“Resting and vesting” is when an employee, typically an engineer, has an easy work load (if any job responsibilities at all) and hangs out on the company’s payroll collecting full pay and stock. Stock is often the bigger chunk of total compensation for a senior engineer than salary.
Once she was in rest-and-vest mode, this engineer spent her time attending tech conferences, working on pet coding projects and networking with friends, quietly developing an idea for her next gig, a startup.
Internally, these people are often referred to as “coasters.”
Microsoft used high-paying jobs strategically, both within its engineering ranks and with its R&D unit, Microsoft Research. The company, he says, would nab hard-to-find experts in up-and-coming fields like artificial intelligence, robotics, natural speech language, quantum computing and so on, often allowing them to collect their Microsoft pay while maintaining a job as a professor or researcher at a university.
“You keep engineering talent but also you prevent a competitor from having it and that’s very valuable,” he said. “It’s a defensive measure.”
Another person confirmed the tactic, telling us, “That’s Microsoft Research’s whole model.”
At other companies it’s less about defense and more about becoming indispensable.
For instance, Facebook has a fairly hush bonus program called “discretionary equity” or “DE,” said a former Facebook engineer who received it.
“DE” is when the company hands an engineer a massive, extra chunk of restricted stock units, worth tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s a thank you for a job well done. It also helps keep the person from jumping ship because DE vests over time. These are bonus grants that are signed by top execs, sometimes even CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself.
“At Facebook the ‘OGs’ [Original Gangsters] we know got DE,” this former Facebook engineer said. OGs refer to engineers who worked at the company before the IPO. “Their Facebook stock quadruples and they don’t leave. They are really good engineers, really indispensable. And then they start to pull 9-5 days,” this person said.
The 10x engineer
Other “rest-and-vest” types are part of a tribe in the Valley known as “the 10x engineer, ” a term used to describe someone said to be 10-times more effective than a so-called ordinary engineer.
Legend has it that a 10x engineer can do in one hour what it would take others 10 hours to do. Some of these folks are just plain brilliant. Others aren’t necessarily smarter but they know every detail of a critical system.
“When people have been there long enough, they often bring a value that’s not easy to see. They might know where the bodies are buried on some project, be called in as a last resort to debug a project, or they are known as a great pinch hitter,” describes the former rest-and-vest Facebook engineer.
Other members of the “rest and vest” set are the “coasters,” the long-timers who have reached a company’s top engineering ranks and don’t need to work hard to stay there.
They may not be 10x engineers, but they are institutional employees who know how to do just the right amount of work to get a good annual review and collect their next batch of stock grants.
According to all the folks we talked to, Google is known as a place where this type of rester-and-vester flourishes.
“Most of my friends at Google work four hours a day. They are senior engineers and don’t work hard. They know the Google system, know when to kick into gear. They are engineers, so they optimized the performance cycles of their own jobs,” one engineer described.
“At Google X, we don’t have a sense of budgetary concerns,” this person said. “Engineers get paid $250,00 to $600,000 range, but there’s no sense of urgency. It’s like a startup but not really. It’s like a startup with unlimited funds.”
“You get paid so much after a certain level at Google, that once you get there, there’s no real reason to work that hard. Life is good, you maximize your vacation. I’ll come in when I want to,” the X engineer said, estimating that very senior engineering positions can command up to $400,000- $600,000 in total compensation at X, including bonus and stock options.
“What incentive do you have to work harder when you are already making $500,000 in salary and there is no more upward trajectory?” this person explains.
“You have to be physically present,” this person said. But “there are so many distractions within Google” that it’s easy to come to work and still spend hours playing.
“You want to have lunch at a lovely cafe, or maybe attend a tech talk, or a class, or you want to go to a bodywork class at 6 p.m. or to get juice at the Slice Cafe and it’s on another campus. So you end up working 6 hours. There are times you have to put in nights and weekends, but in general, the company is so big and has so much money, you can work less,” this person told us.
Google certainly isn’t the only tech company to offer such distractions. Facebook has classes, a wood shop and a video arcade for its employees. Oracle has a sand beach volley ball pit and a swimming pool . Microsoft has a soccer and cricket sports field,plenty of Xboxes and an on-site day spa. We’ve been told rest-and-vest engineers can be found at all of these companies.