I often get asked for advice on how to get started in a career as a DBA or in IT in general. I make the often regurgitated information such as getting a few good books, a copy of SQL Server Developer Edition, watch webinars, attend user groups and SQL Saturdays, ask to do some free work for a local charity or ask to help out on a project from someone else in the field to get some real world experience, etc.
Once someone gets their start in the IT field there is still much mentoring that needs to occur. Two of the major things I have found newbie’s need to work on is continuing education and on negotiating their worth. I recently put together a chart to use as an illustration to show some discrepancies I have seen. I have several friends in the HR field and I have requested some round numbers on entry level salaries for a DBA I, DBA II, Senior DBA and Lead DBA.
The following numbers may not be true for your area, however the delta’s between the positions should be similar. The numbers I got averaged from 45k, 53k, 70k, and 83k. When asking what are the difference in requirements between the positions it really came down to time and experience in the field. DBA I = 1-2 years, DBA II 3-5 years, Senior DBA 5+ years and Lead DBA was 7+ with some discretion on what makes a lead.
With that being said, lets break down the entry level positions and see how many years working in each role you would have to spend in order to increase your salary to reach the next level position.
Based on the numbers to the left, a level one DBA would have to spend 6 years working with a 3% raise in order to earn the same beginning wage as a level two DBA, 15 years to earn that of a Sr and 21 years for that of a Lead.
For a level two DBA, they would have to work 10 years to earn the starting pay of a Sr and nearly 15 years for that of a Lead. For a Sr level DBA, they would have to work 6 years to earn the starting pay for a Lead DBA.
What does this mean for those entry and mid level people starting out in IT?
The reason I am writing this is to show that very early into your career your knowledge gain will outpace your salary gain. As IT professionals how do we address this issue? It is a tough spot to be in. For one your company has invested in you to get this knowledge as most of it is probably from on the job training, possibly getting to go to some paid training events, etc. Chances are you have also given of your personal time to attend free weekend training events, purchased books on your own dime, spent your personal time reading blogs, watching webinars, reading books etc.
You have proven yourself, you have proven your loyalty to your company and are working hard to do the best you can for them right? What can/do you do to address the money situation? Often times I see individuals that will job hop. An article on Forbes even addressed the job hoping situation. “Employees Who Stay In Companies Longer Than Two Years Get Paid 50% Less” There are some very valid points to Cameron’s logic in his article however there are a lot of miss truths in his article. The point I am trying to make here is that highly skilled workers such as those in IT are often times finding they have to job hop in order to get decent raises.
Several years ago I was told that IT Professionals should be interviewing every two years if for nothing else to keep your interview skills up. During this same talk I heard a statistic that the average tenure of a DBA is 18 months. I didn’t believe it at first but as I paid attention on social media it does seem like every week another person is taking on a new role with another company. I often ask those who changed jobs what was the motivating factor. For many it was salary, others it was opportunity to work on different projects or they felt they had outgrown the company they worked at.
So what do you do if you like your employer but you are caught in this very low merit increase dilemma?
I like to ask people when was the last time their manager came up and gave them a pile of money for doing a good job? Occasionally someone will say this happened for them in the form of a bonus of some sort, but typically I get laughed at. If you think about it from an employer perspective, they work for shareholders. There job is to maximize profits and minimize expense right? We as employees are a big expense. The company has to juggle keeping talent while trying to keep payroll down.
I also like to ask people “when is the last time you went to your boss and presented a business case that you deserve a salary adjustment”, sadly most of the time the answer is never. For those that have asked for the salary adjustment the response varies. Some have been able to get an increase because they presented the data and facts to justify the company investing in them. For others they have presented the case and the company just cannot or is not willing to invest in that individual. In those cases it is in the best interest of the IT Professional to begin seeking employment elsewhere. It doesn’t mean it is a bad company or bad management, it could simply mean the IT resource has out grown the companies need.
The important part is for us IT Professionals to know our worth, keep striving to increase our knowledge and always do the best job we can. As I tell my scouts “Do Your Best” or as Lowe’s reminds me “Never Stop Improving”