How I Wrote My Own Job Description to Land a Data Architect Role
- Welcome to Salary Journeys, a series that shows how much people have earned throughout their careers.
- On this journey, a data architect shares how he wrote the job description for his current role.
- With his skills, he could make more money elsewhere, but he values flexibility and a stable income.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved playing around with computers – playing with code, teaching myself new programs, and diving into big data sets to see what patterns I could find. It’s all a fun puzzle to me.
That’s why I’m grateful that I can earn my living with it. I’m a white male in my 40’s working as a data architect for a large retail company. I live in the south, work remotely and make about $150,000 a year.
I am responsible for the technology behind my company’s marketing efforts. This includes the customer loyalty program, e-commerce marketing emails and data analysis. I am the main breadwinner for my family—my wife is a substitute teacher—and we have two school-age children.
Could I make more money elsewhere with my skills and experience? Yes, but I’m old enough to know that compromises exist. I work hard at my job but the hours are not grueling. My boss supports me and the company is stable, which I really appreciate.
Most importantly, my job offers flexibility. Family comes first for me. I only have a few more years under one roof with both kids and I want to make the most of it. Sure, some of my friends have bigger houses, drive nicer cars, and have fancier vacations. But I’m OK where I am. I have lived in the same house for 20 years – just down the street from my parents and I have great relationships with my wife and children. I wouldn’t trade it for more money.
Here is my salary journey.
Editor’s note: Insider verified the source’s salary and identity using documents from her current or most recent job.
part-time programmer, $60,000
I had a part-time college job as a programmer for a medical information services company, making about $35 an hour. As a student, that was real money.
I originally started out as a temp, but got promoted within my first few months when my bosses saw what I could do. I designed databases, played around with new programming languages, and even tweaked the company’s phone routing system so it could consolidate its call centers. My manager pressured me to drop out of school and work for him full-time, but I knew it wasn’t a smart move. I have a degree in mathematics.
math teacher, $40,000; Part-time rafting guide, $7,000
Then I got a job teaching math and computer science at a middle school near my college. I later moved back to my hometown and taught high school. Teaching is my calling: I enjoy working with children and have a strong desire to unleash young people’s potential by exposing them to math and science. Also, I get along really well with other teachers; you are my people
Unfortunately, however, it is difficult to support a family on a teacher’s salary. I worked every summer as a whitewater rafting guide and made another $7,000, but it was still barely enough to pay the bills. My wife and I wanted to buy a house and have children. When our first child was born, I looked for a better paying job.
technology director, $80,000; Part-time university lecturer, $20,000
I found this better paying job thanks to my wife. She was a freelance photographer working for a real estate company, taking glossy photos of homes for sale. In my spare time as a hobby, I started helping the company expand their technology and create 360 virtual tours at home.
The company asked if I would join them full-time as Director of Technology to manage their websites and data systems. The salary offer was double what I was doing as a teacher, so I jumped at the opportunity. I also started a part-time job teaching continuing education courses for the local university for an additional $20,000 a year. I finally hit six figures and life felt too good to be true.
It turned out to be so. Not long after I started, the housing market collapsed and the company was sold to new owners who promptly cut my salary in half. I rode out of the big one
in this company and consider myself lucky to have a job at all.
strategy director, $100,000 plus $15,000 bonus; pArt Time University Lecturer, $20,000
As the economy improved, my career prospects brightened. A colleague of mine was starting a new digital marketing business and asked me to join. I told him I had to earn a salary of $80,000. He said, “Done.” Maybe in hindsight I should have asked for more, but I was so exhausted from losing money at my last job that I settled for a raise. Also, I still had my side hustle of teaching adult classes at night. We finally felt safe enough to have a second child.
A few years later I was earning a salary of $100,000 plus a $15,000 bonus. I was also a partner who owned a small percentage of the company. After a while, however, I realized that I wasn’t enjoying it. Technically I was a partner, but I didn’t have much control over the direction of the company. There was no transparency and colleagues were generally suspicious. I was happy to go.
(And as a side note, I’ve found that owning shares in a company is complicated and expensive. I haven’t worked at this organization in years, but I still have to pay taxes on those shares as their value increases — though I haven’t made any money myself. It’s not worth it and I’m trying to sell what I own right now.)
data architecturet, $138,000 plus a $10,000 bonus
After my first interview for the company I now work for, the hiring manager immediately withdrew the ad. I spoke to the recruiter about what happened and he said, “They asked so many detailed questions about the job that they realized they didn’t know what they wanted.”
I took that as a challenge. Based on the information I got from the hiring manager and some outside research, I wrote a job description of what I felt the company needed. Some of what I wrote was ambitious and involved skills I wanted to learn and apply, but most of it came from what I heard during the interview. The recruiter sent it off and the next day I had a meeting with the company.
The original offer – for a position as a technical marketer – was low at $115,000, but during the negotiation phase I managed to make the job more attractive to me. For example, the hiring manager allowed me to work full-time from home, even though I live close to the company headquarters. The company also agreed to pay for me to get certifications.
Three years later I have no regrets. I got promoted to Data Architect and make about $150,000 total. I am well on the way up to Enterprise Architect, which would be a director level position with a corresponding pay jump.
But most of all I like my job: the work is interesting, my colleagues are smart and this company cares about its employees and their families. If I have to leave work in the middle of the day to pick up my children, my manager or colleagues cover for me.
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