I'm back and I have to say something...



  • Hey, CPound here. I'm back and I just have to get something off my chest.

    My last post many months ago dealt with the sudden appearance of high programming salaries across the nation. I thought it was just a fluke which would last a couple months and then die down. Well, in case you don't know, it hasn't.

    The market is red hot.

    Since I last posted, I've conducted dozens of interviews, trying to fill some developer spots with our company. Most candidates would not settle for less than $80-$90K minimum and this is only with 5 years or less programming experience.

    Let's put it this way, I am a senior lead developer, have been in the industry 10+ years, and I don't make $80-90K a year.

    In order to hire one of these people, they would have to raise my salary well above the $90K mark. And we know that's not going to happen any day soon. So we're still looking for a candidate that will "work for less".

    I stand in awe of the industry right now. I won't leave my present position, because I'm finally with a company that has some stability. I was "rocked" in the late 90s/early 00s and am just now recovering from the effects of all the downsizing. I don't want to jump ship because of some dollar signs only to be in the poor house 3 months from now.

    These kids getting out of college asking for $80-$90K to start, with no real-world experience...it just baffles me.

    And another thing. Interviews have changed A LOT. These kids are coming in without a suit, looking nasty, and smelling funky. What happened to "dress to impress"? This whole "come as you are" look is a real turnoff if you ask me. But I guess times change, and I shouldn't be such a fuddy-duddy, huh?

    Thoughts? Comments? 



  • Well, those kids may have had a lot of smoke blown up a certain orifice. I don't doubt the prospects for IT workers are red hot, but come on...

    Perhaps you are meeting those kids asking 80K +  in their initial round of job hunting. Their expectations may be adjusted - or maybe not, I don't know. There may be companies that fill their demands just fine.

    Please, be a fuddy duddy. I recommend a good beating with your cane if they come in without at least a tie. 



  • I wear business clothes to interview.  The exact same thing I wear every day.  Except I get a haircut and tuck in my shirt.



  • <FONT face=tahoma,arial,helvetica,sans-serif>When I had my first interview (sometime ago), all I was offered was a fixed amount, and you either take it or leave it...

    Before interviews, I would ask if I could wear "relaxed clothes"... Not that I don't like business attire, but I just prefer casual clothes more... but if I am unsure of what to wear, I would go to the safe side and wear business attire or business casual...

    (gone a long time and was surprised by the new look of the forum... let's see what happens...)



    </FONT>



  • I saw a resume come by for consideration at my last job, and the guy was asking $80 per hour. That's ~ $160K. One. Hundred. Sixty. Thousand.

    For what? Web development in ASP.NET.

    That's right. Because he had 4 years experience in .NET and an MCSE/MCSA he thought he was worth that much. Whenever I look around at jobs in certain areas I see that the salaries actually are as high as $100K for relatively run-of-the-mill programming tasks. The only thing is, you either have to drive 2 hours in hellish traffic to get there, or move to an area where $100K barely pays the bills. Companies in the rest of the country (outside of major metro areas) seems to have their heads on straight. I am in a smaller city where pay for decent programming skills is more along the lines of $50K.



  • Yes companies do pay more in areas where the cost of living is substantially higher.  Are you just now realizing this?



  • @djork said:

    I saw a resume come by for consideration at my last job, and the guy was asking $80 per hour. That's ~ $160K. One. Hundred. Sixty. Thousand.

    For what? Web development in ASP.NET.

    That's right. Because he had 4 years experience in .NET and an MCSE/MCSA he thought he was worth that much. Whenever I look around at jobs in certain areas I see that the salaries actually are as high as $100K for relatively run-of-the-mill programming tasks. The only thing is, you either have to drive 2 hours in hellish traffic to get there, or move to an area where $100K barely pays the bills. Companies in the rest of the country (outside of major metro areas) seems to have their heads on straight. I am in a smaller city where pay for decent programming skills is more along the lines of $50K.

    Ever been to the Joel on Software forums?  That place seems to be populated almost entirely of either A) people with overinflated self-images, or B) the best programmers on Earth, all collected in one place.

    There was one guy that said that "$75k/yr is a garbage salary in any part of the country."  Excuse me?  Most people in America would kill for that.  Living in LA is one thing, but in "any" part of the country that's great.  These same people also regularly push people to not accept contracting rates for less than like $150/hr.  If you're employed 6 months a year (absolute worst case), that's still 156,000 frigging dollars a year.



