How much am i really worth?
May 6, 2013 4:54 PM   Subscribe

After a few years at the same gig, my first serious tech job out of college, i'm finally being considered for a serious raise. The problem is they want me to figure out what it should be, with a few caveats. which is to say... pile of snowflake details inside.

Pretty much, they told me to go out and ask "some of my friends or people i know" what they're getting paid for comparable jobs... but i don't know anyone who has a job like this although i have friends in the field. I googled around, but once again it's a pretty all encompassing job compared to most of what i could find.

I read stuff like this, but although a bit similar it doesn't seem comparable. The path to that guys job is similar to mine, including how it creeped in to encompassing more and more til i was doing everything, but it just doesn't seem quite like the same situation.

I'm trying to not get too specific here, because although they openly told me to ask around, i still think it would be weird if i was directly identified. Not enough to anon post, but still, i like to keep a somewhat low profile.

* I'm the only IT person at a medium sized company that has both an office and retail stores. i manage about 5 locations.

* I do everything. Helpdesk, software support, point of sale systems management, networking and VPN, managing servers/backups. I order, configure, and install all the equipment including climbing around on a ladder and running cables through holes in the wall type stuff. Maintaining spares, disaster recovery plans, everything you can think of an IT department doing at a medium sized company entirely falls on me. The only thing i'm not 100% saddled with is employee training.

* They are in no way the "how does IT make money" types, they completely understand it's a cost of doing business hing, and that it's mission critical. They know that they need these systems to make money.

* I'm on call 24/7/365, and since i'm the only person this means i'm *really* on call those hours. There's contractors i can possibly call if i'm on vacation and something blows up, but they don't have the response time that i can provide/they sometimes need. I definitely think a big point here is that this is, and always has been a take home job. This has been really harsh/trying sometimes, but i'm young and aware this is fairly common in this field.

* We heavily use several pieces of unusual/obscure software and hardware that i'm now very familiar with maintaining and knowing all of the bugs/quirks and general ins and outs. For all of these things, the only other option is to call a $$$$ contractor, or the dev/manufacturer who also charges major $$$ for support and often requires a contract to even pick up the phone and say more than "sign a support contract, sorry". I know how hard it is to find someone else to do this stuff, because i've had to track down someone to cover me when i was out of town, or needed more than one set of eyes and hands.(or had a really obscure problem, this is pretty google-proof stuff)

* On that note, they've said several times when i was offered or interviewed for another job(which was lower level stuff, but on a run of a ladder instead of a shelf), that they would definitely want to hire me on as a contractor if i left for any reason. There is definitely a desire to have specifically me doing this job.

* It's a manager level/"senior" position(and they refer to it as such), but no one reports to me. What i mean by this is that i attend the major meetings between all the management staff and speak at them in that fashion, report to only the most senior "managing the managers" type top people, etc.

* To knock out all the "important info" mentioned in the previous thread needed to answer this question, i'll just reiterate some of it but all in once place. this is in the seattle area. My title is just a generic "Systems administrator". This is retail/food service company. I've been here for a bit more than 2 years, as i said below i didn't finish my college degree and have no certs, but i have a lot of on the job experience both with and outside of this place, mostly as a contractor for very small(like 5 employees) or home offices that i networked my way in to nabbing gigs at.

I currently make about 22k a year(and it's hourly, so $20 an hour). I also only work about 20 hours a week, but that's what everyone involved agrees gets the job done. This is not, by any means a 40 hour a week job. Defining that is a bit awkward though since it's also on call. I think it makes more sense to define my yearly pay based on it being those hours consistently, as it has been for 2+ years, not as some hypothetical full time pay rate that will never happen. I definitely do a full time jobs worth of work especially when you factor in maintenance that can only be done outside of business hours, periodic systems upgrades at odd hours, etc. I often feel a bit shafted on this since on paper it's not a ton of hours, but the footprint it leaves on my life is pretty large.

Both me and them agree this is way below what it should be, so fortunately that isn't the issue. But it started out at that level because i was straight out of school and it was my first job that didn't involve making coffee or flipping burgers.

The problem, and why i even made this post is that i can't find anyone with a comparable job. Everyone who manages these types of systems(point of sale client/server stuff, mostly) is a contractor, or has years of experience(and i mean, 10+ years, not 2) working for the vendor(s) of the equipment or software and makes $$$$$ because they manage the systems for an entire large chain. The contractors who work on these types of systems charge >$100 an hour, but are also dealing with being contractors and often having their own office, travel time, etc. Plus, there's a lot more to this job than just managing those specific systems.

