Should Younger Developers be Paid More?: Page 2

Posted January 18, 2011

Eric Spiegel

Eric Spiegel

(Page 2 of 2)

I had initially created the description and the recruiter refined it. I was certain salary wasn’t included in my draft, but apparently it was added afterwards. Whoops.

How the salary ended up there wasn’t important at the moment George was glaring at me. I had to make a quick decision. Should I be honest and admit this was the job description used to hire our recent new college graduates, thus by default allowing their salaries to be approximately known? Or should I lie and say I have no idea if this job posting was from our company?

“So what is this George?” I asked, buying time for my brain to process.

“Is it a coincidence that this job posting is for a locally based company recruiting for the specific mobile expertise we recently hired for? “ George asked, his eyes not leaving mine.

“Well, you know, George, I’m not familiar with all the job postings, but this certainly could be” I hedged.

George frowned. “Look, I don’t usually make a stink about anything, but this starting salary is 30% higher than mine, and I’m the team lead!”

I figured it best to deflect from the job posting question and instead focus on the obvious issue at hand.

“Now George, you know I can’t discuss salary details. But I will say that these new employees were hired with a new job description and title. They are Mobile Application Engineers and this puts them in a different category, so this is like comparing apples to oranges.”

George’s frown deepened. “Oh really? So here I sit with over ten years of experience and a functional expert in our customer’s business and you are telling me it’s okay for some kid with almost no experience to make that much more than me? Come on, that’s not fair!”

“I understand your frustration George. I used to be a mainframe programmer and found myself being usurped by web developers who made more money. What I came to realize is that these new positions weren’t a direct reflection on me. Salaries are driven by the market, so anyone with skills in demand can ask for a premium on what other engineers are making.”

I continued before he could interrupt, “And we are committed to training our team in these new mobile engineering skills. Eventually you will have these skills as well.”

George rubbed his chin, contemplating my response. “Yeah, but by the time we are trained and have practical experience, the market demand may lessen, and we will have missed the boat. Or are you willing to guarantee me a 30% raise once we are trained?”

Wow, that was a good point and a tough question.

“When the time comes and any engineer from the team proves themselves in the new technology required for this newly created position, we will evaluate that accomplishment along with the person’s body of work, as we do in any performance review” I responded.

“The bottom line is that we believe the company is paying you fairly for the excellent work you do.”

George looked down and sighed. “So you are telling me there are no guarantees, and oh by the way, you want me to mentor these new guys on the business requirements?”

“Yep, that sums it up,” I responded, not half as convinced as I sounded.

“Well, that sucks.”

George stood up and left without another word. 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. If he resigned, we would have a huge gaping hole. And obviously he wasn’t happy.

I took up the case with my manager and human resources. We ended up restructuring the salary ranges of the “old world” client-server developers, but it still didn’t bring them close to the “new world” mobile application engineers. You simply couldn’t argue with market forces. However, I was able to get a special team lead/analyst category created that put George in the same neighborhood as the mobile engineers. He had a combination of business and technical experience that made him just as critical to keep on board and satisfied.

I wonder if today some of those same mobile engineers are having a similar conversation with their managers at companies like Facebook as social networking experts are hired from the leading edge college programs. The market and technology cycles just keep churning.

What do you think? Is it fair to create new job categories for hot technologies to support the salary bidding wars? Should companies proactively train developers -- or is up to the developers to stay up to date with newer technologies? How else could these situations be avoided?

ALSO SEE: Are these Developer and IT Salaries Believable?

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Tags: developers, IT Jobs/Salary, developer salary, programmer salary, mobile apps

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