Payrates?

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sebwiers
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Payrates?

Postby sebwiers » Wed Apr 25, 2012 1:45 am UTC

While I love to program, I do it for money. More specifically, I do it for money to take care of the people who enable me to program by loving me and keeping me fed, dressed, well rested, and sane. And currently I don't get enough money to do that as well as I'd like... which means I can't really become as good a programmer as I like.

So, how do I determine what I'm worth on the market? I've visited a few sites (like glassdoor, etc) but the numbers I get vary wildly. Seems like people in programming often switch jobs when they feel they could make more, but there's gotta be a better way than applying for a new job every year or so and asking for more money each time.

I'm not adverse to posting an objective analysis of my (moderate) skills and CV, but I'm also hoping there's some more broadly useful advice out there.

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Steax
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Re: Payrates?

Postby Steax » Wed Apr 25, 2012 6:16 am UTC

I know this sounds cliche, but I've found that passion and your innate sense of rightness tends to lead you in the right direction. You often start small in little studios while you network and make allies, and then you build your way up until you eventually find yourself in a comfortable position. Switching around jobs is common in any industry based on flexible projects like programming (unless you're assigned to be a sysadmin or tech support or somehow in-house).

It's actually helpful if you can tell us more about which particular business you're in, what your skillsets are, and what you've done before. Especially what you've done before. Pretty much everyone who knows what they're doing will be more interested in your portfolio/history rather than the flashiest CVs and certifications money can buy.
In Minecraft, I use the username Rirez.

sebwiers
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Re: Payrates?

Postby sebwiers » Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:18 am UTC

Hmm, then I may just be on track (or even doing well). My current job, held for just under a year (4 mos as contractor, 6 as full timer employee) is with a "small studio", and so far I've pretty much just done PHP / database work on the tangled backside of some (fairly large, aging) learning management systems. My javascript and css skill have jumped up a fair bit in the meantime (picked up jquery, plan on learning 'less') and I've gotten comfortable using some basic unix operations (enough to run SVN updates on a server when I've committed my code). I've also gotten to know a couple php frameworks (moodle, codeigniter), and worked directly on DBs a fair bit. My biggest projects to date both involved optimizing some pretty heavy DB queries and updating the large chinks of code that relied on the old DB structure or had old queries in it, and dressing up the front end to utilize the new capacity (showing more / more detailed data), often with display in various formats (pdf generation, html generation, csv dump, etc). I'm not sure I'd be able to eventually jump to a DBA position, but I am fairly comfortable designing / coding for (mySQL) db's so it might be a long term direction for me to focus in.

Before my current job, I had zero paid tech experience. I was a self taught programmer who's only higher education was dropping out of art school. I did some web programming on a moderately complex level, making the normal first-timer blunders, learning a lot from them, and having the experience of creating a website that pulled in enough user-created content to run out of storage. I went to community college to pick up an AAS (2 year professional degree) in software development, rounding out my weak areas (mySQL, which I'm pretty good at, and object oriented programming, which is still not my natural inclination), and 1 month out of school I took the first job I was offered (also only the third I interviewed for, and by far at the best company I applied to). And yeah, I brought a portfolio with me to my interview - it was a HUGE help to have pictures to point to. If nothing else, it made it easy to remember and stick to my talking points. I've continued to expand said portfolio with code samples, screenshots, and working notes / documents.

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Steax
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Re: Payrates?

Postby Steax » Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:11 pm UTC

I practically had the same experience, and I picked up web design/development overall. Here's a godsend to people who need help getting into the mindset (and includes a satisfying explanation on talking about money and setting costs): Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro.

I think it was the best $9 I've spent in 2012 so far.
In Minecraft, I use the username Rirez.

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freakish777
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Re: Payrates?

Postby freakish777 » Wed Apr 25, 2012 1:25 pm UTC

sebwiers wrote:Before my current job, I had zero paid tech experience. I was a self taught programmer who's only higher education was dropping out of art school. I did some web programming on a moderately complex level, making the normal first-timer blunders, learning a lot from them, and having the experience of creating a website that pulled in enough user-created content to run out of storage. I went to community college to pick up an AAS (2 year professional degree)


This is what is going to "hurt" you in the short term, as far as the ability to make money goes. If instead this had read:

5 years experiences in PHP, MySQL, Javascript, and CSS.
4 year/Bachelors in CompSci/Software Engineering from a competitive engineering school.

You would probably feel much more comfortable with what you make (or would make the next time an offer came in).


vault.com is a pretty good resource. They have salaries for job titles, in specific cities, on bell curves. With your experience and education, don't be surprised if you're on the low end of the bell curve.

Keep doing what you're doing, the way out of making what you make now is to stock pile your references and experience.