It's also worth noting that i really really love this job. Both without any real context, and seeing the type of jobs my friends are doing in the same field and what downsides/restrictions/limitations they have even if they're making more money. Everyone i work with is awesome, there's great perks, i don't have any set hours and can come and go as i please as long as stuff is dealt with, the location is awesome and i have my own extremely isolated office/workspace, my commute is under 10 minutes on foot, i'm allowed to use the office/facilities for projects or contract work not related to the company, i could go on. I have very little interest in looking for another job simply because i love this one so much.

I don't think i should take any huge hit because i love the place, but i would definitely rather have this job with these perks than another one that paid a bit more. It's just that i know people who are doing part time night server monitoring 4-5 days a week and making close to 50k.

I've also been working on making some time to finish my network engineering degree and get some certs though, as i was on the path to do that when i got hired...

So what should i say/do here? I know i'm going to get shafted if i don't present "my side" of this like i was asked to. But i'm pretty much floating in the middle of the ocean with no paddle.
posted by emptythought to Work & Money (38 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My jaw dropped when I got to "22k". You're the sole person in charge of all technology at 5 locations and you're on call 24/7? I'm shocked you aren't making at least 3 times that, even at 20 hours a week.
posted by wrok at 5:04 PM on May 6, 2013 [19 favorites]

Look on Glassdoor. Remember that people's level of experience and history are irrelevant if their job description is similar. I agree with wrok that your job is at the absolute bare minimum a 100K/year Full Time job, so if you're half time, your salary should be at least in the 50-60K range (plus full benefits, right? You didn't mention that but please tell me they're paying your benefits?). They're using you, hard.
posted by brainmouse at 5:07 PM on May 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

Yeah, that's totally insane. If I were hiring for your position I'd be budgeting 90k-110k at least for full-time.
posted by Jairus at 5:08 PM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Depends where you're at. I used to live in the Midwest and I saw valuable and talented sysadmin/IT/etc. types there making from $60-80k full-time.

If I were you, I would start out asking for around $60k (low, given the part-timeness) and negotiate from there if necessary. It sounds like both you and management know that you're good, valuable, reliable, and hard to replace. You deserve that much, you may well get it, and it's hard to imagine anybody taking offense at that figure.
posted by value of information at 5:08 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

ditto the jaw drop at $22k!!. I was thinking that you should be on six figures, 100-150k, so if you're working half time (although you're NOT, if you are on call 24-7-365!!!) then call it $50k minimum. Should bump that up to at least $70k for the on-call-ness. You're being used.
posted by jacalata at 5:11 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

The only time such a low salary would be warranted is if it were some kind of entry level position where you were being trained or mentored with an eye towards an upward professional path. And then only if it were full time and you were making the full time salary at your hourly rate.

For basic part time systems administration at a NON PROFIT with ONE location I was offered a contractor rate of $50/hr.
posted by deanc at 5:13 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

P.S. Don't let your lack of formal credentials make you underestimate your worth even a little bit. The fact that you don't have a degree is now immaterial for you in this line of work; your several years of experience put you way ahead in ability than literally anyone's bachelor's degree or certification. Nobody majors in being an awesome problem-solver and sysadmin under pressure.
posted by value of information at 5:13 PM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

For data you can refer to - network engineer salaries in Seattle. Median $90k. You should ask for at least that.
posted by jacalata at 5:15 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am in absolute disbelief. Good for you, at least, for realizing that you're seriously underpaid even though it took a long time. First of all I think you should switch to being a salaried worker, or working out a very generous overtime arrangement for your off-hours work.

I think the real challenge will be talking to your company. You say that they appreciate the value of IT work but they don't. They are robbing you blind. Maybe you could propose taking over employee training in exchange for a six-figure salary.
posted by acidic at 5:17 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Does this 20hr/wk job offer benefits like health insurance, dental plan, 401k matching, etc.?

My jaw dropped at 22k too. I'm prepared for it to drop further.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:18 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: plus full benefits, right? You didn't mention that but please tell me they're paying your benefits?

Insurance and everything is offered(not retirement though), and it's(i recently found out) a great fucking deal at $60 a month. I have insurance unrelated to this job though.

I'm actually kinda shocked by the response so far.

