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Programming The Almighty Buck

Taking a Look At High-End Programmer Salaries 133

msmoriarty writes "Our reporter decided to try to document the high end of programmer salaries (at least in the US). It seems that $300,000 to $400,000 and up is not unheard of in the financial industry, but the highest salary we could document was apx. $1.2 million, earned by Sergey Aleynikov, who was later convicted of stealing proprietary source code from a previous employer, Goldman Sachs."
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Taking a Look At High-End Programmer Salaries

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  • Re:Ah, but (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dintech ( 998802 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @08:32AM (#36306932)

    Yes and No. Non-disclosure is considered a given in any job and would have been in his contract. You'd have to be out of your mind to try to steal code from a bank since there's a lot of monitoring in place to watch for it. (Disclaimer: I work for one).

    The reason he is paid so much is not because he's a programmer who keeps his mouth shut. It's because he's a programmer with experience and understanding of how high-frequency trading systems work.

    An individual's first job in banking is likely to be better paid than any other IT job. However, you have to build up a lot of domain experience before you can get paid those kind of salaries. Some developers even make the jump over to the business side to unlock bigger bonuses, but a maths PhD is usually required. For others the top money is in contracting. £500 - £1000 per day, more in short contracts. But again, you need domain experience.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @08:34AM (#36306944) Journal
    I periodically get contacted by recruiters for banks, because my CV mentions Haskell, and there's a massive shortage of Haskell programmers. They're offering silly salaries to people with no experience in the financial sector. Still not quite enough to convince me that I want to move to London and work on tedious soul-destroying stuff though, they'd need to add another zero onto the end for that. If I could telecommute, I'd be quite tempted - I'd pay off my mortgage in about six months.
  • Re:unheard of (Score:4, Interesting)

    by somersault ( 912633 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @09:37AM (#36307426) Homepage Journal

    I'm not quite the Director's son, but I am his nephew :p My dad actually used to be the IT Manager here until he died, and I ended up with the job a few years later. I'm not even making $75K a year, but then again the whole company is pretty laid back and a nice place to work. I do a mix of in-house web app development, maintaining a downhole drilling simulation app for clients, and typical sysadmin/IT support stuff. I know I could be making more if I got a bunch of certifications, or worked on a lot of projects with loads of different languages and frameworks to help buff up my CV and look for another coding job, but I don't really have the motivation for it. I'm making more than enough to get by, and I'm still enjoying helping people out here. I do wonder from time to time if I should be making "more" of myself, like developing mobile games or utilities, but I prefer to have free time for other things right now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @10:20AM (#36307908)

    In theory, managers make more than leaf nodes because they have more responsibility in a financial sense. It is true that in most cases, they are not personally liable for the budget they manage, but it's still stressful. Say you have a team of 5-6 working for you.. that's an annual burn of a couple million or so. Someone else is always asking you "can we make that 1.8 instead of 2" or "can we add these 7 new features, but keep the cost the same". Then, there's the hassles of finding work for your team. Relatively few managers actually just sit as a service provider with work flowing through the door. No, you have to make sure others know what you can do for them, get them to commit to projects, manage the project and the people, all while hoping that you have enough (interesting) work to keep your team together but not so much that they burn out.

    Now multiply that til you've got a organization of 100-150 working for you. You've got 2 or 3 levels below you. You've got a couple dozen "customers" on the business side who are consuming the product of your hopefully talented group. But nobody can find 100 talented people all in the same place, so you've got some stinkers in the mix. You work with your direct reports to find a "safe place" for them where they can at least not be net-negative and hopefully actually do something positive. Just fire them you say? Sure, but HR wants to know what specific job competencies that they fail to meet, and what is the status of the performance improvement plan that you put them on. And then, in our "do more with less" corporate culture, you might wind up firing the worthless excuse for a human, but not be able to backfill the opening because "we're in a hiring hold, right now". and after 6 months, some other management team decides, hey, you were able to work with 99 instead of your allocated 100, so I guess you really don't need that extra headcount, do you.

    Then, throw in regulatory oversight. Congress or the Legislature makes some rule about financial services, and right now, within 30 days, we have to figure out how to change our process to accommodate the change, while still processing however many thousands of transactions a day; the work load for which was already fully occupying your team.

    Good thing that headsets for cellphones only take up one ear, so you can dial into two telecons at the same time. Not because you're expected to actually make a contribution in them, but because all 40 people in each conference are "stakeholders" in someway, and gods forbid that you should be in the next teleconference that day, and find out that you missed an action item assigned to you, for COB today.

    Oh, you get unlimited vacation time? Not really an issue, because you never get to take vacation anyway. Want to tour Europe on vacation? That works fairly well, , because you can do all your tourist stuff during the day, and dial into the telecon at 10-11PM, just as the afternoon gets rolling on the West Coast, and you can find out what you missed in the morning that was hinted at in the emails you see flying across your Blackberry.

    Yes, those managers earn their $200-300k/yr pay, at least in the middle tiers.

    You could say, "I'm just going to chuck it all and go back to being an 90k/yr coder in a cubicle", but you know, that drop of more than 50% in income is a pretty big pain. And since you're currently a manager hiring those 90k/yr coders, you can also see that a) YOU might have trouble getting the job (I'm sorry, you're used to a higher pay and we're afraid that if you get a better offer you'll bolt) (I'm sorry, you don't have recent coding experience) and b) Those jobs are susceptible to being off-shored as the factory coder line keeps moving up.

    Let's not forget the "up or out" aspect too. You spend those hours, you're conscientious, your team (mostly) likes you, you deliver (pretty much) on schedule, and (pretty much) on budget, and your reward is a promotion to do this with 500 people under you, or a different division whi

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