Which countries compensate software developers best

The future belongs to the geeks

I. Prolog

Steve Jobs didn't talk around the phone for long. "If you hire even one of these people, it means war," warned the then Apple boss on February 17, 2005, Google co-founder Sergey Brin. In no case did he want to lose the development team for the Apple browser Safari, which Google had recently wooed. The threat had an effect. And led to a deal between competitors. Three weeks later, Apple and Google had agreed on a comprehensive personal non-aggression pact: Nobody would poach each other's programmers anymore.

Others quickly joined the cartel, first Adobe and Ebay, then Intel, Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm. Soon the companies were even sharing salary data to keep staff costs under control. A manager in Google's human resources department who broke the deal and made an offer to an Apple programmer was fired within an hour in 2007. And that although Eric Schmidt, the head of Google, knew exactly how illegal these agreements were: “I don't want to leave any traces that could later be sued”, he wrote in an email to the company's HR manager at the time.

The secrecy was of little use. Too many emails went back and forth, too many people knew about the "hands-off" lists: On September 24, 2010, the US Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit. The companies then undertook to refrain from such agreements in the future. In a class action lawsuit, 64,000 employees are taking action against the companies involved and are demanding compensation. A settlement of $ 415 million in compensation is expected in a few months. Originally, the plaintiffs had asked for three billion. As a result of the agreement, sought-after software specialists have been robbed of a lot of money.

In the meantime, good developers are not only rare in Silicon Valley. They are missing worldwide, in all industries. The reason: Almost every company has at least partially become a digital company in recent years - voluntarily or involuntarily. Share of sales migrate from brick-and-mortar retail to the network. A car now contains as much software as a complex computer game. Banks, fashion houses, toothbrush manufacturers: all of them want their own app. Companies in which a few years ago it was enough for a part-time employee to look after the e-mail server employ entire development teams.

In addition, the industry has differentiated and specialized. Whereas there used to be a manageable number of skills, today there are countless ones. Front-end developers differ from back-end developers; there are data engineers and UI and UX experts for user interfaces and user experience. And more and more people from different fields are needed. But the offer is tiny: “Our companies are desperately looking for good employees,” says Marc Andreessen, one of the world's most important venture capitalists, in an interview with New York Magazine. "They lie like fish on dry land and gasp for air because they can't find enough good people."

II. The study

But who are these digital talents, often referred to as geeks or reviled as nerds? The recently published study "2015 Developer Survey" by Stack Overflow provides answers. Stack Overflow is probably the most important online forum for programmers. More than 26,000 developers from 157 countries took part in the survey, which is not representative but the largest of its kind.

Developers are on average almost 29 years old. So when Facebook started they were just out of school. Nine out of ten times they are male and spend around seven hours a week programming on their own projects in their free time. Even for full-time employees, this figure is still six hours a week.

The study suggests that nobody becomes a programmer just to make a living. Rather, the job is a mixture of passion, calling and addiction. It is also well paid - especially with rather rare technologies such as Big Data or the Scala or Rust programming languages. This is where supply and demand seem to have the greatest gap. But everyone is needed. Unemployment across all countries is just two percent. Companies that allow their employees to work from home have a clear advantage: for half of the respondents, it is important to be able to work at least partially from home. Particularly interesting: the more experienced the developers are, the higher the proportion of those who make home office a condition.

III. The headhunter

Ivo Betke is familiar with the needs of software developers. On the one hand, because he was one himself. But above all because he now earns his living as a headhunter for programmers. “Developers will be the new investment bankers,” he says. His company Webcrowd is located on a large, open floor of a rear building in Berlin-Kreuzberg. When Betke was asked to put together an entire team for a larger intranet project for a client in 2010, he realized how difficult it is to find good people. He now has a network of around 350 freelancers in Berlin and is currently placing permanent developers with around 30 customers.

