Careerfilter: ISO boring, sane, 60K+ job
April 23, 2016 7:38 AM   Subscribe

I work in a somewhat "sexy" industry which has traditionally been a bit lower-paid than other industries. I'm looking for advice on moving into a more "boring" industry that pays a bit better (if one exists!)

Basically, I work on in-house workflow software for managing the production of digital products. I do love the people I work with and the atmosphere of my work - creative, nerdy, academic and a bit idealistic. My boss is lovely, my team members are great, I am given a lot of flexibility to pick and choose projects and priorities, I am celebrated when I succeed and when things go wrong there is no "blame game". I'm willing to consider sacrificing all of this for a 15K+ pay bump (I currently make 45K with no real prospects for advancement). I'm trying to determine (1) whether such a jump might be possible, and (2) the steps I would need to take to pursue it.

My job title doesn't really describe what I do, so part of what I'm looking for is search terms for finding similar positions elsewhere. Mostly I work on one big in-house software project (~8000 users) as the liaison between users, business stakeholders and our in-house dev. I have also worked on some smaller projects with outsourced dev, and a few projects where we customized/configured/extended out-of-the-box solutions to meet our needs. The big project is traditional; the smaller ones were mostly Agile. I don't have any formal Agile training (I'm not a Scrum-master or anything). I did complete a non-degree course in Business Analysis plus some courses on Java and SQL, but otherwise my background is neither technical nor business-focused. I have a Humanities BA. I'm not adverse to completing additional training but I would like to avoid predatory Master's programs and the like. I also would like to stay in my current location (large-ish but not NYC East Coast city).

Currently, my job is basically breaks down into two main roles.

Role 1: I think that this role is similar to a Junior Business Analyst.

- Take requirements
- Write user stories (Agile) or technical specifications (traditional)
- Work with developers to make sure what is being developed matches what we will need
- Work with stakeholders to manage expectations and control scope based on developer feedback
- Complete QA (manual, not automated... I am interested in automating more of our QA but currently we are not there yet)
- Manage QA (the bulk of the QA is outsourced and I manage the testers)
- Set up user acceptance testing with the stakeholders and collate feedback for the devs
- Create training material and provide training to the users
- Create technical documentation such as API definitions for our technical partners

N.B. I don't make any of the higher-level decisions such as setting budget or timelines or choosing whether to out-source or in-source a project. I don't do any real programming.

Role 2: I have no idea what the corresponding job title would be for this role.

- Work with management to define interesting metrics ("key performance indicators" is the buzzword-of-choice) for tracking product, staff, vendor, and partner performance
- Investigate how (if?) we can isolate these metrics from the available data
- Build reporting (SQL, some XSLT, some Excel vba tricks) to return relevant data
- Create automation around the reporting to deliver reports to stakeholders (currently we are using Jenkins)
- Create manual processes for non-automated reports (for instance, if an executive wants us to pull out key insights or something)
- Manage the creation of manual reports (some of this has been delegated) and troubleshoot/maintain the creation of automated reports
- Create training materials on the reporting and provide training to the users
- Create technical documentation on the reporting process

N.B. I don't have any real Statistics background beyond a couple of undergraduate Statistics courses and a (not very useful, IMO) "Six Sigma Green Belt" certification.

One thing I am struggling with is the cult-like nature of some of the business frameworks we use (Agile, Six Sigma, Lean, "Data Driven Management" with no grounding in statistical validity). I really like that my current boss and co-workers can utilize the interesting parts of these frameworks without buying into them blindly. On the one hand, I'd like to avoid industries that use these frameworks as an excuse for sloppy work. On the other hand, maybe I should be trying to parlay my experience with these frameworks into a better-paying position?

My question is: given my experience and background, what industries, positions, qualifications and search-terms should I be looking into if my goal is to raise my income to 60K+ in the next three years?

Bonus question: Are there freelance options that I should be considering adding to my current position to gain experience and/or supplement income? I really would love to stay at my current workplace, but it's been 10 years, and I still don't feel like I am saving enough to pursue my goals (the "big one" is that my fiancee and I would like to try to have a child).
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
See if you can get Scrum Master or Product Owner training paid for by your current employer. The course isn't that long, isn't that expensive (to a company, at least) and that will help your resume quite a bit.

I don't know many places that use "pure" Agile...every team makes adjustments as they go and pick and choose what works for them.

