The poor relation

by | Sep 12, 2016

Here is a soap-box, and my feet are fairly and squarely on it.

Can anyone tell me why data and database roles are thought to be unnecessary, low down on the priority list, graded poorly and paid badly?

On one side of me I can feel the hackles rising at this assertion. And on the other side I can feel the indignation building up from being continually considered the poor relation.

Over the last few months I have had so many conversations about the dearth of decent data people and/or database skills.  The context is normally around wanting to recruit, so it’s fair to say that part of this conversation will be focused on how much they are willing to pay, what grade the job will be and what this person is going to be expected to do. The salary and the grade are in line with each other, but they are usually a long way from being reasonable when considering what’s in the job spec.

Why is this? And why are we in this position?

Apathy creep is clearly one reason.  Years of not being bothered about the quality of the data being held or how to store quality data, favouring volume over quality in communications and being disparaging of insight and all it has to offer. There’s more, but these will cover most situations.

This makes me so sad.  How the hell did we get here?  Is this why the changes in compliance legislation are hitting us so hard?  Has our need to bury our head in the sand outweighed our common sense?

I understand that all of the above may be upsetting to some.  I also understand that there are some within the sector who will find examples of how the above is not true. However, the evidence to the contrary is staggering; all the major Recruitment agencies are struggling to find suitable candidates to put forward for database roles, specifically Raiser’s Edge.  This is candidates – this is not even successful candidates. There are some good people out there, but who in their right mind is going to leave their current job for one that is exactly the same, with no better prospects, no increase in pay (or at best, a cost of living increase they have failed to get in their current role) and exactly the same problems but with a different set of faces on the stakeholders.

A while ago I did a very quick check and discovered that most database jobs in the sector were more junior roles, very few were manager level, fewer still had line management responsibility, none had SMT involvement.  In fact, had I not made my own destiny and started PtG 6 years ago, chances are I would still be in the same or similar role, with a salary that in real terms may well have gone down.  I would never have got to Director or SMT level and the only chances of moving up would have been to work for a bigger charity with a bigger team. Same ol’ same ol’ I’m afraid.

I want to think that the shake-up of compliance across the EU and UK is enough to start a re-evaluation of the importance of data roles within fundraising, and how the right data person can bring a different perspective and an alternative way of thinking about things. And to get the right people more needs to be done to redress the balance in terms of job grade and package. In the meantime, all I can do is ensure that me and my team demonstrate the value of data people at every opportunity.  PtG is more Emilia Pankhurst than Ché Guevara, far from being Data Revolutionaries, but over time I hope that we can help start the process of re-thinking the value and perspective that a data team will bring.

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