I love this time of year. Not only does the sun get to peek out for a little while through the fog here in San Francisco, but Network World publishes its annual "You" issue. In it we get to learn what motivates you, how well you are compensated, what your career concerns are, and what you like to do in your free time.This year, we're pleased to discover that your base pay has increased over last year, and that network executives are commanding generous bonuses and inflation-beating pay raises.According to the 2004 Network World Salary Survey of 3,575 respondents, net execs with senior-level titles netted a 5.6% increase in base pay over 2003 to an average of $111,020, which is well above the 2003 rate of inflation of 2.3%. This is in addition to a 1.6% increase in bonuses that respondents anticipate this year.\u00a0Middle managers - those with network manager or director titles - saw their base pay increase 4.3% to $74,890, with total compensation (including bonuses, stock option and other goodies) jumping 5.3% to $88,250.Those with staff-level positions faired pretty well too, seeing a 4.7% increase in their pay check for a total compensation of $58,160, and a competitive base-pay rise to $55,500.The You issue also opens up an interesting discussion that is near and dear to us here at this newsletter: Do certifications really matter? My colleague Julie Bort spoke to several senior net execs who say certifications are important and they would look favorably at job candidates who have practical experience as well as hold relevant certifications. However, you may be able to get the key to the executive washroom without the certifications.According to the survey, 69% of the highest-paid respondents (which the survey discovered is typically a man with a least 10 years tenure and manages two-dozen-plus reports) said they held no certificates, although they are more likely to have been through higher education. So my question to you is: If you want expanded responsibilities and more pay, is it worth just sticking through your job and gaining as much practical experience as you can, or should you also sweat through the extra slog in your free time to get your technical certifications?The You issue also peers into the crystal ball and describes what your role could be in five years, when virtualized systems take hold\u00a0and free you up from the "mechanics" of storage and systems management. Experts say the "manual labor" of your job will go away, leaving you time to do the strategic stuff such as drawing up service-level agreements with your business users and examining where and how technology can help your organization meet its business goals - the kinds of tasks you were meant to do before you got side tracked with say, installing Microsoft patches. So again, is it worth the slog of getting technical certifications when perhaps instead you should be spending your spare time learning more about the business industry that you're in? Let me know your thoughts at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll include some of your responses in a forthcoming newsletter.