IT Salaries: Glassdoor Reveals Tech Pay Figures

As the buzz mounts, opinion is sharply divided about a new Web site that reveals the salaries at prominent tech companies.
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Are the tech salary numbers at Glassdoor to be believed?

The Web site, launched just last week, claims to have salary data from the biggest tech firms, including Microsoft, Yahoo and Google. Based in Sausalito, Calif., and funded by $3 million from Benchmark Capital, Glassdoor is run by former managers from Expedia and Zillow.

So presumably its pay data is more reliable than if, say, a 13-year-old had tinkered with Robert Half IT salary data in his bedroom.

But we don’t know that. Glassdoor gets it data from its site visitors, who are anonymous. The site claims that it has methods of vetting its data – but skeptics wonder.

Despite these doubts, the site has quickly mushroomed into a buzzmeister, garnering (by its own count) 1.2 million pageviews in its first 24 hours. Forbes dubbed it “workplace porn,” while USA Today ran a reader poll suggesting that users overwhelming favor Glassdoor.

The resulting traffic has helped the site gather scads of user-generated salary reports. For instance, here’s Glassdoor data on leading programmers:

Yahoo software engineer: $99,255 (range: $70k - $128k)

Yahoo senior software engineer: $123,390 (range: $100k - $150k)

Google software engineer: $99,544 (range: $50k - $150k)

Google senior software engineer: $126,653 (range: $80k - $160k)

Microsoft software development engineer: $95,641 (range: $65k - $145k)

Microsoft senior software development: $114,822 (range: $92k - $135k)

Cisco software engineer: $88,947 (range: $69k - $110k)

Cisco senior software engineer: $104,835 (range: $95k - $115k)

Among the salary data is this choice tidbit: a Google data center technician purportedly earns $41,499, with a range that dips down to $31k. Can you live on $31k in tony Mountain View, California? (And is the mighty Google actually paying some of its technicians the same as the local convenience store manager?)

Wikipedia of Salary Data

Nick Corcodilos, a longtime expert on IT hiring trends and owner of AskTheHeadhunter, dismisses Glassdoor as merely “salary gossip” – and a negative for tech professionals.

The site is “more of this new phenomenon where people’s opinions count as news – their prejudices count as news. None of this information is vetted or checked.”

When I informed him that the site endeavors to vet its information, he laughed. In his view, building an information source using data gathered anonymously over the Internet is like trying to build a solid wall from Swiss cheese. Corcodilos points to the example of Wikipedia, the user-generated encyclopedia that, while popular, is famously riddled with major errors.

He advises IT jobseekers: “You should never, ever, ever divulge your prior salary to any employer. Because as soon as you do, you destroy your ability to negotiate.” It’s the equivalent of inviting your prospective employer to judge you by the standards of your last job. “Which is utterly insane.”

Of course posting your salary on Greendoor, or anywhere online (and one has to wonder at the motivation of the posters) isn’t exactly like informing a possible employer. But still, “think about what this does now to the poor sucker job hunter. When people think they know what the salary is for a software developer at Google, for example, it limits them – it doesn’t help them.” It prompts professionals to think within these salary ranges rather than pressing for the best possible deal.

He recommends that IT job hunters ignore Glassdoor and instead negotiate to their best ability.

A Human Vetting Process

Robert Hohman, Glassdoor’s co-founder and chief executive, told me the site takes great care as it checks incoming data.

“We’ve got a bunch of technical and procedural mechanisms to vet the data,” he said, though when pressed on details, he deferred. “We’re not really talking about the specifics that we’re using.”

“On a salary side, we apply a ton of statistics to it,” he said. “If there are outliers or things that don’t make sense, we challenge it.” While the site is anonymous, users must leave a valid email address to post data. “And that’s so we can say, ‘Hey, did you leave a zero off that salary, or maybe put an extra zero on? Because it just doesn’t look right to us.’”


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Tags: Google, Microsoft, IT salary, Yahoo, tech pay


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