Odgers Berndtson: Tech, tech BOOM. Software engineer is a new "rock star"

Think of a software developer, or ‘coder’, and what comes to mind? The chances are that the words rock star or superstar weren’t part of the image you conjured. And it’s almost certain that you didn’t picture today’s software engineers as masters of their own destiny, revered like leading musicians or actors with their own Hollywood-style talent agencies to represent them.

But this is the cutting edge, the pinnacle of 21st century innovation where software developers reign supreme. The world as we know it is being rewritten in code, and an unprecedented tech boom and the worldwide proliferation of ‘digital’ means that software development and programming are no longer restricted to Silicon Valley.

Demand for the best and brightest software developers has ignited a talent war of epic proportions as everyone, from the smallest start-ups through to major global investment banks and multinational corporations, competes for the most talented coders. In 2015, for example, it was estimated that in the US alone around one in every 20 job postings was related to software development/ engineering, while in London a distinct lack of software talent is driving an increasingly competitive market.

And when time is money, everyone wants the best.

Consider them the elite, the top few per cent of all software developers who, through their exceptionally creative lifestyles and talented coding have become the hottest human capital commodity.

At its most basic level coding consists of problem solving and an understanding of what needs to be done to make the code as scalable and effective as possible. A rock star could, for example, allow you to achieve in one hour what you can do in four or five hours with a team of very skilled software developers. There are even reports of rock star developers entering a business and solving a problem in a relatively short timescale that an in-house engineering team hasn’t been able to solve in some years, adding exponential value to the business in the process.

If you’re wondering what it takes to secure your own rock star – and why wouldn’t you be – then you’d better be prepared to enter a fierce bidding war. The sparsity of such highly skilled individuals has had a significant impact on the hiring process and created an environment where rock stars are effectively able to pick and choose whatever job, salary and bonus packages they wish.

Six-figure salaries are standard for the very best, as are the video games, pool tables, breakout areas and other novelties that have become synonymous with the ‘modern’ and ‘cool’ tech office.

But it goes beyond that. Everything is being offered, from on-site haircuts, on-site yoga and other activities to an indoor tree house (Airbnb), a music room (Dropbox) and free gourmet meals delivered to desks. That’s not to mention the ‘precation’, a fully paid for holiday to a destination of choice that’s taken after a contract is signed, but before a single line of code is written.

Other examples include Twitter, which paid senior vice-president of engineering, Christopher Fry, more than $10 million in stock options in 2012- a figure that was second only to that received by the CEO. Meanwhile Google, in an attempt to prevent a leading programmer defecting to Facebook, paid him $3.5 million in restricted stock options.

If you can offer those kind of figures then you’re certainly an attractive prospect, but remember, the rock star is more than a mere mercenary. By their very nature they are attracted to diffrent or exciting opportunities, businesses with unique missions or innovative concepts that give them the opportunity to create code that will have a significant and lasting impact on the world.

To read the full report, click here.

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