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UK’s Best Tech Employers: Companies to Apply to, Salaries, and If It’s Worth Being a Developer in the UK

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Not so long ago we were talking about jobs, salaries, and hiring processes at the U.S. tech companies. With the U.S. definitely being among the best countries for a programmer to live and work in, or even number one since most large Western tech companies are based in America, this is not the only place for a coding professional to look at when making career and life plans. And not the only place where a developer can earn a top dollar. The United Kingdom has been known as an excellent environment for technological companies for years, mainly due to the lack of corporate regulations, very reasonable taxation policies, and convenient location right on the way between the U.S. and Europe. London has been known as Europe's main tech capital for years, even though lately tech companies and other businesses tend to look for other locations in the UK, trying to avoid the Old Smoke with its insane rent, traffic, and other disadvantages of a megacity. These days over 70% of tech companies in the UK are based outside London, with this number consistently increasing year after year.UK’s Best Tech Employers: Companies to Apply to, Salaries, and If It’s Worth Being a Developer in the UK - 1

American giants

First thing you cannot miss when looking at the tech sector in the UK is that the majority of biggest American whales are also here, and they are naturally competing for top positions in most lists of the best tech companies to work for in the UK. We have covered them in quite some detail in the previous article, so let’s just quickly go through the main American giants that have considerable presence across the pond (most of them do).

  • Google.

Of course, the Internet giant is here, luring all the best coders with its huge compensations and working environments that just couldn't be nicer. Google opened its first office in the UK in 2003. Nowadays more than 4000 people work for (Don’t be) Evil Empire in the UK. And they seem to be generally happy with the company, as Google is on top of Glassdoors’s list of the best tech places to work in tech in 2020.

  • Apple.

Apple is big in Britain as well. Based in California but leveraging China’s cheap labour, the world’s most successful maker of overpriced consumer electronics opened its first European store in London more than 15 years ago. These days Apple has over 6500 UK-based staff and competes with Google for the title of the best tech employer in the country. Last year Apple landed the top spot in Indeed UK's list of the best tech employers. Even more, Apple topped Indeed’s league table as Britain’s most popular corporate employer, beating companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Unilever and the BBC. One employee from Leeds told Indeed that Apple provides a “cool vibe, supportive management and loads of freebies!” They also praised the company for its “good discounts and very good progression rates, and a non-orthodox approach to retail in the sense that the company values creativity and unique personalities.”

  • Salesforce.

American developer of the world’s leading CRM platform has a heavy presence in the United Kingdom, and normally accompanies Google and Apple in all kinds of best tech employer tops. For example, Salesforce scored the top spot in last year’s UK's Best Workplaces in Tech. Here’s an example of a positive Glassdoor review: “Fantastic people to work with - and being able to combine the incredible innovation of a world leading tech giant with the opportunity to work exclusively with organisations focussed on making the world a better place - perfect! Great benefits, Great people, Great place to work!” Most of other American behemoths are also in the UK, actively hiring and competing with each other for talent. Namely, they are:
  • Microsoft,
  • Cisco Systems,
  • Oracle,
  • IBM,
  • Hewlett Packard,
  • Amazon,
  • Xerox,
  • Facebook.
...And a bunch of other well-known tech companies.

Other big international companies in the UK

Of course, not just American tech companies are leveraging the United Kingdom’s location and other perks this country has to offer to large corporations. Here's five other global tech enterprises actively hiring programmers in Britain:
  • Siemens (Germany),
  • SAP (Germany),
  • Ricoh (Japan),
  • Fujitsu (Japan),
  • Iress (Australia).

Best British tech companies to work for

Even though British tech companies are not as big as American ones, there is a range of very decent tech employers based in the UK that are praised for their working environments and employee perks. They may be not as commonly known, so here’s a few that are definitely worth mentioning.

  • Expedia.

