9 Tips to earn more as a Java or Big Data Engineer

Not all jobs and titles are created equal. Why do person “X” and person “Y” performing similar tasks have a difference of 1.2 to 2.0 times in their remunerations? Why do low latency & big data jobs tend to pay more? Why are specialists get paid more than the generalists? Why becoming an expert in a field can open up multiple income streams?

Here are a few tips to increase your earning potential.

#1: Research the job market for trends

For example, my recent research at “http://www.indeed.com/salary“, revealed the following

Java salary comparison

Java salary comparison

Salary also varied by location:

Salary by location

Salary by location

#2: Acquire high income technical skills

Your pay is always inline with supply and demand. There are millions of Java developers, and thousands of Spring/Hibernate developers out there. So, how do you differentiate yourself from the others to demand more pay? Upskill in technologies that are in demand due to short supply.

Generalists, Specialists & experts

You can do more home work as to “what skills your prospective employers are looking for?” and “what you are going to learn next?”

IT Jobs Watch for Scala, Java Concurrency, Senior Scala Developer, Senior Java Scala Developer, Scala Akka, “Java Concurrency”, etc.


At Glassdoor.com for “Full stack Java”, Akka/Scala, Spark developer, Junior Java, Java Architect, “Java + Akka”, “Java + Angular JS”, etc. You need to have additional skills from the Nice to Have section of the job description to standout from the pack, and take the road less traveled.
Pick a niche & excel at it

#3: Acquire much needed soft skills

Change yourself by acquiring the right soft skills, business skills, and attitude. Research shows that the top five skills to have are — analytical, technical, communication, interpersonal, and leadership skills. You will be judged on these skills, whilst you are at work or being interviewed. These skills can empower you to explore other avenues like

  • Becoming a change agent, who “alters system or human capability to achieve a higher degree of output or self actualization. The focus is to improve the overall effectiveness and usefulness of a system through small changes in a collaborative manner.
  • Becoming a good facilitator. A facilitator’s role is to draw out knowledge and ideas from different members of a group to help solve problems effectively.

Even though you are working with the technology, in larger organizations with multidisciplinary teams, you need to work with people to get things done. It can be more challenging to work with people than to work with technologies/frameworks.

One of the frequently asked questions on the forums is that, why do team leads and project managers earn more than the people who actually build the applications and work 9 ~ 12 hours?

Try being a facilitator, change agent, or a leader, you will know how hard it can be. It is much easier to change a system’s behavior than people’s behavior.

#4: Prove yourself as a well-rounded contributor

Build up a reputation as a “go to person” and a “person who gets things done”. You need to demonstrate this with the right technical competencies, soft skills, and attitude.

Spearheaded a Big Data project by taking it through the full SDLC life cycle – build, 80% test coverage, code quality checks and CI/CD pipelines with Jenkins, Docker, and Ansible scripts into AWS cloud

Expand your skills beyond development into tech ops with skills in building CI/CD pipelines & Cloud computing.

How do you know that you had been a great contributor?

1) When you get calls from your superiors or peers after they change jobs.

2) When your superior tries to convince you to stay when you have tendered your resignation or when you get a reassurance from your superior to contact him/her if the new job is not as good as you had hoped for.

#5: Stay visible

Make sure that your contributions are noticed. Being a quiet achiever won’t do you any good. Don’t just get stuck behind the keyboard. Attend meetings and meet more people. Prepare prior to team meetings, and add value by contributing good ideas and effective solutions. Bring out your analytical, technical, communication skills, and domain knowledge. Don’t over do, fake, or present others’ ideas as your own.

Another avenue that is not tapped into very often is being proactive in applying the technical Key Areas like thread-safety, scalability, transaction management, memory management, performance tuning, and fixing security holes. These key areas are very handy to sell yourself at the job interviews as well to open-ended questions like tell me about yourself?, what achievements are you proud of? Describe the architecture of the recent application you had worked on?, and so on

Learn more about the 16 key areas.

#6: Ask for more money.

Even if you are a great contributor, have changed a lot, and stayed visible, you will most probably not get more money unless you ask for it. Preferably do this on a Friday so that your boss can think about not losing you over the weekend :). Be prepared to tell your boss why you are worth more.

Adding value to you Vs. to the employer

You can’t ask for more money just because you got Java certified. Certifications add value to you, but not to the organization. Employers are interested in how you had applied what you had learned. So, you can say managed more people; accepted new responsibilities; fixed thread-safety issues; identified and fixed performance & database locking issues; closed gaps in requirements and design; initiated SDLC process improvements, etc.

Be realistic in your negotiations. You should know what you are really worth by looking around or getting other job offers. Don’t advertise about your other job offers in the early stages of your negotiations, especially if you strongly feel that you have a future in that company. Also, be prepared to tactfully and professionally handle any negative responses.

#7: Change jobs

Especially, if the above approaches had failed, your efforts are not recognized, feeling stagnated, and under paid. You are perhaps working for a wrong company. Insecurity of a new job, the change, more responsibilities, etc can be a fearful experience, but sometimes one needs to take a calculated risk to move forward. Not taking the necessary steps forward can sometimes even be riskier due to lack of marketable skills, experience, knowledge, working for a wrong company, etc.

If you decide to move on, do it professionally and amicably, as building a good network must be one of your career objectives to get ahead in your career. You never know what the future holds. If you decide to become a freelancer or a contractor, you have an option to call your old boss. You and your old boss may cross paths in a new company.

#8: Get multiple job offers

Getting multiple job offers and being in a position to negotiate and choose from competing offers. Take the time to prepare prior to your interviews. Go through your resume, and reflect back on your past achievements and experience. Brush up on the Java/JEE fundamentals. If you get multiple job offers, look beyond just monetary benefits — How to choose from multiple Java/JEE job offers?

#9: Take the road less traveled

Becoming an independent contractor or consultant. You can mitigate the risk of being out of a contract for a prolonged period by having the right know how and skills. You can create your own online brand. You hold the key to your career success.

As a contractor, you could go from $80/hour to $250/hour depending on the sought-after skills, relevant experience, areas of expertise like low latency, performance at the job interviews, soft skills, networking, on-line presence & reputation, mission criticality of the project, etc. BUT, in general The higher the billing rate, the shorter the contract duration & lesser the number of further extensions, especially when the rates are above $250/hour. But you will become more sought-after due to your expertise, online presence and networking to work with multiple clients.

Note: Always look beyond salary when considering your options. Don’t base your happiness on money alone. Job satisfaction and opportunity to grow further are equally important. These are general advice only, and one needs to take his/her own circumstances into consideration in making his/her decisions.

Jim Rohn said “You need to work harder on yourself than on your job”

Anthony Robbins said “Raise your standards“.

1) When was the last time you took stock of your technical and non-technical capabilities?
2) When was the last time you reviewed your resume and online presence?
3) When was the last time you acquired a new skill?
4) When was the last time you pushed yourself beyond your comfort zone?

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