Why would there be any pressure if everyone knows what they are doing and the projects are accurately estimated? If there's pressure, or even high pressure, then it implies what they are currently doing is not working, why would any good programmer want to join a team like that? Are these kind of job posting failed at trying to show off or are they really just being honest? Or is there really some good reasons for having pressure?
Example high pressure job: High frequency algorithmic trading. A software engineer friend of mine is working for a trading shop. Huge stress, huge pressure. All deadlines are "right now". Everything is shipped to production on the day it's written. Even a few minute delay could cost the company millions. Not many people can handle an environment like this. If you can do it, expect a 50-100% higher salary than industry standard at your level + end-of-year bonus based on % of your algos' profits. It's super high-risk, high-pressure, high reward. It has nothing to do with unrealistic deadlines or lacking management, and everything to do with your ability to handle the pressure. (And traders swearing at your face as their P&L goes down the crapper that day.)
- Jobs where producing the kind of software with high-requirements for dependendability:
- medical software,
- embedded software.
- Jobs where deliverables (and failures) would have:
- a direct and large impact on people,
- a direct and large impact on the company's image.
Alternatively, it's not necessarily just code for "we're under-resourced and have unrealistically aggressive deadlines", but also possibly code for "your responsibility makes you an expendable liability if anything goes awry".
Maybe the recruiters assume that someone who can stand, or even enjoy, a "high-pressure environment", would be more productive in that particular company.
It can actually be a correct assumption: an inferior developer, who's willing to take the pressure for the sake of keeping his job, may be marginally productive, while a good developer, who can afford to choose and thus, should he end up in such a joke company, would leave in no time and wouldn't be at all productive.
A startup that rushes to the market must struggle to be faster than the competition. For such a company, it makes sense to create a high pressure work environment, since being there two months before others working on the same problem might make the difference between being the next facebook and being, well, a too-little-too-late service nobody remembers. Working in such a company might make you rich quickly, through stock options.
For a well established software company, constantly high pressure is a sign of bad management and/or greedy owners and therefore a red flag.
Man, there's a LOAD of venting in this thread :P
"everyone knows what they are doing and the projects are accurately estimated" is what everyone wants but you shouldn't forget that those teams weren't always like that. Every team starts off bad before it eventually gets better, so until it gets to this utopian state, pressure is normal. If it weren't then management would probably be guilty of asking too little.
I like the "high pressure" statement on the rare occasions when I see it because those are the teams that have seen the symptoms, even though they may not have all the answers. That is better than most of the other ads that have no clue at all.
So unless the competition is some great software house that I know of, odds are I would find this "high pressure" one interesting at the very least. There are less good teams in the market than good programmers and frankly, holding out for the best (assuming they want you as well) is pretty much a waste of time unless you don't have mouths to feed.
So in that sense, the phrase "high pressure" doesn't really deter me at all.
One of two reasons:
They want you to give up your social life doing 12 hour days and weekends for no extra reward to save a project that is late and over budget with the customer threatening to sue. Usually because the sales team promised extra features without running them past the developers.
The windows don't open and the staff suffer from flatulence.
I think it's 1.
I think you get the point.
Good programmer don't work in theses companies, then company get less thing done (different studies show a difference of TCO going from 10 to 26 between devs, which is huge) and increase pressure, which lead to more good devs leaving.
Such a company will often cut on testing, QA or refactoring to reach unrealistic deadlines. Which lead to harder to meet deadline for the next release. This is a self maintaining process, and as long as the upper management doesn't want to break this trend, this is a recipe for disaster.
Note that 60% to 80% of IT project are considered as failure (see chaos report for precise numbers). And this has a lot to do with the behavior shown in the job posts you read.
This is often referenced as dead sea effect, and is a very real phenomena in the IT industry.
Because they ARE high pressure.
Because, in IT terms, they do not know what they are doing, or more precisely, they do not follow good development practices, because someone outside of IT is in charge.
One of the problems we software developers have is that software is not a tangible, physical object. To non-IT people it is this wooly, obscure thing that just exists inside their computer.
But because they cannot touch it, they do not appreciate the intricacies that go into building good software.
So when you get these types of people "driving the bus", you soon get comments like:
- just build it
- we need it in 1 month
- we don't need testers
They don't get it.
I rarely see it worded like this, but then such statements are buzzwords at best, and baseless drivel at worst.
I have seen jobs that were described as "fast paced" being some of the slowest, most uninspiring, brain decaying and insidiously boring jobs that could possibly be concieved for a human being. I have also put LOTS of time and was significantly challenged at jobs where by the description in no way gave credit to the actual needs of the job.
You would make a mistake to put too much thought into wording like this. You learn far more about a work environment and the responsibilities of a potential job by interviewing and in turn asking the interviewer important questions that help unveil the hidden mysteries and dysfunctions that they don't tell you about.
It doesn't mean that much in most cases. After all, would a company really say that they have a work environment where their philosophy is "Mañana". It's one of those standard clichés that get throw into job listings by HR people, just like saying they want "highly motivated people" and that they offer "a competitive salary with a complete benefit package".
You'll need to find out from your interview exactly what kind of pressure a job is likely to have, if it's just HR-speak or if they really have time critical work that has to be done. For example, you may find out that they do a lot of client driven or time critical projects that need to be done very quickly, such as advertising campaigns or event planning. Or, you may find that the organization is populated with bullies and jerks who create ugly pressure. Or, it may be just HR-BS and the environment is a pretty typical development shop.
I ignore those kinds of jobs postings now. What they mean is we want a slave who will work 80 hours a week and not get paid squat. It is a sign that management is not bidding projects correctly or not managing projects correctly.
Well run teams run on time and without extra stresses, like managers that take on 100 new requirements and try to keep the date. I haven't had a death march in years. The closest thing was when I came back to a failing project as a consultant making exorbitant hourly rates and worked a long holiday weekend to bail out some major fail.
"if everyone knows what they are doing and the projects are accurately estimated?" is a really big assumption. Usually that assumption is false if the company says it is a "high pressure environment".
And, yes, there are a lot of companies that fail to plan and have under-achieving employees. There are plenty of companies that don't fit that mold, you just have to maintain your own standards and refuse to work in these high pressure jobs.
The one place where it's okay for this to pop up is if you'll have a job where lives are on the line.
For example, if you're the sys admin for services that must be up in order to keep airplanes in the sky, you should expect it to be high pressure. Or, if you work on software that will be deployed for soldiers in a warzone, you can expect pressure.
If you see this, ask the interviewer if lives are on the line if you miss a deadline or alarm. If not, they're being dramatic.