I also missed a really important fact i realized right after i hit submit. One of my bosses used to work in DEC/VAX support years ago and is shockingly un-educated on what the market for this type of thing is now, and would likely Kiel over at the rates you guys are bringing up.

I almost fell out of my chair too, i mean, fuck, seriously? I knew i was being shafted a little bit, but i live a pretty frugal lifestyle and thus far thought i was doing ok. Damn o_o

I think my biggest battle here will be that there may be no budget to pay me this rate. Which i don't believe, at all, but i could see them saying that. Just reading this thread over and over with my jaw dropped has seriously changed my opinion on this place, and some situations i've gone through(i was promised a raise at 1 year, but circumstances, bla bla, i wrote it off as understandable)

I feel like i'm waking up to a bit of not necessarily an abusive relationship, but one with some issues for sure.
posted by emptythought at 5:19 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

* They are in no way the "how does IT make money" types, they completely understand it's a cost of doing business thing

A very, very low cost of doing business. With 5 locations, your salary is basically a rounding error that could get bundled into the rent on their facilities without even being noticed.
posted by deanc at 5:19 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I assume there is no 401(k) plan or stock options. Honestly, at 20 hours a week,, you might as well get another 20 hr/wk sysadmin contract (1099) job for $50-$100/hr while you look for a better permanent position and tell your formal employer that "you'll get to it when you get to it" when they page you about an issue while you're on the job elsewhere.

Don't look at this job as an opportunity for a raise. Look at it as freedom to find other part time opportunities, time to finish your degree, and a line on your résumé to market yourself to employers willing to hire you full time.
posted by deanc at 5:27 PM on May 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

You need to be making 100 thousand dollars per year at least. I'd want 150 to do what you do.

I'm in the seattle area. I'm a network engineer.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:28 PM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

I agree that this kind of work is usually getting paid at least 6 figures...but I'm also surprised that it's only 20 hours a week. That's less than 5 hours per location. Either find more work to do (to fill 40 hours), or go get a full-time job that will pay you at the level you deserve.

Or start taking on more contracting jobs at a $60/hr rate. If you quote people at only 20 hrs a week to do the kind of work you are doing (you must work fast!), you will have way more customers than you know what to do with.
posted by amaire at 5:31 PM on May 6, 2013

I know that one of the part-time IT guys at my nonprofit makes at least $50 an hour, and he doesn't have to run cables. This is in Silicon Valley.
posted by rtha at 5:33 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and he's also not solely responsible for ... anything except what our head IT guy has him do.
posted by rtha at 5:37 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

So if I'm reading this right, you are on call 24/7 but are only being paid for the hours that you actually work?

That alone is pretty lousy. Even if $20/hr was fair for a guy doing your job on a fixed schedule (which it really sounds like it isn't), being on call around the clock is worth a pretty hefty premium. And that's true no matter how frequently or infrequently they call.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 5:38 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'd also like to add that my problem with sites like glassdoor was finding a job title that actually fit what i'm doing. They want me to show not just answers from people like you guys as ammo, but good info of comparable positions from sites like that. "Systems administrator" seems a little low, and i don't really know if "network engineer" is quite right either. Is that what you would call this job, people like Annika Cicada for instance? Or are you just going by what my education path was.

as a side note, i'm a bit sick to my stomach after reading this. it's almost an impostor syndrome thing of 50% "do i really deserve that? what would my life even by like if i was making that much money" and 50% "wtf, what kind of place must this be to do this. are they uninformed? malicious? etc". There's also the issue of how the hell do i sell them on this or convince them on this, i mean that's why i wanted anecdotes and comps. Eugh, i'm shaking a bit.
posted by emptythought at 5:38 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think you do convince them this is what you're worth. You regard this job as a training experience that gives you the background and experience to market yourself to other clients and employers.

A part time job that pays $20/hr while you're working through school is pretty good. Regard it as that: just something you're doing temporarily before you get a "real" job.
posted by deanc at 5:45 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

The correct answer is $0. Go find a new job.

posted by rr at 5:46 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think you should look at this as an opportunity to decide what you really want to do here. You seem(ed) happy enough with the little they were paying you. So, okay, are you just happy not having a full-time job or does it bug you?

You should be making more money, SIGNIFICANTLY MORE. They're absolutely shafting you and if they needed to find a contractor to replace you they'd have to pay probably $100+/hour to do that. That's what you should charge if you leave and they offer you a contract role. And if you're not taking advantage of the benefits they offer ... wow. They are the luckiest bastards alive.