  • @Saladin said:

     These same people also regularly push people to not accept contracting rates for less than like $150/hr.  If you're employed 6 months a year (absolute worst case), that's still 156,000 frigging dollars a year.

    If you are a consultant you must provide your own medical insurance and other overhead and benefits costs, in addition to building up a cash cushion for when the job suddenly ends.  As a consultant you get no paid vacation, no severance pay and no two week's notice.  Also in the USA you pay 15% FICA or twice as much as an employee pays because you have to pay the employer's share.

    If you expect to be earning money a full 50 weeks out of the year, your rate should be at least 150% of what you would be paid as an employee.  You are lucky if you can count on that.  If you're going to be spending a few weeks each year in an unpaid search for the next consulting position, 200% is better. 

    In any case you should join a trade group or professional association to get affordable medical insurance.

     

     



  • Well, I'm finally handing in my master thesis on Tuesday. phew

    Anyhow, I'm available now and if it helps to cheer you up I can settle for 79$K, no problem. :)

    But seriously, 80$ is a bit too much for startes if you ask me.

    When it comes to dressing properly for an interview, I would be worried if I showed up overdressed if actually wearing a suit and tie. But that may vary from country to country maybe. Well, I'm about to find out...

    cheers 



  • you can never go wrong with a suit and tie at an interview.   Even if non of the people that interview you are wearing one.



  • @tster said:

    you can never go wrong with a suit and tie at an interview.   Even if non of the people that interview you are wearing one.

    I tend to agree. I work in a very casual environment, so casual that jeans and sneakers are borderline acceptable. Our CEO even goes for the khakis/suit coat/no tie look, and that's when he's at an investor meeting. I went to the interview in a suit, even though I knew beforehand about the dress code. I guess I'm on ald, 32-year-old fuddy-duddy. I don't know...there's something about earning a decent salary that makes you want to dress at least a step above jeans. Lately, it's to techies' advantage to blend in as close as possible to the suits. One less excuse for them to use when shipping your job overseas, I guess...

     As for the overinflated salary requests for new recruits, let me firmly put my fuddy-duddy hat on. OK, there. Now, a lot of this is probably due to overinflation of expectations, and they'll get deflated soon enough. My first job out of school 10 years ago was $32K, and this was in metro New York. Asking $80K to start is just going to hasten the whole outsourcing trend.

     



  • @ErikTheRed said:

    Asking $80K to start is just going to hasten the whole outsourcing trend.

    But see, that's just it. Apparently US companies are more than happy to shell out $80K to a recent college grad with no experience.

    Have you looked at Monster.com recently??? 



  • Ugh. 80$ / hour for an upstart? It will be a miracle if I get 8$ per hour at my first job. 80k$ / year sounds nearly ridiculous to me even for an experienced programmer. 9.5k$ / year is an average salary in my country, and if you know someone earning more than 80k$ / year you can brag about it. The costs of living are much lower where I live, so the comparison is pretty meaningless, but still...



  • Where I live something around 14-16 euros /hour is quite acceptable for a recent graduate/nearly graduated. Depending on experience that would go up later. That comes down to about 35k - 40k USD per year. Requirements for even entry level jobs tend to be absolutely insane around here. Need 1-2 years work experience even for entry level jobs and mad skillsets straight out of school. Have to do catch-up on the latest buzzwords on my free time just to get to an acceptable level of buzzwordiness. [/rant] :)



  • I don't think I'd offer a college grad above 40k. Of course, that's what I got out of college 8 years ago so maybe I'm very low.

    I'm currently at 110k in Minneapolis with 8 years experience and a senior dev / tech lead / arch position. When I do contract work on the side, I generally shoot for $55-65 an hour. I've never really gone looking for pay raises, it just sort of happens.



  • and, I should note, I do think I'm overpaid for what I do.



  • Perhaps it's a bit of envy/jealousy kicking in, but let me go over what you wrote.

    @webzter said:

    I'm currently at 110k in Minneapolis with 8 years experience and a senior dev / tech lead / arch position.

    110K? And you are not management? Spending all your time managing others instead of coding? That must be great. I've never heard of that personally, but that sounds like an ideal position. 

    @webzter said:

    I've never really gone looking for pay raises, it just sort of happens.

    Just sort of happens huh? You must work for a really nice company.

