Our new 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, too! 😉 ).
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.