There's nothing to fear except fear itself says Claire McGonigle, Software Recruitment Consultant at Brightwater
In his article State of Play - IT Graduates, my colleague Hugh McCarthy set out the early path of the software graduate. They have worked extremely hard to attain a good degree during their first couple of career years, and they have put their theoretical knowledge into practice in the commercial environment.
With tangible experience under their belt, their next career stage falls under the title of Mid-level Developer; someone who has between two and four years professional experience.
Ultimately, what a software engineer's role is and what their specific role is varies from company to company. However, the mid level developer plays an integral part in the development of software applications for computer systems, integrating not just programming skills but also some design and conceptual skills as well. Some may build database structures, while others may work on the embedded software necessary to make electronic devices function, and still others may write games and consumer-level applications.
A mid level developer is someone who has gained this practical knowledge and is actively developing their skillset in a commercial setting, confidence in their ability has increased and with 3-4 years experience that confidence turns to comfort with software development becoming second nature. At this stage, the mid-level developer can now aim for the next level which is senior developer. They should be mentoring new graduates, getting more vocal in development projects and gaining more exposure to emerging cutting-edge technologies and techniques.
What does this skill set look like?
Here in Ireland, the demand for developers with strong Web services skills on both the Java and Microsoft platforms is very high; this is largely attributed to the trends of cloud computing and social networking. Additionally, many CTO's are realising that a knowledge of how 'the business' works is also extremely beneficial to them, and many technology-led organisations are now widening the scope of the development team to incorporate this.
One such company is Dublin based Ezetop, which claims to be the fastest growing top-up company in the world. According to CTO, Jim Carr, the high energy start-up nature of ezetop allows their staff - including IT - to experience every aspect of how their business works. He said: "A development role in ezetop is diverse and challenging. As our company grows we are actively encouraging employees to build upon their strengths and give them real encouragement in growing their abilities and not just their pure .NET skills."
This period in a developer's career is exactly the right time for them to start putting their head above the parapet and push the boundary of their comfort zone by seeking out new technologies, new projects and taking on more responsibility within their team.
Over the last couple of years, salary levels for software developers have not been hit as hard as those for other IT related disciplines such as Infrastructural engineers and Project Managers, and most companies are aware that in order to retain their best developers the remuneration has to be strong. With the shortage of readily available job candidates in Ireland, it is highly probable that most software developers seeking new positions will have several opportunities from which to choose, and because competition amongst hiring companies is fierce, salaries have realigned with 2007 and early 2008 scales. For example, in early 2009 a Java or .NET engineer with 2-4 years commercial web services experience might have expected €35,000-€40,000. In today's market, they can expect to be paid €40,000- €45,000.
Despite this, software developers, like most IT professionals, are thinking long and hard about moving employer. With the Irish market in such turmoil and the newspaper's headlines screaming "job losses" and "recession" over the last two years, it's hard to imagine that job creation and innovation is anywhere to be found! Couple this with concerns about the health of a prospective employer or 'last in first out' fears, the consensus seems to be the "better the devil you know than the devil you don't" approach. With the perception of Irish economic conditions this is very understandable, and, exacerbated by the community's fear, a severe supply issue currently exists.
However, in real terms, this couldn't be farther from the truth, particularly in the software development sector which is absolutely booming with career opportunities.
The phenomenal demand is coming from every level; large multinationals to financial institutions and small indigenous software development houses, and is being driven by factors such as R&D (which the last Government saw and, hopefully, the new will see, as the catalyst to Ireland's competitiveness), Cloud Computing and digital sector.
Mobile Travel Technologies is another company hiring right now. MTT is working in the sophisticated mobile technology space delivering innovative mCommerce software to blue chip clients located around the globe.
Head of HR Liz O'Donovan explained MTT will take on talented Java Developers with 2-3 years development experience providing they have top class academic backgrounds plus. "We offer Developers the opportunity to work with leading edge technologies (iPhone/iPad/Android/Windows Phone etc), have a direct impact on our company and enjoy increasing responsibility, promotion and financial rewards based on their efforts and achievements. All this within a professional and well-structured company, but without the bureaucracy of many larger organisations."
Smart companies recognize the anxiety being felt by developers about moving jobs and the interview style has changed massively to address this. Most companies are completely open to talking honestly and openly and are willing to really drill down to what they are able to offer you in the longer term. No longer is the interview process about a company interviewing a candidate, it's now a two way street.
However, with demand and salaries on the rise, employers will absolutely satisfy themselves that a candidate is coming for good, and will probe to uncover motivations for a career change. It is prudent to have given serious thought to this. If you're currently in the job market, my advice is really to think about your career path, do your research, identify the technologies which most excite you, and the key companies and industries that are likely to provide longevity in your chosen expertise. Think about what your current company has been able to give you and what you'd like to gain in the next in 5-10 years.
Paul G, a PHP Software Developer recently placed by Brightwater, said: "Whilst I was happy to be working in IT, I felt that I had reached a peak in my role and it had stagnated somewhat. Initially I was concerned about a change in my status by moving into a new environment. The concerns were that I would be starting over, under a new probationary period and with a brand new set of colleagues"
In conclusion a good developer (even if you're not looking) should not just keep up to date with software development techniques and technologies but should also be keeping up to date on market trends, and on what jobs and benefits packages are currently available. It will allow you to benchmark your own current benefits list against what is available right now. Most companies these days offer pensions, decent bonuses, flexi time and an opportunity to work from home. Whilst these benefits were possibly never a consideration at the graduate level, with your unique change in life circumstances, these fringe benefits are now becoming a priority rather than a luxury.
Article written by:
Claire McGonigle, IT Recruitment Consultant, Brightwater IT
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