I would say you'd be on the road towards becoming a Product Manager, which is a decent position, but sometimes not nice and boring. You would be talking to customers and dealing with their product issues all day long.
posted by xingcat at 7:52 AM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

We're looking for a what we're calling "Account Manager" where you're profile fits very well, and in the right price range. Though I don't know if this is a standard job title across the industry. If you're curious about more details let me know.

I'm attaching a link for more details.
posted by pyro979 at 7:59 AM on April 23, 2016

I've seen the second role you describe with the title "Reporting Analyst" or "Data Analyst". It's definitely possible to earn $60k+ in these roles. To make yourself more competitive, you might want to investigate learning at least one more business intelligence related technology. This could be Tableau/qlik for dashboards, SAP for reports or R/Python for statistical computing. A good BI team will be looking for someone who can have a conversation to understand the problems of stakeholders, and pull data for them.
posted by tinymegalo at 8:03 AM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Where I work, what you do is done by about five or six different people. It's totally insane that you're expect to fill all those roles for $45K a year. Where I work, what you do is done by a scrum-master, a technical product manager, a product owner, a QA manager, a QA lead and whichever devs get tasked with writing documentation. I work for a non-profit hospital system and make almost twice that much just filling one of those roles, QA Lead; you could make more doing less almost anywhere.
posted by octothorpe at 8:04 AM on April 23, 2016 [21 favorites]

Yeah, your responsibilities cover a few different roles. Some position titles you can look for:
QA (aka QD) analyst or tester
Business analyst
Application analyst
Requirements Analyst
A junior role in product management

Just about any type of enterprise system needs people like you in these roles: ERP systems, Healthcare information systems, ecommerce, etc.

I agree with the other posters that 60k should be no problem. If I were a hiring manager I would consider you for a position based on what you listed above.
posted by duoshao at 8:44 AM on April 23, 2016

Also, just based on your descriptions above (using words like "build", "manage", "define", and "automate") and your 10 years of experience, you could be considered for Senior Analyst-level roles, not Junior. Agree with everybody else that you've very employable at a good rate. While some quick certs couldn't hurt, especially if they give you confidence in your knowledge, you also bring a breadth of experience that would be valuable to lots of companies.

In your next gig, though, specializing in one of these areas will let you grow your comp and career.
posted by troyer at 10:44 AM on April 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Since you've already created some training materials, you write well, and you have a lot of analysis & requirements experience, you could consider Instructional Design. I'm an Instructional Designer and most of my fellow ID'ers (on a team of about 10) have humanities degrees, FWIW. We've all found our way to this interesting career where communication, technical writing, psychology, project management, and graphic design all intersect. Only a few actually went to school for it. Most of what I've seen is that people already have the required skills, and have even done some ID without realizing it, and at that point it's pretty easy to learn the rest on-the-job (the ADDIE model, Kirkpatrick's measurement levels, e-learning development software, etc.).
posted by see_change at 11:04 AM on April 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

I am just going to say, talk to your boss about changing your title to one that reflects your responsibilities. They might be willing to do that. It'll show your hand a bit, but I think most managers are aware that people are thinking 1-2 steps ahead.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:48 PM on April 23, 2016

In my experience, roles with responsibilities similar to yours in the tech industry are often called things like "product operations" or "technical project manager."
posted by telegraph at 2:53 PM on April 23, 2016

Yeah, you definitely need to put together a resume and start looking at jobs for any of the roles suggested here. You can very easily make twice what you make now. You are not "junior" anything. Any large company would be lucky to have a candidate who can do all that.
posted by CathyG at 3:13 PM on April 23, 2016

The first role that you describe is a TPM, Technical Program Manager. In Silicon Valley that pays about $120k. Up to about $500k if you have the right experience.
The second role that you describe is a PM, Project Manager. In SV that is in the $80-120k range.

I'd search Linked In and Glass Door using the above titles and see how your experience compares. Once you know the job titles that fit you, research the pay in your area vs. both your current position and where you want to go.

Your description indicates you are underpaid. You will not be able to change that until you have a competing offer. The only way to get a competing offer is to aggressively research and market yourself. It will take a few months to learn the process. I think you can do it in your timeline if you are diligent.
posted by pdoege at 6:24 PM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

100% agree that you're fulfilling what in my company that would be 3-4 different roles: program manager, product manager, QA lead, analyst, and technical writer. Program manager seems like the closest overall fit to me, but if you're passionate about the data piece of things then business analyst or product manager roles might be a good step.
posted by heresiarch at 7:23 PM on April 23, 2016

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