Three Little Words For Payday: Big, Data, DevOps

Recruiting firm Randstad's annual salary survey shows data pros are in the upper stratosphere, and DevOps experience is starting to justify a premium.

One line in the script probably is better remembered today than the movie as a whole, even though 1967's The Graduate made Dustin Hoffman a star while the film recorded an Oscar win and a boatload of award nominations.

That scene is where Benjamin gets secret career advice from a family friend: "One word, plastics." Of course, the better advice would have been to not mess around with Mrs. Robinson/Anne Bancroft.

Plastics are old hat now. What friends have been whispering to grads for the past few years has been "big data" and "data science." This year, they'd better add in "or DevOps," at least in some parts of the US.

The 2017 salary figures are in, and data and DevOps skills are helping plenty of IT pros boost their paychecks. Staffing firm Randstad Technologies released its 2017 Salary Survey, and the research shows core data skills -- data warehousing, business intelligence, and Hadoop experience -- at or near the top of the tech pay scale in a number of metropolitan areas.

In looking through the report I consciously avoided the tech-intensive centers like Silicon Valley and Boston/Cambridge, as well as the high-cost centers like New York. Let's be honest, the tech centers are in permanent bidding wars, and companies in Manhattan have to pay extra when buying a cheeseburger requires a mortgage.

So, I examined average salary breakdowns for areas such as Fort Lauderdale, Bloomington, Ill., Hartford, Conn., Denver, and Phoenix, cities more typical of mainstream USA. I also ignored the entry-level salaries because lots of companies want to actually see what you can do on the job before the raises kick in. Picky, aren't they?

Fort Lauderdale has more going for it than sunshine and gentle ocean breezes. A senior Hadoop expert (8-plus years of work experience) typically pulls in $154,000 in the Florida city. No other tech role came close in that area. A mid-level (3+ years) Hadoop pro comes in at $123,000, as does a senior DW/BI pro.

In Hartford -- no gentle ocean breezes -- the senior DW/BI developer is drawing $138,000, which rivals the $140,000 listed for the senior Hadoop staff. As happened in several other cities, "program managers" are getting the big bucks in Hartford, at $148,000.

Maybe it's a sign of the times -- Connecticut's big insurance companies and manufacturers putting their IBM mainframes to sleep -- with Hartford's C++ developers earning $129,000 to $148,000.

[Curious about which industries are hiring? Read about nine sectors that are most likely to need more IT professionals.]

If you are still doing desktop support, tighten your belt or take some night classes in emerging technologies. Senior-level desktop support pros are getting $56,000 in Fort Lauderdale and only $46,000 in Bloomington.

Senior-level data pros do OK in Bloomington, though. For DW/BI pros there, $114,000 isn't bad, but $153,000 for Hadoop pros is much nicer. Oracle experience pays well in Illinois too, at $144,000. Yet, the big winner in Bloomington for some reason is .Net development at $156,000 in the mid-level and $188,000 at the senior level.

Here comes DevOps

Just as big data was viewed as the future six years ago, now it's DevOps that's on the rise.

Think back to the days when communications between developers and operations was limited to developers complaining about system performance and operations beefing about the security flaws in shoddy developer code. Forget about continuous improvement back then, bugs got fixed and rolled out when someone got around to it or when the problems were serious enough to move up the project queue.

Today, dev and ops are expected to be on the same team, and employers are starting to pay a premium for DevOps experience. Figure on $131,000 for the mid-level DevOps pro and $148,000 for the senior developer in Phoenix. Senior level DevOps experience in Denver is bringing $135,000, and $123,000 in Fort Lauderdale.

But, DevOps isn't red hot everywhere. Mid-level pros are getting $83,000 in Bloomington and $89,000 in Hartford, while senior-level DevOps pros are earning $99,000 and $104,000 respectively.

I suppose you do want to know what you might make in Silicon Valley, just for the sake of comparison. For example, senior-level staffers with DW/BI, Hadoop, software architecture, DevOps, Python, Javascript, PHP, and Ruby skills all are listed at the $182K-and-change level. That will buy plenty of cheeseburgers.

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing