back to article £42k for a top-class software engineer? It's no wonder uni research teams can't recruit

Lack of support for software engineering is holding back efforts to improve reproducibility and openness in the UK's scientific research, a panel of MPs was reliably informed yesterday. With data analytics at the heart of a great number of leading-edge scientific fields, the need for support from software engineers has never …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "They're willing to halve their salary to work with me if it's an interesting project. They're not willing to decimate it down to £30k or £40k," he said.

    oh how the other half live

    I've worked all my life in I.T . , trying to and finally moving on from "have you turned it off and ion again " , and have just cracked the 30k

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Its the "decimate it down" bit that bothers me, I don't think the person making that comment understands the word "decimate" decimate is a reduction it doesn't need "down" applying. Decimating is synonymous with reduction through destruction.

      I wouldn't want to work for that moron or take his pay cut.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
        Joke

        > I wouldn't want to work for that moron or take his pay cut.

        You're being unfair - remember, the person quoted was speaking to MPs - and therefore needed to dumb-down significantly!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Then surely using the correct phrasing is of the utmost importance.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            No, it isn't. In fact, being redundant like that which adds a whole half a second to the sentence could clarify to someone who doesn't understand that he really does mean less than half. It's also incorrect use of decimate, but I'm accepting that too. We have lots of inefficient phrasing in English. For example, we have the phrase "dumb down" already used in these comments, whereas you could probably cut out the "down" and be fine. It's not an exact science. As long as you understand what was said, it's fine for informal statements.

            1. CrackedNoggin

              I hate to be pedantic, but - remember, the person quoted was speaking to MPs - so the correct term would be "dumb up".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        doubly so- as decimate means reduce by one tenth (although now is often incorrectly used to mean reduced by a lot more than that).

        I could be interested by a one tenth pay cut to work on something really interesting, but not 60-70%.

        1. eldakka Silver badge

          > although now is often incorrectly used to mean reduced by a lot more than that

          That is not an an incorrect usage of the word 'decimate'.

          English is a living language, which means over time the meaning (and pronunciations) of words not only drifts, but can change radically.

          English is also a very flexible and context-sensitive language, such that the same word can have different meanings depending on context, and that context decides which of the various accepted meanings of a word apply.

          Additional accepted definitions of decimate over time have come to include "to reduce drastically especially in number" and "to cause great destruction or harm to" in addition to the original "to select by lot and kill every tenth man of". Which definition is appropriate depends on the context it is being used in.

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            damn i just wrote the same thing! (see below)

            In response to something that some coward has now deleted .

            Although i may have landed the other side of the fence on the technical vs common definition of decimate

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            To the downvoters:

            OED: Decimate: More generally: to reduce drastically or severely; to destroy, ruin, devastate.

            This use has sometimes been criticized on etymological grounds (see, for example, M. West & P. F. Kimber Deskbk. Correct Eng. (1957) 119 and quot. 1944), but is now the most usual sense in standard English.

            So decimate, used not to mean one tenth, whilst criticized by some, is not just its more usual use these days, it is the primary official definition of the word.

            1. NeilPost Silver badge

              Much in. The same way decline means a reduction, but not by a tenth either.

              I won’t even entertain that December is in error. not being the 10th month :-)

              1. Def Silver badge
                Headmaster

                September, October, November, and December used to be the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth months. Which is why they're named as such. January and February used to be the eleventh and twelfth months, respectively. The start of the year was shifted by those sneaky Romans at some unspecified point in the past.

                1. adam 40 Silver badge

                  What the ones who 'March'ed all over us?

                  1. Def Silver badge
                    Coat

                    'May'be.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      How'June' oh?

                2. EnviableOne Silver badge

                  it's due to those two self-aggrandising emperors Julius and Augustus, who snaffled a couple of months in the hot part of the year and knocked all the accounting out.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            That is the descriptivist viewpoint, yes. However, descriptivism is not the only valid point of view. Prescriptivists (including me) would hold that decimate means to reduce by 10% because *that's what it means* from both its literal etymology and original usage. However, dictionaries are written by descriptivists, because if you purchase one prescriptivist dictionary you're pretty much set for the next few centuries and that's not the ideal outcome for publishers. Additionally, descriptivism has been used as an excuse for giving existing words new denotations while preserving their existing connotations, a common and highly effective political tactic made even more effective by descriptivist education's message that the practice is both acceptable and admirable. With the pursuers of both money and power on their side, descriptivists probably assume their ideas are the only ones that matter, but they're as wrong about that as they are about the language.

            Decimate: To reduce by one tenth.

            1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

              How thoughtful of you to write that diatribe in modern English rather than your native Anglo-Saxon.

            2. doublelayer Silver badge

              Out of curiosity, if I could find a classical usage of "decimate" or its Latin equivalent which didn't mean to reduce by exactly one tenth, would you change your mind? How far back does a definition have to go before you consider it set in stone never to be used in another way? Which words fall into this trap? Could I pick apart your writings looking for a word that a dictionary from two centuries ago defined in an incompatible way and tell you you're wrong about it despite it being perfectly understandable to everybody?

      3. Mike 125

        >Its the "decimate it down" bit that bothers me,

        Then try 'it's'. See if that helps you.

        I think the guy is on our side!

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          I don't think he did use it correctly .

          Whilst the "down" part may be optional, the sentence indicates that 40k is a more than 50% reduction , therefore "decimate" was not used correctly *

          .

          .

          * meaning 10%

          but as it virtually never is used correctly "My crops were decimated!" the language changes by popular vote and abominations such as "I could care less" become the accepted default.

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Re: abominations

            "I could care less" become the accepted default

            Urgh. Hopefully this never happens. Drift is one thing. A complete reversal of meaning is quite another.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: abominations

              "Urgh. Hopefully this never happens. Drift is one thing. A complete reversal of meaning is quite another."

              Is that the hot topic of the day? Cool!!

            3. Mike Pellatt

              Re: abominations

              Complete reversal of meaning? Like the word "let" which used to mean "prevent" but has now had its meaning reversed?

              I'm with you though, as that's a single world rather than a complete phrase which rather than having its meaning changed is more being incorrectly parsed.

      5. Wim Ton

        Decimation is a common process in digital signal processing. In general, it means "throwing away at least half of the samples". Depending in the sample rate and the bandwidth of the signal of interest.

        1. SCP

          Obviously a bintodec mistake interpretting 1 in 10!

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You couldn't be more wrong about Ben Goldacre. Read his books.

      7. Dr_N Silver badge
        Trollface

        AC> I wouldn't want to work for that moron or take his pay cut.

        I'm guessing you're an homeopathy adherent ?

      8. G.Y.

        -10%

        Decimate means reduce by 10% (as in Roman armies)

        1. Ahosewithnoname

          Re: -10%

          It did, back in the time of the Roman armies..

          1. martinusher Silver badge

            Re: -10%

            >It did, back in the time of the Roman armies..

            Obviously inflation has taken its toll since then.

      9. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's clumsy language but Ben Goldacre is so far from a "moron" that I'm going to have to assume your comment comes from ignorance.

      10. jgard

        Moron?

        I wouldn't worry about it mate. The guy is a prolific author, researcher and proponent of science and open, evidenced based medicine. He has degrees in medicine, physiology, statistics and philosophy from elite universities and is famous for exposing big pharma and the tricks that the drug giants play on data and stats. He's now director of a major resarch program at a uni rated top 5 globally.

        I doubt he would be particularly interested in employing a random Internet heckler. The sort who can't help but project his own feelings of inadequacy by shouting 'moron' at those more accomplished, intelligent and successful than himself.

        Rest easy my friend, he won't be calling with that offer you're so keen on turning down.

      11. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Decimating is technically speaking derived from the Latin for "one tenth".

        It's mostly remembered in honour of an early manifestation of modern management philosophy, where essentially a leader short of supplies by one tenth ordered a tenth of his followers to be executed to make up the shortfall; earning him the lasting love of his comrades and every subsequent historian.

      12. This post has been deleted by its author

      13. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Lookup who he is. You might feel like a moron afterwards

      14. jgarbo

        Right! Bad grammar is inexcusable when recruiting IT staff.

    2. jzl

      "In IT" != software development

      This is the point the writer was making. There are a wide range of careers in IT, as there are in many other fields.

      A software engineer would expect to *start* their career on at least £40k these days and ramp up quickly from there.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Everyone expects to "ramp up quickly".

        Then reality sets in and they find out that ramping up is contrary to the company's budget plans.

        1. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge

          Then reality sets in and they find out that ramping up is contrary to the company's budget plans.

          So they then update their CV with the last X months of experience and get a role paying a little more than the last place

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          A few companies will give pay rises automatically to graduates, but most will try and string them along as long as they can get away with the graduate not interviewing somewhere else. At quitting point graduates get another decision, quit or take the pay rise which only appeared because you threatened to leave. Everyone who stays regrets it. But regardless, getting that outside job offer is the first and most important step on an IT career. It opens your eyes to the understanding that you can spend about five years taking new jobs every year and getting a well deserved 10-20% pay rise each time because of the experience you're gaining. It's a logarithmic curve for most people, but doubling pay in a about five years is very very common for software engineers coming into the industry with any ambition (not even skill) at all.

          Which is to say, five jobs in their first five years doesn't prove that a software engineer is good, but it is perfectly reasonable given the way HR functions.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Everyone expects to "ramp up quickly".

          Then of course, ramps go both up and down!!

        4. jzl

          What idiot lets one company's plans dictate their career? If you don't like your salary, move.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: "In IT" != software development

        £40K? Luxury. I remember starting off on £16K in London and I were grateful for it.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: "In IT" != software development

          I was on £7000 when I started in Hong Kong in 1990. ;)

        2. Rob Daglish Bronze badge

          Re: "In IT" != software development

          I think I started on around £8k, and was around three jobs into IT before I manged to get into double figures... Mind you, I used to pretty much double my salary with mileage claims in those days!

          1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: "In IT" != software development

            I was on £7K *and* my mortgage rate was 15%. And kids today.... :)

            1. katrinab Silver badge
              Flame

              Re: "In IT" != software development

              Very likely 15% of a much lower purchase price though.

