Technology careers provide plenty of opportunities for growth, but most technology professionals choose the wrong path for pursuing that growth. Taking certification after certification is not the way to advance in your tech career and earn more money for your work, but that is exactly what many choose to do.
Generally speaking, acquiring a long list of certifications brands you as a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. It might increase the length of your resume, but it generally does not increase your value to a company, especially when they are associate-level certifications.
So, what is the correct path for maximizing your salary in tech? Here are three options that work.
Becoming a tech specialist who has a deep understanding in a particular area, such as cloud security or cloud networking, is one way to raise your value in the tech world. The problem with associate-level certifications is a lack of depth. They provide exposure to a certain type of technology, but they do not provide a deep understanding of it.
Those who focus on and become experts in one area are able to not only manage mundane tech tasks, but also solve the problems that are truly challenging. Those who have that level of expertise bring true value to an organization and are able to demand higher pay.
An industry expert is slightly different from a tech specialist. Rather than specializing in one type of technology, an industry expert develops a deep understanding of an industry and the technology that is used in that particular industry. This type of vertical expertise can be developed for any industry, from architecture, to aerospace, to entertainment, to sales.
For example, banking industry experts understand the technology that is most used for banking and know what drives the business of banking. They understand the applications, the security needs, the availability needs, and the workflows of the banking industry. They know how to use technology to create great banking solutions because they are both an expert in tech and an expert in banking. Providing that type of expertise is another way to maximize your tech salary.
The third way to maximize your tech salary has nothing to do with tech skills at all. Let me explain with a story from my technology career.
About 20 years ago, I had a manager who took me aside and said, “Mike, do you know the difference between a sales engineer like you making $150,000 and an architect making $300,000?” I told him I didn’t, but I needed to know right away. He told me that it was related to the impact you make on the organization.
Basically, he explained to me that increasing your value in an organization is related to things like your executive presence. He told me I needed to have CXO relevancy, which would equip me to know how to communicate properly with CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and CTOs. He also told me I needed to have a high degree of emotional intelligence so I could understand and control my emotions, but also the emotions of those with whom and for whom I was working.
He also told me I needed to learn how to sell. Now, I was a technology professional, not a sales professional. Why did I need to learn how to sell? Because technology professionals are always selling; we need to sell tech solutions to customers, and we need to sell our managers on providing us with the internal resources that we need. As we are selling, presentation skills are important. To advance in a tech career, you need extraordinarily good presentation skills to explain to executives and others outside of the tech world why they need your services.
He told me that if I developed all of those skills, as well as leadership skills and business acumen, I would have what I needed to transition from being an engineer to an architect. So, I set to work learning it all. Around 18 months later, I obtained an architect job and the higher salary that came with it.
The data is clear. Develop your soft skills, your leadership skills, your executive presence, your emotional intelligence, your CXO relevancy, and your business acumen. That’s the secret to making a bigger impact on your business and its customers, which is the secret to maximizing your tech salary.