Friday, May 25, 2007

The Difference a Year Makes

I've done the very thing a blogger isn't supposed to do. I went nearly a year before posting. What happened?

IT and Happiness
A job change can always be a time sink. I made a decision last year to trade a little money for some intangibles. I've been busy as blazes trying to wrench a big project into order. Was the change worth it? I think so; as I tell my friends, you're not supposed to be able to buy happiness. But I sort of did that, not by buying it direcly but by giving up purchasing power in trade (a fancy way of saying I took a pay cut to make the move).

A theme I was supposed to pontificate on last year was what happiness means in IT. What a pretentious bastard to assume I could know such a thing, huh? I'll take a stab at it anyway, because if nothing else, writing is cheap therapy.

On that note, and given my recent experience, let's talk about money. Everyone needs it even if they don't love it. And you know what? I think everyone loves it even if they say they don't. Not everyone loves it equally, but it means a lot in a world where things tend to get more expensive, not less. But it's an important part of any worker's life, so here's the truth about it from my perspective.

How Much is Enough?
That's what employees and employers want to know, right?

Employers, you don't have to be a top compensator, but do keep abreast of the salary surveys and make sure you're not too far out of the loop. Seriously. And be willing to boost your long time loyal veterans if they're not up to the market standard, or they'll leave and do it themselves. If they're not smart enough to keep up with what's going on, do you even want them working for you?

Employees, keep an eye on those salary surveys but keep a decent perspective on reality too. Are you really delivering the quality a 15 year senior person is supposed to be delivering? Are you being honest in your assessment of yourself? In the end of course, your network may have more to do with your career success than your ability. How much is enough? That's ultimately up to each individual, but I believe most are reasonably happy if they are enough above breaking even to live comfortably. They're even happier if they can get far enough above that to have a savings account and live with some minor luxuries. For most developers, that's a good spot to be in. Money above that point is gravy, but isn't worth having if you have to give up having a decent supervisor, good working conditions, and challenging work that engages you.

The Intangibles
When you get older, you realize that money is important, especially in a society where it is the main bartering tool. But there are indeed things money cannot buy that developers do appreciate:
  • Decent work environment
  • Quality peers
  • Decent tools
  • Access to training
  • Book budget
  • Flexible hours
  • Mangement that understands quality is not always free, swift, or easy
  • A work environment with minimal interruptions
  • Career path (including a non-management path)
  • Management that values its full-time employees more than contractors (and pays for it with more than lip service)
  • Decent equipment (reasonably current PC and dual monitors)
  • Management that says Yes as often as it says No
  • Opportunities to work with advanced or new technology in productive and meaningful ways

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