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Why Managers Make more Money than Engineers

by Alex Yumashev · Updated Mar 11 2020

Programmers often wonder, why executives make more money than developers. How come "John the manager" gets paid more than me, who's doing all the work?!

Here's a little story I read, by Robert Sapolsky, a professor of biology at Stanford.

The Naked Mole Rat

There's this weird African specie, a rodent called "the naked mole rat", that lives in cooperative groups, mostly underground. While studying their behavior scientists soon began to realize there are two types of species in their colonies: the one that's skinny and hardworking, doing all the work ("the engineers"), the other types were lazy and fat ("the managers") and were just sitting around doing nothing all day, simply eating all the food brought by the hardworking types.

It was really puzzling since it contradicted all known behavioral studies and theories. Until it turned out, that you just needed to watch the colony long enough to realize what's really going on.

Turns out when the rainy season comes, these fat guys who have been sitting around doing nothing all year long eating tons of food - they go up, turn around and plug their butts into the tunnel entrances. Protecting everyone from snakes, coyotes and preventing water from flooding the tunnels.

Literally covering everyone's asses with their own.

P.S. Here's a video of Robert's lecture (link points to the timecode where he tells a version of this story)