retirement accounts, discounted stock buying options, and other benefits.
- You are unlikely to be left without health insurance and other vital benefits because of a "minor" change like your workplace changing the vendor who manages your contract.
- Your employer provides catered meals, free on-site laundry or haircuts, or other basic amenities that lower your cost of living even further.
- You feel comfortable working in a lavish tech company office with many amenities, rather than feeling guilty or undeserving.
- You have a comfortable understanding of the cultural standards for use of workplace amenities. You are comfortable using the amenities, without worrying that you will call attention to yourself by doing it wrong. You may also feel comfortable publicly criticizing or otherwise calling out the people who are using the amenities wrong without considering that they may have misunderstood their intended nature.
- You can use workplace provided amenities without worrying that they will change or go away, thereby catastrophically destabilizing your budget.
- You have reproductive choice, because you can afford to pay for child care, to support your partner in spending the bulk of their time caring for any children you have, or to take an arbitrarily large amount of unpaid leave to spend time parenting, and thus can decide whether or not to become a parent independently from economic considerations.
- You have reproductive choice, because you can afford to save for retirement and not feel that you need to have children to care for you in old age.
- You can choose potentially expensive fertility-related options without worrying about the cost, particularly if your employer offers these in their health benefits (such as freezing eggs or sperm in advance of genetically damaging events like chemotherapy or mere time).
- If you have a uterus, you worry less about losing your job because your employer disagreed with a reproductive choice you made (chose to have a child at a time inconvenient for the company, chose to terminate a pregnancy in a way that came to the attention of an employer who disapproves of reproductive choice).
- If an employer takes illegal action based on your reproductive choice, you will easily be able to afford legal representation to fight back.