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Programming The Almighty Buck

Should Younger Developers Be Paid More? 785

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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  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @06:01PM (#34920966)

    not all of the changes are permanent or important

    So true.

    The industry is full of fads, new names for old concepts, and hucksters selling the same snake oil. All too often the new kid comes in all gosh and golly about something the old fart has known under a different name since the Pleistocene.

    Still you have to lean about these things to even make that assessment. The older programmers have to at least be conversant with the newer languages, IDEs, file systems, databases, or platforms to be able to exercise all of that accumulated experience. You can't judge what you refuse to learn about. You can't delegate the acquisition of knowledge.

    It is virtually NEVER worth while changing programming languages via a re-write. More bugs will be introduced in the re-write than utility gained. But the same can not be said about platforms or database technology.

    If the senior staff have an education allowance in the company budget, and fail to use it, shame on them.

    If on the other hand the company is just getting the latest techniques and theories by hiring kids with no real world experience, then they will probably pay dearly for the privilege.

    Someone else paid for that whipersnapper's education. It looks cheaper to HR. But the company already paid for the old goat's experience, scars and all. He walks, and the kid is at sea.

    Experience is all too often undervalued. Inertia has its place. Its the older staff that can distinguish opportunity from pitfalls. But opportunity does knock. Softly.

  • by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @06:03PM (#34921018) Homepage Journal

    There are a growing number of toolkits that support the iOS platform regardless of Apple's dicatorship. Perl, Python, Ruby, even C++ can be used these days.

  • FORTRAN (Score:5, Informative)

    by mangu ( 126918 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @06:09PM (#34921108)

    Old programming languages still work fine for new tech if they have appropriate libraries, etc

    I have a perfect example on how wrong you are: Fortran.

    I do a lot of engineering software and a lot of that is in Fortran. A few years ago I migrated a system with 400 thousand lines of VAX-Fortran code to Linux, using g77. Recently I had to install this system in a new computer, running Ubuntu Lucid. To my dismay, I learned that Lucid doesn't have the g77 package anymore, the gcc compiler suite has been "upgraded" to gfortran. And gfortran does not support the VAX extensions that g77 did.

    Luckily there's still a way to install g77 in Lucid using the Hardy repositories, but how long will this last?

    Had the old engineers said, "OK, Fortran is dead, let's just keep a legacy compiler to run old code" everything would have been fine. But no, they insist on "improving" Fortran by putting C language features, e.g. pointers, into it. Why can't they just learn to program in C and let the old compilers do what they are good for, which is running legacy code?

    I once signed a petition to retire Fortran [fortranstatement.com], where the best reason why experience isn't always welcome is stated: "In order to best serve future generations of scientists who rely on numerical simulation, we propose that FORTRAN be retired, allowing its successor(s) to evolve in the absence of the legacy FORTRAN juggernaut. Until FORTRAN is formally retired by the J3 Committee, institutional inertia will prevent alternatives from being adopted by science and industry"

    The current Fortran standard is the worst of all possibilities: unable to run legacy code which is stable and tested, and unable to compete with modern languages in either execution speed or programming ease.

    (And before anyone comes with some contrived benchmarks "proving" that Fortran code executes faster than C, let me point out that the legacy Lapack code is optimized in Atlas by compiling key functions in C+Assembly code)

  • by Kizeh ( 71312 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @06:17PM (#34921212)
    All of this conversation is a lot more idealistic than what I've seen in the places I've worked -- which is that when a new position opens, the employer looks to see how much they have to offer to get qualified applicants, and does this. The existing workforce doesn't get raises, or only gets a pittance, and so the newest hires almost always make the same or more than veterans. Existing workers face the option of either finding jobs elsewhere to stay within the pay curve, or staying in a comfortable environment where they know the culture and can be productive, until they get sufficiently pissed off at being rewarded for loyalty with being paid less.
  • Re:Life is not fair (Score:3, Informative)

    by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @06:18PM (#34921226) Homepage

    No, he's making valid observation and also saying it makes no sense (which you apparently agree with). What he's talking about is a real and noticeable trend where internal raises for IT staff are either very small or non-existent, but new hires are often paid more. There's lots of reasons for this. Old companies tend to take talent they have for granted, but new companies (whether they are actually "new" or just in need of replacements) tend to overvalue talent they need *right now* either because they lost it or are going into anew area. It's easy to justify hiring new staff at market rates, but harder to justify raises. Companies don't like to give one class of workers a larger base raise rate than other classes of workers. Probably other reasons as well, but those are the ones that come to mind without much thought.

    As GP states, it doesn't make a lot of sense. You go into lots of the reasons *why* it doesn't make a lot of sense. None the less, it happens... a lot. I can point to each and every significant jump in my income and every one of them was either because I changed jobs or because an employer was matching an offer from someone else (and that's only happened once). Merit raises at most places (If they're even doing them, my company has frozen them this year) are 2% for reasonable performance and top out at 4% for exceptional performance. Changing jobs can easily net you a 20% raise. Often more. That's 5 years worth of merit raises (assuming you are exceptional, your boss isn't trying to save a few bucks on labor, and your company hasn't frozen merit raises).

    Occasionally you encounter companies smart enough to see the value in keeping people, my current company gave me a big raise to match an offer, but it's not all that common. Mostly I've accepted my crappy little annual raises when offered them and moved on when someone offered me more money than I could ignore.

  • by BattleBlow ( 633941 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @06:18PM (#34921228)
    Did you even RTFA? Here is a quote: "I felt like I was letting down one of our most promising engineers. He was someone who had the most knowledge about the business we supported and was an expert in the core client-server application. " It wasn't someone sitting in a corner shooing kids off his lawn while he became an old curmudgeon, it was the team lead in the core application. I don't know about you, but I don't always have time to become an expert in every new IT technology that comes along. I have limited time and so I pick and choose. This guy had spent his time working hard and becoming their team lead, which naturally meant focusing on their core business and application. He then finds out they're hiring graduates at a 30% higher salary and expecting him to mentor them in the business requirements because he hasn't also had time to become an expert in mobile applications. Tell me you wouldn't be pissed off in such a situation? Yes, the salary for the graduates was driven by the market, and purely from a fiscal perspective the company did the best thing for it. Let's not pretend though that there aren't people involved and that they weren't screwed.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @07:07PM (#34921730) Homepage

    Maybe someone should have that option, but where I worked and likely most everywhere else, it was forbidden to tell others how much you made. This conditioning is stupid.

    It is illegal in the US, under the National Labor Relations Act, for the employer to forbid employees to discuss pay with each other. Because organizing a union involves discussing pay, and workers have the right to organize, workers have the right to discuss pay with each other. [nlrb.gov]

  • Re:Life is not fair (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @07:12PM (#34921786) Homepage

    Merit raises at most places (If they're even doing them, my company has frozen them this year) are 2% for reasonable performance and top out at 4% for exceptional performance.

    No wonder US companies have crazy turnover rates, at my last employer the first year after I was hired I got a 14% raise and the year after that a 12% raise. Of course they could hardly keep that up every year, but 4% would be an insult. I hope that's at least 4% over inflation or it's a complete joke-

Air is water with holes in it.