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How Do You Make $100K in IT? Look to the DevOps Shops

Does anyone in IT make $100,000 — or more? Data gathered for our 2013 State of DevOps Report, published in partnership with IT Revolution Press, indicate that you’re far more likely to make $100,000 to $150,000 per year at companies that recognize the value of DevOps.

NOTE: Our 2017 State of DevOps Report further validates the business value of DevOps. You can download it for free.

If you choose to learn and focus on DevOps practices, you’ll be right in line with a major trend in system administration. You’ll be part of the growing band that knows IT is at its best when it’s an integral part of business strategy - not when it’s relegated to the role of supporting player. Becoming a highly valued member of a DevOps organization is not as simple as getting facile with more languages and tools — though these skills certainly help. Nor is it about checking off boxes to get management off your back. It’s about engaging fully in the business strategy, listening to the needs of both internal and external customers, and coming up with technical solutions that answer those needs. Do this for a few years, and your expertise will have management coming to you for guidance and advice.

Organizations Place a High Value on DevOps — and the People Who Practice It

Our analysis is based on our 2013 DevOps survey, for which we received responses from more than 4,000 people living in 90-plus countries. Of these, 57 percent were in IT operations, and just over 33 percent were in development or engineering departments. The rest worked in quality assurance, or were consultants, CTOs or CIOs. The developers among our respondents were more likely than IT ops people to be paid six-figure salaries. Forty-one percent of the developers reported making at least $100,000 per year, compared to 31 percent of those in ops. However, answers to several survey questions — plus analysis against salary data — tell us that organizations aligned with DevOps are more likely to pay high salaries to their IT people. Indicators of alignment were:

  • Having the title “DevOps engineer” in the organization
  • Having already implemented DevOps, and the maturity of that implementation
  • Considering DevOps skills when hiring

Companies Recognize the Business Value of DevOps

It’s not surprising that organizations where DevOps is practiced pay more. Business managers at these companies have seen for themselves that their IT teams are more productive and reliable than conventional teams — and they deliver better business results. Our data support this, as measured by two performance metrics:

  • Faster deployment. High-performing teams ship code up to 30 times more frequently than medium or low-performing teams: one or more times per day, instead of once a month — or once a year.
  • Far fewer service interruptions. Change failure drops by 50 percent, and service is restored 12 times faster within high-performing teams.

Results like this translate to money saved — and even more important, accelerated time to market. That's the kind of competitive advantage savvy managers will pay for.

Look for Signs of DevOps Awareness if You’re Looking for a Bigger Paycheck

If you’re in IT ops, your likelihood of making $100,000 or more rises substantially if you look for a company that has created a DevOps engineer role. Forty-one percent of operations people at these companies said they were making six-figure salaries. That’s the same proportion of $100,000-plus earners among all developers who responded to our survey. Among IT ops people at companies without a DevOps engineer position, just 29 percent reported earning six-figure salaries. Despite growing awareness of DevOps, few companies have created DevOps engineer positions. Just 18 percent of survey respondents said their organizations had that title.

This doesn’t surprise us. DevOps engineers are still a leading-edge group, with an unusual mix of skills and experience. "The DevOps engineer blends the skills of the business analyst with the technical chops to build the solution," says Kelsey Hightower, who heads IT operations at Puppet Labs. "Plus, this is an inside person who knows the business well. He or she can look at how an issue affects the entire business, build the specs and get it done. It’s like having three professionals in one."

We think as the link between DevOps practices and high performance becomes better known, more companies are likely to seek IT professionals with DevOps experience and skills, including DevOps engineers. We looked beyond our own survey to Indeed.com, which saw job postings mentioning DevOps increase a dramatic 75 percent between January 2012 and January 2013.

Mature DevOps Teams Know the Value of DevOps IT People

Nineteen percent of our 4,000-plus survey respondents said their organizations had been practicing DevOps longer than a year. This group had the highest proportion of IT ops people making $100,000 to $150,000 per year: 40 percent. Fewer IT people were paid that much where DevOps was less mature:

  • 36 percent at companies that had been practicing DevOps less than a year
  • 32 percent at companies that were currently implementing DevOps
  • 28 percent at companies with plans to implement DevOps in less than 12 months
  • and 22 to 23 percent at companies with no plans to implement DevOps or with implementation plans more than a year out

It makes sense that higher salaries are paid within teams that have practiced DevOps longer. These people have had the chance to demonstrate their strategic value over time, making them too valuable for management to risk losing them to competitors.

Better IT Salaries at Companies that Consider DevOps Experience

Half of all survey respondents said their teams consider DevOps experience when hiring. In this group, 38 percent of IT ops people make at least $100,000 per year. Less than 25 percent of ops people at companies that don't consider DevOps experience earn that much. We think our survey results tell a story that should grab the attention of any ambitious IT ops person: Organizations recognize the business value DevOps-enabled IT delivers. The longer an organization has been practicing DevOps, the more convinced it is of that value — and the more willing to invest in the right people. After all, nothing speaks louder than a paycheck.

We’re curious about your experience. Is DevOps experience valued in your workplace? Tell us in the comments section below.

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