Hard work, good pay

Network professionals are enjoying substantial increases in pay, especially at the highest- and lowest-tier job titles.

Everyday, you work to ensure your network flawlessly supports your organization's mission-critical business processes. And when payday rolls around, your reward justifies the effort. Network executives saw their base pay increase 5.1% in 2004, reaching $110,620, according to Network World's 2005 Salary Survey of 2,430 respondents, conducted with researchers King, Brown & Partners. In fact, the numbers look good all around. When adding in bonuses, stock options and other benefits to base pay, network executives - those with senior-level titles (senior vice president/vice president of MIS/IT/IS/DP) - pulled in $131,170 in total compensation. That's an increase of 3.9% over last year's $126,240, especially healthy compared with the 2.8% rate of inflation that InflationData.com reported for 2004.

Respondents at the highest and lowest tiers - CIO and staff - saw the biggest gains. For instance, those at the CIO level report that total compensation increased from $133,480 to $143,880 - a whopping 7.8% - while respondents at the staff level report total compensation increases of 5.2%, up from $67,920 in 2004 to $71,480 in 2005.

Bonus increases followed a similar pattern. Network executives report average bonuses of $14,910 in 2005, an increase of just 0.4% over 2004. Those at the CIO-level report smaller dollar-amount bonuses ($13,590) but a bigger percentage increase (18.2%) over last year's bonus numbers. Staffers, on average, received a huge 15% increase in bonuses, totaling $2,370.

Network executives actually saw a decline in stock compensation, down 6.2% to just $2,420 this year. CIOs reported a modest stock increase of 1.7% to $4,690, while staffers saw a 12.5% increase in stock compensation to $630. In the "other income" category, which includes items such as car allowances, pay premiums (for overseas work, for example), and income such as consulting fees, network executives reported a 7.6% increase to $1,410, whereas CIOs reaped nearly double the increase, 13.6% or $1,840. Staffers reported a 9.3% increase to $940.

 

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One theme for 2005 is that network executives are trying to do more work without increasing staff head count. As such, respondents say, they are making sure the few staffers they have are happy, at least monetarily. "We're running a fairly tight ship nowadays. My group has not changed in size since I got here a year ago, but we're working with at least 20% more systems now, and we're trying to keep people happy and keep them around," says Joel Hofman, assistant vice president and senior network engineer at JRI America, the New York IT subsidiary of financial services firm Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group.

Thus, bonuses have increased substantially for staffers, he adds. "We're trying to keep fixed costs such as salaries down but are making up the difference in variable costs such as bonuses," Hofman says.

While network executives generally have not achieved the increases reported by other titles, some say that they are being promoted rather than gaining salary hikes. For example, Bruce Sachetti received a much healthier increase than the 3.9% average hike in total compensation when he was promoted to director of enterprise architecture at ADT Security Services in Aurora, Colo. As a director, Sachetti is one step below the CIO. "I consider myself one of the technology leaders here, and I continue to manage the network and telecommunications teams," he says. "In general, our increases were around 3%, and my increase would have been in that range had I not taken on some additional responsibility."

More pay, more work

As in the past, respondents say that when it comes to landing promotions and fatter paychecks, business knowledge trumps more technical know-how such as certifications. "Once you hit this level, you have to put a lot less emphasis on being a technical expert and getting certifications, and more on understanding business goals, the big picture and the overall direction of the company," Sachetti says. "What's being stressed right now from the top is the alignment of the vision of those with the CXO titles, with the technologists and with the lines of business. If you can't marry all three, you're really not going to move beyond just managing technologists."

To that end, respondents are looking to earn graduate-level degrees and MBAs in an effort to make themselves more attractive to upper management. "I am a [Certified Novell Engineer], Novell Engineer and Microsoft Engineer, but right now I'm pursuing a project management certification and my MBA," says Al Antonelli, manager of IT at SHI-APD Cryogenics, a manufacturing company in Allentown, Pa. "Certifications are important, but at the level that I'm at, certifications probably aren't as important as an MBA. To make it to the CIO level or the director of IT level, an MBA's a requirement of the job. They won't even look at your application without it."

The survey bears this wisdom out. Those with graduate-level degrees command much larger salaries than those with lesser degrees. For example, on average, respondents holding bachelor's degrees make $78,020, while those with graduate degrees pull in $90,050. Interestingly, respondents who have no certifications tend to command higher salaries than those who do.

