Of living costs and a relocation

ZDNet Asia reader wants to know if he is being paid fairly and whether he should change his line of work

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Q. I was just relocated to Singapore from Sydney, and I was stupid to sign the relocation contract without caution.

Now I regret because:
1. Rent is so expensive in Singapore
2. I lost my superannuation portion from my remuneration when I left Australia, as I don’t get paid this in Singapore as I’m a foreigner.

The company is reviewing my relocation package (possibly with my remuneration package) and asked me to find some market data to support my request. According to market data, the company’s HR said that I’m already well paid.

My title is senior product specialist and I’m the key person supporting the flagship product of a major global vendor in the enterprise content management (ECM) market, for the whole of the Asia-Pacific region.

Skills wise, all the difficult issues in the region are handled by me. I’m the only one who can do programming in the team. Sometimes, I also develop patches as customers can’t wait for product development, et cetera. I’m the one who would work till 2am to keep customers happy.

I contribute to other departments too. In the past years, I always did extra (out of own initials, personal efforts and time) to help sales, presales and professional service. I possess consultant skills. I did development projects and consultant projects in the past when professional service was under-resourced.

Am I well paid? Looking at average market data, I agree that I just reach the bench mark (but not over it); but HR probably doesn’t look at the above factors. It simply compares me to the average persons.

I also can’t find data in a highly specialized field such as ECM. With your expertise, how much should I be getting that is fair both to the company and me?

The company is also comparing my package with locals, while there’s skill shortage in the local market; should I be compared with Australians or locals?

In the past, my career goal was to become a consultant. At that time, I was told that I couldn’t get higher pay as I was already getting the market rate as a technical support staff. So I wanted to be a consultant to get better pay.

Under the new management, now I’m told that consultants would just get the same pay as technical support (they wanted me to do more consultant projects without justifying for the increased responsibilities and pressures typically involved in projects). So I am confused and don’t know what I should be heading for in my career: product specialist (product support); technical consultant (project) or presales consultant—who gets paid more?

I thought both technical consultant and presales pay more than product specialist (at least in my company--that’s how I was told). Now I am told that the first equals the second. What about in the industry? Which gets more pay?

The problem is that I appear to be capable in all three: technical support; consulting (projects); presales support. Under financial pressure, I can’t be royal or truthful to myself, anything pays more and I’ll go for it.

My manager reminded me what I really want to do, and money is not the answer she was looking for. I think she’s quite right; but when that is conflicting with money, what should I do?


Career advice from Norman Miranda, principal consultant at executive search company Resource Dynamics:

I guess you have learned the hard way about having to research the living costs and remuneration packages before making a move to a different country. Having said that, your HR department is also obligated to give you this information before they ask you to accept.

However, at least they have agreed to do the review.

Objectively, the company also has to watch its wage bill and should base these on the various surveys available. Rather than get into a debate about average and above average pay, my suggestion is to negotiate with your boss a performance bonus based on agreed targets and objectives. This is not uncommon in the industry. This scheme would allow management to compensate you on your extra work and effort and this can be quite substantial.

If they do not have the flexibility to do this then you face an uphill task.

From personal experience of placing similar positions, the range of base salary for such positions for a multinational company range from S$120,000 (US$87,800) to S$160,000 (US$117,000) a year for someone with at least five years solid experience. However, the range is much higher when there are incentive schemes in place, particularly if they are linked to revenue targets. This actually allows a 20 to 40 percent increase over base if performance targets are achieved.

If all else fails, continue to do a good job, you are in the midst of the booming Asian market and that is a very good career move. If you are good, word will get around and opportunities will arise which will compensate you well.

To answer your last question, your compensation should be compared to local packages. This is not necessarily a bad thing, salaries for IT positions, particularly regional ones, are relatively high.

As to which pays the most, there are two issues to deal with here. As for the money part, generally in the IT Industry, IT consultants are paid more than technical support and the real money is in presales. There is also a trend to pay presales staff a significant performance bonus as they are very closely involved in sales. Doing a presales job is also a good way of eventually getting into a sales position within the company if you are so inclined.

The second issue is the job fit. You have to have an honest self appraisal and also talk to senior people in the industry and ask fro their honest opinion. We all want to earn extra money but we don't want to get ourselves into a position were we cannot perform because we are not suited for the job. For example, do you really have the strong communication, presentation and customer interaction skills needed to be a successful presales person.

I would say that it is better for you to do a technical support role if you are very good at it rather than do a presales job that you are bad at.

And let's put things in proper perspective. First, prove that you are good at your job and build a good track record. If the company does not recognize your contribution and you have feedback from your customers, senior colleagues and business partners that you are good, then look else where. Don't expect to get a big pay rise just because you change your role. If you really perform, opportunities will come knocking.

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