How I tripled my pay from $50K to $150K in two yearsFeatured

Our new Salary Journeys 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 Journey with us? Please fill out this form here and we will get back to you (can be posted anonymously, too! 😉 ).

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For years, I had been preaching to young people about working towards changing their family financial history, creating opportunities for underrepresented talent (like us) in corporate spaces, and creating a new “path” for others to follow.

I was working at a nonprofit as a Program Manager, where I supported and guided underrepresented young adults through their career pursuits in the tech industry.

Two weeks into the pandemic, I received a phone call.

I had received many phone calls like this before and, in this case, had built a rapport with a program participant who was once again in tears. I spent the next hour encouraging and motivating her to not give up and continue working towards meeting her goal for a full-time job in tech.

But as I hung up the phone, my lengthy career in non-profit flashed before my eyes: I realized that I was preaching about different forms of fulfillment but hadn’t set the example first myself. That’s when I thought, “Soph, you too can do all these things and need to, so these young people see you not only preaching it, but living it”.

At the time, I was working a nonprofit job, getting paid $55,000 a year – which is exceptionally low for Seattle – and as a single mom to two kiddos I was tired. That day I decided I would begin to use my network to transition into tech. Using my skills as a former Career Counselor, Program Manager, and mother, I knew all it would take would be one opportunity to show what I could accomplish.

With the help of my network, I landed an 18-month contract/vendor role at Microsoft working as a Program Manager for a DEI program doing work that I absolutely live for. This opportunity not only increased my pay by $30k, but I found a networking community that is priceless.

After gaining some serious industry skills and knowledge, my team was still unable to convert my role to full-time. But, I was able to use my network again, helping me build my resume and apply for a contingent worker Recruiter role at Meta. This next opportunity increased my pay by another $30k.

As a contingent worker, I struggled with the cost of medical insurance for my children and even though I was making great money, I was paying out so much in benefits that it became unbearable. I decided to begin looking for a full-time role, which leads me to where I am now.

I was recently hired for a full-time role with TikTok as a Recruiter and am making another $30k more a year this time with full benefits. I am not just preaching but now I am living out what I helped so many others do. Now, I have the opportunity to work from inside my company to promote diverse talent while getting paid my worth!

Implementing these 5 things in my life helped me increase my salary:

1. Find your passion. What type of work do you want to do and get paid well for doing? I knew my heart was in helping create career opportunities for people who come from underrepresented backgrounds, like me. I did this in the public sector for years. Now all I had to do was pivot to the private sector. I researched different roles in tech that were relatable to the work I was doing and applied. This increased my pay from $50k a year to $150k a year in total compensation!

2. Find your transferable skills. If you are transitioning fields, look at your current skills and think about how you would transfer them to the new industry. I had managed, created and implemented change in learning and development programs, recruited for these programs, as well as kept data for grant funded programs. These skills were all transferable to the tech industry.

3. Find your network. Network, Network, Network! This is everything. If you have someone going to bat for you in a room full of people, this is key. Make those connections in every community you step into. Whenever I have the opportunity to join an employee resource group, a conference, or just connect on Linkedin, I create a network of people I aspire to be like in my career.

4. Know your worth. One of my good friends always tells me “There is only one Sophia! No one in the world can do what you do!” Take a moment to think about this for yourself. What do you bring to the table? What skills do you possess? What have you accomplished? What will you accomplish? Set up your resume so you can speak to your value adds when it comes to negotiation. Then, check the market rate for the position you want. I used salary references from Elpha’s Salary Database and other online salary tips to help me negotiate.

5. Give back. I am here today because of the many people who helped me rethink my resume, who put in a good word for me, and gave me an opportunity to show off my skills. Being intentional in giving back is important. Put time on your schedule weekly just for coffee chats, resume reviews, etc. How can you help other women grow to where they want to be financially? This is the ultimate way we can create change in how we are paid.

