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Boost Your Tech Salary in 2020: Ask the Experts

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Clearly, tech salaries are heading upward. As they continue to climb, some experienced IT professionals are starting to command salaries that rival those in business, law and medicine.

This is particularly true for IT pros with highly sought after skills in hot areas like cloud, AI, and data analytics. And of course tech salaries are typically far higher in certain metropolitan areas.

To provide guidance to IT pros seeking higher salaries, I’ll speak with two leading experts: Ryan Sutton, District President, Robert Half Technology and Sudarshan Sampath, Director of Resarch, Payscale

Recorded: Wednesday, December 4, 12 noon PT

Ryan Sutton

Ryan Sutton, District President, Robert Half Technology


 Sudarshan Sampath, Director of Resarch, Payscale

James Maguire

James Maguire, Datamation editor – moderator

In this webinar you will learn:

  • What is the outlook for IT salaries in 2020?
  • What IT skills areas are most in demand?
  • What techniques and strategies can IT pros use to boost their salary in 2020?

Edited Highlights from the Recorded Video:

Job Demand is Driving Wage Growth

Sudarshan: “The demand for tech jobs is far outpacing the occupational supply. And so, here’s an example up: if you look through the Amazon HQ2RFP, one of the things that they mentioned is that they had a demand for 10,000 qualified data scientists.

“I don’t think there are 10,000 qualified data scientists in the United States, much less 10,000 available ones for Amazon to recruit.

“And so, within the technology industry, if you look at the PayScale index – which is our proprietary measure of wage growth – we’ve seen wages grow by 18% in the tech sector since 2006. They’ve grown almost 3% year over year, so from Q3 2019 from Q3 2018. It’s this fascinating growth and it’s driven by a dearth of supply in a lot of different industries that you would not consider to be technology industries, and that’s really been a theme of the past five years.”

Tech Permeates All Industries

Ryan: “It’s not as simple saying you have this portion of tech professionals, the demand for them is growing exponentially, so their salaries increase five, 10, 15%. Now, the permeation across all industries with deeper technology usage for efficiency, for big data, for decision-making, it’s to the point where you would even say the growth in tech is relative to non-tech professionals. Whether it’s a financial analyst, whether it’s an accountant, whether it’s a marketing professional with the digital transformation.

“We’ve talked about it for years, it’s been theory, it’s been emerging. But you now can look at it and truly start to show true trends to changes in business as it relates to technology and digital transformation.

Skills Command a Premium

Sudarshan: “So PayScale recently released a new product called our Skilled Differential engine, where we analyze our data to understand what are the premiums that we see a lot across skills and this is a wide variety.

“So I definitely want to say that when we’re talking about skills, they can range from technical hard skills to soft skills, and they both have their placement and they’re both quite important.

“Some things have just grown exponentially. So from 2015, for Ruby, we saw an 8.6% premium to a programmer’s pay and is now currently at 16.3%. So almost double.”

EQ vs. IQ

Ryan: “DevOps is still towards, I’d say the…not the cutting edge, but really the front end of an emerging skill set, an emerging evolution where there are still very few companies that have really migrated or are trying to evolve into a DevOps structure.

“So even again, then we also get into the soft skills of software development, the Agile approach versus the traditional approach of it all. The development skills, they’re all hot, right? I think to stress this point, those harder to find skills, whether it’s Google, whether it’s AWS, with Amazon, those are just very, very hot skills. But beneath all that, what you’ll see is the ‘EQ versus the IQ.’

“The communication skills: when you start thinking about technology permeating through all departments, and trying to pull all these departments together, a software engineer no longer can be a great software engineer if they hide in a room with headphones on.

The Importance of Soft Skills

Sudarshan: “Your company will scale better if you have people who are able to communicate to non-technical audience – very technical concepts.

“And I think there’s really two ways to focus on the growth of your career. You can be an individual contributor that really nails down new languages, the new hot skills, whether it’s some of the ones that I described or whatever it may be in the future, and that’s one path.

“But that is one that requires continual self study and a lot of self motivation, and a lot of work in that way. And it’s not for everybody. Another way, is that if you look at our data and you look at say, military graduates, they come with the background of a lot of soft skills that really apply well to a software engineering format. So the ability to be agile, the ability to communicate, to have leadership and team-building, and those soft skills paired with really strong technical chops can be incredibly impactful.

“And so, as you think about your career, there’s a really great way of marrying soft skills with technical skills and really presenting yourself as a fully rounded employee.

“Maybe do that in a recruiting or hiring session, if you are whiteboarding some code, you can have an interaction with your interviewer. Walk them through your logic, ask them some pertinent questions, have a dialog. Really present yourself as a team player. I think it’d be really, really impactful to sort of show that, ‘Hey, I have this technical background that I’m able to really execute on, and I’m able to have a really strong conversation and able to explain my logic, and I’m able to do it in a personable way that is inclusive and not sort of my way or the highway, more cooperative rather than be kind of… ’”

Boosting Pay By Testing the Market

Ryan: “The answer is always going to start with one: sometimes you have to test the open market. And it’s one of those pieces of feedback that I’ll give that I don’t want to come across as self-serving, because it’s not that I’m saying you have to go to a recruiter.

“I’ll give the analogy about a house. How would you ever really know what your home is worth? The only way to truly know what your home is worth is to list it.

“The reality is, a lot of times you have to make that move. And it’s an unfortunate part of a fast-growing economy like this where you have skills in demand, record low unemployment: to really get that market compensation adjustment, you sometimes have to really test the water or be open to that.

Do the Research!

Ryan: “The most important part of negotiation is the research, and it’s the number one piece everybody neglects. And so, yeah, we did a recent study to kind of get the different trends between whether it’s the gender gap, whether it’s the difference of generational from a Gen Z to millennial to Gen Y to Gen X to boomers.

“It’s interesting where you will see a disparity between comfort of doing research, comfort of talking to your peers, your partners. With all the legislation that’s passed in various states across the US, the culture these days could not be more set up properly to allow people to do the research yet.

“Before you would ever trust a realtor to tell to what your house is worth, we all would go to a website and see what our neighbor’s is listed for or sold for. Take the same logic to your own career.”

Negotiating from Want vs. Need

Sudarshan: “And I think a lot of times what happens with career search with candidates in general, is they wait for that final proverbial straw.

“You’re then going to look and negotiate from a place of need versus want. But when you negotiate from want versus need, you’re less aptly to take the wrong offer, you’re less apt to go into the wrong situation, knowing not what you’re looking for, right?

“So I would tell everybody: the best job searchers are proactive job searchers. They’re not window shoppers, they’re proactive where they do the research, they’re very engaged with the review process, they talk to the managers. So right now if you’re in review season, talk to your managers, make sure that you are actually engaged in the process and have your own agenda for the review.”

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