Try to get put on projects that are directly tied to how your company makes revenue if you can (if your company trusts you with their livelihood, that speaks volumes, billing systems in particular). Also, I recommend trying to get some interviews at some larger companies when you get the chance. It's ok to move around for the first several years of your career. If you're working in the US, don't forget that the way to get the largest raise is to switch companies (note, this is not always the best way to get a raise, since you're rolling the dice on your new employer being worse than your current employer).

Also, be on the lookout for employers that will reimburse you for a degree. An associates doesn't really do anything for you in the eyes of most employers.

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Steax
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Re: Payrates?

Postby Steax » Wed Apr 25, 2012 1:33 pm UTC

freakish777 wrote:
sebwiers wrote:Before my current job, I had zero paid tech experience. I was a self taught programmer who's only higher education was dropping out of art school. I did some web programming on a moderately complex level, making the normal first-timer blunders, learning a lot from them, and having the experience of creating a website that pulled in enough user-created content to run out of storage. I went to community college to pick up an AAS (2 year professional degree)


This is what is going to "hurt" you in the short term, as far as the ability to make money goes. If instead this had read:

5 years experiences in PHP, MySQL, Javascript, and CSS.
4 year/Bachelors in CompSci/Software Engineering from a competitive engineering school.

You would probably feel much more comfortable with what you make (or would make the next time an offer came in).


Could you clarify what you're implying?

I think, from my personal experience when working with other developers and designers, that education in a computer-ish subject is mostly irrelevant. At best, it's only relevant because they're competitive subjects and said person had the chops to get in there. At worst, it means nothing - and it deludes people into thinking they're fully qualified to write production code when they're still making textbook errors because their study material and lecturers are out of date with the ridiculously fast-moving industry that is web development.

(To clarify, I don't think education is bad; but it alone gets you nowhere, and from the opposite side, judging based on education is flawed.)
In Minecraft, I use the username Rirez.

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freakish777
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Re: Payrates?

Postby freakish777 » Wed Apr 25, 2012 3:08 pm UTC

Steax wrote:Could you clarify what you're implying?

I think, from my personal experience when working with other developers and designers, that education in a computer-ish subject is mostly irrelevant. At best, it's only relevant because they're competitive subjects and said person had the chops to get in there. At worst, it means nothing - and it deludes people into thinking they're fully qualified to write production code when they're still making textbook errors because their study material and lecturers are out of date with the ridiculously fast-moving industry that is web development.


You're looking at it from a developers point of view, not an HR person's point of view.

What I mean to say is that when someone in HR or a manager without technical expertise comes across two resumes, they have 1 position left for an interview (not the actual job, they have 5 people already scheduled to interview and there's only one more spot they can afford to have people meet to interview any other candidates) and one has:

Associates Degree in <anything> from <insert local community college> (in the US, community colleges have, unfortunately, the stigma of being a non-rigorous, or worse, a complete joke)

And the other has:

Bachelor's of Science in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon

Both show less than a year of real world experience from small time shops.

Which do you think the hiring manager is going to schedule to interview?

The first few years out of college, where you got your degree and your GPA matter very much in terms of earning potential. After that, not so much (5 years out, experience is far and away more relevant). It's the difference between being able to get an interview almost anywhere that's hiring, and if you perform well in the interview getting a $50,000~60,000 a year salary offer, and not even being able to get interviews with the companies offering that much.

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Steax
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Re: Payrates?

Postby Steax » Wed Apr 25, 2012 6:03 pm UTC

Interestingly, I'm seeing the opposite from watching people look for jobs. Much of the time, the best jobs (those with proper work loads, making good things, being generally engaging etc) will have a tech-understanding HR manager. From what I see, programmers aim for studios, startups, and other small-to-medium sized companies, who have knowledgable staff knowing how not to recruit the wrong kinds of people. I guess I can see where you're coming from - the hugely paying megacorporation jobs will have strict HR requirements and so forth. I don't consider that an ideal job, though.
In Minecraft, I use the username Rirez.

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freakish777
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Re: Payrates?

Postby freakish777 » Wed Apr 25, 2012 8:49 pm UTC

Steax wrote:I guess I can see where you're coming from - the hugely paying megacorporation jobs will have strict HR requirements and so forth. I don't consider that an ideal job, though.


Eh, let's talk suitable jobs instead of ideal jobs, I doubt very many people have ideal jobs.

If you want to work for Facebook/Google/Amazon/Microsoft/Apple/etc because you find what they're doing to be really interesting and rewarding from a challenge perspective, then it doesn't hurt that some of these places pay 6 figures a year (granted you may not be willing to put up with the 80 hour work weeks that some of them regularly impose on workers).