              My parents:

              Income: £8,500

              House price: £17,500

              Interest rate: 15%

              Monthly repayments: £211.43 or 30% of monthly salary before tax

              Someone leaving university today and getting the same job:

              Income: £26,000

              House price: £325,000

              Interest rate: 3.3%

              Monthly repayments: £1,583.97 or 73% of monthly salary before tax and student loan deductions

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "In IT" != software development

                Imagine that: artificially low interest rates inflate asset prices much more rapidly than wages, impoverishing the working man and enriching the landlord. If only we had several centuries of economic writing and research; we might have known that before setting them there. Oh, wait...

        3. jzl

          Re: "In IT" != software development

          I started off on £18k in London back in the day myself. My comment was about starting salaries now.

      3. AndrueC Silver badge

        Re: "In IT" != software development

        Starting at £40k? That sounds like London wages. In the rest of the UK I think starting somewhere in the 30s is more likely.

        1. Abominator

          Re: "In IT" != software development

          People I know were starting on 30, 25 years ago.

          1. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

            Re: "In IT" != software development

            I was in recruitment in those days and there were a lot of people expecting that sort of salary. Not so many got it though.

            1. Persona Silver badge

              Re: "In IT" != software development

              The trick was to apply for the job that paid what you wanted, not the job you were qualified to do.

        2. dinsdale54

          Re: "In IT" != software development

          40K definitely appropriate for London. A couple of years back a relative started on that after graduating. 18 months later moved to a new job on 60K.

          Here's the similar story from a few months ago. Military rather than academia but same issue.

          https://www.theregister.com/2021/08/13/sas_mab5_secret_hacker_squad_hereford/

        3. dajames Silver badge

          Re: "In IT" != software development

          Starting at £40k? That sounds like London wages.

          Sounds like it for a good reason -- he's talking about Oxford, which is one of the few places in the UK where it is as expensive to live as it is in London.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "In IT" != software development

        I think starting salaries very much depend on where you are and what industry you are in.

        In London, and in some of the biggest financial firms, you might start on £40k, but elsewhere in the UK, it's often likely to be £25k or so, and probably only slow increases from there. Coding just generally isn't respected as a skilled professional career in the country, sadly.

        1. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

          Re: "In IT" != software development

          Open Source gives code for free. If not for that our salaries would be double of what we are paid now.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "In IT" != software development

          I think you're a little bit out of touch there.

          Starting wages in the North of England are now around £30k. Manchester really has become a tech hub Leeds too and to a much lesser extent Liverpool. Further south, Brum has a few big businesses too paying well, and with remote working, London-ish salaries are being spread out across the country.

          Slow increases are uncommon too. You'll usually get at least inflation level rises.

          I went from a starting wage of £30k at end of 2019, to mid £50k now.

          I am not a senior, nor a tech lead but a comfortable mid, but earn more than those roles would do in the civil service. The reason for this is purely down to the impact of the work we do in pure monetary terms.

          In a previous role there was a tricky bug that was impacting sales on our platform. I found the bug, implemented a fix and saw an immediate 10% increase in conversion. Over 12 months that was probably worth about £5million to the business. More and more companies are data driven, and with data as plain to read as that, asking for inflation busting payrises and getting them is remarkably easy, the increase is sales for just one day was worth the same as my increase. Pennies to these businesses, but the civil service obviously can't work like that.

          Is it right? Probably not. But it is what it is.

          The one thing the civil service do offer that the private sector ignores is the pension. There is some sort of expectation in the tech world that'll you go contracting and use that for your pension.

      5. adam 40 Silver badge

        Re: "In IT" != software development

        I was a software engineer before IT was a thing.

        So in my own Venn Diagram in my head, they are separate.

      6. swm Silver badge

        Re: "In IT" != software development

        Colleges used to pay equal salaries to professors regardless of their subject. They could easily hire Latin professors but not electrical engineers etc. They finally realized that the market place valued different disciplines differently and had to adjust pay scales accordingly.

    3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      The thing is, Coward, as pointed out in the article, you are IT. As the article points out, IT is not programming, and the problem is the perception that programming is IT and the expectation that you hire and pay programmers as IT.

      However, it's a breath of fresh air to see somebody who does actually realise that IT is not programming. Unsurprising that it's Ben Goldacre.

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    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Seriously? Mate, I've been working in IT for 30 years and I stuck closely to financial companies, they pay top dollar for most tech positions, even admin/ops positions are very paid well. The downside is there's a shed ton of stress and out of hours work can mean you working until 1am on a production problem but when you know that every day gets you 1 day closer to retiring at just past 55 it's easier to stomach the stress.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Happy

        Meh, if your only target is to retire at 55 the best thing you can do is not start a family. My programming career started in the very early 90s and the highest I've ever got is senior software engineer. I've mostly worked for small companies that have nothing to do with finance but I paid off my mortgage at age 45, could've retired any time after 50 and will probably do so at age 56 in 2023 having finally got fed up of the idiocy that pervades today's toolsets and frameworks.

  2. andy 103
    Facepalm

    IT person

    "A full-stack, commercial-grade software developer is a different set of skills to the person who fixes your printer when it's broken."

    This. 100% this.

    As you've alluded to in the article, universities simply see these people as "IT staff". How do you think they know the value of a software engineer if they don't even understand what that person does? How do they then define "top-class"?

    I've worked a software engineer for over 20 years and from what I can see at the moment there's a clear reason that you can find 6 figure positions. A lot of developers and software engineers - frankly - aren't particularly good, or as good as they claim. A lot of work has been created off the back of substandard work being done by incompetent developers. Those developers are typically the ones who blame "management", especially when it often comes down to their own narcissism and/or inability to work with other people.

    Most university positions are graded. But - they sometimes offer benefits such as more generous pension schemes and a better work-life balance - than the private sector. Sometimes - not always. As such, the private sector is always where the highest paid positions will be. It's unlikely this will ever change in academia unless or until Universities are better educated (irony alert) about what these people actually do in 2021.

    But the Universities are not the only ones to point the finger at. The average salary in 2021 in the UK is still under £30k. Many software engineers simply rely on their "years of experience" yet haven't learnt or progressed their skills during those years. They see private sector salaries and feel they're worth more money simply on the basis of their experience, when it's the results and - ability to work with other people effectively - that actually matters. A £40k salary for these people - who are in abundant supply - seems quite reasonable.

    1. Paul Johnston

      Re: IT person

      The pensions scheme you mentioned probably isn't as good as you think.

      The recent industrial action at universities has multiple causes but the pension is probably the biggest.

      1. andy 103

        Re: IT person

        @Paul Johnston agreed, but it's still better than the "default" pension arrangement at a lot of private companies which is for them to provide the absolute bare minimum.

        I also think - generally speaking - the work/life balance in private companies can be worse. But there are exceptions to the rule and it's not as black and white as my comment my sound.

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: IT person

        Compared to some private sector schemes, the original USS scheme that many lecturers are striking about is *very* generous... and that's how academia roped in the expertise: "Come work for us, the salaries are not great, but the bennies and eventual pension are!"

        And of course, that's now being trimmed to the bone, while some Vice Chancellors run around with mid-6-figure salaries, which, to be fair, is not particularly cool when you're telling your teaching staff that money is tough to come by these days.

        That said, I took a job in science that was less than my last private sector salary primarily because it was science, it was different, it sounded like fun, and for the time I was in it, was just that. Today I'm still sort-of in academia, on ironically one of the USS schemes myself. But given how I've always been of the opinion that governments and universities will inevitably rob the piggy banks that are the pension schemes, I'm annoyed by how changes are being sold to everyone (while everyone knows it's a pile of bollocks), but know that there's not much that can be done about it (short of striking, which I can't do).

        So... plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: IT person

          That's the thing about universities, UCU and the USS pension scheme: actual "proper" lecturers are on ~£50 - 60k or rather more as they progress into more senior positions, which, while not untold riches, is still a pretty damn good salary compared to much of the population. At the other end of the scale you have freshly laureated "Drs" scrabbling around on far less well paid, and often short-term, positions for a few years until they are lucky enough to scramble onto the "proper job" bandwagon (if indeed they make it).

          And in the middle (and, frustratingly, all too often entirely forgotten about in coverage of industrial disputes), you have all, or most of, the library staff, techies and coders (many university IT staff have to be jacks-of-all-trades and often do web application development or other coding as well as other things), few of whom are lucky to be on much above ~£40k salaries, which is also often only barely enough to get by on in university cities and towns with expensive housing and living costs...

    2. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: IT person

      Quote from my manager at a university where I worked part time in my twenties: "People here work 40 hours a week _on average_. But some work 20 hours, some work 60 hours, and I don't know anyone who works 40 hours. "

    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: IT person

      It's crazy that you still need an IT person to "fix a printer".

      It's like having to hire a chef in case you need to open a can.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IT person

        Come to my University. Academics may be clever in their field but they know naff all about IT. They need a lot of hand holding.

        Unfortunately, saying "I'm not good at the basics of using a computer" is something to be proud of. How many of these people would be proud to say "I can't read"?

        1. My-Handle Silver badge

          Re: IT person

          Same for doctors in hospitals. I've seen a doctor slamming a keyboard with three fingers multiple times in a row, trying to hit Ctrl, Alt and Delete in the same instant just so he could log in of a morning. It never occurred to him that you could hold a key down.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: IT person

        You didn't see the mess I got into opening that can of chicken soup once.

        1. NXM Bronze badge

          Re: IT person

          Someone I know nearly managed to slice a finger off opening a can. And he's a vet.

          1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

            Re: IT person

            No doubt he pays someone else to feed the cats.

          2. batfink Silver badge

            Re: IT person

            Serves him right for trying to use a scalpel to open it.

        2. AndrueC Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: IT person

          You can get into even more trouble opening a can of worms.

      3. Deanamore

        Re: IT person

        It's not that people can't learn how to do these things but rather there's no benefit to them for doing so. If you work in some unwieldy public sector organisation with a dedicated person for turning the screwdriver clockwise, another for turning it anti-clockwise and a third for picking the right one then you're doing someone else's job. All you need to do is report the problem, throw your hands in the air and then either do something else or nothing at all until the problem is resolved because nobody will call you out on it.

      4. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: IT person

        You'll be surprised how many of them need to have someone show them how to book a flight or a train online...

        Absolute geniuses in their field, absolutely *not* made for booking their flights to their next conference because they either don't know how to, or don't care to know how to because it's not related to their field.

        It takes all sorts, I'm afraid.

        1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

          Re: IT person

          In an organisation with budgets and procedures, there will be a system for organising flights, and a provider to travel with, and a person in the organisation whos job it is to look after that stuff.

