Disney Software Engineer Salaries: High Enough to Battle Netflix, Apple?

Disney recently entered the so-called “streaming wars” with Disney+, a streaming-video network that offers a mix of movies and TV series (including the ‘Star Wars’ series ‘The Mandolorian,” glimpsed above). That move placed the Mouse House in direct competition with Apple, Amazon and Netflix, three big tech/media companies also in search of streaming dominance. Given how that rivalry will only intensify in coming years, Disney’s software engineers—the employees who help keep the streaming apparatus running—will prove insanely important.

But how much is Disney actually paying its software engineers? Glassdoor, which crowdsources its salary data, gives us an idea—and it’s clear that Disney’s salaries are lower than what you find at Apple, Amazon or Netflix. Granted, not all software engineers at these firms work on streaming-related projects, but if the overall salary trends are consistent between the companies, it seems that Disney is at a slight compensation disadvantage as it pushes further into entertainment tech.

(Levels.fyi, normally another reliable source of crowd-based salary data, only has one Disney software engineer salary submitted—an associate-level one in the Los Angeles area that pays $84,000 per year. That’s lower than Glassdoor’s estimate, as well as Levels.fyi’s own estimates of what entry-level Apple, Amazon, and Netflix engineers earn, but it’s also not fair to draw conclusions from a single data point.)

On the r/cscareerquestions subreddit, there’s some interesting (and unverified) information about Disney’s job-interview process for its streaming engineers. “It was a fairly standard Leetcode style question (on the easier side) for the phone screen, and the onsite had tons of Java trivia as well as one or two Leetcode style questions and one system design question,” one anonymous respondent wrote about the company’s interviewing style. (For those who don’t know, Leetcode is a platform that provides programming interview questions to practice on.)

This helpful commenter also elaborated on the Java part of the interview, stating that questions included:

  • “Name classes in Java.util
  • “Difference between interface and abstract class in Java, and when you’d use each
  • “Name some design patterns (didn’t actually ask me what any did, literally just list off the names of some)
  • “What is reactive programming, and how is it used in Java X (whatever version of Java it was introduced in)?”

On the same thread, yet another commenter who claimed they worked for Disney had slightly different advice: “I know for a lot of the connected devices/web based teams, at least for the interviews, they tend to give a pretty basic coding challenge that I can’t quite go into too much detail on. That said, I only knew juniors who took it so if you’re a bit more senior it might be something totally different.”

If you take this advice at face value, it seems that Disney’s interview process for software engineers is pretty straightforward—no brainteasers about how many tennis balls you can fit in the fuselage of a 747, for example. Of course, “software engineer” isn’t a monolithic position, and questions will vary depending on the exact nature of the role; for example, you could face a lot of questions about scaling web architecture or front-end design, based on what exactly you apply for.

Meanwhile, specializing in streaming can prove quite lucrative (at least for the moment). According to levels.fyi, which crowdsources salary data, senior software engineers at Netflix earn an annual average of $437,000 in base salary, along with stock worth $12,225, and a bonus of $1,000. That’s quite a bit higher than the numbers offered by Glassdoor, which suggest average software engineer base pay is $226,994, along with average additional pay of $10,782 (still pretty good!).

Amazon and Apple shell out similarly generous salaries to software engineers, as you can see from this chart generated from levels.fyi data:

If Disney wants to battle toe-to-toe against these tech giants, it’s going to end up paying out a lot for talent. May the Force be with it.