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Sandor Dargo
Sandor Dargo

Posted on • Originally published at

Are we - developers - spoiled or abused?

I think we are lucky as software developers. Most of us like what we do and we get a good salary. Even if a lot of people do not like the company they work for, in general, they like software development and they have the possibility to learn a little bit more and look for another job.

Even if we tend to complain about the salaries we make, and it might be that we are underpaid compared to some others, in general, we earn a good salary and only a few professions let people earn and live as well.

I know that sitting all day has its severe dangers on our health, but our decent salaries come with an essentially safe job.

Outsiders would tend to tell that we are spoiled.

But the feeling of developers is often that we are severely abused.

I guess both groups are right in certain aspects.

Let me share a story with you.

Mo' responsibilities but no mo' bucks

I've met recently a friend of mine, who told me that he is finally on the lookout for a new job. He had told me some time ago, that'd stay a bit more time in his current role, so I became quickly interested in why he changed his mind.

He told me that got promoted! That's good news I thought.

So he was told that now he had the role to deploy in production, he is expected to review code and he'd have to investigate bugs in production.

As I didn't want to stop his flow of words, I kept on listening amazed. I personally think that every engineer should do code reviews. Maybe, just maybe, not everyone's approval should count the same way, but juniors should also perform code reviews. At least for three different reasons.

  • They often spot such typos that others wouldn't, because they focus on what they can with their experience. This was meant to be a compliment, they are often very thorough. At the same time, they often lack the bigger picture, just because of the shorter time spent around.
  • As they have fewer preconceptions and assumptions, they often ask very different questions in code reviews than more experienced colleagues. Those questions often help both reveal problems the authors wouldn't have thought of and put problems into a different context.
  • Code reviews are also a great tool to learn from more experienced authors.

I was also surprised by the fact that juniors don't have to do production investigations. Again, they are such a great tool for learning even if you have to sometimes ask for help from more experienced colleagues.

But each company, each team forms its own culture, I'm not here to judge...

It's clear that at this place juniors are deprived of tasks and responsibilities, while medior and senior engineers have both more tasks and responsibilities.

When this friend of mine asked his management what would be his new salary he was told that there is no increase, no new salary. After all, he's still a programmer who'd just write code.

What the hell?

At my previous job when I was promoted to a senior role, my senior manager even took pride in handing me over the promotion mail with the new salary. I wouldn't say it was a huge increase, it was double of a normal yearly increase. Yet, it was still at least something and the increased level of responsibility and expectations were acknowledged.

Is this friend of mine spoiled or abused? Are we developers in general spoiled or abused?

No matter the money, fairness is important

I personally think that no matter how much we earn, we should be treated fairly and an increased level of responsibility should be paid with a higher salary. At the same time, I think it's also reasonable to expect you to already perform on that level before you get the position.

In my previous jobs - as a DBA in one and a software engineer in the other - people could only be promoted if they performed their new tasks for a couple of months and management was happy about their performance. When I heard about this for the first time, I was surprised and a bit angry. What? I should perform more for the same money? But I realized that this makes sense.

What if you are a good coder, but you cannot be a good mentor? What if you cannot communicate and you cannot review code without killing the morale of the team? What if you cannot handle the pressure that comes with investigating production incidents? Then you clearly don't merit the position where these are expected, and these tasks, including communication, are expected from senior engineers!

It doesn't mean that you're bad at what you had been doing, it means that you're not ready for the new position. Or maybe you don't even want to be in that position! Not everyone has to be a mentor and accept a certain level of technical leadership.

Demoting someone can be a big loss of face. I think it's better if our current abilities and readiness are slowly assessed based on real-life performance before a promotion. I think it's even better if we pick up these responsibilities gradually. Then once we have enough of them and we perform in those well enough, then we can get our promotion - along with the salary increase.

Now you might claim that if those responsibilities come gradually, then the salary increase should be gradual too and the promotion shouldn't be a big hike. You should get a few smaller increases over the years - beyond the normal yearly increase. That's also a way, still, I think that a promotion should always come with a certain level of salary increase.

If that's not possible due to some economic circumstances, make sure as an employer that you emphasize those circumstances and promise that as soon as the wartime ends, you compensate for the missed increase. And of course, don't forget about it...


Are we spoiled or abused? In certain ways, both can be true. Our field is very competitive and we are asked a lot in order to get a good job. Sometimes even in order to get a bad job. On the other hand, we are paid a relatively high salary and we can complain about things that make us seem spoiled.

On the other hand, there are many bad practices in the industry, in our management that might make you feel abused if you experience it. One of these things is getting a promotion with increased responsibilities and more tasks but without a salary increase.

I think that no matter how much we earn we should be treated fairly and part of this fairness is that you don't handle a promotion in two different ways. Saying that now you have to do this and that in addition, but then claiming that your job is still the same, so you don't qualify for an increase is not what I call fair treatment.

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