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Programming The Almighty Buck

Should Younger Developers Be Paid More? 785

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-deserve-a-raise dept.
jammag writes "A project manager describes facing an upset senior developer who learned that a new hire — a fresh college grad — would be making 30 percent more than him. The reason: the new grad knew a hot emerging technology that a client wanted. Yes, the senior coder was majorly pissed off. But with the constant upheaval in new technology, this situation is almost unavoidable — or is it? And at any rate, is it fair?"
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Should Younger Developers Be Paid More?

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  • Not unreasonable (Score:1, Interesting)

    by burisch_research (1095299) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @05:34PM (#34920514)

    for the senior to ask for more than the new hire. After all, it'd take all of two weeks for the seasoned pro to get up to speed on this new-fangled gibberish!

  • by bhcompy (1877290) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @05:46PM (#34920708)
    But that doesn't mean that you won't get left behind monetarily, at least until there is no one left to support it, then they'll hire you back after you've retired for big bucks like defense contractors have done for people with arcane language knowledge that is not taught in schools anymore.
  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @05:48PM (#34920744)

    I would just get a toolkit that turns a language I already know into something that will run on the iPhone. We call that lazy and smart.

  • by v1 (525388) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @06:09PM (#34921112) Homepage Journal

    I'd generally agree with that... the managers usually say "you're not supposed to discuss each others pay". Meaning "We don't want you to know you're being underpaid".

    Coworker here recently got... check it... $0.25 raise. Oh he was pissed. And there was much yelling. I remember that being brought up later with regard to reviews and raises, in a critical way, and being told "he wasn't supposed to discuss that with anyone", as though it wasn't a valid point to raise during the discussion. I suppose not, that's both insulting and embarrassing at the same time.

  • by mathimus1863 (1120437) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @06:27PM (#34921324)
    Careful... it's not always about languages. I completely agree that time is going to favor the experienced programmer if it's something like learning C++ when you've only worked in Java. However, it's not always like that.

    Take CUDA for instance (NVIDIA-based GPU programming), which is a relatively new technology that is in extraordinarily high demand in my work place (a physics lab). The fact is, learning it is not like learning another language, you have to understand a completely different hardware model, and it takes a level of algorithmic puzzle-solving to find efficient ways to store/move/handle/process data in parallel. The rewards are dramatic, but it can't be conquered by just teaching your old programmer a new language. It's a whole new programming paradigm. Such changes in the nature of the design may be difficult for someone with a lifetime of other experience to mold into.

    Of course, you can't move too far in favor of the young guys, because you can't jerk people's salaries around like crazy. It's one reason we frequently have low correlation between salary and "value." If they were perfectly correlated, I'd be making $500k some years, $20k other years, making it impossible for any employee or employer to handle budgeting in any sane way. Is the company going to be able to justify continuing to pay this kid $200k in 5 years when the "hot new tech" is the norm and everyone is making 30% less? Making salaries too flexible adds a level of unsustainability to the entire system.
  • by Yold (473518) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @06:40PM (#34921468)

    Recent graduates should be making just above minimum wage until they've proven themselves to be anything other than completely incompetent.

    Nah, that's what interviews are for. Technical questions and coding exercises are much more fair in this respect.

    As someone who worked shitty programming and IT jobs for ~$10 /hr since high-school, I want to punch you in the face for suggesting that I deserve minimum wage for 2 college degrees, 3 years of (professional) programming experience, 5 years of IT experience, and 10+ years of hobbyist programming.

    Recent graduates are, in general, absolutely terrible.

    I went to a school with a pretty good CSCI program. The breakdown was like 15% - 20% talented programmers, 30% average programmers, and 50% below-average.

    The talented programmers were competent; could probably step into any job and perform at a level consistent with a mid-level programmer, minus the ins-and-outs of the languages. The average programmers were suited to be junior-level programmers. The below-average were suited to helpdesk / QA.

    pay some idiot kid [...] because they managed to pull a passing grade on a few practice exercises in C# in college

    Yea? And its also insane to pay some dumb-ass senior who can barely fucking program javascript just because they have 10 years of experience programming shitty code elsewhere. I worked with dozens of people who were making 80k+ doing just that, how many kids do you know making senior level salary for doing what you described?

  • by cptdondo (59460) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @07:09PM (#34921754) Journal

    That seems to be an old tried and true way. You count on the people you have staying even if they're paid less; they have some "inertia" they need to overcome to move. You hire the young guns with big $$ and as soon as they sit down their pay freezes.

    I used to work for an outfit where that was more-or-less policy; you quit, if really they needed you they hired you at consultant wages and then negotiated new compensation.

    It got to be a game; you'd game the system to where only you had the critical information for that critical project and then, with deadlines looming, you'd quit. The PHBs hired you back in a panic with a nice big raise.

    Of course, that meant that no one shared any information and the atmosphere was completely toxic, but that's how you got raises.

  • by tnk1 (899206) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @09:28PM (#34922996)

    This is why it is almost essential to not only keep up your skills these days, but also consider switching jobs every so often, at your own pace. It is possible to get a decent raise every so often, but honestly, most of the time it is the old 3% raise to keep up with inflation. Real raises come from offers from companies that you have spent a good long time looking around for while you work at your current job. If you are not at least passively looking for a new job at all times, you're doing yourself and your career a major disservice.

    And yes, loyalty in corporate America is dead and buried. No one says this, but everyone these days gets really excited when new talent shows up from the outside. Once you have been there awhile and collected a few merit raises, you become part of the woodwork. The senior guy in this article became part of the woodwork, no matter how skilled he is, no matter how much he really did do to keep himself up to date, if you are part of the woodwork, you get taken for granted. They know they can keep paying you 3% raises every year because you've taken those raises every year and not quit.

    When you go looking for new jobs, you find people who may well need your skill set and are willing to pay for it. One company's curmudgeon is another company's rock star. If I was this guy, I'd have not complained in the slightest. I'd have figured out what this kid knew, taught enough of it to myself to be able to truthfully note it on my resume, and then went somewhere that needed that skill and got myself a cool 30% raise, because I now actually know that I can make that sort of money for that skill.

    Pay is based on experience but also on skills and the demand for those skills. Java programmers are a dime a dozen, but if some company really, really needs someone who is a FORTRAN god, those people will make good money no matter what age they are, because chances are that demand outstrips supply (of coders).

    It reminds me of when I was in college and I was hired as a research assistant simply because I was *willing* to learn FORTRAN. I had never seen the language in my life and I wasn't exactly a CS student to begin with. I said "I'll make it happen" and I went to the library, took out an ancient FORTRAN book and taught myself enough of it that I could pull stock information off of a tape system hooked up to a VAX. This was in 1995, so was not quite as crusty and ancient as it would be today, but it was still damn old. Compared to my other work-study jobs, it was both easy and well-paid. And that was with zero experience, just plain demand and willingness to try.

    Which reminds me. I am still surprised that I actually liked FORTRAN as much as I did. I thought it would suck ass, but it was actually pretty cool, for what it was.

    Anyone out there willing to pay $200K for a FORTRAN coder? Experienced. :)

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