Over the 23+ years of my own IT career I have doubled my salary multiple times. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?! In this video I am going to talk about what you need to do to double your salary as well. Hint – it is not complicated.
If you do not want to read this article – here is the video version on YouTube:
So, doubling your salary sounds great and working in IT is one of the best places to do so quite quickly and quite often. But be aware that it may be easier or more difficult to pull off depending on what your role and area of expertise is in information technology. I’ve doubled my own IT salary multiple times over the years, but when I look at it in detail I made several mistakes along the way – missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars along the way. I will share with you now how and when my salary doubled and when it was barely growing. I will also explain to you what my mistakes were and what you will have to do to double your salary more often.
I started working in IT in January of 1999 with a salary of $30,000. By February of 2000 I reached $42,000 as my new salary. By summer of 2000 my salary had grown to $52,000 and by February of 2001 I was at $58,000. So, in roughly 2 years I pretty much doubled my salary. Two thoughts though – for one, it is easy to double your salary if your baseline is very low. Going from $30,000 to roughly $60,000 is much easier compared to going from let’s say $50,000 to $100,000. Second, I got lucky that my salary increase was driven by a very competitive market at that time because shortly after the bottom fell out of the dot com boom and we dropped into a recession and many Internet companies went belly-up.
During those early years I was extremely driven and motivated. I became certified, including becoming a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. I worked my butt off, learned a lot in many different areas of IT. I actively managed my career. Then due to the recession and my interest to stay with the company where I was at that time, things slowed down. By March 2005 I was at $71,000 per year. Still a decent increase, but far from that explosive growth I had seen before. In September 2005 I received a job offer at a different company and my salary jumped to $84,000 per year – a roughly 20% increase. A year later that employer was not doing very well and later on became one of the very first victims of the great recession. I left the company in September of 2006 and took a hit on my salary – moving backwards to now $80,000. I stayed at the new company for almost 6 years and my salary grew to $97,000 during that time. I enjoyed where I worked, I enjoyed the work that I did, I made friends, I was to freaking comfortable in my own skin. A few things happened and I decided to move on – bringing my salary to $105,000 per year. So, from summer of 2000 where I was at $52,000 it took me pretty much 12 years to double my salary again. I already mentioned the recessions, but also that I had gotten too comfortable in a way.
In 2012 the new job turned out to be awful. Super stressful work environment, way too much on-call duties, and a lot of red tape. It threw me into a spin of hating that place. I explored other opportunities quickly, but had to realize that the higher your salary gets, the smaller the number of employers exists that can and want to pay you more money. It limited my chances to land a better paying job quickly. There were plenty of jobs that paid less, but I did not want to go back.
I spent time soul searching and then decided to explore the management route to see if that would be an option for me. It’s almost like the universe had heard me because a Lead Systems Administrator position opened up at an employer where I had previously worked at. It was in the different division, but I had inside connections and knowledge and so I landed that job shortly after. The pay was the same as at my current job, but I negotiated some other extras to make the deal appealing to me. I would be doing hands-on system administrator work as well as manage a small team.
The next 2 years I spent learning and educating myself. Then I started applying for all type of management roles in information technology. I did not expect anything from it, but wanted to find out what the interview questions would be when interviewing for a higher level position. I also wanted to optimize my resume and cover letter. Roughly 1.5 years later my employer told our entire office (~50-60 people) that our roles would be redundant and were outsourced to a 3rd party in India. Now every job application counted. I found a new job, but it was in California – so, I had to move the family from Colorado to California. In January 2017 I started the new job as IT Manager and 12 months later I was promoted to Senior Manager. My base salary went to above $150,000 at that time. I am not including bonus and equity which moved me to almost $200,000 in my second year. So, it took me about 5 years to double my salary again and at the same time I had fully transitioned into a new career within information technology.
So, let’s look at this in more detail. When I actively managed my career and upskilled I was able to double my salary in roughly 2 years. You could say that it was easy because I came from such a low salary. From there it took me almost 10 years to roughly double my salary again. I was not that engaged in managing my career + there were two recessions included. But I think the main point was – I felt comfortable where I was during those years, I enjoyed the work, I enjoyed the people I worked with. And there is nothing wrong with it, but it puts a damper on your income potential. The third time I roughly doubled my salary took about 5 years, but now the base was already in the 6-figure range. I actively managed my career and even made a complete career change along the way – opening the door for higher salary growth down the line.
To sum it all up: Manage your career whenever you can. It is not wrong to slow down and to enjoy work, coworkers, a workplace, but understand the impact. If you are at a good income level at that point – certainly do it. The quality of life is not just measured by how much money you make.