Expedia is one of the largest online travel companies in the world, and it has a pretty great reputation. It was number one best tech employer in the UK in 2019 at UK Digital Experience awards, as well as it was first in at the Glassdoor’s 2017 ‘Best Places to Work’ awards. Here’s a good positive Expedia employee review on Glassdoor: “Although I've never worked for such a large, global employer before, Expedia Inc. is, hands down, the best employer I've ever had. It's the right mix of perks, working for such a big player (structure, benefits, development, technologies and tools) but still with enough work to do (enough opportunity) for you to make your mark and actually make a difference for customers and the business. Lots of vacancies because of growth (not attrition), fairness and consistency all round.”

  • Equal Experts.

Founded in 2007 and based in London, Equal Experts is a software consulting company with a network of around 700 highly experienced tech professionals. Employing only Senior-level specialists is a foundation of company’s policy.

  • GDS Group.

GDS Group, founded in 1993, is a global events, research and tech services company. It came second in Indeed’s ranking of the best tech companies to work for. Has over 300 employees. A positive employee review from Indeed: “I would have no problem recommending GDS to anybody who is looking for an exciting and rewarding career. The management team works tirelessly to hire, induct, train and retain the best talent in the market with the priority being to further develop and upskill all employees.”

  • Clearswift.

Clearswift is an information security provider from Reading, England. This company has a solid positive reputation both with its clients and employees. Here’s what one of Clearswift’s employees said in the review: “Clearswift is a real convivial and friendly place to work. It is quite a small sized company, and that means that we all pretty much know each other. It also means bureaucracy is down to a minimum, and projects are actually moving forward. I have been here just over 4 years now, my role has continuously evolved, and my salary has increased every year. Clearswift provides internal and external training, and focuses on its employee's personal development.“

  • Softcat.

Softcat is a provider of IT infrastructure to corporate and public sectors. It employs almost 1000 people in the UK and is famous for its focus on employee satisfaction and workforce flexibility within the corporate structure.

Salaries. Coders in the UK are underpaid?

For dessert, let’s talk money. And we really don’t want to spoil the picture for you at the end, but this may be a bit of a doozy. It seems that software developers on average just don’t earn that much in the UK, compared to their yankee colleagues. Even though you are still going to earn considerably higher than the market when working for the likes of Google and Apple. For example, PayScale tells us an average software developer in the UK earns £30,974 ($41,285) a year. According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a Software Developer in the United Kingdom is just £37,750 ($50,317) per year. If you are naturally wondering if the UK’s coders are underpaid, well, you are not alone. Here are a few opinions on that matter. Developers are not underpaid, it’s just the way the average salary is calculated, explains Luca Spiller at Quora website: “London has a weird market that is very different from the rest of the UK. When using services like PayScale or GlassDoor you can't really differentiate between a London salary and a UK salary. IBM have offices all over the UK, and the pay at each will reflect the local market. The cost of living varies widely across the UK, in Hull you can rent a one bedroom flat for £250/month. In London you'll be lucky to pay that per week. The demand for software engineers in London far outstrips the supply, although the rest of the UK is pretty much the opposite (that's probably the case for most positions, not just software engineers). Another factor to take into account is that in the UK contracting is very prevalent, which has the effect of hiding the true salaries software engineers get. If a company has a project that they need more resources on, rather than getting a new employee they can just as easily bring in a contractor for a few months.” “London has multiple industries offering in a sense that you have the choice of working for big tech firms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc., some really cool startups, or tech-driven funds most of whom are based in and around a 3 mile radius. However, the compensation structure for these three environments differs significantly and comparing salary between these different industries is hard, let alone against other geographical areas,” says Abdul Muhit, a programmer from the UK. “The US is usually seen as paying their engineers the most. However the average salary for an engineer in the US is about $89,000 per year, which is about £63,000. The average salary for the UK? With a bachelor's degree it's £56,000 and for those with a postgraduate degree it's £62,000. Though bear in mind that the typical pathway for European and indeed UK engineers is to do a master's degree, which in the UK takes 4 years including your bachelor's, so you get about the same salary for the same amount of time spent studying. While your take home pay in the UK will be a bit less, you won't be paying nearly as much for your health cover. So overall they will work out fairly similarly,” shares his opinion Andrew Smith, another British programmer.