I would like to start out by saying, I love my current job. The work is interesting, the hours are good, my coworkers are great, my manager is intelligent and competent, and my pay is good. This question is about long term career, not trying to find a new job or increase pay in the near-term.

How would a software engineer/architect, whom had a natural knack for the job and tended to be significantly more productive (by productive, I mean creating a working and valuable product from the company's perspective) than the average person in their field go about monetizing that productivity in the job market?

When someone hires you, they are taking a certain risk. It can be very difficult to judge a hire's value before they've worked in the company over the course of several months. This can mean that being very productive, does not necessarily translate directly into a higher paycheck. It is also difficult to objectively measure a developer's value, contrasted to sales, where you look at the money the salesman brings in. In a consultancy, you can often make extra money, even as a developer, by increasing your billable hours, but this is not the same thing as being payed for your productivity.

Are their any particularly technically challenging industries/subjects to work in where the pay is commiserate?

In the long term, what can an engineer do to leverage their ability to create software to make more money?

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    Are you talking about getting a promotion within your company or finding a better-paying job at another company? They're two very different things. – AffableAmbler Jul 13 '17 at 14:43
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    If you are that good, it should be easy for you to get a job at Google or Facebook, I hear they pay top dollar for top performers. – user1220 Jul 13 '17 at 17:45
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    Depending on how much say you have in the companies processes, you should look into licensing [gitprime](https//www.gitprime.com). This only applies if you are using git though. We purchased it to help judge developer productivity and I quickly found that my average productivity is 2-4 times higher than everyone else, including senior devs. Obviously there is more to coding than lines of code, but it can give you some real numbers to use when discussing productivity and compensation. Probably won't be a hard sell to management either. – Conor Mancone Jul 13 '17 at 18:28
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    @TheCatWhisperer There are lots of programmers that argue that. I think the point is exaggerated. Git breaks down changed code as both lines added and lines removed. So a smart system can still properly measure effort even for refactors that decrease code overall. LoC isn't a perfect measure of productivity but it is better than most. Better programmers will write more code, and write it faster (on average), even when working on more complicated issues. It's nearly impossible to be a good programmer and not write lots of code. Obviously you still want someone evaluating code quality though. – Conor Mancone Jul 13 '17 at 23:12
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    "Good programmers write more code": There was one day when I wrote minus 11,000 lines of code. – gnasher729 Jul 15 '17 at 15:02

In the long term, what can I do to leverage my ability to get things done to make more money?

Work for yourself.

The best way to translate superior ability into cash is to do so on your own terms in your own company.

That might mean building and selling your own apps and product. It might mean taking on task-based projects (where you can complete them quickly and/or work on several simultaneously). It might mean any of a number of other work styles.

If you are truly better than others, then the market will reward you.

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    Joe, I am sure this is the case. However, finding a niche into which there is lucrative demand for an app, then selling that app, are very different skills than being able to create that app. I am good at what I do, but I am not good at everything. – TheCatWhisperer Jul 13 '17 at 14:49
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    @TheCatWhisperer Pay very careful attention to what Joe says. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jul 13 '17 at 14:51
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    +1--I've always felt that working for a company is kind of a racket--no matter how much they're paying you, they're always gonna be making a lot more money off your work than what you're getting. If you don't mind the long hours, stress, and the possibility of catastrophic failure, entrepreneurship is definitely the way to go. – AffableAmbler Jul 13 '17 at 14:51
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    'long hours, stress, and the possibility of catastrophic failure' think very carefully about if your risk tolerance is suitable for entrepreneurship, this doesn't sound that great to me personally – big mack Jul 13 '17 at 15:20
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    i completely disagreed with your "be patient" comment in the question - but your answer is correct. – bharal Jul 13 '17 at 20:28

The one way that never fails is to tie your productivity directly to the revenue stream. If you can argue for how much money you save or make for the company, you can very succinctly argue your value to the company.

Be able to quantify your value, have specifics that you can point to as to where you saved the company "X" or increased revenues by "Y" and you're set.

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    This is highly oversimplified, but not quite worthy of my downvote. In corporate America, companies pay HR to build cases against the approach you're sharing here. Corporate HR's default is, "but our salary survey says..." -- and the bigger the company, the harder it is to override. They don't want people fighting to get a real piece of the pie that's commensurate to their value. I'd lean toward Joe Strazzere's answer. – Xavier J Jul 13 '17 at 19:36
  • @Xavier Both Joe's answer and Richard's are the same - they are just different sides of the same coin. The "market" argument you have HR giving is meaningless when quantified against a proper measurement of what someone can achieve. – bharal Jul 13 '17 at 20:30
  • @XavierJ If you can quantify your value, your current company will want to keep you, and if they don't, the next one will pay, if not at your title, they will create a new one. I've seen it happen. If they don't value you, the next company will. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jul 13 '17 at 20:46
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    @RichardU I worked three years for a company that's a household name. First as a contractor - and had to fight over $5,000 though as of the point they wanted to hire me, I'd saved over $900K/yr. Another guy in the group quit for the same reasons (before I worked there) and ended up starting his own business and charging them triple for the same expertise as before. It's actually easier to leave and hang out a sign sometimes than to argue with HR, despite "quantifying". – Xavier J Jul 13 '17 at 20:51

While other answers have valid points, I think they don't completely apply to this situation. Mainly because op already states that he is above average, so saying "keep doing good work" or "keep getting better" are probably things that op is already aware because of his situation. What he is asking for is a strategy to be better rewarded. One option you have is directly ask for a raise. On the basis that your performance is above average, but the first step is to convince your manager that you actually perform better than the rest, based on actual facts, even suggest a way to measure that. Then its just a matter of knowing if they are willing to reward you for that or not. After you know the answer you could start thinking if this is the right place to be working in.

  • Also, to be frank, my current pay it likely above average too. I just don't feel it is 100% in line with my productivity delta through out my career. But, that could just be my opinion. – TheCatWhisperer Jul 13 '17 at 17:27
  • Even if I compare my current pay to my past pay. My pay is a little more than double what it was when I first entered the field. However, my skills and productivity have much more than doubled. – TheCatWhisperer Jul 13 '17 at 17:30
  • @TheCatWhisperer just because your skills have doubled doesn't mean you are worth double. When people enter the field, they usually aren't fully up to speed. If your pay has doubled since you started I would say you are doing ok. – SaggingRufus Jul 13 '17 at 17:50
  • that is right, your salary also depends on necessity, market, internal company policies, etc. But in a more important way is a negotiation, the company will try to pay you the minimum they can to keep you, and you will try to get as much as you can. The only way to find out which value can you get is asking for it. – Homerothompson Jul 14 '17 at 11:25

We can't tell you what skills to develop or what specific career path to take but I'd like to answer this in general terms.

To leverage high productivity into high compensation, use your high productivity to become a respected expert in your field. Figure out what you are doing differently from the pack and become involved in writing white papers, present at conferences, and network at industry events. People with exceptional credentials stand a much better shot at negotiating exceptional salaries.

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