Software development for UK/EU nationals

Hacking employment, improving work, professional development
Post Reply
User avatar
Egg
Posts: 217
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2014 10:59 am

Software development for UK/EU nationals

Post by Egg »

After a brief break from working, I'm planning to re-enter the workplace, this time as a career changer doing a software development apprenticeship. As it's a UK governmental thing, I'm expecting to be working on some kind of public-facing web-based service, which I understand is likely to involve a mixture of the following kinds of thing:

• HTML, CSS and Javascript, AngularJS
• Java Spring, NodeJS, SQL and no SQL databases
• Cloud-based approaches like AWS, Azure, Docker and Kubernetes

Whilst I'm mostly doing this for fun/learning value rather than money (I'll actually be taking a 60% pay cut) I do wonder what the landscape is like for UK-based folks at the moment. If it all turns out to be something I enjoy and am good at (two big ifs, admittedly), I wouldn't mind at least keeping a decent pace of saving going by progressing from the super-junior role I'll be starting in [edit for clarity: progressing meaning moving into more senior/lucrative roles over the next 1-5 years].

What are the most lucrative career paths from a start like the one above? Is contracting and/or going to Switzerland likely to be an option without commercial experience? Or, less ambitiously, what could I do to make myself employable in the private sector at all, even on the less big bucks (I understand public sector IT is seen as a bit of a joke by many, so presume the jump is not that easy)?

Contextual note: I do have both UK and an EU citizenship, in case that makes any difference.

Contextual note 2: I have always had a fantasy of a £100k/year job. I suspect I'm not willing to work hard enough to get one, but just saying.
Last edited by Egg on Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.

nomadscientist
Posts: 336
Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2020 12:54 am

Re: Software development for UK/EU nationals

Post by nomadscientist »

I think the money is in contracting and specifically selling your services into the US market which has more demand and much higher compensation.

ERE outlook smooths over the cash flow problems.

Swiss compensation may be similar to US while offering the possibility of a 'normal' job.

The best way to get clients as a contractor is personal contact and especially via past work together. People will hire and pay for reliability rather than gamble for best possible outcome with an unknown who looks better on paper.

My prejudice is also that UK public sector (excluding maybe some defence and intelligence applications) is a joke but any work experience will make you much more employable than no work experience.

Meet people with hiring authority (formal or informal), show them your stuff, identify their problems, if you can solve their problems then make the pitch. There's no silver bullet and building a useful portfolio of skills along with network of contacts in which to sell them may take many years.

Generally high impact but unsexy tasks will pay the most. Not necessarily hard work.

User avatar
Egg
Posts: 217
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2014 10:59 am

Re: Software development for UK/EU nationals

Post by Egg »

Hey nomadscientist. Thanks for the thorough reply. A couple of comments back:
nomadscientist wrote:
Mon Jan 11, 2021 12:48 pm
My prejudice is also that UK public sector (excluding maybe some defence and intelligence applications) is a joke but any work experience will make you much more employable than no work experience.
Yeah, I feared as much. I suspect this reputation is a little unfair these days as I hear that the creation of the Government Digital Service has really professionalised things, but as far as recruitment is concerned, perception is reality and it's certainly no FAANG to have on the resumé. Still, as you say, some value there.
nomadscientist wrote:
Mon Jan 11, 2021 12:48 pm
Generally high impact but unsexy tasks will pay the most. Not necessarily hard work.
I'm sure could in principle manifest in many different ways, but do you have any particular notions of what might be a reliable source of these kinds of "unsexy but lucrative" task in terms of particular technologies or disciplines? I still have the option of going more of a DevOps route, for example. Is that the kind of thing you mean?

ducknald_don
Posts: 26
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2020 12:31 pm
Location: Oxford, UK

Re: Software development for UK/EU nationals

Post by ducknald_don »

Most of the UK public sector IT work is outsourced to India.

