Our Salary Paths series aims to give fellow Elphas a reference point for salary negotiations and encourage more women to talk about compensation. We hope that opening up the conversation will contribute to more pay transparency and equitable pay.
Interested in sharing your Salary Path with us? Please fill out this form here and we will get back to you (can be posted anonymously like this one, too! 😉 ).
When I was studying for my degree in English and Publishing, I dreamt of one day being an Editor in a Publishing house. I set myself a goal to become an Editor by the time I turned 35, a goal which was in some ways ambitious.
When I became an Editor at 24, I lacked the sense of achievement that I anticipated, and was left wondering “Okay, but what now?”. That’s when I decided to turn my focus to learning about Product, and my journey into Tech started.
I landed my first job in Publishing a few weeks after my course finished, and was the only graduate from my course who had to take annual leave to attend graduation. I suppose my sense of wanting to fend for myself, be able to support myself, and to be financially independent was ingrained in me and my siblings from a young age. Growing up, we were taught to be independent and resilient, how to advocate for ourselves and stand up against injustices, and, crucially, that we can, and should, walk into any room and hold our own.
I started out as an Editorial Assistant (a clichéd first role in Publishing, I know) earning above the going rate for an entry level role in the UK. After 1 year I moved to a different Publisher as an Editorial Project Manager for £2k more; a small hop salary-wise, but I was confident this role would be a good stepping stone to propel me forward.
At this new company, I looked around me and was frankly uninspired by the slow, conventional progression on display, so I decided to be the first to buck that trend. I looked at what the Editors around me were doing, and began to copy. After a few months, I had signed enough books to prove my ability, and made the decision to hire me as an Editor, a no-brainer.
Lesson learned: You’ve got to carve your own path, no one will do that for you. You can be the first to do anything; don’t follow trends and pre-defined career paths if they don’t inspire you. You can skip levels, move sideways, change industries entirely - go with your gut and you’ll always gain something.
As soon as an opportunity arose, I put myself forward and landed the job. I was the first to move directly into an Editor role in the company without first being an Associate Editor, and let me tell you, frustrations were aired on those anonymous internal forums! Instead of getting a pat on the back for my achievement, I was unfortunately met with animosity by others who felt hard done by. Although I managed to skip over a level of the traditional hierarchy, my salary increase was capped at +15%, something I now understand to be that I got the job title of an Editor, but the salary of an Associate.
After over a year in the role, a male colleague and good friend became an Editor and it quickly came to light that his salary was slightly higher than mine, despite me having more experience than him. Unfortunately, when I raised this discrepancy with management and HR, they couldn’t see what my issue was and shut me down. After many attempts to resurface my case, I had no choice but to give up. Surprisingly, a few months later, the company reviewed all Editor salaries and made noticeable changes; mine increased by £8k. I can’t take credit for this, but I’d like to think that raising the topic with management and HR at least put it on their radar and brought about change and awareness.
Lesson learned: Talk about your salary with colleagues at your level and above. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking with people you work with day-to-day, join a Women’s Network that fosters a safe space for these conversations, where you can share experiences and use your network for advice on how to navigate tough negotiations. Knowledge of what others around you are earning is great to have in your back pocket to help you negotiate your next raise, advocate for others in your community, or raise concerns. If you feel undercompensated and not listened to, move on. Don’t sit in a role until bitterness sets in.
& a jump
After 3 years as a successful Editor, my work became second nature and I was bored. I was 27 and had untapped energy that I wanted to channel into my work. For me, publishing was a steady, at times slow, industry, and I decided it was time to try something new. I knew of a few Product Managers and initiated mentoring relationships with them to learn about their role. I was instantly interested - the most enjoyable parts of my existing job could be well transferred across to Product, and I was excited at the prospect of learning about a whole new world. I spent 6 months learning about Product Management, taking Agile training, and applying whatever I could to my existing work and team structure.
I started applying for jobs in tech around the time of the start of the pandemic, and found it difficult to convince hiring managers at the final stage of interviews that I was worth hiring over someone with existing experience. All I needed was for someone to take a punt on me. I knew I could do a great job once I had my foot in the door, and that finally happened when I was hired by my current company in September 2021 as a Product Manager.
I was aware that Tech pays well, but I didn’t realize how well until engaging in those typically cagey discussions that ensue when a hiring manager asks “What salary are you looking for?”. British people are notoriously terrible at talking about money. It’s a taboo that is thankfully changing as GenZs enter the workforce, but most job advertisements still do not indicate a salary range.
I thought I was being cheeky asking for £20k more than I earned at the time, expecting to be negotiated down. But when they immediately offered me a £25k jump, the reality of the difference in pay across industries was clear. Along with a much higher base salary, my package also included a 10% annual bonus and $150k of Restricted Stock Units. After 3 months my base salary was increased a further £5k in the company’s annual pay review and a small boost to my RSU pot, prorated for the time I had been there.
I quickly became effective in the role and was pleased with my first year’s performance when the annual pay review came around again. This time, my salary increased again by £5k and I was awarded an additional $60k in RSUs, meaning my total annual compensation increased by 162% in just 15 months. Receiving positive feedback that is backed up by monetary reward was not something I had experienced before, but knowing now that my efforts will be rewarded fuels me to continue having an impact at work and is a real motivator.
Lesson learned: Keep going! Moving into a new area is tough, but don’t give up. You will connect with a role and a hiring manager and it will be the right opportunity for you, much better than the ones that didn’t work out before! - & it might change your financial situation in ways you never imagined.
Joining tech was definitely the right decision for me. It is fast-paced, innovative, ever changing, and I am surrounded by inspirational people who inspire me to be better.