I cannot state this enough: as women, we have the power to move mountains, so let's start by moving our own mountain in the workplace and let’s move our pay.

ershovamaria's profile thumbnail
Thank you for sharing this Sophia! What would you recommend when there is a trade off between working in a team that you like versus taking a higher paid job offer (in the same work area you are passionate about)?
sophiavaldez's profile thumbnail
Thank you for your question I have been here many times! If you wanna reach out to me via LinkedIn we can chat!
kemikelsons's profile thumbnail
Thanks for sharing your story, Sophia!!
sophiavaldez's profile thumbnail
Thank you for reading. Hope it was helpful!
miagomez's profile thumbnail
This is incredibly informative and really inspiring! It made me rethink how I can demonstrate transferrable skills and communicate value. Thank you for sharing!
sophiavaldez's profile thumbnail
Thank you for reading! 😊
cattxx's profile thumbnail
Sophia thank you so much for sharing this!! So inspiring and hope your kids are having a better life and more opportunities now! I was wondering if you’d be willing to share some tips about getting hired as a software dev in tech companies?
sophiavaldez's profile thumbnail
Thank you for reading of course I would! Feel free to reach out on LinkedIn!
cattxx's profile thumbnail
Just sent! <3
monicaharris's profile thumbnail
Love this ❤️ !
sophiavaldez's profile thumbnail
Thank you for reading!! 🥰
LiaODonnell's profile thumbnail
Thank you for sharing your journey. I too started my career in the nonprofit sector, and have pivoted into tech. I ask anyone considering it if they're truly willing to live their life without the ability to order takeout when you're too tired to cook without thinking twice, pay someone else to clean your house, build equity through home ownership. Would they rather earn $75K or $150K and support causes you believe in by serving on a board of directors (and advocating for pay increases for their staff) and donating annually? It's a question of what power you want to build for yourself in life, and women in particular should think long and hard about whether they are willing to forgo building their own power.
sophiavaldez's profile thumbnail
Thank you for reading! It’s so true! So many other ways to give back!! My passion only leaves me if I allow it!
erintate's profile thumbnail
One of my biggest "aha" moments in my career transition from nonprofits into tech was realizing that I could set a goal to serve on a board and impact people the way some of my favorite board members impacted me. It's not walking away from the issues, it's tackling them from a different angle!
fayehayes's profile thumbnail
Love your story, @sophiavaldez!
lydiastepanek's profile thumbnail
What hard work you put in! Switching to a new field takes a ton of courage. Very impressed.
lindsayc's profile thumbnail
This is really powerful, Sophia! Thank you for the share. I'm so glad you include time for giving back in your program -- it sounds like you're a guiding light for many other people. As another single parent, I'm cheering for you! Would you be open to sharing your story for other single parents?
vestaviasmith's profile thumbnail
Amazing advice especially for someone (me) who is struggling with whether I should stay put out of some type of loyalty or finally commit to pivoting into tech! Will definitely request to connect on LinkedIn.
This is really insightful! Thank you so much for sharing 🙌
SylvChoi's profile thumbnail
Love that for you! Especially as the market has become so hot, and people are really examining how they want to spend their days and their lives. Thank you for sharing your story. My husband and I used to work in non-profit for a little bit, and we have said that B-Corps may be the better way forward because having a passion for helping people or causes shouldn’t mean you have to be scraping by.
sandragodinhosilva's profile thumbnail
Really loved your post! A great compilation of actionable steps to speed up career growth and personal development!
kunjalpanchal's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Sophia. This will help me in career change. I am an accidental marketer but I am an average performer. I know I can't do best (I dont know why I have this belief). I really want to move in Data analysis and started working on that.
nandhinimadan's profile thumbnail
Hi Sophia, I am also from Seattle and currently looking for job. Please dm and let's get connected and share knowledge.
Hello Sophia,I have been attempting to make the move you have made for the past 6 months. I would love to connect and talk more about how you translated your skills.If you are open, I will find you on Linkedin.