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Strawman terminology: "expert C++ programmer?"

This topic was posted to another board by a recruiter who was lamenting the lack of responsive candidates for a job:

>> With all the pain and suffering going on in the I.T. world - you would think it'd be rather easy to locate some top C++ talent. Wouldn't you?

>> Well the reality is not the case.

>> Many of the guys I run into are still living in an illusion.

>> Won't even get off their couch for a chance at making 70-80K this year.

>> Unbelievable.

What emerges later in this thread is that: the $70-$80K is actually a contract rate of $35-$45/hr somewhere in Indiana, US; and what the recruiter really means by 'expert' and 'top talent' is someone able to develop C++ applications without supervision or training.

Just a reality check, now: what does anyone here think that 'top talent' or 'expert' really mean? And is the reluctance of some qualified candidates to consider a mediocre rate on a contract position that probably requires relocation an indication of terminal laziness or poor character?

My feeling is that some people want to protect their salary history and not work for wankers who consider someone an 'expert' who simply meets nominal job qualifications.

Just wanted to see what the folks here thought.


Bored Bystander
Sunday, February 22, 2004

A real 'expert' wouldn't accept $35-40 per hour.

T. Norman
Sunday, February 22, 2004

Why not?  Seems like it would be better, in many cases, than getting nothing.

Not trying to be a smartarse.  I'm not a contractor and don't have any insight into what represents a choice assignment.  Just wondering what the thought process is.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

"A real 'expert' wouldn't accept $35-40 per hour."

Why not? What if the job is something they really love doing and they're willing to work for less money than they might otherwise be able to command? Or are experts only found amoung those solely motivated by money?

Additionally, it may be that someone is an expert, but very poor at selling themselves, and hence is unable to command a greater rate.

I think it's foolish to make blanket statements about how much an expert would cost.

Sum Dum Gai
Sunday, February 22, 2004

Let's get out of the bullshit IT world that's been destroyed by moron recruiters, pimps, outsourcers and business hacks for a minute.

An expert in a profesional field means someone recognised to be at the top of their field, probably 40 or older, numerous achievements. Probably good position. Poeple like this do not work for $40 per hour.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

openIT forum is poisonous, I recommend staying away and not listening or believing anything that gets said in there.

Dan Brown
Sunday, February 22, 2004

Why, Dan?

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Short and sweet:  It's very important to keep good company, and that forum is full of whiners and complainers.

A lot longer:  Aristotle's conception of Eudaimonia -

Dan Brown
Sunday, February 22, 2004

If I had been out of work for years, with no foreseeable prospects then I think I would take whatever rate I could get just to feed my children.

..however...If I were just in a slump, I wouldn't take a $35-$40 job, even if I had nothing else lined up. One reason is that I wouldn't want to be tied down to a low paying contract when something better comes in. The other reasoning is that I simply am not interested in working for that rate. I'd rather spend the time working on growing my business, learning new skills or just spending time with my family rather than sloshing out code at $35/hour for someone who is likely to be a royal pain in the arse to deal with, given the low rate they pay.

Of course, given enough time with no business and one has to re-evaluate their market price.

Mark Hoffman
Sunday, February 22, 2004

Dan's right. What a bunch of losers in that forum. They respect the recruiter as if he knows something. They wait by the phones for the recruiter to ring. Morons.

Monday, February 23, 2004

My employer struggled to find a good Java programmer, where good is defined as, say, in the top 10%. That surprised me, considering how bad the Silicon Valley job market is.

My conclusion was that, even in tough times, there are a limited number of expert-level programmers searching for jobs. Since they're snatched up rather quickly, a vast majority of the remaining applicants were unqualified for the position we wanted to fill. We were outbid on the few candidates we liked.

Monday, February 23, 2004

That rate wouldn't be bad for my own skill level, but nobody is going to classify me as being in the top 10% of C++ programmers.  I can produce what the customer wants and deliver a quality product, but there are a lot of programmers who are better than me.

For somebody in the top 10% of programmers though, there are better salaries and better living in Chicago. Even for the same salary, I'd choose Chicago over Indianapolis any day.  My guess is that the employer just doesn't grasp basic economics.  Anybody who can swing it is going to choose to live in Louiseville or Chicago over Indianapolis or Fort Wayne, especially if the salaries are better (which they will be).