    You have to pardon my cynicism, but 110K sounds a lot for any kind of developer/programming position. Even tech leads don't make that much. An architect might make that much, but you had better be really really really good at what you do. Meaning, you better be responsible for greater than 50% of the company's overall income. That's the only way you can justify that.

    Rebuttal? 



  • I've been in the business for 10 years now.  I started at $22,000 right out of college (CS degree) as a Unix system administrator/NOC/Tech Support jack-of-all trades on the night shift.  I did programming on the side as new automation tools were required.

    I worked my way into Engineering (data, voice network and platform growth management), then got a job programming on a particular project...which was killed and shipped to the team in California (I am in the Midwest) as a move to consolidate various development shops.  At this point I was making about $35,000

    After that I went back to doing system admin work, then got tapped for a new project that has been going steady now for the past 5 years - doing design, programming as well as system integration.  I pull down $70,000+ today.

    If you expect to make $80,000 in the Midwest as a new hire, you must be smoking crack.  On the other hand, $80,000 in California equals $40,000 in the Midwest due to cost of living differences - so that asking price might be reasonable in inflated markets.



  • @CPound said:

    Rebuttal? 

    I'm very grateful for where I am. I was at 125k as an enterprise arch at a fortune 100 but hated the stress so I took a pay cut to 90k to move to where I am now. Apparently they like what I do so they keep jacking my salary up. I think that'll level off very quickly though; I'd need to move back into EA here to get into a new salary band. As far as if I'm good at what I do, well, I can't really attest to that. I generally manage to hold my own with what I need to do.

    My day is spent coding or designing. I'm on a very small team and we generally take free reign on how we get our jobs done. It's probably pride, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better team in the area. I'm constantly in awe of my coworkers.



  • In the Seattle/Redmond area, where the cost of living is pretty high, and the demand is bigger than the supply, I don't see all that many jobs starting at $80-90K for zero experience.   I'm sure they exist (at least in theory...there's often a 'DOE - depends on experience' caveat involved), but I think at Microsoft a normal new grad starts around $50-$60K, and when I was hiring for a couple dot-coms, it was more like 40-50K.  


    There is always that supply and demand, though.  With demand being so high, lots of companies are paying big bucks just to get people in the door -- a bit misguided in my opinion, since the quality of work generally speaks for itself, and ends up costing more in the long run; but that's a risk the company chooses to  take.

    However, there is no shortage of 100K+ jobs out there.  Thick upon the ground, even.   They tend to be aimed at a combination of skill & experience that is relatively hard to come by (supply and demand, after all).  I've seen dev positions as high as 175K for really specialized work that requires detailed, hardcore knowledge; and $110-$125K is pretty much standard in my experience for a senior architect-level person (usually with a starting bonus/stock/etc.)   

    But, that's in an area where the median home price is $400K or so.  If you live in Missoula, Montana or Lincoln, Nebraska, I'd anticipate that the same sort of job pays less.

    -cw



  • @CodeWhisperer said:

    I've seen dev positions as high as 175K for really specialized work that requires detailed, hardcore knowledge; and $110-$125K is pretty much standard in my experience for a senior architect-level person (usually with a starting bonus/stock/etc.)

    This $175K position is pretty demanding I'm sure. Usually companies want to see a return on their money spent. In this case, I'm thinking they're looking for a big return. This means HUGE stress for the dev guy. I don't think I'd want that kind of position.

     As far as the $110-$125K range for a "senior architect-level person"...well, what does that entail exactly?

    Here I go on my tirade... 

    When people say "architect", what do they really mean by that? Do they mean someone who has a little web background, worked with a little .NET, and has some basic familiarity with SQL server, web clustering, and "uptime"?

    Because that's what I'm hearing every time someone says "architect". It really doesn't say much. Any grad right out of college can deem himself an "architect".

    So then what are the qualifications?

    You may be a good coder, but that doesn't make you an architect. You may be a good systems guy, but that doesn't make you an architect. You may have a solid understanding of both coding and systems and how they interrelate, but that still doesn't make you an architect!

    I guess what I'm trying to say (especially to the new grads out there) is that it takes a seasoned professional with LOTS of real-world business experience in order to truly warrant that title. You have to have been through it all. You have to have been on the front lines, the back lines, the middle lines, spent long hours troubleshooting random issues with no reward from management...etc.

    So don't graduate and be all confident saying you did some half-year co-op university program and now you're qualified to be an architect, OKAY?!?

    Sorry...I got carried away.

