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My journey from Traditional RDBMS DBA to Opensource DBE/DBA
My journey in the field of database administration (DBA) commenced in 2006 when I took on the role of an IBM DB2 DBA. During the initial years of my career, I predominantly worked with commercial relational database management systems (RDBMS) such as DB2, Oracle, and SQL Server. My salary experienced gradual annual increments, averaging around 10% to 15% during this period. While I won’t disclose specific salary figures, it’s safe to say that these increases were in line with industry standards for RDBMS DBAs between 2006 and 2010.
The turning point in my career came when I relocated to the Bay Area and began working with cutting-edge startups. This move marked a substantial boost in my earning potential. Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of receiving multiple job offers, some of which offered a total compensation package exceeding one million USD. To provide context, I’ve received at least three to four such offers or potential offers in the last five to six years.
These lucrative opportunities have primarily arisen from startups that are pioneering innovative products and leveraging open-source RDBMS solutions like PostgreSQL and MySQL. It’s important to note that the primary purpose of sharing my story is to enlighten DBAs worldwide about the remarkable possibilities that exist within this field.(NOTE – These salary numbers are rough estimates only)
Compensation breakdown - Base Vs Bonus Vs Stocks
In most cases, a significant portion of these generous compensation packages is derived from stock grants. To illustrate, here’s an example where approximately 60% of the total compensation is attributed to stocks. It’s important to note that these figures can fluctuate based on the specific company, economic conditions, and other factors.
Commercial RDBMS Vs Opensource DBA/DBE
In the early stages of my transition from a career as a Commercial/Traditional DBA to one focused on Open Source/Cloud DBE, I found myself somewhat dissatisfied with my new role. I frequently compared Postgres and MySQL to Oracle and DB2, discussing with peers the features that appeared to be lacking. However, as time passed and I continued to tackle challenges on a weekly and monthly basis in my role as an Open Source DBA/DBE, I came to realize that it was a demanding position compared to the traditional roles of Oracle and DB2 DBAs.
In the traditional realm, you could raise a support ticket with Oracle or IBM, just as you always did, and troubleshooting issues often involved seeking assistance from these established vendors. In contrast, as an Open Source DBA/DBE, you were required to troubleshoot issues independently. Moreover, you had to take on the role of an architect, responsible for designing high-availability solutions, as many of these capabilities were not readily available out of the box.
Over time, my perspective shifted, and I began to appreciate the world of open source and its inherent challenges. I realized that, by embracing open source technologies, we were indirectly saving substantial amounts in licensing fees when compared to Oracle, SQL Server, or DB2.
Factors that influence your compensation - Location , company type , Product..
Your overall compensation is significantly influenced by various factors. One of the key determinants is your location, with places like the Bay Area known for their high cost of living and, consequently, higher base salaries. Another crucial factor to consider is the specific RDBMS you are supporting. Currently, there is strong demand for professionals skilled in Postgres and MySQL, and achieving similar compensation levels as an Oracle or SQL Server DBA in these roles can be quite challenging (though not impossible, it’s a more demanding endeavor compared to positions involving Postgres or MySQL).
Additionally, the type of company you work for plays a significant role in compensation. Typically, pre-IPO companies engaged in the development of cutting-edge products are willing to offer substantial remuneration to highly skilled DBEs/DBAs.
Is it still possible to get 1 million USD package in this bad economy ?
I’d like to emphasize that compensation levels have seen a decline in comparison to previous years due to prevailing economic conditions. Presently, there’s a prevalent concern about a looming recession, prompting companies to implement cost-cutting measures. Furthermore, stock prices have not performed as strongly as they did in recent years. Consequently, it may be challenging to secure packages at the same levels we’ve seen before. However, it’s important to note that compensation remains contingent on the specific company you are employed by and the nature of the product they are actively developing.
It’s worth highlighting that a significant component of compensation packages is tied to stocks, and this aspect is heavily influenced by the fluctuations in market conditions.
Work nature - How are these jobs different ?
These roles differ significantly from typical DBA positions. In a fast-growing startup environment, you can expect to invest additional hours, including weekends, depending on workload demands. The work culture within these startups is distinct, often characterized by weekly or bi-weekly releases (sometimes even more frequent), necessitating your support for database-related changes associated with these releases.
Another notable challenge involves on-call incidents. Given that any database downtime directly impacts the business of these rapidly expanding startups, you are expected to be vigilant and proactive in resolving any database issues promptly. Additionally, as these products experience aggressive user base growth, you’ll likely need to efficiently address scaling challenges.
In essence, working for these startups can be quite distinct when compared to other DBA/DBE positions in the job market. However, these expectations are commensurate with the substantial compensation packages they offer.
Some examples of high paying DB jobs (Source levels.fyi)
Below is one example job . In this example total compensation exceeds 1 million and as seen Here’s an illustrative job example where the total compensation exceeds 1 million dollars, with a significant portion originating from stock grants. As previously mentioned, the ultimate compensation figures are influenced by factors such as the company’s success and prevailing market conditions.
Please note that these job positions fall under the category of Distributed Systems – Software Engineer, as the Levels website lacks a separate category for DBAs/DBEs. However, the salary ranges are generally similar, contingent on the level at which you are hired. In the case of the job below, it corresponds to level E7.
Another noteworthy point is the nature of the tasks associated with these roles. Typically, you’ll find yourself engaged in substantial programming responsibilities, involving tasks such as writing Python code, working with Ansible, and more.
Here’s another example where the total annual compensation amounts to approximately 620,000 USD. I would like to highlight that achieving compensation within this range is generally more attainable when compared to the million-dollar plus packages
Companies that typically pay very high salaries
Here’s a partial list of companies (sourced from levels.fyi) along with their corresponding levels. It’s important to note that your compensation package is contingent on the specific level at which you are hired. Please keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive; it is intended to offer a sample of companies for your reference.
Can I get a similar package ?
Entering these roles is not a straightforward endeavor, as they are relatively scarce, and the competition is intense. However, with careful career planning and the acquisition of essential skills, it’s possible to pursue these opportunities.
To begin, you should compile a list of companies that utilize Postgres and MySQL while offering competitive compensation packages. Once you have this list, focus on acquiring the skills necessary to excel in interviews for these positions. Practical experience holds significant value, and gaining the hands-on experience required to perform well in these interviews can greatly enhance your prospects.
Additionally, consider networking with Database Engineers (DBEs) already employed at these companies. Seek mentorship and guidance from them, as their insights and expertise can provide valuable assistance in your journey to secure these roles.
As mentioned previously, the main objective of this article is to inspire and inform DBAs/DBEs about the potential opportunities within this field. When it comes to securing positions with these well-compensating companies, the possibilities are virtually boundless, provided you possess the requisite experience and skills.
Please check “Kmon” , “KloudDB Shield” and “KloudDB School” .Also check our performance articles –Pg_fincore and pg_buffercache to troubleshoot performance issues , Pgbouncer multiple instances(How we increased our TPS using multiple instances) , Postgres and temporary files , Pgpool and performance tuning, How we improved Lambda performance by 130x etc.