Is It Time For Programmers to Get Their Own Agents?

Programmers Need AgentsMove over actors, step aside jocks, there is a new type of athlete coming through and if you wish to speak with them you need to contact their agent! I caught an article from Businessweek awhile ago that talked about how some Silicon Valley developers are starting to get their own agents to handle negotiating their rates and setup the classic “pay to play” scenario. Many people don’t realize that a good programmer is worth their weight in gold and one great idea can grow into a billion dollar business. But does that mean that the golden goose you want comes with their own agent? Does this mean they should also get no trade clauses and signing bonuses that are ridiculous?

Perhaps Some Could Use an Agent

I know of developers out there who border on complete genius. Every idea they come up with you can take the bank and they definitely work hard. Perhaps harder than a pro sports athlete may have to to get their pay. They work to all hours of the night, put their bodies through punishment and are perhaps even more loyal to their “team” than sports athletes are. If you climb to the top echelons of your profession and can do “super human” types of things then perhaps you do need an agent to worry about the details and protect you in the industry. Even sites like topcoder.com have made the art of programming into a game where the top programmers becoming rock stars in the field.

Another thing to consider is that programmers who know what they are doing can also come with their own set of tools, their own brilliant libraries of code and carry with them experience that can give an immediate impact to a company. I guess it would be the equivalent to a football quarterback bringing his experience in the pocket and his golden arm to the game, but also having his own football which has a guidance system and shoes that can magically keep him from being sacked.

But I Didn’t See Agents in Star Trek the Next Generation

The one problem with having an agent is that it brings the reality that we could all potentially have an agent looking out for our welfare and wheeling and dealing in human talent. With this type of thing going on, would we ever really get to the Utopian society that you see in Star Trek? In the show the only people who had “people” were dignitaries bargaining for any entire planet or solar system. How much would Data’s agent start asking for? It would be a pretty penny for sure. How many times did he save the Enterprise? I lost count.

Anyways, agents for programmers would add an extra layer to negotiations and perhaps place even higher expectations on these programming athletes. I am not sure if I would want an agent myself or not. I know that I have had some pretty tough negotiations in the past and having an agent would have been useful at those times. It would also allow me to worry about my work rather than worrying about my benefits. Besides it would also be nice to be recognized for my work to the level of needing an actual person looking out for me. But then again, I don’t know if I would want unrealistic expectations placed on me just because my agent managed to land a contract for quadruple my pay. What would happen if I started falling short (even though I would do amazing work) and have the employer feel they need to trade me to another company?

What do you all think? Would you take an agent if that person could get you a bump in pay and look out for your best interests? Let us know in the comments below. :)

About The Author

Martyr2 is the founder of the Coders Lexicon and author of the new ebook "The Programmers Idea Book". He has been a programmer for over 17 years. He works for a hot application development company in Vancouver Canada which service some of the biggest telecoms in the world. He has won numerous awards for his mentoring in software development and contributes regularly to several communities around the web. He is an expert in numerous languages including .NET, PHP, C/C++, Java and more.
  • rlawson

    Agents are very common in our industry. They are called recruiters, they markup an average of 38%, and they work for the business, not you. Agents take a smaller cut, typically 10-15%, and they are economically incentivized to earn you more money. Recruiters earn more money when you earn less.