“The cliché of the socially incompetent nerd with a neck beard and poor hygiene is not true,” says the 30-year-old. "Nevertheless, developers think differently, and you have to tackle them differently if you want to win them over."

In his opinion, the biggest difference is that money only plays a subordinate role. “You don't get a really good programmer through salary,” he says. “You get that when you give him a good team. And an exciting product vision with interesting challenges - and the right technical infrastructure to solve them. ”For example, a large management consultancy that wanted to open a digital department but could hardly tell the programmers anything about the specific tasks had found it extremely difficult to find someone Find.

Equally unattractive is a large German transport company that has a so-called release cycle of one year for its app. "One year from planning a new function to its publication, that is the maximum penalty for a developer," says Betke. "In a well-organized start-up, the release cycle is one day."

The fight for digital talent has long been fought in Germany as well. “There have been 1000 developer positions in Berlin for years,” he says. Because even if more and more people take up the profession: The demand increases faster. "We don't recruit anyone," says Betke, "but there are occasional inquiries from companies whether we might not be able to do it after all."

In keeping with his standing, a longboard is leaning against the wall of his office. Supersoaker water pistols are on the shelves of the digital agency with which his company shares the premises. Such gimmicks are not important, however: “Many employers still think that a job is like a car. And instead of air conditioning and a sunroof, they pack a foosball table and free Club Mate caffeine on top because they think it's nerd culture, ”says Betke. "But if the developer is only supposed to optimize websites in the end, such gimmicks don't appeal to him."

Instead of playing around with gimmicks, he advises, companies should understand what programmers really love: for example open source. Zalando, largely owned by the Samwer brothers, who are moderately popular in the scene, is a good example: “A lot of good people didn't want to work for Zalando because of their bad reputation,” says Betke. “But then they had their developers write open source code during working hours, branded it with Zalando and made it available to the community. Anyone who works in a certain area sees something like this. And suddenly Zalando becomes attractive - because obviously you can do cool things there. "

IV. The Chief Solution Officer

Thomas Storck, Chief Solution and Information Officer at the wholesale chain Metro Cash & Carry, is not a Betke customer. But it could be. Because he is one of those people who are looking for digital talent. “Our business is changing - from classic cash & carry in our wholesale stores to multichannel including debit & delivery,” says the 46-year-old. He is also aware of the importance of open source: “It used to be important which professor you studied computer science with. Today it's about how much code you have already contributed to the open source community and how good this code is. "

Storck is currently in the process of radically changing the way Metro is programmed and developed: “So far, the waterfall model has usually been used,” he says during a conversation at the company's Düsseldorf headquarters. “Specification and functional specifications are drawn up, then everything is structured, checked and eventually implemented by various expert and data model departments. But that takes a long time. "

And: Almost no one who can really do anything wants to work like this today. The magic word is Scrum: "A product manager and three to five programmers who work independently and interactively instead of isolated linearly," is how Storck explains the principle that has long since passed from software development to other areas of project management (see brand eins 03/2015: " Don't ask. Do. ”).

For Storck, the advantages are obvious. Scrum works more effectively and flexibly, communication is faster - and you can react better to changing requirements or market conditions: "Today's product managers and developers are not only absolute code addicts, they also want responsibility," says he. “And I'm a big fan of giving employees responsibility.” Nonetheless, he admits, the retail giant Metro still has some catching up to do: “We can learn from companies like Google how to continuously incorporate improvements and updates instead of all of an eternity to wait for the renewed version. "

In order to find the right employees for this, Storck has set itself the goal of becoming part of their community with Metro. An important step is the accelerator program, the application phase of which the company started at the end of April. Together with the experienced seed investor Techstars, Metro will support ten start-ups from the hotels / restaurants / catering (HoReCa) sector for three months from October. Both financially and with know-how, worldwide contacts and the huge Metro sales network.

“We are not primarily interested in a financial investment. Or that these start-ups should all become part of the Metro Group in the end, ”says Storck. "Rather, we want and have to become part of the community as Metro." For the same reason, regular meetings for the HoReCa scene, which Metro organizes in Düsseldorf and Cologne, have also taken place.

