French Developers can earn double in Silicon Valley

French Developers can earn double in Silicon Valley


Photo: The Rocketspace incubator in San Francisco

Developer salaries are increasing in Paris, according to a recent study by  IT recruitment firm Urbanlinker, who looked at expected salaries for varying experience levels across different technologies/roles, including: PHP, Java, .NET, Ruby, Front-/Back-End (HTML, Node.js, Angular), Big Data, Mobile (native & hybrid), as well as UX & UI design. Starting Salaries across the board

The study, which looks at salaries ranging from beginning PHP programmers (25-30K€) to Senior Data Scientists (<75K€), comes in contrast to the recent announcements about ever-increasing developer salaries in the Silicon Valley, which pin the average salary just north of $150,000/year (nearly $200,000 if you include benefits like free lunch, transportation, etc.). The average salary in the study is somewhere between 40-50K€, depending on the profile & langauge, meaning that a French developer in the Silicon Valley is making double his counterpart in France.

Figures like this have solicited claims of a “talent exodus” in France – I’ve been contacted several times by British journalists looking to confirm their preconceived notions about French entrepreneurs fleeing in droves – and, while many who remain will speak of the efficient health care system, the quality of living, and the overall lack of appeal of living in country where #Ferguson can happen, these points are relatively moot.

Higher Salaries mean employees are in it for the money

The first employees of Apple did not make killer salaries, nor the first employees of Google or Facebook. They were paid enough to live, but the investment was a long-term one, which paid out for those who could see the vision or follow the founders who had one.

Today’s Silicon Valley companies have such a problem retaining talent, who jump from one company to the next playing the talent crisis in their favor, that the Silicon Valley’s largest companies have been taken to court over a ecosystem-wide agreement to fix wages. While the act is deplorable, it’s not as if those wages have been fixed at a level that impaired quality of living, and it underscores a state of affairs.

Good talent will always be worth paying for; however if the same good talent is making 60-100% more just by changing zip codes or cities (Los Angeles to San Francisco, for example), then there is an inequality in the ecosystem which will ultimately normalize.

The same study which spoke of Paris developer salaries makes note of the rising cost of developers – French wages are slowly adapting to London & New York wages, and thus investment rounds have also been on the rise to compensate. Most every developer in Paris is “underpaid” for the startup they work at; however, that means that every developer is in it, not for the money, but for the passion.

To work for a startup is a risk in and of itself, and developers are taking stock options over financial sector salaries, which is a great sign when you’re an entrepreneur trying to get a small team of talented individuals to push towards the same goal.

11 Responses

  1. Pierre

    Please give us a break with the “passion”. Being a software engineer is a job. A good software engineer is professional not “passionate”. The worst is taking this “passion” as an excuse to underpay. If a startup does not have the cashflow to offer competitive salary then it should make up for it with (a lot of) equity, not with “passion”. Try to rent an appartment in Paris with “passion”.

    This mentality is what keeps many very good students from CS. You don’t ask a mechanical engineer to be “passionate” about mechanics, you ask him to be good at his job. It should be the same for software engineer. You can like your job and be good at it without considering it your “passion”.

    Take a look at this HN post for further reading :

    • antoine

      I don’t know how old you are and what’s your experience of development, but i think passion matters in the sense that jobs in start-up are usually more interesting than working in a big company which means startups can afford to pay a bit less their employees as a counterpart.

    • Guillaume Balaine (@Igosuki)

      And to add to that, the passion not only an excuse to pay low wages, but to also retain equity and ask for more hours and personal investment.
      As for startup development being more interesting than large companies, this is a myth and it depends entirely on the type of project you work for.

    • Alain Le B.

      100% Agree with Pierre. Passion is good. It’s a great thing to have passionate workers willing to go the extra-mile, innovate, give extra-time & energy… But there are a lot of start-up founders & their financial colleagues who definitely take advantage of that mindset to extract from those developers a maximum of work for a minimum money, and this is a very common practice in Paris unfortunately. Many young french developers are fooled by this dual view : their view of the job vs the guys taking the money. If you’re just starting your career, or are very mediocre at your job, or have any big issue (no degrees, etc.), then it makes sense to work in a startup. If you’re not in this case then only 1 thing matter in the workplace : money. With money you can live, travel, pay yourself trainings, prepare for hardship times, etc. You wanna code ? A lot of large companies, companies elsewhere in Europe & America are willing to pay for talented coders working & bringing new technologies. If you really think of startup you would strongly advise to get a maximum of equity. UK Startups do that a lot. France is paradise for greedy entrepreneurs ready to rob young idealists unfortunately.

  2. lol

    and increased costs of living in bay area ??

  3. Giorgio Salluzzo

    …and spend all that money in a very nice Mc Donald’s restaurant. Very good.

  4. Peter Smith

    the IT lobby won’t be happy until devs are making less than minimum wage.

    down here in Phoenix, if you’re good, and lucky, you can get $12.50/hr for PHP programming.

    there is no shortage of programmers in the Bay Area or anywhere. there _is_ a shortage of programmers willing to work for free, tho. Zuck and crew gonna take care of that.

  5. OnEquity

    Again, your forget it’s easier to get equity in US than in France…

  6. Alain

    Great article addressing the elephant in the room. Frankly, the only reasons French startup developers don’t move to Silicon Valley are:
    – it’s hard to get a work visa (H1B)
    – it’s far and you’d have to leave behind friends and family
    – French engineers are scared that their English is not good enough (but they don’t know most of Silicon Valley is built by foreigners with even worse accents)

    A beginning engineer (Grandes Ecoles) will now start at $120K/year in Silicon Valley. Yes, housing is expensive, but everything else is reasonable (similar to Paris). Get a nice apartment, a nice car, latest tech gear, etc…

  7. Gael

    “Most every developer in Paris is “underpaid” for the startup they work at; however, that means that every developer is in it, not for the money, but for the passion.”

    We may be underpaid in comparison with US wages, be we still paid much more than almost any other jobs in france… thats why we are trully NOT all in for passion.

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