User avatar
Egg
Posts: 217
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2014 10:59 am

Re: Software development for UK/EU nationals

Post by Egg »

ducknald_don wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 12:03 pm
Most of the UK public sector IT work is outsourced to India.
Do you have a source for that? I'm not saying you're wrong, but anecdotally, having managed UK (central) Government IT projects, although plenty of the technical delivery was outsourced, not once did I see that outsourcing being to India. I'm not sure it could have been either, since the contractors needed a degree of security vetting.

zbigi
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:04 pm

Re: Software development for UK/EU nationals

Post by zbigi »

I'm from Poland, but have contracted in UK in the past (lived in London for a while). My understanding of the market is that contracting is for people who are especially in demand (the positions can't be filled with regular employees, whom the companies almost always prefer), i.e. either for people with very good experience with some tech that's not particularly hot (such as Spring) or just some good experience in a niche that's currently hot and the expectations need to be lowered to even find anybody decent. I don't think that it would be possible for someone who never coded professionally to land a contact. Maybe with a 2-3 years of experience, if you really work hard to learn some particular tech stack that's currently hot, and that knowledge shows in interviews.

User avatar
Egg
Posts: 217
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2014 10:59 am

Re: Software development for UK/EU nationals

Post by Egg »

zbigi wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:42 pm
I don't think that it would be possible for someone who never coded professionally to land a contact. Maybe with a 2-3 years of experience, if you really work hard to learn some particular tech stack that's currently hot, and that knowledge shows in interviews.
Fair enough, but for clarity (I can see it may have been ambiguous) my original question was never about trying to contract without professional experience. It was more about what I could be doing to maximise the next X years (maybe 2-3) to open up further, more lucrative options.

zbigi
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:04 pm

Re: Software development for UK/EU nationals

Post by zbigi »

I've read an account of a 22 year old who is already contracting at 800 EUR per day in Europe... So, if you can learn quickly, you can get to the nice-paying contracts in a couple of years. Most people don't accomplish that though, probably because they either can't be bothered to work harder than minimum expected in their job or aren't that motivated by money in the first place. Also, some level of innate talent would also be required I believe - mostly manifested through natural interest in this stuff, without which I can't see anyone motivating himself hard enough to learn, let alone learn at an accelerated pace.

nomadscientist
Posts: 336
Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2020 12:54 am

Re: Software development for UK/EU nationals

Post by nomadscientist »

Egg wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:31 am
Hey nomadscientist. Thanks for the thorough reply. A couple of comments back:



Yeah, I feared as much. I suspect this reputation is a little unfair these days as I hear that the creation of the Government Digital Service has really professionalised things, but as far as recruitment is concerned, perception is reality and it's certainly no FAANG to have on the resumé. Still, as you say, some value there.
"Prejudice" chosen advisedly - I may be totally wrong! Anyway, when you start to get personal contacts the brand name will matter much less. Wherever you end up, try to meet a lot of people.

I'm sure could in principle manifest in many different ways, but do you have any particular notions of what might be a reliable source of these kinds of "unsexy but lucrative" task in terms of particular technologies or disciplines? I still have the option of going more of a DevOps route, for example. Is that the kind of thing you mean?
By its nature, it usually isn't widely known what's unsexy but valuable. Well known stuff tends to be sexy. By the time the news filters through to random people on forums, the market is often saturated or will soon be saturated by new entrants. Recently I received a rather desperate request for a COBOL programmer to fix some ancient backroom software with great underlying financial value. If they found someone, the contracting rate was probably rather high. I'm not going to recommend you learn COBOL and hope a steady stream of such opportunities come along, although it might be a perfectly viable career path for all I know.

Think in terms of web of goals. You're inexperienced, so any experience is going to increase your market rate so fast it doesn't matter much what it is. When that effect starts to saturate after a couple of years, you'll have a better idea what sort of programmers the managers in organisations you've dealt with are struggling to hire, and which they can pick off the shelf. Then you can tilt your work in the former direction if you want. In the meantime, you're getting paid.

Post Reply