A long story about how I more-than doubled my salary in a matter of 3 years. This story is very personal. I’m not trying to brag, or be insensitive. I just wanted to share my story. Take it for what it’s worth.
3 years ago, I graduated with a Computer Science degree from a little college you never heard of. I loved software development but didn't really know what I wanted to do. I got a job offer from a consulting company. The pay was less that the average for the industry, but I took it and did not no negotiate. A mistake on my part.
I could have landed a better offer if I just asked. That was the only difference between me and other developers that were hired at the same time. Asking. Sounds stupid, but it’s true!
I was not the sharpest developer.
In fact, I was clueless. I was embarrassed by my lack of knowledge of foundational programming skills. Something college didn't teach me. I sucked as a developer. However, I was hungry to work and learn. Software development was rewarding and the more I did it, the better I got.
I really wanted to become a better developer.
I worked really hard; teaching myself different things and most importantly, seeking advice from more experienced developers. I knew that the best way to force my self to learn was to step out of my comfort zone. I took several training courses on a variety of topics. I joined an internal project where we worked after-hours to develop a talent management system. At one point, I was putting 60-70 hour weeks. I wrote horrifying code, but I learned a lot and continued to improve.
At some point, I realized I was not being paid enough.
Certainly not as much as other developers who were hired at the same time for the same position with worse programming skills than me.
We need to pause here. You might be wondering, how did I know? Isn’t the “salary conversation” forbidden? Well, yes, but people talk, and I also asked anyone who was comfortable and willing to talk salary with me any chance I got. It was “research”. I thought: “well, if glassdoor says I should be getting paid at least 20k more, whats the harm in asking”.
I hate talking about money. It’s uncomfortable. But no one was going to do it for me. I mustered all the courage I got and walked into the manager’s office:
“Hey, got a few minutes?” - I asked while shaking and sweating like my life was going to end in that instant.
“Sure” - he said
I walked in, closed the door and sat down.
“I’ve been an employee here for a year and a half now, I worked extra hours and put my heart and soul into my work [insert other achievements here]. I’d like to talk about my compensation, I feel that it is not quite adequate given the industry’s average. I believe that I’ve been a valuable employee, however I feel that I’m not valued” or something to tat effect.
Yes, value equaled money for me. Off course other things like recognition and other incentives are great. But money is the most important indicator of how much your company values you. After all, companies are in the business of making money and naturally, money is a business’s most valued asset. But, I did not know exactly what I wanted, and I was not direct about it.
Back to my manager.
“Yes, you’ve made quite the reputation for yourself. Let me see where you’re at and what I can do”
click click he clicked away.
“I see you are at X, I can offer you an extra Y, that’s a 15% increase and is the most I can do at this time”
“Ok, I think that will work, thank you!” I was so uncomfortable, anything to leave... we shook hands and I left.
It felt like victory!
I did not get everything I wanted, because 15% of a really low salary is
a really low number, but I still felt like I won! I got a pay increase just because I asked!
Over the course of the next 2 years, I got on projects where I was a lead developer, the business believed in my ability to outperform devs with more years of experience than me. I’ve proven my value and grew into a better developer with time and hard work!
During those two years, I published open-source code on github, answered Stack Overflow questions, read thousands of technical articles and overall used every free minute I had to better my self as a developer. I was also blessed with a little baby girl who filled my world with joy.
I was still unhappy with my salary
I was reviewing code for developers who made more than me. I was also being approached by technical architect for solutions to problems they could not solve. I made a reputation for myself through helping other developer on team channels on slack (where the management team can see it). I answered every question I saw, or at leased tried to.
I asked for a raise a second and a third time.
I was getting excuses such as “budget” or “bad timing”. I still got raises, but tiny bumps was not what I had in mind. Every time I asked, it was awkward. I was still uncomfortable with the idea that I’m asking for money... it felt like begging.
Until one day...
My wife said to me: “you tend to undervalue yourself. You keep telling me how you write code and solve problems in a similar manner to people who make double what you make”
It hit me hard, I was undervaluing my self. I was part of the problem. I did not ask hard enough.
I left the company for another opportunity. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
About a year later. My old company reached out. A different business unit I have worked with in the past wanted me to join their specialized practice. They believed I would be a valuable asset. This time I was confident, I knew what I wanted, and I asked for it. I was ready to say “no”. I negotiated a high salary that someone my age would not be able to negotiate; given my extremely short career. I got what I wanted, and then some! And it was for the right reasons: excellent career growth opportunity, fantastic peers I can learn from, more responsibility, work from home (I can be there for my 2 year old!) and best of all, great salary!
Hard work pays off. And this is only the beginning of the road for me! I’m excited about the future and looking forward to becoming the best developer I can be! (And gain twitter followers with a “K” suffix. Shameless plug: @AhmedAtWork)
Ok, my flight is descending, I dont know what kind of reactions this post will get, but I hope this was helpful to others? Feel free to scream at me in the comments if orherwise :)