So, do you want to be a Network Engineer/Systems Administrator/CTO? Someday? Okay, here's what I might do: ask for a raise but not too extreme. So for 20 hours a week with permanent on-call? You should ask for something like $50/hour. They might negotiate that down a bit, but don't let them go too far. And then ask them to pay for your certifications and to make sure you can work your schedule around that (don't let them negotiate this away at all. They balk, you walk.). Give yourself a deadline to get X, Y and Z certifications and use the other 20 hours a week to do that. Or, if you couldn't give a crap about certs or going back to school, use that time to pick up other contract/1099 work at a rate far, far, higher. Then, in a year go back and negotiate again. "What's the going rate?" they say, to which you reply "Well, I'm charging my other contracts $120 an hour... so...".

The reason you can't find any comparables is that people don't do what you're doing part-time. They do it full time + OT and make scads more. This company just doesn't seem like they're believe it.
posted by marylynn at 5:47 PM on May 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

One of my bosses used to work in DEC/VAX support years ago and is shockingly un-educated on what the market for this type of thing is now, and would likely Kiel over at the rates you guys are bringing up

If he does and you are out of work, now you know your market value. And if you keel over and die he will have to pay it to someone else anyway.
posted by TDIpod at 5:51 PM on May 6, 2013

Yeah, you should look for a new job or something. You talk about how they know the worth of IT or something, but you are literally the only IT worker there and you're on call 24/7. That alone makes it sound like they don't know the worth of IT, because what will they do if you burn out or quit for some other reason? They'll be completely fucked. not to mention that you're being grossly underpaid.
posted by Qberting at 5:53 PM on May 6, 2013

The only time such a low salary would be warranted is if it were some kind of entry level position where you were being trained or mentored with an eye towards an upward professional path.

Or a part time job. Which this is.

If you doubled the hours it would double the salary and that would be 44k a year and that's about right for a starting sys admin with limited experience. But you don't have to take my word for it. Robert Half salary guide.

The fact that you're the only guy, and you do several jobs counts for you. I think I would try to put it back to them and get them to define a range. Let them know you want to know how much they think you are worth. That should tell you if you have longevity here.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:54 PM on May 6, 2013

You have an immense amount of power here, because you are the only person who knows how everything works. If you leave, they suddenly have a very expensive problem.

This is 100% their fault for not budgeting in some redundancy.

I would triple your hourly rate, and probably negotiate additional billed hours per month for your permanent on-call status.
posted by spatula at 5:58 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm a former recruiter, tech manager an now an IT director.

you are in a classic "I painted myself into a corner" position.

You are working a full time job and getting paid for a half time job. If you leave, they will have to hire 2 half time people (at least) to do the work you are doing.

If I was you, I'd set it up like this:

Make a list of all of the things you do that currently nobody else can do. Find the local consulting rates for those skills.

Start working full time. Get full time benefits. 401K.

Your salary your first year as a full time person should be at least 65K. That's less than you're worth but will have a large impact on your life and you are giving them a deal. You love your gig, so a decent bump but not crazy is a good strategy.

Set up a structure for annual reviews and discussion of compensation. For on call work, I charge double for after hours.

If you contract for them if they reject your deal, your consulting rate is $125/hr and you have a 3hr a day minimum plus travel expenses. Do not budge on this.

Tech is competitive, but you are at the part of your career where people take advantage of you until you tell them you are worth more.
posted by bobdow at 6:02 PM on May 6, 2013 [10 favorites]

Yeah, I'd expect to pay somewhere around 80K for a full time junior net/sys/etc admin. (Which, with just a few years' experience, I would still consider you junior.) If it were a contract gig, I'd probably expect something like $90-100/hr, and if it involves off-hours work, I'd expect a higher rate and a minimum amount (so, min 2hr billing, even if it's a 5min fix) and wouldn't balk if someone asked for a higher rate for emergency calls.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:03 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Cjorgenson: he only works "half time" but you're not taking into account that he's always on call. Paying him by the hour is just a way to pay him less for essentially working full time.
posted by Qberting at 6:06 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's a way I would slice it out:

1. Build a service catalog. break your support work into "easy to fix" "slightly harder to fix" "takes everything I have to figure it out"

2. The on-call needs to be billed as a monthly retainer just for having to keep your life on hold for them. That needs to be billed at 1500 dollars per month, have that 1500 retainer cover the "easy to fix" problems. For problems that fall into the other two categories, bill 60 dollars an hour over M-F 8-5, 90 dollars an hour for off-hours.