          Not following the system makes life harder for every else involved, who can respond by making life harder for the offender. The systems will usually be far from perfect, but having an admin who knows what they are doing can make the pot holes invisible to the users.

          If your organisation doesnt manage that kind of stuff - you're on your own...

          1. anothercynic Silver badge

            Re: IT person

            But that's just it... they don't know/care to follow 'the system'. Which makes the job of the poor PA in charge of booking flights just so much more of a chore. Been there, seen that happen.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: IT person

            "In an organisation with budgets and procedures, there will be a system for organising flights, and a provider to travel with, and a person in the organisation whos job it is to look after that stuff."

            And a departmental manager whose job it was at the end of each year to say to the board: "this is how much we saved by 'partnering with' $preferred_travel_company/$preferred_airline" without acknowledging the reality that for many organisations, even more money could have been saved (assuming the travel was actually essential) by using bucket shops(?) and other non-corporate approaches. But that option doesn't involve end of year "incentives" from the travel providers to the travel policymakers/bookers, it just involves lower cost travel.

            Been there, seen that, at a number of multinational organisations. OK it was a few years ago, today's situation may be rather different.

      5. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: IT person

        What's crazy is that a printer needs fixing at all. A printer, at this point, should one of the easiest plug-in peripherals.

        Instead, they've been deliberately made difficult. For the "churn" doncha know.

      6. Mike Pellatt

        Re: IT person

        I resemble that comment. Only the very best IT people are able to fix many an HP printer problem.

    4. Rob Daglish Bronze badge

      Re: IT person

      I was loosely involved in recruiting some Developers in a previous role. Finding good ones was difficult. Finding good ones who were prepared to work where we wanted them was very difficult. Getting them to move to be near the rest of the team was damn near impossible, so the boss ended up hiring a team somewhere in Europe as it was easier and cheaper. I didn't stick around to see how that turned out.

    5. Usually 1027309

      Re: IT person

      "yet haven't learnt or progressed their skills during those years"

      Odd isn't it... not just developers but the whole spectrum of "IT workers" (knowledge workers), who don't think continual skills improvement both inside and outside of work is important.

      Managing various knowledge workers over the years, you can REALLY tell who is investing in themselves outside of work.

      "when it's the results and - ability to work with other people effectively - that actually matters"

      100%

    6. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

      Re: IT person

      --How do you think they know the value of a software engineer if they don't even understand what that person does?--

      I assume its because they have courses in software engineering. If they don't understand it how the hell are they teaching it?

      1. Sharik

        Re: IT person

        The people teaching software engineering are on £40 and know what they're teaching. The people making the monetary decisions are on £80 and don't have a clue because they have a degree in underwater basket weaving but got onto the management gravy train.

        1. Naselus

          Re: IT person

          "The people making the monetary decisions are on £80 and don't have a clue because they have a degree in underwater basket weaving but got onto the management gravy train."

          This. The most telling line in the article is 'How many people do you manage?' as if that is in any way relevant compared to IT skillsets. Our Helpdesk manager has a dozen direct reports, but he certainly doesn't earn as much as the enterprise architect who has none.

          Even when I start in IT twenty years ago, many companies would have separate pay structures for management and engineers, and the very specialist engineers would often get paid similarly to junior or mid-level executives at the high end, where the manager who they nominally reported too was basically a glorified secretary who handled the admin busywork that the engineers were too expensive to waste time on.

          Universities and (especially) the civil service simply don't get this. There's the assumption that learning how to 'do IT' is less complex than learning to be a plumber and can probably be handled by being sent on a two week course from the job centre, and the idea that a particularly high-end software engineer or enterprise architect has the level of specialist knowledge equivalent to a partner in a law firm or a senior medical consultant is beyond them. They only understand the idea that you're admin staff, and as admin staff are promoted they get underlings, so seniority is entirely a function of direct reports.

          No-one pays doctors or lawyers based on how many staff report to them. No-one should expect to pay higher-end IT staff like that either.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just out of interest:

    What qualifications have you studied for / gained?

    How big is your Linkedin network?

    How many other jobs have you applied for?

    What role do you want next?

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      And when you answer all the questions ... "Thank you, but we are looking at using Open Source software so if you would like to publish it for us we'll mention your name occasionally."

      Universities were created to educate people so that is a part of Research. A top-class software engineer in the education fields is educating students to do create the research coding, so the pressure on them is a lot less than spending your life writing code as a "profession" although it's not less work. A top-class engineer probably started writing in FORTRAN and then moved to Pascal before teaching everyone C and C++ and these days is using Python and Rust before they retire.

      1. Andy 73

        Wait. what?

        "A top class engineer probably started writing in FORTRAN"..

        That'll be a very OLD top class engineer then. I know a lot of top class engineers who've never lived in a world where Java didn't exist, and that list is soon going to include an increasing number of developers who were born after C# was created.

        If we're not even clear amongst ourselves what constitutes relevant experience, how are we meant to communicate it to scholars who've got no understanding of the field whatsoever?

        1. Warm Braw Silver badge

          Re: Wait. what?

          Speaking as a very old engineer whose first full-time paid job did indeed involve writing FORTRAN (and JCL), I was taught at University by people who worked on EDSAC. I've lived (and worked) through the decline of the mainframe, the rise and fall of minicomputers, the rise of the personal computer, the Internet, the Cloud and of course of object-oriented programming. It's almost by definition a field in which "relevant experience" means having worked with previous generations of technology because the ground is constantly shifting under your feet and it's consequently a field in which your former career highlights are probably only indirectly relevant to your current task. Incidentally, one result of my experience is that I have zero Linked-In contacts owing to my not having an account.

          Universities have a view of qualifications which values the accumulation of paper over practical skills - there's constant pressure to add to your 'academic portfolio'. It's not just IT, I know people who work in TV and film - and even education - who teach those skills to undergraduates and are on zero-hour contracts and constant pressure to obtain "proper" (academic) qualifications or lose their teaching positions, even though it would make no difference to what they teach: if you don't have at least a Master's or preferably a PhD you're automatically second rate.

          And their employment practices with academics are equally terrible. I have a relative who has recently completed a PhD and had wanted an academic career - but realised it would be a hand-to-mouth existence constantly pursuing research grants, scrabbling for zero-hours teaching contracts and moving around the country endlessly.

          They wouldn't be great places to work even if the salaries were improved. Meanwhile, the senior management staff earn a fortune.

          Universities need serious reform across the board and I suspect the collapse in international student numbers and the growing realisation a life of student debt is actually very poor value for money means they'll be forced into some sort of reluctant action, though probably of a counterproductive sort.

          1. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

            Re: if the salaries were improved./ Universities need serious reform across the board

            Well, to improve the salaries the Universities will need more money.

            So most likely one of (a) more taxes for increased direct government funding, (b) higher student fees & costs, (c) increased costings for research grants (often sourced from government or charities), (d) capture & subsequent distortion of priorities by well funded industrial (or other) interests.

            Sounds like a simple problem to solve. :-/

            1. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

              Re: if the salaries were improved./ Universities need serious reform across the board

              to improve the salaries the Universities will need more money.

              What about reducing number of students (and the professors) especially in dodgy subjects like media studies in thirds-rate universities so that there is money for proper research without having to put higher taxes?

              1. dinsdale54

                Re: if the salaries were improved./ Universities need serious reform across the board

                This is already happening. My local university (a polytechnic when I attended it) has run out of money and is culling not just courses but whole departments where the enrollment numbers aren't covering the costs. It's also trying to nerf the pensions.

                This is rough if you are one the lecturers but it's the consequence of overspending and overexpanding during the good years.

              2. Naselus

                Re: if the salaries were improved./ Universities need serious reform across the board

                "What about reducing number of students (and the professors) especially in dodgy subjects like media studies in thirds-rate universities"

                Those dodgy subjects tend to be the profitable ones for teaching. A media studies professor is unsurprisingly cheap, given his PhD is pretty useless for any other job, and his subject is the kind of easy fare that attracts third sons with daddy's credit card paying the fees. These subjects are often not really 'dodgy' at a post-grad level - it actually does make sense to have a Media Studies component in a PhD subject in various social sciences - but make no real sense as an undergrad degree, aside from paying for the professor's salary while he does useful research.

                STEM subjects, on the other hand, usually lose money from teaching because the professors are better paid (a mathematician can go and get a job as a quant in the city on 150k at the drop of a hat) and there's fewer wealthy-background students. They rely much more on grant money from research to top them up... but that's a speculative venture that may amount to nothing.

            2. Warm Braw Silver badge

              Re: if the salaries were improved./ Universities need serious reform across the board

              the Universities will need more money

              I've been involved occasionally with Universities' both in bidding for funding and in their quasi-commercial arms tendering for contracts.

              In both cases, a big obstacle has been that the central administration levied an enormous and disproportionate overhead charge on both staff time and office costs. A large amount of University funding is sucked up by a huge administrative vacuum. What Universities really need is more transparency in where their money actually goes.

            3. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

              Re: if the salaries were improved./ Universities need serious reform across the board

              More money isn't the answer! Here in the US we piss away billions of dollars in education. In all grade levels including Universities and with terrible results! Some of the top Universities in the US have endowments worth billions and they still are the same old hot mess as many have described here.

              The other big problem are the research grants, These Uni's apply for research grants for research that are all "self fulfilling prophecies!" If you ask for money to research something and it turns out your theory was completely wrong and stupid, no ones probable going to give you more money to do more research. So they make sure their theories are proven right no matter how wrong they originally were! This is a root of the climate lie!

              (Yes, it is a lie! I can prove it! I have over 100 years of temperature records for over 300 US towns and cities and have graphed out average yearly temperature for many of them and NONE of them show any appreciable increase in temperature over the last century! This is the data from the local weather stations that report the temperature to the local news every day! Downloaded from Carnegie Mellon University so no, I did not make it all up!)

              1. Mike Pellatt

                Re: if the salaries were improved./ Universities need serious reform across the board

                You almost had me there until you said "climate lie"

              2. I_am_Chris

                Re: if the salaries were improved./ Universities need serious reform across the board

                LOL. You have data on "300 cities" and only plotted "many of them". Sure...

                Now try again with 10s of thousands of sites, corrected for local errors and *all* the data analysed.

