What Do Engineers Want?

Susan Hall
Slide Show

If the Job Fits

Five questions you should ask before accepting your next IT job.

When I lived in Seattle, we once sold an old love seat to a buyer on the Microsoft campus in Redmond. My husband delivered it and helped him get it into his office. Apparently this guy's coworkers swarmed out of their adjacent little offices during the move. My husband was incredulous at their excitement and envy over a piece of furniture we considered junk.


That incident came to mind while clicking through the Business Insider slideshow, "How To Run A Company That Engineers Actually Want To Work For."


With the competition so hot for tech talent, any company that isn't Google, Facebook, Zynga and the like has to work harder to attract and retain talent. They're all trying to get the engineering culture right.


Beyond the top salaries, companies are offering an ever-widening array of perks. Limo.com in San Francisco has cut the recruiting process to one day and in Boston, it's seven days at travel site Kayak.


But once an engineer is on board, what culture makes him or her want to stay? Here are some factors:


  • An egalitarian environment. They want autonomy and control, but also to be held responsible for what they deliver. The Inc. magazine article "Why I Run a Flat Company" by Jason Fried, co-founder of Chicago-based software firm 37signals, offers an interesting take on that.
  • Highly skilled coworkers and the latest tools.
  • Comfort. Tom Pinckney, head of the engineering team for recommendation site Hunch, is quoted saying engineers tend to value "substance over style." That certainly explains the excitement over the love seat.
  • Variety.
  • Challenge.
  • Flexibility.
  • Making useful things and seeing results.


A post at paulgraham.com offers another interesting look inside the head of tech folks. It says meetings can be especially annoying, beyond all the usual complaints, because they disrupt programmers' schedules. It explains that managers' days tend to be divided into hour increments, while what it calls "makers" deal in half-days. A 3 p.m. meeting can cut the afternoon into two small blocks of time where it's hard to get anything done.

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