The French Tech Mindset Problem
American Tech Sector is thriving and is now leading the US Great Recovery. On the other side of the ocean though, French Tech Entrepreneurs and Programmers are much less lucky. Far from being considered Tech Stars, they enjoy less success and fame, thus attracting less talent in a very promising industry. What's the driving force being this and how to tackle it?
1- French CTOs talk about Price, not Value ...While discussing with a former French CTO, he asserted that French companies overwhelmingly favor quantity over quality, thinking that a larger workforce will lead to more productivity. In a nutshell, software development is deemed a commodity in France: One just need to find the lowest price.
This is erroneous for the following reasons:
- In Tech, it is very common to have Star Programmers that can achieve 5-10X more productivity than average [Steve Jobs evaluated this ratio to 25X]. Here is a quote from Paul Graham to illustrate the point:
I remember watching what he did one long day and estimating that he had added several hundred thousand dollars to the market value of the company. A great programmer, on a roll, could create a million dollars worth of wealth in a couple weeks.
- As a team grows, Communication (and code reviews/debugging) becomes a great challenge. Keeping a team as small as possible can be a big productivity gain from this perspective.
- At the extreme, bad programmers can impact negatively the value creation, holding the team back if placed on the critical path
2- ... And prevent salaries from growing
This mindset naturally results in less compensation for employees. I pulled the 15 first salaries from Glassdoor for Software Engineer for each country and here are the results:
The average ends up being $95K USA vs. $50.5K for France, roughly 50% less. Even accounting for cost-of-living adjustment, this is still a big difference.
What's more, note how the distribution is spread out in the USA with a much larger dispersion than France (Coefficient of variation: 15% FRA vs. 21% USA) which signals more competition thus a more healthy job market.
3- Thus a change in mindset is required
In the movie Field of Dreams, the voice famously says" If you built it, he will come" which has now entered urban legend. With this, one might argue in favor of:
- Build a dev-friendly work environment. Grant spare time for research. Follow The Silicon Valley in offering top perks (Game room, Gym,...).
- Pay Top Dollars to Top Programmers. If they're driving the value within a company, they should be rewarded as such.
- Change corporate perception.
- Build prestigious Expert Career tracks. French mindset expects you to become manager which is not a good fit everyone's.
- Hire Contractors based on Value, not Price.
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