According to wired:

Google: Pays less than other Silicon Valley tech companies. A system administrator earns around $35,000, which in the San Francisco Bay Area, with its astronomical housing prices and cost of living, might as well be minimum wage.

I have to believe that's a crazy-ass pre-IPO number of some sort. That's just way, way low. It makes no sense. I know engineers there who make way, way more than $35k/year.

I made more than that as a college undergrad in 1996!

On the off chance that it's accurate, I'd be glad to take resumes from any disgruntled Google sys admins! :-)

But seriously, WTF is with that number?

Posted by jzawodn at April 21, 2005 02:19 PM

Reader Comments
# Michael Conlen said:

It may be that they call noc techs "sys admins" and have another title for what we traditionally call sys admins.

35k/year might be for the guy who wanders around the data centers with shopping carts full of hard drives.

on April 21, 2005 02:45 PM
# Toby said:

"Google: Accounts for almost four out of five internet searches (which includes sites that license Google's search technology)"

I'm thinking that the research is a tad lacking on this one.

on April 21, 2005 02:48 PM
# Mike said:

How much do Yahoo sysadmins make?

on April 21, 2005 03:00 PM
# odograph said:

You know, I my immediate thought was of the hard-drive swappers as well!

on April 21, 2005 03:10 PM
# Not Surprized in Atlanta. said:


I believe its absolutely true.

Google has a large facility outside Atlanta, I believe its in Douglasville(sp?). Anyway over the holidays I heard a very similar story from some sysadmins who interviewed with Google.

These guys were very pissed after the whole thing. First off they already average nearly 6 figures, and have tons of experience.

They were made offers in the $25-35K range, which is just nuts.

But the kicker was the NDA they had to sign just to get an interview. They signed the NDA because 1) it was Google, and 2) if an NDA was involved it must be a serious position.

Like I said they were really pissed, but true life is stranger than fiction.

PS. The starting salary in this Atlanta facility was at $7.50/hr as a "contractor".
Hello mcdonalds.

on April 21, 2005 03:10 PM
# Christopher Baus said:

We're screwed. Do you want some fries with that hard drive?

on April 21, 2005 03:15 PM
# Jon Gales said:

That whole article is just silly. He could have written it about any two companies--WalMart popularized the use of bar codes and Yahoo popularized web directories! Proof that Yahoo is a big bad monopoly!

And the article said the $35K sys admins were in the bay area, which suffice to say would translate to a whole lot less outside the bay area.

on April 21, 2005 03:16 PM
# Jeremy Wright said:

Not true. I post a number of Google jobs to Blogger Jobs for them. Many include salary. None are that low. They're quite competitive, actually.

on April 21, 2005 03:27 PM
# Mike said:

> I post a number of Google jobs to Blogger Jobs for them.


on April 21, 2005 03:31 PM
# adamsj said:

I looked at a sysadmin job in rural Arkansas recently, and it paid 45-55K.

on April 21, 2005 03:54 PM
# Alex Moskalyuk said:

They pay their CEO and Presidents (co-founders) $1 a year, and in most companies I know few people earn more than the CEO and Presidents. So the $35,000 guys should be lucky they make $34,999 more than Larry or Sergey or Eric, for that matter.

on April 21, 2005 04:13 PM
# Doug said:


Yeah, well, its easy to take a $1/year salary when you have hundreds of millions in stock.

on April 21, 2005 06:09 PM
# Andrew said:

I've heard from a couple of people (one programmer, one in finance) who laughed at the Google recruiters when they were told the salary range for the positions they were interviewing for. In both cases it was about $30k/year below the bottom of the range for their experience/expertise.

on April 21, 2005 07:10 PM
# MoChaMan said:

I think we're seeing the results of the burst DotCom bubble. Right after 9/11 I remember software engineer positions paying $25K just outside of Boston, which also has very inflated real estate prices.

on April 21, 2005 07:12 PM
# said:

I'm a developer at Google, but I don't know anyone in the Silicon Valley offices who works in any remotely technical capacity who is making a figure that low. As people pointed out, despite stock gains, no one would work at a post-IPO company for 35k.

Right now, my salary seems about middle of the road for someone in my position. I took a slight paycut to work there, and like a lot of people I balked at first, because the boom times had taught me that I should always get more money with each successive job in my career. Fortunately, I took the offer, because even disregarding any stock-related benefits, the employee 'extras' are well worth it. If I counted the money I saved on food bills alone...

I can't vouch for any salaries in Atlanta, but the impression I get is not "Google is out to screw its workers like Wal-Mart!". Rather, it's more, Google offers you a fair-market-value salary for your position.

