I submitted a few email questions about the Computerworld Career Survey to Ellen Fanning, Special Projects Editor of Computerworld. First, we’ll see the questions and answers, then I’ll have a few of my own thoughts.
Q: Tell me a little bit about the survey itself. The history, background, how the survey is done, what information are you looking for, etc? How long have you been involved with it?
A. We’ve been doing the survey 20 years now — and I’ve been involved for the past six. The methodology involves a giant survey of 14,740 full- and part-time IT employees. At the 95% confidence level, the margin of error for this sample size is less than +/-1 percentage point. We ask our respondents about their salary, bonuses and certain benefits, as well as their satisfaction with their pay, their job security and their decision to pursue a career in IT.
Q: How do this year’s results compare with recent years? Are things looking up in general for the IT industry or down?
A: Over the 20 years of our survey data, we’ve seen IT salaries rise sharply in1998 (6.7%), start to plateau, then dive in 2002, down to 2.6%. This year we saw a 3.1% increase. But we reported on bigger raises for certain skills (see below).
Q: This year’s results show us an indication that web-developer skills are in demand now. Do you see that trend continuing? What sort of jobs may be just a year or two away from seeing similar results?
A: Our recent special section entitled The IT Profession: 2010 provided much insight for the entire IT industry. Under Internet and Business Intelligence sectors, we identified customer-facing web application systems, artificial intelligence, data mining, data warehousing as “Hot Skills.” Additionally, the sharpest tech workers will move effortlessly between IT and business units.
Q: What should the typical IT worker take from the results at each level, from the entry-level helpdesker or hardware tech, to the Sys Admin and on up to the manager?
A: Some skills are hot, some are not. Titles that saw higher-than-average gains in total compensation:
Director/vice president of e-commerce/e-business: 5.5%
Network architect: 5.3%
Web developer: 4.8%
Storage architect/engineer/administrator: 4.5%
And titles that saw lower-than-average gains in total compensation:
E-commerce specialist: 1.1%
E-commerce manager: 1.2%
Network manager: 1.4%
Technical trainer: 1.9%
Q: What else is available for IT folks in the special section, aside from the survey results?
A: We examine the fact that women’s paychecks still lag men’s. We have an interactive database tool allowing folks to choose their title, region of the country and industry — and see average pay from our national database. And we have a careers blogger, Johanna Rothman, who is answering readers’ questions this week about how to ask for a raise (http://www.computerworld.com/blogs/node/3945)
My own thoughts:
1. When Ellen says that the “sharpest tech workers will move effortlessly between IT and business units”, I don’t think that’s going to come as a big surprise to listeners of Friends in Tech podcasts. I can’t even name all the times we’ve heard the guys talk about knowing your business so that you can bring extra value to the organization. I also wonder if the fact that we’re seeing web development and data warehousing as “hot skills” is a sign of this same idea, because to be really good at these areas of tech you have to know more than tech, you have to know how to use tech to market and interact with your customers, and how to take your customer data and turn it into useful information. That requires quite a bit of knowledge beyond just the tech. It requires knowing a little something about your business and customers.
2. We do seem to be coming out of the industry doldrums of 2002, but it will still be a challenge to earn your way in IT. Clearly the days of taking some tech knowledge and turning that into a high-paying job with little experience or hands-on knowledge are gone. If you want to make a career of IT, you are going to have to work at it, and you are absolutely going to have to know as much as you possible can about as many different areas of your organization as you can!
3. I’m somewhat surprised in the low salary increases reported for technical trainers. I’ve seen a real push to doing more training of users in my own experience, but perhaps the legal industry has a different focus that the rest of the business world in that regard. We tend to make every effort to keep users self-sufficient so that they don’t have to stop what they’re doing and call the helpdesk, or have someone show them how to do something. Afterall, the time they spend talking to the helpdesk isn’t billable time!
4. Lastly, I want to acknowledge and thank Ellen for taking the time to step up the interaction with the blogosphere by responding to my questions.
What are your thoughts? Do your experiences in IT differ from what I’m seeing working in a law firm? What questions do you have about the career survey results?