            4. Mike Pellatt

              Re: if the salaries were improved./ Universities need serious reform across the board

              Or, of course, fewer universities so the fixed costs are reduce allowing reallocation of funds....

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Wait. what?

            "Universities need serious reform across the board and I suspect the collapse in international student numbers and the growing realisation a life of student debt is actually very poor value for money means they'll be forced into some sort of reluctant action, though probably of a counterproductive sort."

            A university full of PhDs should be able to come up with an answer. The problem, of course, is that universities are full of PhDs and they'll all come up with different answers, none of which the others will be swayed from or to.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wait. what?

          LOL LOL LOL ... and are we meant to communicate it to engineers who've got no understanding of the research field that they are working whatsoever?

          "I'm writing the code to land the probe on Mars, coding the acceleration in pound-seconds not newton-seconds." - 1999.

          1. Fr. Ted Crilly Bronze badge

            Re: Wait. what?

            Just ask for TomSymowski, he's you go-to guy for that...

            "Well-well look. I already told you: I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don't have to! I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people. Can't you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?"

            1. Law

              Re: Wait. what?

              Uh oh, sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays!

              1. Uncle Slacky

                Re: Wait. what?

                Don't jump to conclusions! At least, not without this mat...

        3. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Re: Wait. what?

          FORTRAN was Uni. Work was PL/M86. On a VT220 terminal.

        4. jzl

          Re: Wait. what?

          I'm 46, so hardly young, and Java was invented while I was still at university.

      2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
        Headmaster

        A top-class software engineer in the education fields is educating students to do create the research coding

        Not every job in a University involves teaching students.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          From the cleaning staff to the chancellor, there's probably at least twice as many non-teaching staff as teaching. More like 5x as many.

      3. Plest Silver badge

        "Universities were created to educate people so that is a part of Research. "

        ha ha ha!

        "Universities were created to educate people.." but these days they exist purely to make money!"

    2. sanwin

      It is almost as if the company does not test things properly before unleashing them on the world.

      "How big is your Linkedin network?"

      Zero - and it'll stay that way. I don't need an old boys network any more than I need an Eton tie.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Indeed

        LinkedIn ? That is your criteria ?

        I had a LinkedIn profile for six years. Do you know how many useful contacts I had during that time, outside of all the people I already knew ?

        Zero.

        LinkedIn has given me nothing interesting, but a tanker full of marketroids and other assorted dredge trying to tack themselves on my success.

        I dropped LinkedIn when Borkzilla borged it and I have never regretted that.

        This past summer I signed two of the best contracts I've ever had. LinkedIn had nothing to do with that.

        If LinkedIn is one of your criteria then we have nothing to talk about.

      2. andy 103

        Re: It is almost as if the company does not test things properly before unleashing them on the world

        Re Linkedin - you're only shooting yourself in the foot. Nobody else cares about your view.

        In the same way as you can despise Rightmove, Zoopla, Purple Bricks etc. The problem being it's about more than just what you think and good luck if you're trying to buy (or indeed sell) a property and think none of that comes into it. It's where _loads of other people_ come to buy/sell property.

        In a similar manner, in 2021 Linkedin is where people find work, network with others (who might not even be in the same geographical region). It's where opportunities are. It doesn't matter if you think it's an "old boys network". The reality is, that's where a lot of opportunities exist and new ones get created. If you don't want to be part of that, it's only you who will lose out.

        1. My-Handle Silver badge

          Re: It is almost as if the company does not test things properly before unleashing them on the world

          I think your argument hinges rather heavily on the effectiveness of the service involved.

          e.g. Rightmove, Zoopla etc might have a very comprehensive list of properties for sale (if you're looking to buy), or an awful lot of relevant buyer traffic if you're looking to sell.

          Your assertation "in 2021 LinkedIn is where people find work" is pretty much what is in question. I'm going to hazard a guess that it's more relevant in some circles than others. I, personally, agree with the previous poster. In most more common software development roles around here (NI), LinkedIn is essentially useless.

          As for "Nobody else cares about your view", it might benefit you to both be less dismissive of other people's views. Whether you agree with them or not does not make them irrelevant, and you might actually learn something. It also might benefit you not to speak for other people.

          1. Cederic Silver badge

            Re: It is almost as if the company does not test things properly before unleashing them on the world

            However, my current job was advertised on LinkedIn and nowhere else.

            It wasn't even on the company's website. I had to do some due diligence to make sure it wasn't a scam.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: It is almost as if the company does not test things properly before unleashing them on the world

          "Nobody else cares about your view."

          And you I take it, don't see the irony in that statement?

          1. andy 103

            Re: It is almost as if the company does not test things properly before unleashing them on the world

            @John Brown - My comment that "Nobody else cares about your view." was in the spirit of: Let's say you're somebody who hates Rightmove. You don't have to use it yourself to buy or sell property. But - given that most people buy/sell property off the back of buying/selling other property (i.e. the property market) - it is undeniably used and necessary irrespective of whether you yourself "like" it. In that regard nobody who is using that service cares about your view of it, but without those people, the market itself wouldn't operate anywhere near to the level it does currently.

            In the same way - Linkedin and jobs / business opportunities. Even if you don't like Linkedin, many opportunities are created through it which result in other work... including for people who don't use Linkedin. None of the people using these platforms care about whether anybody else likes it or not, but you can't deny that it is absolutely pivotal in what goes on in the world in 2021.

        3. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

          Re: It is almost as if the company does not test things properly before unleashing them on the world

          LinkedIn is the place where you can check what your former colleagues are doing these days.

          It is also a place to keep your current CV and you can temporarily flag it as “looking for a job” for the recruiters to start bothering you when you need it.

          People who are trying to use it for anything else are just pathetic. Especially those who post woke politics (it is always woke of it is politics and for me it is a big sign against them when interviewing, not because of their politics but their inability to understand what are the proper and I place for it.

          1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

            Re: It is almost as if the company does not test things properly before unleashing them on the world

            Don't worry, no-one wants to work with anyone who uses the term 'woke'. Like you. Clear sign of a toxic workplace, whether for or against.

            The rest of us call it 'being a decent human being'.

            1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

              Re: It is almost as if the company does not test things properly before unleashing them on the world

              It amazes me that the people who invented the term "woke" to describe their "enlightened view point" now find it offensive when applied to them. It is like the term "liberal" when "liberals" became any thing but liberal and started getting called out on it they changed their designation to "progressive", and now that they are anything but "progressive" in their policies and being called out for that they will have to come up with another "false designation" for themselves to hide their "toxic ideology" behind.

              1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

                Re: It is almost as if the company does not test things properly before unleashing them on the world

                You've evidently completely misunderstood what I said. Anyone who uses the term, whether to describe themself or others, is a twat.

    3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      LinkedIn network?

      Oh... how quaint.

      Ok, I might be a bit biased but it never did anything for me. I got more activity when I deleted my account.

  4. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

    Irt's worse than that Jim

    Applies across all of the public sector and it's not just money. You see ITpros doing jobs where the downside is people dying and/or really bad things happening working for pitiful pay and that affects quality and staff turnover, which is especially important because government does things no one else does so when the leaned skills walk out the door, you simply cannot hire them from the market.

    But that's not the worse of it.

    Ben Goladacre is a smart science grad whose work I admire enough that I've bought his books for my kids.

    The idea of someone like him being senior in the Civil Service is less likely than a Director level being a Klingon and they fucking despise us techies.

    Also IT is too ethnically diverse for the tastes of senior civil servants who to get to their position have learned to say woke things, but choose to promote among themselves in a way that makes UKIP look like a bunch of Nigerians.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Irt's worse than that Jim

      Can only agree about the public sector

      I went for a job in engineering research in a public sector place before the pandemic, nothing too out of my experience level....

      Mentioned that I was looking for a basic 30-32K pay package (which is somewhat in line with my current one plus some extra for commuting) and the room goes cold.

      Turns out top rate was 25K....... oh well back to my old job in the private sector

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: Irt's worse than that Jim

        It's astonishing how people like you believe that sort of thing. I don't know what was actually going on there, but that did not happen the way you think it did.

        This is nearly 10 years old, but still generally good advice:

        https://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-negotiation/

        To be blunt, you completely messed-up that negotiation.

        1. adam 40 Silver badge

          Re: It's better than that Dave

          Dave thank you so much, still reading...

  5. TRT Silver badge

    In my experience...

    once you move to a university as a software engineer or IT specialist, unless you are actually part of the IT department which is often distinct from the IT embedded in research which is what the person in the article is going on about, then you can forget any future training or personal development. There's no the budget for it, there's not the understanding of how it contributes to job satisfaction. This also goes back to the experience versus qualifications debate - you won't keep your certificates up to date in a university research team yet your post will always have the sword of Damocles hanging over it. Restructuring is almost a continuous process now.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: In my experience...

      It makes easy for foreign governments to install spies as IT workers and get them to steal research data.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: In my experience...

        Since university research is published, it is even easier for foreign governments to just sit on their arses and wait. You must be thinking of private sector R&D.

  6. Deanamore

    It's all about the banding

    The problem with public sector jobs is down to pay bands where you simply can't get paid more unless you become a manager or head of department. If you cap the value of all professional staff (think that was the band IT came under whilst other things like maintenance had their own) then you completely kneecap yourself because you're saying that it's impossible for any IT bod to be paid more than a manager. A leading AI researcher or computing engineer who could easily land six figures simply isn't going to work in an environment where their braindead manager who spends all day watching cricket videos on Youtube gets paid more than them and it's impossible to get a raise without becoming said manager.

    1. PerlLaghu
      IT Angle

      Re: It's all about the banding

      This is the "Developer" v's "Senior Developer" - the "Senior" means "manages people."

      There used to be the concept of the "[Technical] Senior Developer" - someone who was recognised as particularly knowledgable in a subject area.... and [with my cynics hat on] you paid them more to keep them.

      1. Deanamore

        Re: It's all about the banding

        It's even worse than that at some places. My first just was working in a NOC so picked up a lot of networking and traditional Sys Admin skills but my manager thought that all Sys Admins were just bad developers and seemed incapable of understanding that he was comparing apples with oranges. A few decades and many jobs later I've seen that belief solidify if anything (especially with all this DevOps nonsense) which means the general view of IT from least to most important: service desk -> L2 support -> L3 support -> SME's -> junior devs -> devs -> god level devs -> Dave the manager who punches walls -> sales.