As for the Wired story, hey, it's Wired. It's quite possible there's some old-timer sysadmin who took reduced salary and more equity, or some sysadmin who was independently wealthy already and blissfully unconcerned with his salary. All I know is, it doesn't fit my experience here at Google.

Finally, I'd like to say: Cool blog, Jeremy. I can't say that I always agree with you, but you do seem to have a keener grasp of what's going on in our industry than most of the people who are paid to write about it.

on April 21, 2005 09:04 PM
# Big mama--you know who I am said:

All I can say Jeremy is that I'm getting paid more at Google than I did at Yahoo. :) The shares are stingy, but the salary and bonus are more generous than Yahoo. And if you toss in all the free M&M's, I'm golden!

I'm not sure this is a true article.

on April 21, 2005 09:42 PM
# In the money said:

you forget stock options

on April 22, 2005 05:27 AM
# Erin said:

I believe it. I used to work for G and I took a healthy pay cut when I started on - many others I knew at the company did as well.

on April 22, 2005 06:52 AM
# Mike said:

I'm sure google will have no problem filling sys admin positions at $35K. There is no shortage of h1-b workers at $20/hr. They probably get 50 - 100 resumes per position.

on April 22, 2005 08:20 AM
# Doug said:

Mike makes a good point. When you have hundreds of people fighting for the same jobs, doesn't that drive the price down? If I were google I would say "listen, I know you all want jobs, but we only have 2, so in order to cut down all the resumes from 150 to 20, we would like to state that this job only pays $35k." Then they just pick the best candidate of the 20 that are left.

It makes their job easier, and at the same time saves them a whole heck of a lot of money.

To be honest, I'm surprised these salaries didn't drop 3 to 4 years ago. This will probably hit the midwest soon, where there are sysadmins at places like Sprint making triple digits (and thats in an area where the cost of living is a lot lower than california.) I know a guy who spent almost 2 years unemployed because he refused to accept a salary that was less than the $80k he was making when Sprint laid him off.

on April 22, 2005 08:48 AM
# Mike said:


Rates/salaries have been dropping for the last few years. I would say that they are at an all time low. I have a small consulting business, for my existing clients that know I do good work, they are willing to pay a reasonable rate. For those businesses that want the lowest rate, I don't even try anymore. I work in New York City and the surrounding suburbs.

on April 22, 2005 10:29 AM
# Anonymous Coward said:

Mike - its the same deal over here in the UK. Right now i'm back down to a salary i used to have way back in 1996.

And the funny thing is , back then I only had 2 years of experience. I'm optimistic about the future though - the more this goes on, the more people who are into "computers" just for the money will go off and do other things. College grads wont bother doing comp science - and eventually, a few years from now, you'll see another shortage - and thus pay rates will go back up.

A similar sort of thing happened in the 80s - early, mid 80s - computer programmers = high pay , late 80s - big boom. Early 90s - recession, plummeting pay. It's all part of the cycle of the market.

on April 22, 2005 03:13 PM
# Jay said:

Mike, H1-B workers have to meet a certain requirement before they get their H1-B.

There is a rule from the USCIS & DOL that says that the H1-B worker HAS TO BE PAID the same, as if the employer was employing an American citizen.

Remember, the whole H1-B process is made in such a way that the employer HAS MORE TO BENEFIT if he hires an American citizen.

Basically in a nutshell, the foreign H1-B worker has to receive everything like an American would, benefits, pay, stocks, whatever.

The real benefit of hiring an American over a H1-B for the employer -- no need to pay stiff fees to the USCIS and DOL, AND RIDICULOUSLY expensive attorney fees.

That being said, if the employers still choose to hire the foreign worker who needs a H1-B, obviously there must be something about that worker that the employer wants so much.

I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure that given 2 people with the exact same thing to offer, one being American and one needing a H1-B -- there is more trouble in getting the one that needs the H1-B.

on April 22, 2005 05:17 PM
# John said:

Hahha, how about a lead database and software programmer for the same wage? I might know an underpaid talent who developed a 20gb mysql db and loves comparison shopping :)

on April 23, 2005 08:23 AM
# MattJ said:

I think the 35k figure for an actual Unix sys admin is dubious. More important the whole article was really bad. He made arbitrary connections between two unrelated companies. The fact that Wired publishes that sort of drivel moves them yet another notch lower in my estimation.

on April 23, 2005 10:26 PM
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on April 24, 2005 07:07 AM
# Rob Meyer said:

Doug - falling prices only make sense to a point, but that's only half the market. Someone will certainly take the job at $35k, but do you want them running your systems? Probably not. People with lots of talent used to getting $75k and up are just not going to be able to make that lifestyle adjustment, no matter what their passion for wanting to work at Google is.

