What are your career salary trajectories?

I'm a new grad in SF, working at a startup in cryptocurrency, in my 10th month and am still at 120k, my first base salary. I am starting to think I should be getting a raise soon especially since my role at the company has grown to take on mentoring responsibilities and greater work projects, but don't know how to talk about it. I tried to mention it to my manager and we are having leveling conversations this month, so I think this is time to bring it up again. How should I prepare myself to ask for a raise? Thank you so much in advance for advice. Thank you Elphas!! You're all amazing. Michelle
I would set out very clearly the extent to which your responsibilities have grown or changed since your hiring conversation when you have that meeting, and your successes thus far, but TBH I can't imagine asking for a raise after less than a year unless there was some kind of egregious bait and switch with my responsibilities. My first non-retail job out of college, I made $26,000 (back in '97, mind). I know SF is its own world and crypto is hot, but damn do I feel like I picked the wrong line of work. :)
Maybe it's a UK thing or the fact that I've worked in many industries, but my salaries have always been a lot lower than that. The question that I would be asking isn't how much you're getting paid but how much value you're bringing to the role and what you feel like you deserve. As a WOC I discovered that my white colleagues were being paid more than me and left. I've also been in roles that give me other perks (remote working and less hours after a particularly bad period with my mental health). In a more practical area, I don't think 10 months is when you should start expecting an increase, I would say minimum one year in and make sure you have clear wins under your belt that you can use to negotiate with if it comes to that.
Great question @michellewong793. First, congrats for landing an excellent starting salary job for Bay right out of school. Everyone may have different perspectives on this, but here are a few considerations:1) While all companies should have transparent and stated review cycles, many don't. First, does your company (check with HR) have any standards on review cycles (when reviews happen, how are reviews done, are they 360, who reads them, and what actions are taken based on reviews - does it matter, good or bad?). 2) As you didn't state, I am assuming your initial offer didn't include any expectations on 30-60-90 day plans, trial periods, salary adjustments after. In future, you might find job offers that include these things - or that you can build into a job offer in negotiations. 3) What is your role? Do you know if you are paid in line with your area and geo? You can check this on Glassdoor as well as some other places. And, if you have any intel for your company - do you know if others got adjustments their first year? If so, why? How much? Are you in line with others' salaries for similar work and experience?4) To prepare for your meeting, outline what you have accomplished and sort it in expected, exceeded expectations, and then "beyond my role". Then, try to make sure for each bullet or bucket, you can state what that work did for the company - did it grow ARR, TLV, renewals, upsells, new markets, efficiencies, etc. Then the hard part (for me!) - have the conversation. Prepare. Practice with someone or someones. Role play - responsive, non-committal, critic, flat refusal. What helps me is to think through my responses. If the answer is no - then what is your response - for example "why is a raise not an option?" You want to know if it is something you have missed - you aren't performing on what the company wants or they don't see it? or do they have no budget/ability? or boss is unwilling to go get the $ or ? And for each of those, what is your response? But, I am so happy you are asking this - early in my career (first 10 years!), I only negotiated at hire and often then simply was passive when raises didn't happen and things weren't disclosed. I've pushed myself more now to do these things for myself, but how much did I leave on the table for many years. (Whoosh - I'm actually in a place where I need to have this conversation at my company but then 2020 COVID happened and for my company, nothing will happen this year.... I waited 4-5 months too long, another lesson.) Good luck.