        Good luck trying to break out of that mindset in public sector orgs where you need to file thirteen different tickets, change requests, risk assessments, CAB's and financial reviews just to renew a license.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: It's all about the banding

          Agree with that assessment. I do field support, actual roll-up sleeve pop the hood replace the carbarettor stuff. I can't do helpdesk, I was forced to do it for a week, I just could not do it. However, so much of the "structure" bars you from being field tech unless you've worked your way up from being telephone monkey. Which means that if you simply do not have the aptitude for being telephone monkey the employer is throwing away field engineers.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: It's all about the banding

            It's different where I work. Telephone monkeys and field people are different, and never the twain shall meet. The field guys and gals are mainly older, with years of experience and training (on going, natch!) while the phone support people rarely stay more than a few years. There are some exceptional phone monkeys who've moved up the ladder to 2nd or 3rd line, but they really are the exception rather than the rule.

            On the other hand, I've seen it mooted about that these days, recruiters are wary of long serving, loyal staff looking to move on and wonder why they didn't bounce around multiple employers every year or two. I'm 60 and have two different IT careers and maybe 5 employers on my CV. Most recruiters, ignoring my age for the purposes of illustration, would see that as a negative and "lack of experience"

            1. Korev Silver badge

              Re: It's all about the banding

              A down vote for Telephone monkeys.

              For many that’s their first step in an IT career; for others it’s what they like doing - either way please remember they’re humans.

        2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Re: It's all about the banding

          "service desk -> L2 support"

          This is the stupidest part of all. Service desk career path is service desk -> service desk manager -> customer service oversight/consultant. It is a largely non-technical role requiring customer service skills. It is insane to start techs off in an unrelated field, and it's insane to 'promote' good customer service staff to technical roles they have no affinity for.

    2. Ommerson

      Re: It's all about the banding

      The joys of unionisation and collective bargaining. A model that might work for workers at a factory making widgets where workers are largely interchangeable, but a poor fit for workers in the knowledge economy. The ability level of software engineers varies wildly and there's a skills shortage.

      This doesn't just impact universities, but also pretty much every part of the public sector - and particularly local government, often with the result of organisations contracting out the work to one of the usual (mostly incompetent) suspects rather than gaining an in-house function to develop - and then maintain in production - the software.

    3. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: It's all about the banding

      > pay bands where you simply can't get paid more unless you become a manager or head of department.

      The government department I was a contractor at a few years ago did an exercise where they converted contractors to permies.

      I was able to get 'top of level' +20% in pay (i.e. equivalent to top of the next band up - a management band), so while they don't advertise anything but the pay bands, they can certainly pay outside it if you can justify it.

      1. Stephen Wilkinson

        Re: It's all about the banding

        Sadly that doesn't happen in local government.

        All specialists working in local government are not well paid regardless of field, not just IT.

      2. Deanamore

        Re: It's all about the banding

        Which is even more insane when you consider how many contracts get given to the same few suspects; Accenture, Capita, Deloitte, Cap Gemini etc. If you refuse to pay your staff a competitive salary because of some archaic banding system then how do you also justify handing out million pounds in contracts to be wasted by the same middlemen time after time?

  7. Mike 125

    broken

    "a different set of skills to the person who fixes your printer when it's broken. [Universities] think: 'Oh, you're an IT person...' "

    It was ever thus:

    'Oh, you're an electronics engineer- can you fix my toaster?'

    This issue is huge. 'Good' science (i.e. science) has enough trouble getting recognised these days, thanks to the 'alternative fact' brigade.

    Universities should start training and maintaining their own world class IT departments. But then, there'd be less money for the management layer...

    And don't even dare to consider AI. How will scientific consensus decide if results are skewed (genuine) or not, when AI is needed to assist the research? Who's AI? Is the AI good enough?

    Exciting times.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: broken

      Universities should start training and maintaining their own world class IT departments

      That's harder than you think. I work in IT in a University and we're struggling at all levels to recruit staff. For one junior role (where we expected not much more than "turn it off & on again" and were going to train them up) we got less than ten applicants and some of them were dire. We set a low bar and people still failed to meet it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: broken

        just out of interest how much was the "turn it off & on again" paying ?

        That could be the reason for the number and quality

        Seeing as im asking you to name numbers , ill do same.

        in my corner of NHS , helpdesk are scale 3 - just under 20k

        desktop suppt are scale 4 , just over 20k

        roughly

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: broken

          Starting over £20k

        2. PerlLaghu

          Re: broken

          There is a central, national, pay scheme for Higher Education. You can see the values here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/he_singlepayspine

          Note that, for IT, it breaks down into three blocks:

          Junior: points 24-28

          "developer": 29-36

          "Senior": 37-44

          .... these are pretty much the same bands as [Research/Teaching/Knowledge Exchange] -Assistant / -Associate / -Fellow.

          1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: broken

            "DEVELOPER" IS NOT IT!!!!!!

            No wonder the system is broken.

            "Architectural engineer, ah, that means you're a bricklayer doesn't it."

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: broken

              «"DEVELOPER" IS NOT IT!!!!!!»

              I disagree: of course Software Developer is an IT job - Information Technology, the clue is in the name. It's not an "IT Support" role (which I think is what you are attempting to conflate it with), but it is very much still a part of the larger whole world of IT.

              1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

                Re: broken

                "IT" is to "driving" as "development" is to "automotive engineering".

                Yes, it's all "cars" but "development" is *NOT* "IT". IT is *use*. Development is *creation*. This is the same conflation/confusion that gets decision-makers declaring "the future is IT, we need schools to train coders!" No. Yes, the future is IT, which means that schools need to teach *TYPING* just as 150 years ago they needed to teach reading&writing. Ooooo, houses have electic lights, that means we need to teach kiddies to be electricians. No, we need to teach 'em how to use a light switch. Those that have the interest and aptitude in being electricians will be already picking it up for themselves, and if they aren't then trying to cram it into them won't work.

                It's like saying "what are you complaining about, you always said you wanted to work in education, you're cleaning the toilets in the the local school, you're working in education".

              2. doublelayer Silver badge

                Re: broken

                If you're using IT as a really broad category that includes everything where you make the computer do something it wasn't already doing, then sure it counts. Otherwise, they're very distinct. That category could quite quickly be broken into programming, administration, and support. Each of those are themselves very broad and break down a lot as well (programming includes frontend, high-performance server work, and the people who write device drivers. All of them are doing very different things where you can't easily compare the rigor of their work).

                I think this splitting approach (XKCD) is the right one. With the single IT category, lots of things we wouldn't normally include would meet the definition. Finance people who know how to write formulas in Excel would count. I'm assuming I'm not the only one to have heard from an Excel guy that yes, he does computer programming just like I do. A lot of businesses have lots of people in front of computers, but their job is categorized more by what they do with them.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: broken

            I would say 24 - 28 experienced degree level technician; 29 - 36 PhD level; 37 - 44 PhD with significant experience and capable of managing more junior staff. The £42k referred to would be at the top of that range. So if you're going to pay software engineers significantly more, where does that leave the physicists, chemists, biologists (&al) who are actually producing that data?

            One other point, about pensions: the USS scheme is technically a private one. Its historic advantage was a defined benefit ("final salary") element with an employer contribution. This was a compensation for the public sector level pay rates - after all, if you're on a high private company wage you can choose to put more of that into your pension arrangements. The current grievance is that those benefits are being whittled away with little prospect of any compensatory salary increase.

            1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

              Re: broken

              S'funny how politicians who bang on about free markets almost always fail to see how it applies to the task of attracting workers to public sector jobs.

              It's almost like they don't really understand that supply and demand thing which they (presumably) did on day one of their PPE degree.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: broken

                Public service isn't a job, it's a vocation! (so it's safe to shit on them, they love their vocation.)

                Imagine the <sarc> tags.

            2. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge

              Re: broken

              So if you're going to pay software engineers significantly more, where does that leave the physicists, chemists, biologists (&al) who are actually producing that data?

              That sort of meantality is the crux of the problem. Why even try to equate that? If I'm trying to build a house I care about how much a plumber and sparky cost. I don't care what football team the neighbors support

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: broken

              You're just so out with market rates for those skills that you're showing your ignorance.

              My career salary trajectory:

              2015-2019 PhD - 14.5k a year stipend + about 2k to 3k

              2019-2020 Industry job for 18 months. I was offered a few things (for e.g 50k in Cambridge, but didn't want to move) but accepted job on 40k as a SW Dev in Engineering firm in the Midlands where I didn't have to move. Pay rise to 40k then 42k, bonus was 4.5% after ~12 months of being there. Got bored, started looking for something else.

              2021 - work for University doing the job Ben Goldacre is describing - writing software with/for researchers. Sideways move - started on 42k, up to 44.5k.

              In January, I start a new job on 58k, also in Midlands. There is no way that I'd be able to earn that in the University system for at least 10 years - there's a single person in my team at that salary range, and even then it'd take 5 years in post to achieve it. Holidays are good working in a University, but the pension is no longer a good deal which explains why large numbers of people in their early career are opting out, putting the whole thing at risk of toppling over - and it's a private pension scheme unlike the Civil Service or NHS schemes.

              Colleagues from PhD life who moved to London earn significantly more than me, it's worth saying - many in data science, or doing quant type work.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: broken

          Same in my bit of the NHS. IT Field Technican (it says 'Engineer' on the badge, but it's technician, back office builds, site deployments, etc.) is £25,000 (though I was on much less than that being a contractor and having leeches hanging onto my pay packet everywhere).

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: broken

        "We set a low bar and people still failed to meet it."

        And people are spending £30,000 getting a bit of paper in mis-named "Computing Science" courses to become these applicants. I've dropped my head in my hands at the quality of some applicants coming through and wonder if any of them are intelligent enough to sue the universities they went through.

        1. Dave 15 Silver badge

          Re: broken

          Not their fault if they take a course where the lecturers havent the foggiest about the subject. It would be nice perhaps to tell them to sue the university for failing to prepare them for the workforce.

          Having said that of course, why even look at graduates, why not do the obvious thing and take O and A level students with the right attitude and train them in an apprenticeship type scheme. To be honest this is very cheap, its not that difficult to do and ends up with better engineers.

          Did Brunel, Telford, Stevenson, Trevithic and the others have degrees? Yet they built stuff that was so good much of it is still in use today.