You might be able to hire people early in their career who have great potential, and then increase their salaries as they improve. But your success rate is going to be very low at that unless you have a magic hiring formula that no one's ever heard of before. And if you don't raise that salary -quickly- you're going to spend the time developing them, and they will go take a job for 2 to 3 times as much.

High churn and disposable employees doesn't seem like it fits with Google's model, so I'm suspcious of that number. I'm -certain- they can get away with slightly less than market rate because of benefits and who they are, but not that much less, at least not for anything but a seriously junior position.

on April 24, 2005 09:22 AM
# Atle Veka said:

I haven't seen or heard anything about what these admin positions entail, but I imagine it could be quite different than what most associate with systems administrator positions. For me, I work in a shop with about 400 FreeBSD servers, and there are 4 of us in the systems administrator department that all work together managing them. With rumors being that Google has over 100k servers, I just can't see how, if they are what I consider an admin, all of them are allowed to mess around on those machines just like they want. Say trying experimental MySQL builds, tuning Apache, etc.

We work tightly with developers and constantly delve into the gritty levels of our systems, I just don't see how that's possible at Google with what has to be a department of at least a hundred people. That'd be one messy zoo!

on April 24, 2005 05:54 PM
# Brian Duffy said:

It sounds to me like Google has highly standardized systems, and the guys taking care of day to day operations is a tech, not a real admin.

I worked at a place that had a good-sized environment that was highly standardized. We had "Senior" DBAs/System Administrators making between $30k-$55k, backed by 6-8 techs working 24/7 and making $7/hr. (This was in 2000)

Most of the techs were young & smart, we promoted them from the call-center, and they were thrilled to death to be there. If they did well, they'd given more responsibility and spun off to a development team.

That model makes sense if you have an operation in a smaller market where its harder to find good talent and easier to "grow" the talent.

This Google scheme sounds like they're attracting people who are willing to sacrifice for a good resume entry. Doesn't sound sustainable to me.

on April 24, 2005 06:48 PM
# Bryan said:

I also doubt that article is true. All sysadmins I know make a lot more than $35K.

on April 24, 2005 11:56 PM
# Jignashu said:

first time seeing blog spam! Seen the ads of this "luxury watches" posted by axie! Hmm...more work for anti-spam teams worldwide!

on April 25, 2005 03:47 AM
# Mike said:

Jay (April 22, 2005 05:17 PM),

I work with 100's of H1-B workers at dozens of companies. The way things are supposed to work is not the way they work in reality.

I work with "senior" programmers and DBA's that are billed at < $30/hr.

Being in this country illegally is against the law. Yet, we all know that there are illegal immigrants - probably in your own community.

on April 25, 2005 10:52 AM
# Pete Prodoehl said:

Doug said: "I'm surprised these salaries didn't drop 3 to 4 years ago. This will probably hit the midwest soon"

Bite your tougue! We midwesterners don't need to follow every trend you coasters come up with.

on April 25, 2005 01:29 PM
# Laura said:

>I'm surprised these salaries didn't drop 3 to 4 years ago

They did. They didn't drop that far. No one in tech makes $35K in silicon valley; you'd starve to death on that salary.

I don't have actual data to back this up but my gut feel from the gossip is that basic sys admins (real admins, not techs) are making $75K+, through to six figures for top unix/network folk. Still. Post-boom.

on April 26, 2005 08:07 PM
# Demetri Mouratis said:

I just turned down an offer for a intermediate to senior sysadmin position at Google. My experience is that Google is arrogant in its hiring practices. They even went so far to say that "Google doesn't negotiate."

The offer was for 25-30% *below* market average. For me, I really wanted to work there but not enough to convince me to take that kind of a cut.

on May 2, 2005 04:01 PM
# realgoogle said:

I think you guys are right. google recently called for QA testers at the rate of 15/hour for
300 positions.
i know a person who went in for that and i/v lasted for 1 1/2 hours with online test and personal tech i/v.
google sucks.. and is a sweat shop.

on July 21, 2005 02:27 PM
# Ian said:

Regardless of the why google treats the applicants the way it does, the value of a sys admin, developer or any other IT position is not there anymore. I think we can all agree that the outsourcing plays huge role in this. I don't think I can blame Google for offering 35K in Bay area for a Sys Admin when they could get 6K a year guy in India for the same position.

on August 24, 2005 07:31 AM
# Ian said:

Check this link out. You will see what I mean.

on August 24, 2005 07:43 AM
# bktan said:

What do you guys suggest wld be the best way to get an interview @ Google? (e.g. calling their HR, emailing their president) or just email and wait.

on October 18, 2005 07:09 PM
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