Overpaid developers – myth, truth and legend

Legend

If you create your own app Elon Musk will instantly come out of nowhere to declare you a millionaire.

Media has a tendency to only show us the winners. We see it all the time: “teenager creates million dollar app“, “they started their billion dollar empire in their garage“. Yes, these things happen, but they are so much rarer than we are led to believe.

Most apps never get a public release. I personally created at least 5 apps that were never published on the app store (they were passion projects). Out of the published apps only a small percentage even get bought. And out of the ones that get bought an even smaller percentage get to the million status level.

What I’m trying to say is that creating an app doesn’t automatically make you rich. The fact that your first app is probably a shitty one doesn’t help either. It takes many failures, years of hard work and perseverance in order to become a real success. I think Jeff put it best:

All overnight success takes about 10 years.

Jeff Bezos – founder of Amazon

Myth

“Sitting in front of the computer all day and getting paid for it sounds like a breeze”.

Some people believe that because we sit on a chair for hours at a time without doing much physical activity it shouldn’t be considered “real work”. Usually those people are not familiar with software development and what is actually means. In those situations I like to compare programming with doing math.

The best analogy that I can find for programming is sitting on chair for 2-4 hours at a time solving hard math questions continuously for days at a time. Would you be able to do that, even if you are paid to?

When you describe the situation in terms that they are familiar with people are much more understanding and sympathetic. Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that programming is the most back-breaking job in the world. It’s just not as easy as some people make it to be. Many developers even get exhausted and go through Burnout, a topic I discussed in a previous article.

Truth

The truth is that programmers are well paid and in demand.

Well, maybe most of you are aware of this or have already heard something similar. The main reason why programmers are sought after is because they offer a lot of value through the software they create. 

With electronic mail you can send hundreds of emails at a time, worldwide, instantly for free! Compare that to the postal office – the value that the Internet and software provides is immeasurable for a business owner. That is the type of value programmers can bring to a company and that is why they are generally well played.  

Another reason why programmers have high salaries is the demand for this position. The market requires more programmers than society provides.  

In my high school class that specializes in computer science there were 25 students (mostly guys). Something peculiar happened when we graduated. Out of our entire class of 25 only 2 or 3 students applied to a software development university (including myself). 

My take on it is that there is more to it than simply understanding code, you have to like it as well (Software is easy. People are hard). Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everybody has to be a developer. I’m simply surprised by how many people that studied informatics for 4 years had no interest in pursuing it as a career path. I think this contributes to the shortage of programmers in the market. 

Overpaying is an interesting subject and I have my own take on it. I do consider that the current salaries represent the value that a programmer can add to a company or customer. But there are many other ‘benefits’ to a software developer position that are not mentioned by the general public.  

A lot of these positions come with ‘freebies’ like: gym memberships, breakfast/lunch/dinner, company car, percentage of rent, office pool tables or consoles. Now, don’t get me wrong it sure feels nice to receive something for free, I’m all for free coffee.  

When there is substantial monetary free stuff involved something feels wrong to me. I think that most programmers are pampered by these types of freebies. When a company offers free this, free that I imagine something akin to parents trying to convince their child to do something by offering shiny new toys in exchange.   

Do you consider that programmers are overpaid? Leave us a comment with your thoughts.

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