Another issue, some of the big corporations are the only place you can really find the work you want to do. Want to do Artificial Intelligence? You're probably looking at either having a PhD and working as a research professor at a competitive school getting government contracts, or you're at a very large corporation like IBM, Lockhead Martin, etc (one with a substantial R&D budget). Some of these places won't even bother looking at a resume without MS for those positions sadly.

Keep in mind that there's lot of large corporations out there that aren't in the tech world that still want in house web developers for their intranet/internet sites. I would be downright shocked if a single member of the S & P 500 didn't employee several web devs. Is working for Coca Cola or Wal-mart as a Software Engineer in their IT Department going to be the best job ever? No probably not. But I bet it's pretty far from the worst Software Job ever either, and the pay probably has a lot to do with that. The bad part of the job will probably come from having to support and interact with old technologies that their Billing/HR/Document Management/etc systems are on.

sebwiers
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Re: Payrates?

Postby sebwiers » Wed Apr 25, 2012 10:52 pm UTC

freakish777 wrote:If instead this had read:

5 years experiences in PHP, MySQL, Javascript, and CSS.
4 year/Bachelors in CompSci/Software Engineering from a competitive engineering school.

You would probably feel much more comfortable with what you make (or would make the next time an offer came in).


Well... yeah. No question there. I can tell that from the want adds, and from how easily co-workers who have a CS have found other work at large companies. As to education, the AAS actually did make a big difference in getting interviews ... but probably more because I can list the time I spent working for the school as a tutor to other students in various programming classes than for the classes I took. Not that I didn't learn a fair bit as well.

Keep doing what you're doing, the way out of making what you make now is to stock pile your references and experience.


The challenge there is, I'm 40. I'm young enough looking to not make people think twice about my age... for now. But I expect in 5 - 10 years, I'll be facing some age issues, fair or not.

All considered, I'm actually pretty damn lucky with the job I have, just looking to be sure I stay on track. I'm not expecting an amazing career in groundbreaking technology or anything, just don't want to fall FARTHER behind, given my late start.

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Steax
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Re: Payrates?

Postby Steax » Thu Apr 26, 2012 12:29 am UTC

sebwiers' needs aside, I guess we're in agreement that if you're looking for large companies with secure, consistently high pay, a developer should go for formal education for the CV value. If one is more interested in interesting, potentially more rewarding but less secure work at startups, studios, and freelance, they don't really have to.

But yeah, if you're 40, it's a moot point. You should go with what you've got.
In Minecraft, I use the username Rirez.

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freakish777
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Re: Payrates?

Postby freakish777 » Thu Apr 26, 2012 1:59 pm UTC

sebwiers wrote:The challenge there is, I'm 40. I'm young enough looking to not make people think twice about my age... for now. But I expect in 5 - 10 years, I'll be facing some age issues, fair or not.


Yeah, definitely not fair, and definitely does happen.

Do you spend any time after work (or during work hours when there's a lull in work to be done) learning new things about the languages and technologies you use?

Again, I want to point out how important billing platforms (or anything revenue related) are to corporations. If you can find a way to get put on a project that either generates revenue for the company, or is responsible for "collecting" said revenue, that's something that looks incredible on a resume, and plays out well for you in an interview.


"Why should we hire you?"
"Because my former employer trusted me with a project that was responsible for $500,000 worth of revenue."

sebwiers
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Re: Payrates?

Postby sebwiers » Thu Apr 26, 2012 7:51 pm UTC

I do try to put in time learning outside of work, but I've got a 1 year old son and a wife who works evenings. Still,I;ve built a pretty decent website in that time (how I learned jQuery & pushed my sql skills to the level where multi-table joins with aggregate functions don't intimidate me so much) and am now planning to refactor it for codeigniter. Language wise, I'm considering a couple js & css alternatives. Dart is looking good, since it can work server side like nodejs. Or I might go out into left field with a functional language, since I like the concept of those.

I don't think our (small) company does anything coding directly related to its own revenue stream. Its a project shop, and I do code on stuff that directly generates revenue for clients, since they are in the business of selling things / information online.

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freakish777
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Re: Payrates?

Postby freakish777 » Fri Apr 27, 2012 5:22 pm UTC

sebwiers wrote:Its a project shop, and I do code on stuff that directly generates revenue for clients, since they are in the business of selling things / information online.


If you're able to get figures on how much revenue those projects generate (either from the client, or from a manager that is able to discuss that type of thing with a client), those numbers stand out on a resume/in an interview.

If you're able to say "Hey look, I worked on this and such project which made $200,000 in revenue for the client" then it's not hard for a company you're interviewing with to jump to "The salary he's asking for is entirely reasonable and he'll earn this company money if we can get him a similar project to work on."

Like I said, it sounds like you're pointed in the right direction.


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