          1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: broken

            I wish I could upvote you more than once. The additional dispair is why "we" think we need to send people to university for three years in order to change printer cartridges and reset passwords. And how we've got to the point where the students mindlessly accept it as well.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: broken

              Any company insisting on graduates for that skill level of job is an idiot unless they have a good, guaranteed and rapid career progression. If I was a newly minted graduate I'd be expecting to move up within a year or be moving on to another employer where I can progress. That's probably why the lower level jobs are filled with disappointed, unmotivated people who don't stay long.

      3. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: broken

        I don't think you can underestimate the reputation of universities for being the very worst employers, who are fundamentally dishonest and will try to screw you over to the extent of sometimes doing criminal things.

        I've mentioned on here before about the time I did some contract work for an academic. His 'clever trick' was to contract lots of work from lots of people, and then refuse to sign-off the timesheets because the funds didn't come out of his budget until the timesheets were processed. He ran up a bill of many times his annual budget before the writs started arriving. The university actually tried to insist they didn't need to pay the bills he'd run up. The courts, of course, didn't agree.

        I actually got the chance to ask him 'don't you think these people deserve to get paid for their work?' and his response was (paraphrased) 'they aren't people, they don't have PhDs'.

        So, yeah. Shit pay, reputation for utterly toxic work environments; no, can't think why no-one would want to work for you.

        If you want to improve matters, boosting the pay is less important than letting people know that you understand the reputation is generally justified and your department is different and does not do the scummy stuff.

    2. lglethal Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: broken

      "Oh, you're an electronics engineer- can you fix my toaster?"

      And this is why I became an Aerospace Engineer! No one asks me to come around and fix their Airbus for them!!!

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: broken

        No one asks me to come around and fix their Airbus for them!!!

        Bummer. I'll bet it would pay better than fixing toasters...

      2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: broken

        HAH

        good luck with that... you'll be at a party and mention your job, and someone will come upto you and say "can you fix my drone/kit helicopter/cessna/lear jet/747?"

        My speciality is programming industrial tools to pump out 10 000 parts a week(if needed) and I still get some old git at the old car club saying "Can you make me 1 of these?" who then gets upset when I say "sure that will be 500 quid, if you want to pay 50pence, then you'll need to order 10 000"

        I wonder if the guy in charge of deep space networking at JPL gets people at parties going "can you fix my cable TV?"

      3. Rob Daglish Bronze badge

        Re: broken

        Let me guess - it's all Boeings these days?

        1. the Jim bloke Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: broken

          ..Boeings all the way down...

      4. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: And this is why I became an Aerospace Engineer!

        Flying toasters were very popular, once upon a time.

    3. adam 40 Silver badge

      Re: broken

      Isn't that called the "Computer Science Department"?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I worked in "the science" for quite a while and as data became larger and more complex I got increasingly engaged in programming activities to support research just as the article describes as a "hobby activity". My recent roles in industry quickly became effectively "research software engineering" as I would be the only person in the department who could drive anything other than Microsoft Office, but the organisations have never recognised or formalised this kind of skill or activity, instead reducing it down to generic support work. I know I'm not a software developer by any stretch of the imagination, but the need for scripts and small tools to handle analysis and data flows is real, particularly in life sciences and would really benefit from dedicated software developer time, but it is completely unrecognised by senior management in both academia and industry who have never worked hands-on with code and see it as simply "boring nerd stuff" that makes the rest of the work happen, while in reality, RSE and data engineering underpins the entire R&D pipeline.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      I’ve noticed that a science academic non-developer is often damn good at R, and much better at slinging data around using Python/pandas than the average professional developer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I've been wondering for a while if there is scope for interdisciplinary teams in RSE within organisations, involving both technically savvy scientists who understand where the data comes from and how it's being used and can write half-decent code, alongside dedicated professional developers who can structure and delivery it most efficiently; combining domain experts. The system limps along on just doing enough to get through the current project/grant and onto the next. Research software engineering doesn't produce immediate sexy PowerPoint to get managers to dedicate any time to thinking about longevity. There are huge issues with repeatability and re-usable code in science that a decade of software carpentry has failed to impact.

        1. HiggsCoder

          This is what we about to do. We got a research grant that will pay for a GPU specialist to work with scientists who have a lot of experience writing code (but would not be considered super-experts at it). As you say though this works for 1 cycle of research grant, then money has to be found again given uni's won't pay for it themselves.

    2. Robert 22

      In my professional life, I worked for a Canadian government R&D lab. I noticed that management disdained software development and engineering as activities that were unworthy of a scientist. At the same time, we had very few support staff, and these were mostly technologists. There was the idea that we could simply obtain the services of "pairs of hands" from body shops, but even this became problematic as procurement rules became increasingly unworkable and budgets shrank. At the same time, management expected us to deliver serviceable technology to our clients and was oblivious to the practical realities of the situation that made this virtually impossible.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Just a nit-pick, but in my experience very few people can actually drive Microsoft Office. Most just use it as a kind of painting program.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Drive office...

        Who remembers the ECDL?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Totally agree! Managers are turning PowerPoint into the new Word. I hardly ever see an actual document anymore compared with a reshuffling of PowerPoint "slide decks" saved as pdf to make it "a report". Then it gets pasted into Excel and presented as a "database", before being pasted back into Powerpoint and dropped into a Teams chat as "version control". I weep for the ECDL!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          You mean like the data loss incident report from King's in 2016?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excel skills

    This isn't just an academia thing.

    If I had to summarise an opinion about modern work skills into a pithy one-line statement:

    "Anyone who knows how to do a proper CSV import, a Pivot Table, and a VLOOKUP in Excel should automatically have £10K added to their base salary."

    (Or maybe £20K...)

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Excel skills

      @AC - Excel, burn it with fire

      Far too many people screw things up massively with Excel mistakes (be it their own macros or the inability of Excel to import data properly by applying its "I know best" logic and autoshafting the data type - which means you can never trust a users vanilla import of CSV into a "blank" Excel spreadsheet unless the data you have is very unchallenging)

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: Excel skills

        I hear the sound of a sysadmin who doesn't know how to set Excel defaults...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Excel skills

      Ah, yes, Pivot Tables. The Excel version of "Sit and Swivel".

    3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: "Anyone who knows how to do a proper CSV import,...

      You started off fine, but went downhill after that.

    4. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Excel skills

      I would like to add one more condition:

      Anyone who knows how to do a proper CSV import, a Pivot Table, and a VLOOKUP in Excel, and knows when they need to do those things and when they really should be doing something else even if it requires a different person.

      I know some people who know how to do complex things in some programs, Excel included but definitely not the only thing, so they assume that every problem can be fixed with that hammer.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Excel skills

      Excel is like incels: both think something is a date when it's not.

  10. Abominator

    Anyone good starts at a 100 grand these days.

    Yet the government will pay a management consultant 7k per day to build a spread sheet that fails to track what it needs to and people die.

    Need to get real.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      You are clearly not a manager.

      Anyone good starts at the bottom of the barrel, is lucky to have 20 consecutive years of salary in various companies, and starts making a proper salary between the ages of 35 and 50.

      Anyone else is just someone lucky enough to have the right contacts.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        ^ this. I'm in a company where the vast majority of the hard skills is found in the interns and lowest grade staffers and the senior grades are only useful for approving your holiday request. I don't know where this claim comes from that software developers are all earning rockstar salaries. Some part of me thinks it's urban myth from tales of quants or the early days of data scientists earning £150k. I know a few picking up around £80k outside of IR-35, but nobody earning that much on paye. Certainly nothing like the amount the directors take home along with their side hustles in academia and consultancy.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          We pay 100k and struggle massively to get anyone with the right skills. This is for a pure software dev role, absolutely no management involved.

          1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

            We pay 100k and struggle massively to get anyone with the right skills.

            If you’d like to receive constructive opinions as to why this might be the case, providing a link to the relevant job description could be helpful.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: We pay 100k and struggle massively to get anyone with the right skills.

              If the AC with the £100k dev jobs going might like to post details of the vacancies (and where they are), I'm sure some of us could maybe be interested.

              I might not have the right skills, but it would be interesting to know what sort of good roles are out there, and perhaps where I should be directing my efforts next (started off with some mostly home-grown web dev experiences, but gradually over time got dragged (against my will) into more and more sysadmin stuff, and now feeling trapped having to spend too much of my time dealing with a very quirky in-house Linux system build system, and not really having the time to come up for air to try to plan an escape)...

              (I also have a pet theory that part of the problem is that the average UK graduate now comes out with such a terrifying level of debt, that they are pretty much forced to take the first decent-ish job they can find, and then they get bogged down in an unpleasant overworked/underpaid scenario, still have to meet the debt repayments, and so have less time and energy trying to look for the next job after that, whereas most foreign graduates looking to move to the UK (remember when we were seen as a friendly, welcoming, modern country?) don't start off with that ball and chain around their ankles, and so can spend that bit more time looking for that first role that better suits them, or more quickly start to build up a rainy day fund for when they need to plan their next move?)

              1. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

                Re: We pay 100k and struggle massively to get anyone with the right skills.

                I managed to change job twice this year. Both were above 100k.

                OK, my second job comes with reports, but the first one was just a developer for 110k, no management or anything.

                It is London and Java. But I have many years of experience including a company with a name everybody working in IT industry knows.

              2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

                Re: We pay 100k and struggle massively to get anyone with the right skills.

                "such a terrifying level of debt, that they are pretty much forced to take the first decent-ish job they can find"

                I was going to say that I don't understand that mindset. But I do. It's understandable, but completely wrong.

                Your first few years in any new career should involve frequent job changes as you blag your way up the ladder. You can't put much of a positive spin on your experience with the employer you're still with, to that employer - but you can call it pretty much anything you like to the one you're interviewing with for the next job. Worst that happens is they don't buy the bullshit and you wasted time interviewing, or you get the job and they think you're a bit rubbish for a few months before you repeat the process when moving to a better job at the next employer.

                Claiming you're a pen tester because you checked if your biro works is going a bit far. But if you have an eye out for things that can potentially be described beneficially, you can get a chance to add them to your CV by doing something that can be viewed optimistically and spun as whatever it is.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: We pay 100k and struggle massively to get anyone with the right skills.

                  I hear what you're saying, but a further difficulty there is that 'bullshitting' and 'bigging up' isn't something that comes naturally to many people, perhaps especially to many people whose brains work in the way that technical skills are perhaps more their forte.

