Tech CEO Compensation: Big, and Only Getting Bigger

The technology industry’s top CEOs make a lot of money. That’s not surprising to anyone. Nonetheless, it’s worth examining how much the CEOs at tech’s biggest firms are pulling down every year—after all, this is as much as virtually anyone in the industry can possibly earn.

For example, a new CNN analysis of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s take-home pay for fiscal 2019 shows that he pulled down $42.9 million in total compensation; that’s a base salary of $2.3 million, plus stock awards. It’s also a 66 percent increase in his pay, year-over-year.

But Nadella traditionally hasn’t been the highest-paid CEO in tech. In 2018, for instance, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd pulled down $108.3 million, according to Business Insider, putting him at the top of the list of best-compensated leaders. During that same period, PayPal CEO Daniel Schulman made $38.8 million, and DXC Technology CEO Mike Lawrie pulled down $32.2 million. Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff earned $28.4 million, followed by Nadella.

Of course, annual compensation is a very different thing from net worth. Just take a look at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who insists on being paid an annual salary of $81,840 (plus another $1.6 million in travel and security costs), and yet remains the world’s richest person (with an estimated $110 billion net worth) thanks to his Amazon stock. Some CEOs might only take $1 in salary, but that’s not a reflection of their true net worth. 

Although many technologists enjoy high salaries, these CEOs obviously exist in a totally different stratosphere. For example, let’s compare Nadella’s pay to that of a “regular employee” at Microsoft. Recently, hundreds of Microsoft employees used a private Facebook group and Google spreadsheet to display their salaries to their colleagues; the “typical employee” submitting their salary info was a Level 62 software engineer with an average Microsoft tenure of three years; their base annual salary is $150,000, along with a $20,000 bonus and $15,000 in stock. 

That’s pretty good! But it’s not $42.9 million. 

According to the most recent Dice Salary Survey, the average technology-industry salary stood at $93,244 in 2018—a mere 0.6 percent increase from the year before. Around 68 percent of respondents to the Salary Survey said they’d change employers to receive higher compensation, higher than the 47 percent said they’d switch jobs for better working conditions, as well as the 34 percent said they’d do so to gain more responsibility.

Despite record-low tech-industry unemployment—and pretty decent salaries—it’s clear that the average salary is pretty stagnant. Not for tech’s CEOs, though; many of them are just getting richer. 

One Response to “Tech CEO Compensation: Big, and Only Getting Bigger”

  1. You obviously can’t expect a Software Engineer to pull in similar salary like CEO. CEO is supposed to take more important decisions that impact the business in a big way. Anyways that’s just my two cents.