Reeling in a bigger salary


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Low-paid storage guy

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Salary: $40-55K
Region: Mountain
Industry: Education
Company size: 1-100 employees
IT experience: 1-5 years
Direct storage experience: 0-2 years
Manages: less than 1TB
Manages: 1-5 people

How salaries vary
Salaries, of course, are far from uniform. The survey identified significant differences in compensation by region, industry, company size and experience level.

The geographic region where you work--not surprisingly--also affects how much you will get paid. The Mid-Atlantic region (New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania) ranks first, with an average salary of $87,908 in 2003, followed by New England at $80,620 and the Pacific at $78,665. Looking ahead toward 2004, the Mid-Atlantic region is expected to top the list again at $91,583, but it's followed by the Pacific at $89,000 and New England at $84,189. In 2003, the lowest-paying regions are the Southeast, averaging $73,621 and the Mountain states at $65,181. (See Figure 5)

Of course, regional salary differences often reflect the differences in the cost of living and other quality-of-life issues. Housing is notoriously high in parts of the Mid-Atlantic region, New England and the Pacific.

One technology manager overseeing multiple terabytes of storage, as well as servers, networks and mainframes for a large state agency in South Carolina, is a former IBM manager who left the lucrative world of Big Blue for a state government job in the Southeast. "I live here in Columbia, and my compensation is less because of it, but I don't want to move," he says. Given his geographic preferences, he is satisfied with his salary, which he doesn't expect to increase next year, either. "We aren't increasing salaries, but we haven't laid off people," he adds.

The top-paying industries for storage professionals, as determined by Storage (after factoring for data anomalies due to small samples in some industries), should come as no surprise: financial services and IT, followed by manufacturing. In 2003, the financial services industry is paying, on average, $84,940 annually. IT services is paying an average of $80,216 and manufacturing is at $77,961. (The salary for the transportation industry was $83,714, but a low respondent rate of 3.4% should be factored into this high number.) The utilities industry is close behind at $77,181. At the low end sits the government/nonprofit sector at $71,028 and education at $67,654. (See Figure 7)

IT services has been one of the bright spots for storage professionals in the past few years. "We doubled our size in 2003 through an acquisition, and we continue to recruit," says Tesha Kaatz, corporate recruiting manager for CNT Corp., in Minneapolis. As for 2004, CNT is picking up indications that "companies that have held back on their [IT] budgets for the last two years will need to open up their budgets again," she says. For storage professionals, that will mean increased demand and more opportunities, particularly for those with storage area networking (SAN) skills, she adds. Years of experience translate into higher salaries, but it's storage experience that counts the most.

According to our survey, people with more IT experience earned more on average. In 2003, those with more than 20 years of experience averaged $83,079 annually--$6,000 more than those with 11 to 20 years of experience.

Still, storage is a relatively young discipline. Until the advent of networked storage a few years ago, storage was closely aligned with servers and the mainframe. Few people could claim dedicated storage experience, which may account for why most IT salary surveys fail to separate storage functions from systems, network and data center operations.

This survey, however, looked at dedicated storage experience. A little more than one quarter of respondents reported six or more years of dedicated storage experience, and their responses suggest that that experience pays off in terms of salary. In 2003, those with six to 10 years of dedicated storage experience averaged $85,892 annually, even edging out those with more than 20 years of overall IT experience. Better still, those with more than 10 years of dedicated storage experience averaged $87,073 annually, beating those with 11 to 15 years of overall IT experience by nearly $10,000.

Specialized training in storage and storage industry certifications, on the other hand, don't get you much in terms of a hiring advantage or increased salary, respondents report.

Walter Cisowski, a senior systems specialist for a Canadian transportation company, for instance, focuses only on storage. He handles capacity planning, forecasting, architecture and day-to-day supervision of both mainframe and distributed storage. Although he has an Information Technology Infrastructure Library certification, it didn't play a role in landing his job.

However, "I think the industry is getting to the point where it will be good to have storage vendor certifications," he says. "I don't have a vendor certification, but I do have 15 years of experience."

CNT's Kaatz adds: "Certifications have value if you are in an implementation role."

Storage architecture manager Leahy fell into storage from project management. "I was brought in to manage a SAN project when we migrated optical storage to magnetic disk. I knew operating systems, but I had no direct storage experience," he recalls. To get up to speed on storage, he plowed through available literature and pumped the support people at vendors such as EMC Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. He also took a three-day training course.

This was first published in December 2003

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