Obviously, the more responsibilities net execs have, the greater their paychecks. Unfortunately, this year's survey, like those in the past, finds that the monetary boost comes with a corresponding increase in hours worked.

In fact, respondents typically work more than the traditional 40-hour week, clocking in an average of 50.65 hours weekly. "It's not unheard of for me to work 50 or 60 plus hours per week," says Sheli Lindholm, IT manager at Northwest Kia Megastores in Wenatchee, Wash. "For my last paycheck, I worked 36 hours over the standard hours for that pay period - and that's not unusual."

This is primarily because of the need to support businesses that operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, respondents say. "I telecommute, but I'm still expected to be in the office 40 hours," Antonelli says. "So the work I do telecommuting is in addition to the regular work week." He says he puts in 46 to 48 hours in a typical week. "I have to support people from California to the U.K., so I have a long day."

Satisfaction goes beyond pay

Lindholm, who has two young children, says her long hours come with corresponding flexibility. "For me, family friendliness is a really big thing," she says. "If my kids are sick, I can do 90% of my job at home or out of the office, and nobody needs to know about it. As long as I'm answering my cell phone and I'm reachable, it doesn't matter where I am."

Still, such flexibility tends to result in even longer work hours, she says. "I'm probably working twice as much because I can work from anywhere." Lindholm's experience is echoed in the survey results. Family friendliness is once again in the Top 10 list of importance in terms of job criteria. Still, respondents cite job security as their most important criteria, with benefits, overall compensation, base salary and challenge of work rounding out the Top 5 (see "Can't get no satisfaction ").

ADT's Sachetti agrees that compensation and benefits are a priority, but he says a stimulating work environment is just as important. "What keeps me interested in my position and keeps me here is that it is challenging," he says. "They're not shy about throwing additional opportunities and challenges your way to the extent that you're able to handle them."

So when it comes to your job, you know what you want. But do you actually get it? According to the survey, respondents in general find their current positions wanting, especially in terms of overall compensation and benefits. Such dissatisfaction can be attributed to a number of factors, but organizations would be wise to rethink overall compensation for their IT groups, especially as it equates to corporate loyalty.

In fact, rewarding your staff now is less expensive than paying to hire and train new employees as a result of turnover, says JRI America's Hofman. "Companies can't spend the time and money that constant turnover requires," he says. "When you're supporting a large environment and a variety of technologies, it's actually cheaper to make sure your current staff is happy and sticks around."

Can't get no satisfaction

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And according to the survey, overall compensation is key to that happiness. Respondents who make less than $60,000 are more likely to be seeking or exploring new job opportunities, while those making between $60,000 and $100,000 aren't likely to be actively seeking new employment, although they tend toward openness when it comes to being approached about other positions. Those making more than $100,000 tend to be most loyal to their current companies.

Among those who find their top criteria lagging, however, most seem to find enough pluses in their current positions to engender a fair amount of loyalty.

For Kia Megastores' Lindholm, lower pay was a trade-off she willingly made for family friendliness when she left her former job as a consultant. Still, she is surveying her immediate area to get a handle on the going rate for her position in order to lobby for a compensation increase during her upcoming annual review. Lindholm figures she is under-compensated for her position and geographical location - by nearly half.

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"I know someone who runs a similar shop to mine. She's based in Seattle, and has a shop here in Wenatchee," Lindholm says. "But she makes $70,000 a year, whereas I make $42,000. So I know I'm really under-compensated."

Still, the benefits of her job outweigh the compensation downside, and she has faith that her firm will eventually come around to paying her what she's worth. "Having autonomy is more important for me than overall compensation, and I have that here. For the most part, they let me do what I need to do and they understand that I know how to do my job and that I'm really good at my job. They appreciate me, which is key," she says.

"I've been offered other jobs," she says, noting that she has a standing offer to return to a previous position at the consulting firm. "But I believe in this company . . . and that my loyalty will be rewarded."

This year's numbers give substance to her belief. Overall, salary increases for network positions continue to outpace inflation, reinforcing that networks are critical for businesses. And those who run them continue to be rewarded.

Cummings is a freelance writer in North Andover, Mass. Reach her at jocummings@comcast.net.

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