How do you decide whether a particular job or employer is good or bad, or rather worthwhile? A few obvious questions come to mind. Does the job pay well? What is the work environment like? Is it a high-stress job? Do you feel like you're making a difference? While these concerns apply to any career, they're particularly interesting in the highly competitive technology industry. PayScale sought out some answers, surveying some 33,500 tech workers to rate their employers across nine data points. Listed among these 18 top tech companies are Tesla and SpaceX, helping provide the answer to a more specific question: what is it like to work for Elon Musk?

Interestingly, Tesla and SpaceX stand out immediately for exceeding the rest of the field of employers in meaningfulness and stress levels. At Tesla, 89 percent of employees report that they feel that their work makes the world a better place, as do 92 percent of SpaceX workers. Eighty-eight percent of SpaceX employees call their job "fairly" or "extremely stressful." Tesla reports the second-highest stress, at 70 percent.

Elon Musk doesn't shy away from the stress factor. When venture capitalist and Tesla and SpaceX board member Steve Jurvetson took to Twitter to congratulate the two companies on their job meaningfulness ("I think this is the root of success," he says), Musk was quick to point out that stress "comes with the territory."
Musk's companies, however, rank among the lowest of the 18 tech firms in terms of pay. Tesla ranks 13th for "Early Career Median Pay," at $81,400, with SpaceX at 14th with $78,500. Tesla only beats IBM and HP in "Mid-career Median Pay," with $118,500 (SpaceX isn't included in that data point, for lack of information).

Elon has something to say about that, too:
PayScale's "Median Pay" figures are based on what it calls "Total Cash Compensation," which "combines base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, and other forms of cash earnings." This excludes "equity (stock) compensation, cash value of retirement benefits, or value of other non-cash benefits (e.g., healthcare)."

SpaceX and Tesla's high meaningfulness, high stress levels, and median compensation (however you choose to measure it) balance out to put the two companies nearer to the middle of the field in terms of job satisfaction. Seventy-three percent of SpaceX employees report that they are "extremely satisfied" or "fairly satisfied" with their jobs, as do 70 percent of Tesla employees.

The data from PayScale point out a couple other interesting and important facts about the industry. Women are severely underrepresented in these top tech companies. The highest percentage of female employees of any of the companies surveyed is 43 percent (eBay), and while SpaceX and Tesla haven't self-reported that data, the percentage of female respondents at Tesla is just 20 percent, and just 14 percent at SpaceX. Also, the median age at Tesla is 30 (tied with Google, Salesforce, and Amazon), and SpaceX is tied with Facebook and LinkedIn for the lowest median age of 29. The highest median age comes from HP, at 38, just one year older than the average age for all non-retail workers in the US. Employees across the companies surveyed average six years of experience in their field.

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TRANSLOGIC 76: Elon Musk Interview, SpaceX

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