According to Foote, the biggest salary increases nationally were for security managers and administrators, network engineers and administrators, all architecture jobs, cross-functional project managers, business technologists, enterprise infrastructure workers and business analysts. There were also significant salary increases for New Age database architects who can blend database, network, systems and specific application skills.
But simply having the right skill at the right time can give you a big boost. At the Dallas consulting company, a Web developer who was with the firm for six months doubled her salary when she joined another company, thanks to the experience she had gained with Austin, Texas-based Vignette Corp.'s Story Server. As a result, the e-business manager says, the company needs to conduct twice-a-year salary reviews. "If that's what can happen after six months of experience, the salary should reflect that," he says.
Perhaps the only downside for IT workers in today's climate is the profusion of job offers they have to consider.
"It's one of the most complex times I've ever seen, both [as] an individual evaluating job offers and a manager trying to retain them, because of the richness of offers that I'm seeing," says Tom Franklin, a vice president at Concours Group, a consultancy in Houston.
For example, which offer would you accept: One from a start-up with a low salary but lots of stock options; one from a traditional manufacturer with a decent salary but not much upside growth; or one from a public software company with a lower salary but the opportunity to exercise stock options in the short term? "It's a little hard to sort those out," Franklin says.
What's starting to happen is that people look beyond the monetary compensation and ask themselves whether the work looks interesting and exciting in the short term and how well the job positions them for the next job they take, Franklin says.
People will work for below-market salaries if other things are in place. For instance, in addition to looking forward to Embark's initial public offering, "people feel loyalty toward our company because they're working in the education arena, and they feel like they're here to make a contribution to that," Joung says.
These attitudes are encouraging companies to be creative about the types of compensation and rewards they offer, including "a three-month sabbatical, for instance," Foote says.
Applied Signal has managed to keep its turnover to a low 5 percent, and Nelson attributes a lot of that to its emphasis on training. "We've got a very generous tuition-reimbursement program, the best I've ever seen. We're also real big on letting people move around in the department and to keep them challenged and let them play with new toys all the time."