    But does anyone understand my frustration? I have actually interviewed people who claim "architect" level status...and they don't know what a web farm is. Never heard of a cluster. SQL experience? Zilch.

    Just because you've been in the industry for 8-10 years does not make you an architect. (Whoops! Did I type that? Didn't mean to offend anyone here.)

    I'll let you all digest what I've written. I eagerly await your responses.
     



  • > These kids are coming in without a suit, looking nasty, and smelling funky. What happened to "dress to impress"? This whole "come as you are" look is a real turnoff if you ask me.

    I am not sales.
    I am not upper management.
    I shall not wear a suit.
    I will wear clean, decent, but 100% casual clothing.
    I will not wear ripped jeans.
    I will not wear a Cradle Of Filth Tshirt (but that's mostly because I don't like metal).
    I reserve the right to wear clothes with a stylish, artsy print.
    I do not know how to tie a tie (but I think I really should learn that someday. Western culture with its social rituals etc. Can't deny I'm part of that.).

    I would wear a more 'upscale' version of casual attire to interviews, but I'm not going in a suit.

    The philosophy (not just mine, but everywhere here) is that if you're not used to a suit and don't like wearing one, it's just going to affect your work or personal presentation negatively. I know an IT company where, if a programmer was going with the sales rep to meet a client, they were forbidden to wear a suit. If you're not used to a suit, people will notice, and it will do more harm than good.

    > there's something about earning a decent salary that makes you want to dress at least a step above jeans.

    True. But where the line is drawn will be different for everyone. 



  • @CPound said:


    This $175K position is pretty demanding I'm sure. Usually companies want to see a return on their money spent. In this case, I'm thinking they're looking for a big return.

    It's hard to say.  It was for a company doing virtual machine work, in southern california...and looking for an arch-level person who can run projects) so again you have a combination of high cost-of-living and even smaller supply... compared to the number of people who can cobble together a web-app, there's a lot fewer people who know how computers work deep down under the operating system (in addition to how to run.projects).

     

    @CPound said:


    Because that's what I'm hearing every time someone says "architect". It really doesn't say much. Any grad right out of college can deem himself an "architect".

    So then what are the qualifications?

    Any grad can also call himself "Engineer", "Tech Lead", "Senior Developer" or "Lord High Inquisitor".   That's why it's important for hiring managers to have good solid definitions of various jobs & levels.

    As for architect, I start by expecting them to be very senior programmers, including:

    mastery of at least a couple programming languages/environments/styles/processors.
    worked in a couple different problem areas
    knows how to research algorithms and implement them.
    a solid understanding of networking (not just 'knows how the web works', but ideally at the level of 'has developed their own protocols')
    an understanding of software at several levels (ideally, be able to talk about what is happening structurally, algorithmically, at the OS layer, and on the processor)
    Solid database skills
    ability to 'figure it out'

    In addition, the actual architectural bits include:

    Broad & deep understanding of the problem area they are working in (or at least the ability to gain that understanding quickly)
    Able to take business requirements, figure out what they _really_ mean, then turn them into software/system plans.
    Keeps the whole lifetime of the system in mind.
    The ability to guide the work of others
    Has 'vision'...knows where they want to go, knows how to get there, knows how to convince others
    Absolutely top notch design skills at the component & system level.
    The ability (and desire) to document their designs
    Able to keep dozens of working parts in mind at the same time, usually some of them not under his control.


    That's just a quick list off the top of my head, doubtless I've dropped a few.   Note that architects don't have a lot more technical requirements than senior devs...instead it's all the 'meta' stuff...how do the pieces fit together, how do they meet business needs (even if people don't know they are needed), how to break it up into chunks, develop a plan and know what the implications of that plan are 5 years down the road..

    At Microsoft, I work with a couple different classes of people with 'architect' in their title.  Some are really, really high-level devs who are inventing new types of technology that others are going to use but have no real business sense.  Some are really, really high level tech business leaders, who are incredibly smart, but don't really do a lot of technical work any more.  And I was brought in because I had the combination of technical & business background. 

    So, clearly, not everyone shares my definition. :)    But, out in the real world, when I am hiring an architect level person, those are the criteria I'm using.

    -cw



  • @dhromed said:

    I am not sales.
    I am not upper management.
    I shall not wear a suit.
    I will wear clean, decent, but 100% casual clothing.
    I will not wear ripped jeans.
    I will not wear a Cradle Of Filth Tshirt (but that's mostly because I don't like metal).
    I reserve the right to wear clothes with a stylish, artsy print.
    I do not know how to tie a tie (but I think I really should learn that someday. Western culture with its social rituals etc. Can't deny I'm part of that.).

