This magazine's salary survey once again threatens to undermine employee-management relationships everywhere, unless we look at it for what it is: a survey.

Where Do You Fit in Reality?

This magazine's salary survey once again threatens to undermine employee-management relationships everywhere, unless we look at it for what it is: a survey.

“Hi, I’m Em. How much money do you make? Really? How long have you been in the business? Are you… ahem… certifiable? Why, yes, I’ll have a glass of zinfandel. I’m a Pisces, if you know what I mean. Wasn’t that SMS exam a bear? Hey, I like that sweater; it goes well with your steely blue eyes, if you know what I mean.”

My fantasies of meeting all you MCPs will probably remain just that. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, for all of us to get together one day, perhaps in the Rose Bowl or maybe Rhode Island? Time was when you didn’t need a state to hold us all, but not any more. We’re not up there with auto workers, attorneys, or designers of leisurewear for livestock, but there are lots of us building and fixing solutions, building and fixing code, screaming at inanimate objects, and drinking far too much coffee.

And we all want to know how much each of us makes compared to the next MCP. This inquisitiveness isn’t completely based on pure greed; more like, how can you know what rate or salary to ask for if you don’t know what the market will bear? Employee or consultant, we need to know the lay of the land. It’s smart business.

Since that Rhode Island rendezvous ain’t gonna happen without a side trip through Fantasy Island, keep the latest salary survey handy, and study it closely. Did you know that a nearsighted, left-handed SQL DBA in the Mountain States makes $73,957? Or that experienced NT troubleshooters are so hard to come by in New York City that subway advertisements offer a $20,000 bounty for those brought in with a pulse and proof of certification? Or that the residents of a small island in Vancouver Bay worship a set of NT 4.0 study guides? Or that if you play the NTWS CD backwards, you hear a strangely-accented voice droning, “The Justice Department is a tool of Satan”?

I know word sometimes gets around when you’re on a job about how much this person or that one is billing, or about how much the new admin’s getting per week. And we’ve all met the flashers, the ones who make a point of letting everyone know loudly and publicly that they’re getting $175 an hour. Curiously enough, I’ve met some of those who seem to have always just finished a job and appear to be continually moving to the next one. Either their price is too high for the quality of service they deliver, or their customers don’t appreciate their attitude. Could it be that they should practice a little discretion?

If you’re making your business decisions based on what you hear around the virtual watercooler, you’d be just as well off flipping a coin or reading goat entrails. The reality is that you have to know your niche in the marketplace, and when you first meet the customer/employer, position yourself so they believe that within that niche, you’re worth the money you’re asking for. This is called—ooooh, bad word coming—“marketing.” To effectively—ooooh, here it comes again—“market” yourself, you have to know your complete skill set and what it’s worth. Unless you have a solid basis for billing those huge figures other people say they’re getting, you’re the one who’s living on Fantasy Island.

Now, as a salesperson, let’s just say, this MCP couldn’t even get Granny to buy two boxes of Thin Mints when I was a Girl Scout. I’ve won some customers when my skills and my rate were the right mix for them, and I’ve lost customers because my skills were light in some particular area, but I’ve never lost an opportunity because I came in with a rate that was out of line with the marketplace. Like you, Auntie wants to buy a private island and retire to a life of ease and indolence as soon as possible, but I’m not going to get there without having a constant handle on my real-world worth. And unless you are a lot luckier than I am—neither are you.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.