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90% of Programming Jobs

The big tech companies in Silicon Valley get a lot press, but they aren’t where a majority of the programming jobs are.

My non-scientific guess is that over 90% of programming jobs are for regular companies in the rest of the world.

Over the years, I’ve written programs to:

– Help petroleum companies determine construction requirements, to build safer processing facilities
– Help companies review progress on insurance claims
– Help banks and mortgage companies file paperwork with the government
– Help a distribution company get the best rate when shipping orders
– Help a barge transportation company manage deliveries

These are the types of projects the majority of programmers work on – not video games or a mobile app to disrupt an industry.

The vast majority of programming jobs are support jobs for other workers at the company. We create software that lets the other employees do their jobs faster or more accurately.

This is known as being a “force multiplier”.

Something to keep in mind is that many companies view their IT department as a “cost center”, not a “profit center”.

The IT department isn’t directly bringing in money for the company. It’s an expense, like rent, electricity, janitors, etc. When the economy gets bad (and there’s an economic crisis every few years), senior management may look at “expensive programmers” as a target for cost-cutting.

This is one area where working for a tech company might be better.

If a company is directly earning money from the software you create, your job will be more secure than at a company where you’re viewed as an expense.

If you’re at a company where you’re viewed as a cost, the best way to have a secure job is to deliver a lot of value to the company (more than they’re paying you) and make sure the company is aware of that. I’ll go into more details about how to do that in the “Make Your Work Visible” section.

If you’re working for a company that views you as a cost, and you notice your projects are not being delivered, going over budget, or not helping users, that’s one of the signs you might want to look for another job.

Return to “Life as a programmer outside Silicon Valley” index

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