    I would wear a more 'upscale' version of casual attire to interviews, but I'm not going in a suit.

    Amen.

    I expect people to dress appropriately for the role.  Someone here said, in another thread I think, that they wear one-step above their normal clothes, and I appreciate that.  If you normally wear a tshirt, put on a button-up.  If you're a goth, put on your fancy pointy boots :)   Make an effort.   I'm not hiring you for your fashion sense, but demonstrate you're at least willing to wash the stink off before you try to convince me to give you lots of money.

    Now, if you're going to spend 80% of your time at fortune 500 clients, then yeah, you'd better show up in a suit... but if you're going to be working the night-shift maintaining build scripts and babysitting the databases, I don't really care if you show up in your one un-ripped tshirt as long as you know your stuff. 

    But, if you don't know your stuff, the nicest suit in the world won't save you.

     -cw



  • @CodeWhisperer said:

    But, if you don't know your stuff, the nicest suit in the world won't save you.

    How exactly do you intend to tell? Let's face it, there's probably only a few dozen companies in existence anywhere who do a meaningful technical evaluation as part of the interview process. The rest just pick the guy who bullshits the best. 



  • @asuffield said:


    How exactly do you intend to tell?

    By conducting meaningful technical evaluations.
     

    @asuffield said:


    Let's face it, there's probably only a few dozen companies in existence *anywhere* who do a meaningful technical evaluation as part of the interview process.

    It's not quite that dire...there's at least hundreds of companies who do :)  

    I can't help with what other companies do or don't do in their hiring practices, just aim to do better in my own.

    -cw



  • @CodeWhisperer said:

    So, clearly, not everyone shares my definition. :)    But, out in the real world, when I am hiring an architect level person, those are the criteria I'm using.

    -cw

    I'd say that's a great starting point. But then, I have a very similar mental image when I talk about architects so I'm biased.



  • @CodeWhisperer said:


    Any grad can also call himself "Engineer", "Tech Lead", "Senior Developer" or "Lord High Inquisitor".

    I'm going to have to speak to HR to see if they'll change my title to "Lord High Inquisitor".  I think that would be awesome on my resume - "Lord High Inquisitor at a Fortune 500 company" just has a ring to it.



  • @TheDauthi said:

    @CodeWhisperer said:


    Any grad can also call himself "Engineer", "Tech Lead", "Senior Developer" or "Lord High Inquisitor".

    I'm going to have to speak to HR to see if they'll change my title to "Lord High Inquisitor".  I think that would be awesome on my resume - "Lord High Inquisitor at a Fortune 500 company" just has a ring to it.

     When I worked at Best Buy, you could pick your own title for your business cards. Swear words and certain titles (CEO, senior vice president, etc) were off limits, but plenty of people had fun with titles just like that.



  • Admittedly, I stopped reading about halfway down, but I thought that I'd throw my .02 in.

    I have 8.5 years of experience in QA, and have recently (in the past two years) moved into a Test/Development role (mostly designing & developing automation). My first job in the computer industry was at $7/hr doing repair and the like, after that I moved into the world of contracting, with a 100% pay increase. For several years my pay steadily increased until I hit about $25/hr. It was hard to find jobs paying any more than that.

    After about 2 years at $25/hr, I got a pay raise to $40/hr, with a much shorter commute. Of course, the work sucked, and wasn't anything like what I wanted to be doing. After that, I was able to land a salary position making $65k/yr (~$30/hr), which again sucked, then another contract at $38/hr, and finally where I am today, at $80k.

    Did I mention that I have no formal education in the industry, and dropped out of high school?

    I wouldn't take a position in this area (Seattle) for less than $80k right now. Of course, I've got several years of experience, and honestly couldn't afford to live on less.

    As for the dress when going to an interview... I normally go in slacks, and a nice pressed shirt. Most companies that I've interviewed and worked at have had a very relaxed dress code (currently, I'm wearing jeans and a sweater, though some places it's been ripped jeans and a t-shirt that's falling apart).

    My rule is that I'm going to dress one level above what the company expects from people daily. If they company is casual, then I'll dress business casual. It's worked very well for me, and in fact, in one position, we decided not to hire someone because they were too over-dressed, and that made them seem too stuffy to fit in well with the team.
     


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