Thank you so much Heatherly for the advice. I will definitely take the time to prepare. It's a sort of weird situation because as a startup, there weren't very defined roles for a new grad engineer, but I believe that after talking to other companies of the same caliber, their new grad engineer roles in the same area are offering at least 15k more in salary and with more stock options and "refreshes" every year. I've taken a lot of extra work, saving the company by fixing things on the website that were pretty critical and not expected of me at the time. I have overdelivered in my role and subsequently salary. I have onboarded, documented, and been an integral team member (we only have three engineers!) One most senior, with about 3-4 years of experience, me, and an intern I onboarded a few months ago. My intuition is that I want to ask for the salary increase of at least 15k, after comparing what I do and what is paid at other companies of similar caliber and space. I interviewed with a different company earlier this year after thinking that I couldn't grow much salary wise at my current company and got to last stages. The salary would have been 135k + a bunch of other benefits like stock bonuses and refreshing. I am responsible for more since I've joined, and have come a long way from needing help to now doing mentoring myself of an intern. I consider myself an integral part of the team, and I want the raise to reflect the work I have already done. Do you think that that's a justification for the raise? My intuition is yes, but maybe from experience others can say no. I do enjoy working at the company and am looking to grow and work even more cross functionally within the org and grow the Product team in time to come, but it's hard to imagine how I'm going to get paid for that work. The CEO a couple months ago continued making announcements about a leveling system, after I had given the feedback in person to him that we should have one. He agreed and started taking action. We are planning to have a July leveling conversation, but this has never been done before at the company, so I'm not sure how it will turn out! I will try to prepare as much as I can. My manager and I should talk about it this week at 1-1. Whew! That was already some practice, haha. Thanks so much Heatherly.
Michelle, it sounds like you have been an integral part of the team - which for a startup is critical for success, where every person counts 2-3x and has outsized impact. That is the challenge in the startup space - budget is almost always tight, limited but very talented driven resources, and lots to do that needs to be religiously prioritized. I love that you already had a discussion about a leveling system. If you have discussions and find that the company simply cannot pay more to anyone right now, you might be able to position yourself as someone who is willing to be on that working committee to determine leveling systems, refresh structure, reviews and even tackle things like transparency (novel in the Bay) with the understanding that it benefits you, the team, the company. You would want confidence in follow through as well as a future of the product/ company on execution overall. If you have that, you could be in a place where you are helping the company define itself and then would be recognized once the company meets the goals it needs to pay out more in the plan to people. Lovely to see this though - the awareness, willingness to have these conversations - we need more on teams and everyone in leadership to be there. Good luck!
Hey Michelle! After reading this section I have a much clearer understanding of your ask. 120k for L3 is not a bad pay, I'd say middle high of the band. You can see the data here at (this is what all the men use, wink). You should feel free to ask for more though, that's your perogative. You have to be a little more sensitive with negotiating with a counter offer from another company. This is a red flag that you might want to churn from your job for your manager. It is effective but you have to be ready to walk away from your current job. Also from reading what you wrote, you didn't close the offer, so it's not quite an effective negotiation tactic. Also, if you wish, take the opportunity of working remotely and actually interview at places you are interested in, and go somewhere else. In tech that's one of the fastest ways to stay top of band. However, that could put you on the top of the L3 band, but you'll have to restart in working your way to L4 at the new company. So long term trajectory is not as optimized. Your contributions are definitely larger than when you started, but as an outsider I have no idea if it justifies a level increase. Generally speaking, levelling up under a year is very uncommon unless what you did is really really next level. Overall, I'd recommend staying at the company for 1.5 years, ask for the promo this cycle, and if you don't get it this time you've put the idea into your manager's mind, and see if you get it come December. If you don't it's the perfect time to interview elsewhere and you'd be squarely in the bracket for L4 engineer, which will bump your pay to the next level band (put you in the 140k to 170k cash range with more equity). Hope it helps! Keep us posted on how things go!
That’s an amazing starting salary (I know SF pays higher) but wow! Also amazing that they’re putting their trust in you, and I love your forward-looking drive and aspirations!I’ll share some insights as a coach and you’re welcome to reach out to me if you want to chat:For entry-level roles, it’s expected that they’ll slowly layer on and expand the role as a sign that you’re doing things right. I typically suggest that the earliest you bring a raise up at the one year anniversary mark. Especially for earlier professionals in entry-level roles. If you’ve been doing things right, succeeding with core competencies, and taking on stretch projects it’s typically a no-brainer.I don't know all the details of your role but other considerations: 1) When is your performance review? That’s a great time. 2) When does your organization do budgeting. That’s an important time as well.
