Tech boom! The war for top developer talent

With eight qualified candidates for every 10 openings, today's talented developers have their pick of perks, career paths, and more

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Culture, community, code

In many ways, the most visible perks of coding culture are no longer a differentiating feature in attracting talent. Even salaries and stock options aren't always the deciding factor. The most appealing thing is often the nature of the work itself, as well as the community of coders they'll be part of.

Last year, developer hub Stack Overflow surveyed 9,000 programmers to discover what was most important to them when evaluating a potential job. Nine out of 10 said they'd accept less money in exchange for a more rewarding environment, says Bethany Marzewski, marketing coordinator at Stack Overflow.

"Number one on their list was the opportunity to learn and grow on the job," she says. "Number two was the caliber of the existing team, and number three was working at a place with good management and no bureaucracy. So if you wanted to create the worst environment for developers, make sure it's an incredibly bureaucratic one with a subpar team where they won't have a chance of learning anything new."

Paired programming at Pivotal Labs
Paired programming at Pivotal Labs

That's a boon for small firms like Yeti. Starting salaries at the self-funded startup are often half what a talented engineer could demand from Google or Facebook, admits Director of New Business Will Harlan. But Yeti's consistent growth and informal environment -- the company offers flex time and hosts barbecues for employees and friends of Yeti on the rooftop deck every Friday -- help close the gap.

"If you go with one of the big dogs, they'll promise you a lot up front, including probably a six-figure salary," says Harlan. "But once you get inside one of these companies, you can get pinned to a specific part or feature of a project for months or years at a time. Here you're working on a new project every three or four months. Within the first year, you'll have helped create two or three websites or apps that you can tell your friends, 'I made that.'"

At Pivotal, the primary appeal is a cultlike devotion to the concept of paired programming, coupled with the ability to ship code every day.

"We are delivery junkies," jokes Associate Director Davis W. Frank. "It turns out I get much more of a dopamine rush knowing I can ship code at any time than some testosterone-driven 'I just solved this big hard problem I've been working on for months.' Solving tens of problems a week is way more gratifying."

Davis W. Frank, associate director, Pivotal Labs
Davis W. Frank, associate director, Pivotal Labs
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