The company will have to prove that it is fast, agile and flexible: "Otherwise we will not only not gain any good experts and employees, but will also lose the best that we currently have."

Nevertheless, the tradition, the size and the associated stability of the group are still a strength. At the turn of the millennium, Storck himself was in Silicon Valley for a few years, i.e. at the time of the first big New Economy crash. “I also know one or two developers who appreciate the security of a large company,” he says. "Partly for the simple reason that after three failed start-ups, he doesn't necessarily want to go through the same thing a fourth time."

V. The HR manager

If Metro has only just set out to embrace the developer scene and its start-ups, then Axel Springer SE is already comparatively far ahead. The in-house plug-and-play accelerator is now in its third year, "Bild" boss Kai Diekmann completed a year of training in disruption and beard fashion in Silicon Valley in 2012, and the list of digital acquisitions ranges from the sports app Runtastic to Start-up magazine Gruenderszene.de. And if you want, you can even pay for your coffee with Bitcoins in the in-house “entrepreneur club”.

But how do you accompany such a cultural change in the HR department? How do you integrate the now proverbial hoodies into a once so conservative media company?

Johannes Burr stands in front of a glass office box in the passage of the Berlin Axel-Springer-Haus. The 35-year-old is responsible for the digital transformation in human resources and moved into the glass case with his small team two weeks ago. Yellow Post-it notes are hanging on the boards, sorted under titles such as “Backlog” or “In Progress”. Evidence that the Scrum method is also used here. “It was clear to us from the start that we ourselves had to work the way we imagine the future of work to be,” says Burr, who therefore trained himself as a so-called Scrum Master.

A one-day bar camp organized by Burr has just ended in the neighboring Mittelbar. There, the members of various thematically grouped best practice clubs were able to exchange ideas on topics such as usability or design thinking. Networking experts within the company is one of his most important tasks, says Burr: "We want to signal to the areas and colleagues who are already working with modern methods such as Scrum, Agile or Kanban that we are aware of them and want to learn from them."

He, too, is convinced that you have to address digital talent differently. “You can find them at conferences and through hackathons,” he says. Above all, it is important to talk about content. To tell what challenges you are currently facing, what you are working on. "When I start talking about it and the developer then wants to know what kind of tools we are using and what our server landscape looks like," says Burr, "if we are discussing the matter and not about a job advertisement - then it will be exciting." important: Good employees have a new role to play as brand ambassadors. "Good developers almost always know other people and attract valuable people - not least because of their reputation in the community."

But the publisher not only has to find new talent, it also has to integrate those who have been added through the numerous acquisitions. The group has spent a total of 3.4 billion euros on digital companies since 2006. Most recently, the Immowelt real estate platform was bought, as was the Hy! or the vacation platform @Leisure are part of the portfolio. “The most important thing is to show appreciation to the employees of such teams,” says Burr. "The biggest mistake you can make is to say: Welcome to the big family of jumpers, from now on, please do everything just like us."

VI. epilogue

Even if the situation is not yet as drastic as in the USA, where the annual salaries for programmers can also be over 100,000 euros and entire companies are swallowed up in so-called acqui-hires just to get their staff: In Germany, too Companies compete for digital experts.

Companies that want to attract the best of the geeks must learn to speak their language. Need to understand that the programming languages ​​used are more important than a slide in the office. You have to understand that for many developers, the job is not just a profession, but also a calling - and principles such as open source are very important. And they have to understand that it's best to let programmers work the way they want - be it at home or using methods like Scrum. With modern tools and at short intervals instead of long lead times.

Those who take all of this to heart may not have to go as far as Baidu, one of the largest internet companies in China, which now even organizes dome events for its employees. Because - as studies have shown - married developers are no longer as willing to take risks as singles. And it is therefore less easy to be lured away by rivals. ---