I would be pretty explicit in that discussion and ask about what salary bands the company have in place for your role, and whether or not you are on track to advance to the next level, and if not, what are areas of improvement that you should be working towards, and when they can be re-evaluated.A lot of this stems from asking for timelines such that expectations are made clear, and that you're not, say, waiting for another whole year for the next review for a raise or anything actionable.So, to help prep for that discussion and make it as productive as it could be with your manager, I would even raise this ahead of your 1-year (so your thoughts about discussing it this month makes total sense to me!). It gives them ample time to prepare and come back with a substantive answer.Hope this helps, and good luck!
I'm a twenty year veteran in tech and energy. My first year out of college my base salary was $80k and that was considered high. My last roles in director/senior management earned $135-170 with a very long track record of success and excellent network. The executives I reported to made between $140-220. Without knowing your specific role, responsibilities, degree, connections, labor market for your skillset I cannot say whether that salary is competitive or not. As others have said, 10 months into a role is a going point at which to begin mapping a career trajectory at your company (whether according to their career pathway, or, a vision you set). Set milestones, timing, and means to evaluate success. Show which milestones you have already achieved and what your plan is to reach those in the next quarter. Don't just track this at your annual evaluation. Use a weekly tracking sheet to update your manager on steps you've taken that fit within your broader plan.I personally found the book "How Women Rise" to be very helpful in this aspect of career and salary planning and negotiation. If you do everything right and it becomes obvious in a year or so that you just won't move up professionally as quickly as you would like then you have a good template for what to look for and what questions to ask of future employers.
Negotiations & helping women make lots of money is my jam! ( startup advisor/COO here) happy to hop on a call :)
I'm familiar with your company, as I'm also in crypto! Are you compensated outside your base salary, e.g., bonuses (expected or only eligible to receive?) or equity grants?Personally, I wouldn't wait for the one year mark to raise this topic; get paid what you are due! Job descriptions change as the company scales, and it's a sure bet that other people (read: male engineers) are not hesitating to talk about increased comp with increased duties. Unfortunately, it does seem in execution that women have to be more prepared for these types of conversations, so I'd echo another user here and go to your manager meeting with a prepared list of projects and tasks that you've done or are working on, especially anything beyond the current scope of your role.I would also take care to highlight or reaffirm your desire to grow with the company -- managers can be wary of employees who ask for a raise and then leave, having used that raise to level up in their job search. Feel free to reach out if you'd like to stay in touch with someone else in the same field!
Hi Alexa! Thanks for connecting. There aren't any bonuses currently, and there has been a token grant that I didn't negotiate when I joined. I wasn't sure how to negotiate tokens within the space at the time (still don't haha). Thank you for the encouragement! I think it's important as well. Would love to stay in touch, Alexa, so nice to meet you. Will send you a DM!
I love this thread and thank you for being so transparent about your salary, the resulting conversations have been very helpful to me in thinking about how and when to ask for a raise.Out of curiosity, if you are a marketing director in startup, what would you say is a reasonable amount of salary to make?
My salary trajectory as a data scientist, $82500 (in Toronto, forgot how much equity) 1 yr, $95000 (in Toronto, new company, 50k equity over 4 years, 1 yr), $176000 (SF, new company, 2.5 yrs, L4 with no raise during this time, 500k equity over 4 years is not liquid), $262500 (new company, L5, 350k equity over 4 years).When you talk about a raise, you are really talking about a promotion from L3 to L4. This is generally done semi-annually or annually. Find out the frequency at your work. It is generally structured and can’t be done outside of the window randomly. However, since your company is small, this may not be the case. The most important piece is see if your manager is aligned on getting you promoted right now and will fight for you. Generally at bigger places, you should be able to get a sense if you are up for promotion a couple month before performance review season.
thank you for sharing! <3 as an update, I've reached out to my company and we plan on revisiting my level in October. (that is when we're doing our first levelling evaluation as a company). Unfortunately did not get a raise, but was encouraged to keep it up and keep performing. It was very disappointing, but it was a good learning experience to ask for something I was afraid of asking for and dealing with the disappointment. Thank you to all the Elphas that helped me through this!