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iSeries salaries disappoint, but don't jump ship yet

Maybe it isn't the increase you had hoped for, but, hey, at least you've got a job.

The good news to come out of Nate Viall and Associates' latest salary report is that if you have a job, you probably got a raise last year.

The bad news is, it probably wasn't anything that would make you want to jump for joy, unless of course you've been out of work and just recently hired. If that's the case, chances are you're thankful for the income, which is, according to this report, much smaller than what you were getting in your previous job.

It's not all as bad as it seems in the press.
Nate Viall
PresidentNate Viall and Associates

Nate Viall, president of the namesake iSeries (AS/400) research and recruiting firm based in Des Moines, Iowa, says even these small increases are signals of an improved economy. And if IBM can manage to sell more iSeries boxes to new customers (as it appears it is doing), the outlook will only get better.

"The salary increases may be small, but most of them got cost of living and a little bit more in spite of all the news about salaries declining," Viall said. "It's not all as bad as it seems in the press. If you've got your job, you got a small increase, which everyone recognizes when you talk with them one on one."

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According to Viall, managers (with average salaries of $89,000) saw the biggest gains with an increase of 3.3%. Salaries for all iSeries developers (with an average salary of $60,600) are up 2.9% and crossed the $60,000 threshold for the first time.

"For developers, those with more experience and higher functional responsibilities report the largest increases. By experience, those with fewer than six years of experience continue a small decline, down 0.5% to 4.6%, depending on the group. Both PC support and operators saw only token increases, 0.5% to 2.5%. Senior network and iSeries administrators registered gains of 3.4% and 6.1. Female developers reported increases of only 2.2%.

What's happening in the iSeries world pretty much mirrors what's happening in the rest of the IT industry, with a few exceptions, Viall said.

First, the iSeries is seeing an aging workforce. This workforce is demanding, and getting, higher salaries. However, these workers are also leaving the workforce in record numbers as more businesses offer attractive retirement packages.

Second, there is a huge drop in the entry-level hiring in the past four or five years.

"Companies just stopped hiring entry-level," Viall said.

The longer you've been at your job, he said, the better chance you have of a larger increase. In addition, a growing percentage of the existing staff (59.7%) has been promoted to a senior-level title at the same time that junior and intermediate numbers have declined. Following a similar pattern in the early 1990s, internal promotions are on the rise, now 12% of all staff and 9% of developers.

As the economy continues to recover, businesses will need to replace the aging workforce and add to its iSeries staff, but they'll want to hire a person who has two to three years' experience. That could be a problem.

"Because they refused to hire entry-level workers a few years ago, that group has moved onto other things. They're not there anymore," Viall said. "If there's the perception that no one is there to work the platform, then businesses will choose another platform. This doesn't bode well for hiring or salaries."

One possible bright spot, however, is IBM's aggressive push to promote the iSeries box, Viall said. Continued increases in iSeries salaries are somewhat dependent on iSeries sales, he said. If there's a shrinking pool of sites [using the iSeries], then there's going to be a shrinking pool of people.

"I can make a pretty good case over the next two to three years that sites are going to wake up and find they can't find the talent they need, and they're going to have to pay for it," Viall said .

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