Perks vs. Salary

22 Aug 2008

When I worked for ThoughtWorks I once got on a bus after work – no ordinary bus, mind you, this was “Party Bus.” On this “Party Bus” there were leather seats, flashing lights, a big screen TV with karaoke, and many bottles of Patron Silver and Grey Goose. We drank and sang like maniacs, then we got to the Casino where we ate a very fancy dinner (including some very pricey wine), did a little gambling, caused some trouble, and then back on the bus for more drinking and karaoke. The only thing I payed for was the gambling.

The next day I was pretty hung over but I still got to pair with some of the best programmers I’ve ever worked with.

I often think about this when people ask how ThoughtWorks is able to keep such excellent programmers when they could easily go somewhere else and make more money. If you took all that money that was spent on our night out, divided it by the 10 or so people that went, and added it to our salary, there’s no way we would have valued it anywhere near as much. I now have a story I can tell for the rest of my life and that’s worth something.

Which is why I was pretty happy when Obtiva (my new employer) took all of its employees and their wives, girlfriends, and children out for a ‘booze cruise’ (with good food too) on Lake Michigan during the Chicago Air and Water Show last weekend. Perks inspire loyalty and camaraderie far beyond their monetary value.

Not having to get on a plane twice a week is nice too.