                  Also, if you're not a naturally fairly confident person to start with, it's all too easy to become demoralised if what you are doing doesn't seem to be being appreciated at all (I'm not talking endless pats on the head, but an occasional acknowledgement that someone at or near the start of their career is actually doing the right thing and is showing themself to be competent, can go a long way), and therefore it is also hard to try to make a step forward if you don't have that confidence that you might indeed be good enough to try for a new role.

                  1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

                    Re: We pay 100k and struggle massively to get anyone with the right skills.

                    I mean, I agree, but... Learning to do those things, faking the self-confidence, and so-on are vital skills if you want to sell your services for what they're worth. I'd say every bit as important as the 'real' skills - but let's be honest, they're far more important, as we can see from the bullshitters in top jobs :)

                    "it is also hard to try to make a step forward if you don't have that confidence that you might indeed be good enough to try for a new role"

                    That ain't your problem. The only question for you is whether you got the job. Whether you're competent to do it is the employer's problem.

                    It's not about confidence as much as mindset. If your employer has made a major mistake employing you for a role you're unable to do well, you should be laughing all the way to the bank. If the reverse is true, and you're seriously underpaid, your employer isn't going to come and apologise and pay you extra*, are they?

                    [*As it happens, I think underpaying employees is every bit as bad for business as overpaying them, so in fact they should try hard to do so, but it's obvious that is not a commonly held belief - it is perhaps the most common error in running a business.]

          2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            You should probably add at least 50k. Skilled people these days wouldn't get out of bed for 100k.

  11. jzl

    Can confirm

    I do not manage a team and would not get out of bed for £42k. Hell, I wouldn't get out of bed for £84k for that matter. I'd drop down to £100k *maybe* if the job really was sufficiently rewarding and interesting.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Can confirm

      £100k is only £66k after tax. Probably more tax than entire corporation pays :-)

    2. ElRegioLPL

      Re: Can confirm

      Oh poor you.

      1. jzl

        Re: Can confirm

        Why "Oh poor me"?

        Did you think I was *complaining*?

        I'm not complaining. I'm extremely happy about my personal situation. I'm just pointing out that if you want to hire decent senior developers, you have to pony up. You may like it, you may not like it, but the market decides.

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Not all corporations are multinationals with tax evasion havens.

    Your plumber ? He's got a corporation, and you can bet your willy he pays his taxes to the dime.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      I can do the job for 20% less if you pay cash Pascal, know what I mean? Just between you and me like.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        You are scrapping the barrel. Tax gap (that includes mythical contractors avoiding tax to cash in hand plumbers) by HMRC own estimates is only 3bn. This is fraction of how much single average big corporation avoids.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Did they work that out using Excel?

        2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          So says the far right, anyway. Facts say otherwise, but the far right ain't interested in those.

  13. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    'Oh, you're an IT person. We've got a grade for that. How many people do you manage? None? In that case, it's £42k a year'

    Nothing new. About 25 years ago I worked for a major multinational in the City. The HR department had been sold a system for job evaluation called "Hay Points". Under this, software engineers scored just above hairdressers.

    Unsurprisingly, the software department was almost entirely staffed by contractors, who could be hired at market rate without the involvement of Human Remains.

  14. Handlebars

    Military grade

    Can't remember where I read about the military having to give software engineers ranks like Hon. General in order to game the pay grade system up to a competitive rate.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Military grade

      Probably true for any government department. Back in the 80s when B.Telecom opened software development centres in several places around the UK the new graduates had to be hired at "Assistant Executive Engineer" (AEE) grade, so that they could be paid a market-level salary. Really pissed off the other AEEs in the business, many of whom had started as technicians and finally made AEE or EE grade, managing teams of a dozen of technicians, just before retirement.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Try working in Central Government

    The pay is shite, IR35 is keeping good contractors at bay, and Ted Agnew of the Cabinet Office has a bug up his arse about keeping the contractors that HMG has.

    None of this helps get any HMG work done and then departments haemorrage good staff who are difficult to replace.

    Not sure HMG is a good IT place atm

  16. Binraider Silver badge

    In IT, you are competing with offshore.

    Whatever the disadvantages, the cost element of offshoring dictates why salaries are crap at home. Funnily enough, this is why IT is not my major discipline anymore.

    In my experience modern development ideals like 'agile' and 'modular' blow the size and maintainability of tools up to unmanageable levels for anything but the largest organisations. Off the shelf software is usually, a better bet than trying to write your own with this in mind.

    Simpler times of engineers writing their own code aren't forgotten, and I still do a little in isolated cases. But most Dev effort now is on maintaining dependencies and badly thought out data interfaces (and/or badly normalised databases).

    There's not an easy answer to this, but make do and mend, infinite patching etc are the new default because the scale of tooling is just too large in many cases.

    Can you get away with just stdlib.c? If so, you should!

  17. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    How many people do you manage? None? In that case, it's £42k a year'

    Bloody hell - surely Brookes sorted out the managers/workers equivalence thirty years ago in The Mythical Man Month?

    Though you wouldn't think so - everywhere I worked in over forty years did the same trick: promote engineers eventually into management - where they had no chance to do what they were good at and were usually very bad as managers, as well as hating the management process to the extent of resigning.

    1. Roger Greenwood

      Re: How many people do you manage? None? In that case, it's £42k a year'

      "The Mythical Man Month" - first published in 1975.....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mythical Man Month

      Freely downloadable at

      https://archive.org/details/MythicalManMonth

      Very untrendy, and all the better for it.

    3. I am the liquor

      Re: How many people do you manage? None? In that case, it's £42k a year'

      Pretty much every software business error that Fred Brooks wrote about in the 1970s is still being made more often than not. Including the one in the title of the book. Most project managers I've mentioned it to over the years had never heard of The Mythical Man Month.

      We're in a business that likes to think of itself as fast-moving and forward-looking. I suppose it's inevitable to have an element of being doomed to repeat the mistakes of history.

  18. karlkarl Silver badge

    Software Development != IT is absolutely correct. Since many of us don't use Windows and haven't for decades (it is a sucky development platform), we are possibly the least able to help fixing issues such as printers unless they are willing to install *nix and use lpd / CUPS like the rest of us.

    However it is true that I will take a pay cut if a project interests me. I also actively reject well paid projects if they involve Unity3D, Flash or Windows-only technologies such as the Hololens. Enjoyment and keeping my passion are a little more important to me than money. I do see a lot of my colleagues getting burned out by only chasing the money and hacking away at terrible projects with terrible workflows.

    30-40k is possibly a little low out of principle if it was a bank but for academia (where the lecturers are on about 35-40k), it is justifiable (we can all be poor together!). However I would tend to subsidise it with a little bit of extra work on the side. If they do prohibit that, then I would go elsewhere.

  19. JpChen

    I’m in the 6 figure camp - and I’ve bloody we’ll earned it too. Getting LinkedIn messages from uni recruiters for 35k to train the next generation is laughable. No wonder we have such a shortage that, well, helps me get 6 figures.

  20. Daedalus

    Luxury!

    While developing software I felt lucky to be treated as something other than a basic desk jockey.

    "Hey, you have a desk, a chair, a keyboard and a monitor just like any other drone. Your parking spot is in the next town over, and you can have a key card when we get around to it."

  21. cantankerous swineherd

    for 42k I'm your man

  22. ecofeco Silver badge

    So that's roughly 55K American?

    For those skills? They have got to be kidding.

    It's strange innit, that the more IT controls the world, the less employers want to pay for it.

    This will NOT end well.

  23. Aseries

    DECI-WHAT?

    Well, everyone has DECIMATE figured out? To me the modern usage of DECIMATE would apply to a work unit that experiences a reduction in force due to poor performance. Unlike the Roman legions the decimated can look for other work.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    software engineer

    This is a marvelous job I had to quit, back in the 90s, because it was not paying the bills.

    Then, I became a PM, which payed the bills, even though a PM doesn't create anything ...

    1. sjaddy123

      Re: software engineer

      Boris - is that you?

  25. 2Fat2Bald

    To be honest. I'm not 100% sure the problems with recruiting/retaining staff are 100% money-related.

    There's often a good reason someone is sat there in a university research department on nominal wages and not absolutely raking it in consulting for big business. And it isn't always philanthropy.

    I'm I'm guessing he won't be printing anything much for a while.....

  26. Dave 15 Silver badge

    They arent the only ones

    Still seeing adverts for this sort of money (and for the west country even less!!!!! yes, someone was seriously talking to me about a job and let slip they were looking at paying 35k). These same people will be moaning that there is a shortage of engineers. Then moaning that no one wants to do STEM subjects at school.

    These salaries are ridiculous, they arent needed, Germany, America, France, Sweden and many others pay multiple times that and manage to compete in a global market place. I imagine these companies also complain about their staffs attitudes and lack of productivity... but then at those salaries there staff are probably working 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet, worrying about their next gas bill and are probably not the 'cream of the crop'. I suspect the managers are also pretty poor as they are probably also badly paid and motivated.

    So, want a decent company with a decent output? Go and spend some of your profits on decent engineers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They arent the only ones

      Companies in Engineering often want to pay Spanish salaries for German Engineers.

  27. RobLang

    Every year I look back at Uni and then think no, not yet

    I had to leave after my PhD (Artificial Intelligence/Cybernetics) in 2003 because the only Post Doc funding available wouldn't pay my rent/debt. I've been an enterprise web/algorithms/data dev since and although I'd love to go back to the collegiate atmosphere, the pay and Uni bureaucracy puts me off. My skill set is exactly what Goldacre is after but Unis need to return to being research establishments that pay good people well rather than teaching quasi-businesses. That's not going to happen any time soon.

  28. physicsguy

    As someone that actually does this job

    I work as a Research Software Engineer for a Russell Group university (although will shortly be leaving). I think people here are underestimating the *requirements* needed to do this job. Almost everyone in this area has a computational focused PhD. They're writing software to a professional standard. They're expected to train people in multiple languages (Python, R, etc.). One project might be parallelising codes on GPUs to run on HPC clusters and the next might be web development. The thing is, being that flexible is a skill. The people doing this job are very good software developers generally. That's why they can go elsewhere and earn a lot more money.