Sadly, where I live that contract would be considered a good rate.  Flint is an economic wasteland.  Detroit does have high rate jobs, but it has the Detroit factor going on: it really does look like the movie Eight Mile (as does Flint, but without any actual working factories) and the cost of living in a decent neighborhood is very high, and the lack of public transit means that getting in and out of town is miserable.

Clay Dowling
Monday, February 23, 2004

$35 may be less - but I would'nt mind doing - to keep the projects rolling.  The problem in my area is, that this is so rural - that I get a feeling that recruiters give a pass to applications from this area.

Monday, February 23, 2004

When the motorcycle mechanic is $60 an hour, the plumber is $95 an hour, the PR person is $80 an hour, why should anyone be surprised that they can't get a C++ programmer for $40.

Monday, February 23, 2004

"motorcycle mechanic -$60 an hour
plumber - $95 an hour
PR person - $80 an hour

Why should anyone be surprised that they can't get a C++ programmer"

Because the first three jobs you list are high skill jobs that require training and expertise. C++ coding is a low skill job that can be done be any old code monkey.

Outsourcing Giant
Monday, February 23, 2004

Honest to goodness. Hello !.  Here you have why we supposedly have a shortage and a need to import talent.

I earn US$37.00 an hour. I consider it a "contractor's rate". A journeyman, a guy who can get the job done.  I work 40 hours a week. I once hired experts in Oracle as I did a job which required Oracle and I realized I needed an expert's input. I paid US$100-150 an hour and was very precise on what I needed. A lot of it was just for him to verify my code, verify my architecture.

People have to get real.

Monday, February 23, 2004

where I work the contract "web designers" (HTML monkeys) get $35.00/hr. the expert C++ guy gets $95/hr.
I get $75/hr for doing sql queries.


Monday, February 23, 2004

"I earn US$37.00 an hour. I consider it a "contractor's rate". A journeyman, a guy who can get the job done. "

Ouch.  Maybe a career change is in order?

Dan Brown
Monday, February 23, 2004

> what does anyone here think that 'top talent'
> or 'expert' really mean?

My working definition of "expert", which I use in job interviews is as follows:

An expert in a field is someone who knows answers to difficult questions about that field without having to look them up.

It's not a perfect definition, but it is highly useful.

To use myself as an example, I consider myself to be an expert on the design of the Microsoft scripting languages, the life and work of JRR Tolkien, and sailing small craft.  If you've got a question about those topics, I can answer them pretty much off the top of my head.  Ask me a question about, say, .NET Remoting and I'll be looking it up.

That is not to say that it makes sense to test for experthood by asking trivia questions.  One can be an expert and not know offhand what the WMI call is that reboots a computer, or which brother of Bilbo Baggins was Frodo Baggins' father, or what the international lighting pattern for "this channel is being cleared of mines, please avoid" is. 

Rather, experts should be able to answer "large scale" questions about goals and motivations.  I would never ask a putative expert questions like that.  I'd ask far more general questions, or specific questions that exposed a knowledge of general principles.  What's the difference between the VBScript and JScript garbage collectors?  Why is The Lord of the Rings not actually a Christian allegory?  What's the result of oversheeting the spinnaker on a broad reach?

Determining who is really an expert and who isn't is hard.  I've written a blog article on some of these issues, spefically on C++ programmers, here:

Eric Lippert
Monday, February 23, 2004

Don't forget benefits - $35/hr if that's all you get is like a $50,000/yr salary job.  Fresh outs get that.  Now if it's $35/hr + vacation + health insurance + dental + holidays then it's a different story.

Bathmophobic skier
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

> what does anyone here think that 'top talent' or 'expert' really mean?

To an employer or a recruiter (not to comp.lang.c++) I'd be willing to call myself an "expert" in C++. Without detailing my past achievements, what I mean by it is that if you hire me to do C++ coding, I may have to work through various problems (e.g. defining requirements, negotiating a schedule) but that none of those potential problems would be caused by an insufficient knowledge of the language on my part.

Contrast this with a 'junior' programmer, who'll have to live with problems such as not knowing the STL, not fully understanding (having to guess at) the lifetime of C++ objects, and so on.

> Won't even get off their couch for a chance at making 70-80K this year.

That's another topic altogether.

Christopher Wells
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

>"I earn US$37.00 an hour. I consider it a "contractor's >rate". A journeyman, a guy who can get the job done. "

>Ouch.  Maybe a career change is in order?

Naw, no one is paying any more than that around here.

I see html jockey's getting US$35.00/hr ... umm  where houses cost half a mil maybe. You can get html jockeys for US$15.00  here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

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