My Salary Progression in Tech

There was a recent tweet that asked people to share their salary as a means of helping others, so I’ll do that. I don’t think it’s enough, however1. It will give you power in your own negotiations, but it’s not enough1, again. To help you more, I highly recommend Patrick McKenzie’s (@patio11) article on Salary Negotiation. In my case I used some of his techniques; but as this was 2010, his article wasn’t written yet. It’s one of the best articles I’ve seen on salary negotiation. Seriously, go read it.

My salary increases over the years have been due to a few things:
1. Knowing what I brought to the table and selling that.
2. Showing that I bring more value than I’m asking for.
3. Not being emotionally invested in the outcome. (Which is somewhat ironic as being emotionally invested is what ends up getting me in trouble later on).

I have never threatened to leave a job if I wasn’t given a raise; as I feel like that leads to a “Gosh, what will happen with George if we give it to him? Will he stick around? He’s already mentioned leaving!” mentality. I also don’t ask twice. If I don’t get it, then I step back, learn what’s valuable to the other party, and do more of that, visibly.1, once again Anywhere you see a bump for the same employer is where I’ve asked for a raise (discounting the cost of living raises; as I did not ask for those).

In instances where I’ve changed jobs, which I’ve done quite a few times throughout my career; it was generally done for more money or an intangible benefit (for instance, I loved working at Higher Logic, but left to join Jewelbots because I really believed in Sara Chipps‘ mission). I left Silkroad technology (even though I loved the team) because I had moved to Northern Virginia and couldn’t make it in NoVA on North Carolina wages (the cost of living jumped by 35%). Similarly, I left The Motley Fool to join Higher Logic because there was an opportunity for a bit of a pay increase; and as a new father I couldn’t turn that down (though, the Fool is pretty awesome to work for).

A final note, this is just salary. I’m not including 401K employer contributions, bonuses, or anything of that nature (it clouds the base-pay issue; and if you’re living month to month (like we were), base-pay is all that really matters. I will say that base-pay isn’t the full story. Jewelbots couldn’t offer health insurance but they fully covered my COBRA. Since Higher Logic had an amazing healthcare plan; it was a really good place to be in.

I should also note (so final_note_2), that @vcsjones is the one that got me realizing I should ask for more money. We were having a conversation on our way down to RevolutionConf 2016, and we stopped at a local brewery he suggested for a beer and food. I asked him what he made — I had had a few sips of beer, to be fair — but credit to him, he told me. They aren’t my facts to tell, but he is the one that helped me see the local market was not what Glassdoor made it out to be.

So here it is, my salary progression in tech (Note, as I just opened my business; there is no revenue to report).

2004US ArmyHR Admin$26,460 (E-5)2 yearsFt. Bragg, NCVBA
IT Admin$42,0001+ yearStatesville,
Perl, C#
$48,0001+ yearWinston-
2009CACI Inc.Developer
$85,0001+yearChantilly, VAC#,
2010CACI Inc.Team Lead$120,000*
2011The Motley
Developer$87,0003+ yrsAlexandria,
2012The Motley
2013The Motley
2014The Motley
$120,000*1+ yearRosslyn, VAC#,
Reston, VAC#,
$185,000*Reston, VA
2019Hollow Wall

*: The Asterisk (*) indicates when I’ve asked for raises or otherwise negotiated for that salary.

1: Privilege is a large part of the equation; the privilege to not care; the privilege to be a white dude in an industry that (either intentionally or unintentionally) caters to white dudes. Yes, this reflects playing the game on easy mode. I have no doubts there. I’m writing that it’s not enough because I am too privileged to be able to see what non-white dudes should do. So if you’re a white dude reading this, make it better for everyone by not being cheap on compensation (and recognize any potential bias or privilege you may have).

9 thoughts on “My Salary Progression in Tech”

  1. Thanks for that, quite interesting. I’m a poor negotiator and know it, so I just move on if my salary drops below market. That seems to work great, and I’d recommend it to others who don’t negotiate well. Usually you’ll get a better raise by switching employers anyway.

    I’ve made somewhat more than you at my peak, but at least in my case, I earned every dollar, in the sense that the highest-paying environments were quite vicious and existentially demoralizing places to work. Being highly paid can also be a real problem if you ever get divorced–more than 100% of my gross income goes to alimony, due to a subsequent involuntary downshift.

    Having been up and down comp-wise, my advice is to slow down and smell the flowers. Life is short, and the idea that others are romping in greener grass is largely an illusion.

  2. White people need to start pushing up and amplifying the salaries and skills of their marginalized, and more often highly skilled, coworkers of color. This shouldn’t just be through tweets and feel good LinkedIn notes, but with action. If you’re in a higher paying job, pay for a person of color to finish school, subsidize their rent and food, even buy them a new computer. If you’re in a position to hire and fire, hire more women, queer, trans, black, and latinx. If hard times come, lay-off your more privileged employees. That might sound harsh, but so was thousands of years of oppression.

    If you want to be an ally against white supremacy, act.

    1. The desire for vengeance is human and within us all. Ultimately, though, you can succumb to that desire, or you can take the counsel of MLK and those like him. You can’t do both.

  3. Great topic, and indeed I feel it’s quite odd to see people share their salary so “easy”.

    I’m really curious, in case you have additional numbers, what was your savings rate with each salary over the years?
    How did the salary raises change your lifestyle over the years?

  4. I appreciate your transparency. I agree that it is the only way we can achieve salary equality. Out of curiosity, why did you leave the last few company sections blank? Curious since I live in Reston. 🙂

  5. Based on my experience as an employer, there will be fraction among staffs if salaries are revealed as comparison will happen. I would pay more to a worker if he or she performed much more better than the others but I will always explain why he/she is getting more. Surprisingly, I noticed improvement from the slack ones.

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