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You thought it was all about programming skills. But you were wrong! Great code is fine, yet commanding better work and a higher salary depends on ensuring more people know who you are. In other words, you need to market yourself. Here's what seems to succeed.
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Set up a blog, and post more than once a month. Do real research and make sure you don't sound stupid. Seriously, learn to write. Do the stuff your grade-school English teacher taught you: Create an outline, draw a narrative, check the grammar and spelling. Then, with great sadness, simplify it and shorten it to the point enough where someone scanning it will have an idea of what it's about. The Internet does not tolerate nuance (nor does my editor).
Don't believe the lies about open source. The younger among you may not remember the days where a developer could actually be unemployed, but even during the darkest stretches of the dot-bomb recession, all of the developers of the open source project I started were quickly back at work. Just make sure the open source code you produce reflects the kind of job you want. I wanted to solve hard problems with the simplest solutions possible, but I've interviewed developers who, as was clear from their open source code, wanted to complicate simple problems. Believe it or not, there's a market for that, but make sure your code reflects the market you're in.
Don't switch jobs every six months. Seriously, the end of 100 percent developer employment will come again. When that time arrives, nothing will haunt you more than job-hopping. On the other hand, don't stay at the same place doing the same thing for 10 years. You'll become insulated and institutionalized. To stay valuable, you have to be familiar with more than how to code IBM's stack while at IBM in the IBM way. I haven't hired anyone who was at IBM or a similar organization for more than a year or two. They usually impress me in the interview but fail the programming test.
Exceptionally young developers have a tendency to work on the shiny. Ruby is probably my favorite programming language, but it doesn't pay (on average) as much as Java, and the market is smaller. This may not always be true. Scala looks like it's coming on strong, but don't kid yourself about the market size -- it isn't here yet. On the other hand, don't stay still so long that you are the future equivalent of a COBOL or PowerBuilder developer either.
I can't tell you how many times I've worked on a project, only to be pulled into an executive meeting because I wrote a document or presentation they saw and understood. I always begin with an executive overview -- that is, the page you really have to read -- while the rest boils down to details in case you don't believe me. The question is: What does a very busy person have to know about the topic if it's not the only thing they're working on? What most managers want to know: Who can drive this to completion and won't BS me about how it's going? Write that way.
One thing you learn about management right away is that the people who know what they're talking about tend to give shorter, more concise answers. When the responses grow long and complicated, it often means they don't know or won't commit. You also learn that tone is often inversely proportional to the importance of the topic. When really bad news hits, someone comes in the office, shuts the door, and whispers. When something is not inherently important but bothers someone anyhow, they will try and raise its prominence with an inflammatory tone.
Don't be that guy. Know what you're talking about, figure out how to summarize it, and have the details, but don't load every sentence with minutiae and don't build up the hype -- the sky probably isn't falling (but maybe someone should take a look at Jenkins because we haven't had a good build in a while). When all else fails, lead with the money. Make sure your numbers are well thought out, plug them into charts, and clearly demonstrate that one point is superior to another in dollars and cents.
Figure out how to give presentations and learn how to speak in public. Research a topic and make yourself at least an expert, if not the expert. Presentations to the public are generally better if they are in part entertaining. It takes a lot of embarrassing mishaps to develop this skill, but an engineer who can explain the matter in plain English to management and give an expert talk on a topic will almost always command a higher salary than one who doesn't.
Sure you like Erlang, but the market for Erlang isn't big. You should know more than one language, as well as "new" or newly hyped topics, but avoid such immature statements as "I won't code unless it's in Erlang" unless you've truly considered the business issues. It can pay to be a narrowly focused expert, but even that has a cost -- you'll be typecast according to your specialization, which may leave you high and dry when it's out of fashion. Sure, NoSQL is a better fit for your little project, but the company won't invest in it for a small one-off system. The RDBMS will work fine for this one.
Put in the time to learn a few tools other people don't commonly know. What tools do you have that few know/use/understand and make you more effective than the people next to you?