3. Establish core "office hours" at 35 dollars an hour, 10 hours a week, that's planning and admin time, not break-fix time.

Then, start looking for another job. Use your admin and planning time to document the shit out of your environment, and find another college student to pass your legacy onto. Set them up with the same gig you have, because once you enter the professional world of IT, you will not have time to entertain these people's needs.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:11 PM on May 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

Nthing everything about the salary being low. Astoundingly low.

In terms of negotiating salary, for this position or others, this vid might be helpful.
posted by tooloudinhere at 6:32 PM on May 6, 2013

That rate is pretty good.... in India.
posted by sandmanwv at 6:45 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

So, I wanted to break this out a little for you, to show how you can claim your life back and get a bump while getting compensated well for the "OH CRAP FIX IT NOW!!" calls:

1500 per month = $18,000 per year
350 per week = 18,200 per year

So, for a guaranteed 10 hours a week of work, plus "fixing the easy stuff" you will go from 22K per year to 36,200 per year. I consider that a pretty fair deal, work a set 10 hours a week, and be on call 24x7x365. It's not going to set you up for life, but you will be able to plot a course forward, maybe go back to school, get certs, network with people, etc.

Everything else will then fall under "major imposition to my life" and will get billed at 60 and 90 dollars per hour, depending, which is just gravy on top. put that money into savings.

You might double your pay, which honestly is still really low for what you do, but more importantly, you are drawing boundaries. Being able to negotiate and draw boundaries is what separates the amateurs from the pros in all areas of business. Take the hit for now but learn that skill. Better yourself.

Pro-tip: You can take your service catalog, with documentation and subcontract someone out for you on the weeks you want to take a vacation and go enjoy the San Juans. You work hard, you deserve a good life, make it possible.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:20 PM on May 6, 2013

I was considering sending you an open position at my company, but you are overqualified for it and merely tripling your salary wouldn't do you justice. In Seattle, you should make 90k with this skill set for that job description.

There is a job that you will love that will pay you market rate.
posted by Kwine at 9:57 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have another angle on this. Yes, you're being mightily underpaid. But having performed an everything under the sun role myself, I don't understand how you are supporting five locations with I don't know how many people at 20 hours per week. Is that an average with a huge variance?

What about security patches, software upgrades, inventory management, processing people in and out of the company, license management, equipment repair and replacement, on/off-site backups, the constant support requests from your tech-illiterate colleagues? A lot of the time this stuff takes isn't bounded by your skill, but by the efforts of other people and the death-by-a-thousand-cuts nature of this kind of job. Is there something we're missing?
posted by rocketpup at 6:42 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

They want me to show not just answers from people like you guys as ammo, but good info of comparable positions from sites like that.

That isn't your responsibility. You are worth more than they are paying you, tell them your new hourly rate (I also like Annika's suggestion) and if they don't want to pay it move on. They will soon realize that they just absolutely can't find an IT person for $20/hour, at least not one who knows what they are doing.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:12 AM on May 7, 2013

In addition to all of the good answers above, I recommend polishing your resume and trying to get another job offer. That's the best leverage an employee can have in these kinds of situations and if there's any way you can get one it will be very helpful.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:31 AM on May 7, 2013

Response by poster: The sites system just made me realize that i hadn't updated this, and the past month has been rather hectic for me so i had spaced.

I had the scheduled meeting with them and they said it just wouldn't be possible to give me a raise. I was totally prepared with lots of info on comparable salaries, etc and was just cut off at the pass.

They did, however agree to pay for me to get whatever certifications i'd like, and to go back to school and finish my degree(or at least a large percentage therein on the second one). They also said i could use my workspace at their shop as an office for whatever outside projects/contracting i wanted to do as long as i keep contracting with them if i move on(and that i'd get to set my rate for that), Which is pretty sweet as a perk since it's a great space and centrally located.

This obviously, is kinda flaccid.

So i'm spending the summer hunting for a new job, or at least another 1099 gig to throw on top and going back to finish my degree in the fall. Unless of course, i walk right in to a full time job i can't pass up.

My fallback plan is just to keep working here until i finish my degree, but at least for now i'm hunting for a new/second job from the somewhat comfortable position of already having one.
posted by emptythought at 1:47 PM on June 6, 2013

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