    The banding of these jobs across the University sector is terrible. Mostly, people are banded on the same scale as academics. So a 'Research Software Engineer' is generally 30-40k (equivalent to postdoc) and a 'Senior Research Software Engineer' is 40 to 50k (equivalent to more experienced postdoc or junior lecturer). Beyond that, you might be line managing 10 people as head of group, and still only earning up to 60k (equivalent to a senior lecturer) and only then would you be promoted to the next band. Generally there are no posts equivalent to a professor (65k+) apart from a few high profile individuals at certain institutions.

    Since taking this job I was being constantly contacted by recruiters offering significantly more money. I'm leaving for a significant pay rise after talking to one of these recruiters.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: As someone that actually does this job

      Years ago, I read an interesting article about Gerd Falting, German mathematician, Field medal winner, and the guy who proved Fermat's Last Theorem for n < 130,000. He wanted to go to the USA. His German university wanted to keep him. They were not able to pay him half the salary he got in the USA. Not because they didn't have the money, but because regulations made it impossible.

  29. bigtreeman

    "decimate"

    Gee, don't get caught up on one word -"decimate"

    Dr Ben is a dick and doesn't have any appreciation for the software engineer

    who just sits on his ass and punches out a bit of simple code.

    And the good Dr is so wonderful and important anyone will slave for him.

    He's not paying for a skilled programmer, the base wage for an IT Guy is $42k, that's the pay scale.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: "decimate"

      Yes, 42K may be the base for an IT guy, but for 42K you won't get a software developer.

      Do you want chauffer, or do you want an automotive engineer? If you want an automotive engineer they cost more than a chauffer, and if you try to attract them with chauffer wages you'll fail.

      Salmon, mackeral, it's all fish. How *DARE* you insist I pay more for salmon than I'm prepare to pay for mackeral.

  30. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

    There are a lot of myths flying about when it comes to salaries. One of my favourites recently was the statement that "good network engineers can expect to be paid six figure salaries". I read that in a piece about recruitment.

    Now I'm sure there are network engineers out there being paid six figure salaries, but it is far from the norm. Remember the top 5% of earners are on £80,000 or more. So over £100,000 would put you in an even smaller elite. Who really thinks that software developers and network engineers are in the top few percent of earners in the UK. This is a society and economy that does not value engineers at all.

    The problem here is that so often when people present "evidence" to MPs an awful lot of them are so far divorced from reality that they automatically accept it as truth.

    1. Binraider Silver badge

      A very limited subset of organisations place high value on high capability engineers and developers.

      It is rare though, and typically reserved for cases where you are the world expert on widget X with no-one else able to remotely challenge the position.

      Commodity programming, and commodity IT for that matter, as "anyone" half-educated can do it after a fashion it's really no surprise that salaries are much closer to the median and mean in those areas. (The averages themselves skewed a bit by a handful of outliers).

      One of the greatest and worst things about computing is their democratisation. Absolutely anyone can learn to code on the other side of the planet with a device at negligible cost. Specialisation on the other hand, is something probably only bred in environments demanding it.

    2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      US pay tends to be a lot higher than here. But even in the UK...

      "Who really thinks that software developers and network engineers are in the top few percent of earners in the UK"

      I do. Not all of them, but good ones, certainly. It's a well-paid professional career. Any senior professional in a similar field who is not earning that kind of money is either underselling their services, or accepting nonmonetary benefits which compensate.

      Incidentally, the top 5% by salary starting at £80k is a true but misleading figure - it's completely true looking only at PAYE salaries, but at that level of income many people are in a position to be able to take part of their income as dividends or similar, and there are also unearned incomes. The top 5% by income is closer to £100k.

  31. Fred Daggy Bronze badge
    Paris Hilton

    HR is the root all evil

    IT also works in reverse too.

    If one has very good skills as an administrator, (moderate scripting, cloud infrastructure, monitoring, security, managing an estate and not babysitting a server), then you're still just IT. Because one doesn't manage people (but rather the infrastructure that several million $Currency per day is funneled through), you're worth pennies.

    I blame HR, they can only see the value in managing people, and not any serious skills. Mind you, it's all HR can do to count on one hand. If you manage up to 10 staff, your're a manager. If you manage more than 10 staff, you're a senior manager or director. If you manage directors, you're a VP. Anything else just does their heads in.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Education Salaries are a problem

    This is just a symptom of funding for IT in education overall but the salaries are a real issue. I worked over 20 years in Education/Academia and I'm very proud of what I've achieved there but I've doubled my salary by leaving - and this is as an infrastructure Architect/engineer type, not a dev (where devs again command a premium over infrastructure guys).

    At some point you're practically stealing from your family to stay in education if you want to look at it like that, and given the funding issues with the sector I really don't want to work somewhere anymore that underfunds my environment so the stuff I work hard on falls apart; under pays me, because it doesn't know how to pay IT properly and can't afford it anyway; and even the once vaunted pension and vacation are being chipped away at.

  33. Carlie J. Coats, Jr.

    ...capable... NOT!

    "...scientists whose main roles lay elsewhere. Although they were capable..."

    NOT.

    From 35 years experience as a PH.D. mathematician and software engineer for environmental modeling, it is my experience that most of these are not only not capable, they are not willing to accept the possibility that they don't know everything. Frequently they are actually hostile to both software engineers and mathematicians.

    Among meteorologists, there seems to be an institutional insistence on codes written for the limitations of mid-1980's vector machines and their compilers. And the "sensitivity" version of US EPA's air quality model is rife with errors caused by not considering numerical overflows and underflows correctly...

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For those in Help Desk jobs that want to go up the pay hierarchy

    I've seen a post regarding HelpDesk jobs and salaries. It is really important to understand the job hierarchy structure of the IT industry. HelpDesk and customer support are bottom of the scale, rightly or wrongly. This leads into engineering, that can be highly paid but often isn't.

    You need to be top of the game to get good salaries, and that takes years and project experience. Above this is general architecture, then principal architect, then niche specialisms, with consulting at the same side. Ignore management entirely, unless you want to be a spreadsheet pusher. Go to job websites and look at the permanent salary for your country if a small country (England) or state if you're in the USA.

    You want the most money with the least stress. Azure, AWS, and Cloud work can be good if you are into coding and IAC - infrastructure as code. Almost everybody in IT has done BAU (Business as Usual) at some point, including HelpDesk work, but you really want to move to architecture, senior engineering, and have a niche or two and a broad skillset in a good range.

    If you feel that you are stuck on a HelpDesk making £30k/year now, then decide whether you can: become a software engineer, become a Cloud engineer, become a niche specialist. Browse job adverts, sort by remuneration, and concentrate on what gets you good remuneration. Once you have had a good salary or day rate for a few years then you can afford to take on work that pays less, such as very worthwhile university research work at £40/year.

    Do not aim to work on HelpDesk or Service Desk work, even as a manager. Use your brain to understand that this work means long hours, not finishing on time, weekend and evening work. You only have one life and it is the things outside of work that matter. Work shouldn't be your number one priority in life and if it is then you are not living your best life. Friends, family, and life experiences are built outside of work.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To those stuck in Help Desk jobs....

    I've seen a post regarding HelpDesk jobs and salaries.

    It is really important to understand the job hierarchy structure of the IT industry. HelpDesk and customer support are bottom of the scale, rightly or wrongly.

    This leads into engineering, that can be highly paid but often isn't. You need to be top of the game to get good salaries, and that takes years and project experience. Above this is general architecture, then principal architect, then niche specialisms, with consulting at the same side.

    Ignore management entirely, unless you want to be a spreadsheet pusher.

    Go to job websites and look at the permanent salary for your country if a small country (England) or state if you're in the USA. You want the most money with the least stress. Azure, AWS, and Cloud work can be good if you are into coding and IAC - infrastructure as code. Almost everybody in IT has done BAU (Business as Usual) at some point, including HelpDesk work, but you really want to move to architecture, senior engineering, and have a niche or two and a broad skillset in a good range.

    If you feel that you are stuck on a HelpDesk making £30k/year now, then decide whether you can: become a software engineer, become a Cloud engineer, become a niche specialist. Browse job adverts, sort by remuneration, and concentrate on what gets you good remuneration. Once you have had a good salary or day rate for a few years then you can afford to take on work that pays less, such as very worthwhile university research work at £40/year.

    Do not aim to work on HelpDesk or Service Desk work, even as a manager. Use your brain to understand that this work means long hours, not finishing on time, weekend and evening work. You only have one life and it is the things outside of work that matter. Work shouldn't be your number one priority in life and if it is then you are not living your best life. Friends, family, and life experiences are built outside of work.

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: To those stuck in Help Desk jobs....

      "If you feel that you are stuck on a HelpDesk making £30k/year now, then decide whether you can: become a software engineer, become a Cloud engineer, become a niche specialist"

      Or, take a management position doing helldesk or some other frontline customer service job. Team leader -> team manager in helldesk makes you qualified for team manager in other frontline CS. Helldesks don't tend to have much in the way of career progression in that line, but call centres - I know, but we're already talking about that kind of thing - and complaints-handling in other areas does.

      The tech skills required for frontline tech support just aren't worth very much, so if you're good at other aspects of the role it's better not to see your experience as primarily tech-related.

  36. martinusher Silver badge

    Universities used to offer incentives

    Those people I've known who worked at universities (in the old days) used to trade salary for potentially cutting edge work and the opportunity to get a postgraduate degree. This could then be traded forward for enhanced job opportunities.

    I'd guess this is the end result of turning universities into businesses. Like other businesses the senior management help themselves to the lion's share of the budget ("we have to pay competitive salaries" and "we're managing an xxxx million organization") and expect the departments to contribute to that budget by either gouging the student population or bring in those research funds. This might have seemed like a good idea back in the 80s when it was all about enterprise and making organizations pay for themselves but the problem with going commercial is that you have to play by commercial rules -- you can't keep going back to the government trough when you find the numbers don't add up. So instead of offering those fringe benefits that universities were known for all they're left with is sub-par salaries.

    (If the truth be told this issue affects education at all levels.)

  37. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Amateur Hour?

    With that pay rate, it is highly unlikely you would get any competent person to stay long enough to be familiar with the code base, which takes a few years realistically. Thus, the code is either written by incompetents or amateurs. While the amateurs are probably moderately competent, they are lack experience and do not deal with code on a routine basis. The incompetents, the less said the better. The net effect is the poor code that probably has serious issues.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aldi UK graduate trainee starting salary: £44K

    Source: https://www.graduate-jobs.com/scheme/aldi (and elsewhere)

    And after four years, maybe £70K+

    For comparison.

    .

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