We have always had to measure the worth of things. Everybody has things they want and in order to get them they need to trade. With trade came the need to ensure you’re not being ripped off and so we standardized the rates. Initially this meant a fixed quantity of food or cattle gets exchanged. Naturally there wasn’t a way to make sheep sized wallets and we started using coins. The first coins were simply stones of a particular type or shape. You can easily see how the first con-men must have thrived. So the kings started to standardize the money as well. This is how we arrived at today’s system of trade with a few minor details missed out. However the benefits of all these improvements were confined to the territory of the king who issued the coins. Simply put a King could decide not to trade with another kingdom or that the coins and goods of the other kingdom aren’t welcome anymore.
By now you must be wondering what I am rambling about. So here is the point I am making. The worth of something is decided by others – not the creator and it sucks. Let me give you a better example. Writing code in SQL Server requires no physical or mental prowess like that of say an athlete or an artist. Spend enough time doing it and eventually you get good at it. So it would be fair to assume a person writing real code for 15 years in the US would be just as capable as a person writing the same piece of code in say India. You would think that since there really isn’t any difference in capabilities therefore they have similar earning potential as well. Now for sure it’s not an apples to apples comparison; after all there are mitigating factors such as cost of living etc. But the cost of a bottle of coke is the same in the US as it is in India, the cost of a car is approximately the same, the cost of a house in the US is double that of India. But you can hire a DBA in India for minimum wage of 7$ while an equally capable counterpart in the US can earn 150$ per hour i.e. 20 times more. So am I mad at my fellow DBA sitting on the other side of the planet? Honestly No. I am not naïve I know how the world works.
So what are you rambling about then? – Reader thinks.
Proportionality bias. The assumption that just because something costs more it must be better. Sure there are plenty of cases where the higher worth is justified. You must be familiar with the story of the veteran ship builder who charged 1$ for hitting the hammer and 99$ for knowing where to hit. All I am saying is; if he was in a country other than the US / EU he wouldn’t even be allowed to charge more than say 5$ to being with. It’s not fair and I get it. I am not trying to change the world. But when you hear something enough times you begin to believe it. Every day I have to remind myself and others of this fact so that we don’t undervalue our skills- be it during a salary negotiation, agreeing to commercials for a project or just replying to a post on the internet.
The another example I can give of this mentality was the press articles that floated around when the 787 Max crashed. There was immediate back lash on how the plane crashed because of poor quality code written by some outsource partner in India. If you know anything about how planes are designed and code is written you would know how ridiculous the assumption is that some incompetent developer wrote code that went all the way to production without getting caught. Boeing cut corners and some software engineer was made a scapegoat. Similar examples can be provided by VW when the emissions scandal happened and they blamed the engineer.
There are some senior DBAs and members of the Community who are guilty of propagating this bias. Over the years I have called out a few (not by name) for such behavior. The most recent being a Former MVP who derided me by saying “You won’t be a MVP because of your attitude” after I made an unflattering review of his product. To be fair he didn’t know I gave up any chance / hope of being an MVP when I found out “you can’t be critical of MS in public” way back in 2008 and since. But I could write a whole series on what’s wrong with the MVP program (maybe another day). I’ve thought about it a number of times but I am pretty sure people will view it as “sour grapes” rather than genuine constructive criticism.
So before I go I just want to say this post may leave you with a sense of outrage (justified or not) about the things I say. But I hope unlike Microsoft you can handle some criticism and if that’s the case there are some things I can learn from you and others that I can teach you.
Want to know more about my thoughts on this and other similar topics? Here is a list of posts in similar vein.
PS: – If you find yourself thinking about this post a week from now. There is hope for you yet!