welcome to paycheck to paycheck, where workers in the same job across the United States share how much they make, how they got paid, and their best bargaining tips. Ready to join the conversation on pay transparency? Apply to be part of the series here.
In this episode, a 21-year-old woman shares how she makes $65,000 working as an associate project manager in Jacksonville, Florida.
Madison Das just started a new job in January, but she’s pretty sure she’ll get a promotion in a few months.
She’s not cocky – her new employer told her that. Das, 21, lives in Jacksonville, Florida, and started working as an associate project manager at a startup this year. During the interview, she was struck by the way hiring managers asked her about her career plans.
“They said to me, ‘We don’t want you to stay in this role longer than six months,'” Das told CNBC Make It. “My department head and my direct supervisor are both women, and they both said to me, ‘The intention is to bring people in to grow them.'”
Das checked the company’s LinkedIn profile and saw that many of its entry-level employees had been promoted within their first six to eight months. For Das, it was a sign that the company was invested in retaining its employees.
Das accepted the company’s offer as associate project manager and now earns $65,000 in base salary. By the end of the year, Das expects to be promoted to project manager level with the potential to earn $100,000 a year.
TikTok launched his career change
Das studied biomedical sciences, chemistry and sociology in college and applied to medical school but was rejected on her first try. She took time to think about her next move and landed marketing jobs at a few small local businesses.
The Covid-19 pandemic made her want to get into healthcare, so in June 2020 she took a job with a healthcare network to develop a text-based app where patients could connect with their doctor. . She enjoyed working with multiple teams to create training and operations materials.
Das was making $20 an hour, and after a year it went up to $20.90 an hour. But she wanted more pay and career growth and felt it was time to change jobs. While considering another career move, she landed on TikTok project management.
“Honestly, it was TikTok as a platform that helped me put a name to what I was doing, find value in it, and then be able to continue it to what it is today like my career,” she said.
Thanks to the TikTok clips, Das did the kind of work she loved to do — documenting workflows, creating training materials, managing projects — and learned how to earn a project management certification through Google. She completed the six-month course in six weeks and immediately started applying for jobs. She earned her PM certification in mid-December and landed her new job in January.
As Associate Project Manager, Das works on his own projects and plays a supporting role to other members of his team.
“I did it so fast,” Das says of his career change. “It’s like anyone can do it.”
How she would negotiate differently
Das says she initially found discussing compensation in job interviews to be “so uncomfortable.”
She researched online and named her salary expectations between $65,000 and $80,000. But coming from a previous rate of under $21 an hour, “because I was increasing so much, I felt like I was enjoying anything,” Das says.
She also felt pressure as the sole breadwinner for a time: her husband, originally from Brazil, encountered Covid-related delays with his visa and was unable to work for about a year. He received temporary work authorization in September 2021, but his visa status is still pending.
So when Das got the job offer of a starting salary of $65,000 earlier this year, she “just ran with it.” She accepted the package as is, which also includes a telephone and internet allowance, as well as a 10% bonus paid quarterly. Das estimates his total compensation at around $73,000. She is eligible to buy stock options from the company each quarter, which she will do for the first time in late March.
Das feels like she’s been paid fairly because the company has worked with her lineup, and she feels supported on her journey to promotion. But, “if I could go back knowing what I know now, I would negotiate 100%,” she says.
Pay Transparency in Technology
In February, Das posted her own TikTok explaining the difference between her base salary and her total compensation — something she wants to see more often when researching what kind of compensation to negotiate.
She often saw people, mostly men, posting their salaries in the six figures. This included their benefits and stock options, but often didn’t mention base pay, which she needed to work.
Das has heard from other tech newcomers that they feel discouraged and don’t know where to start trading. “The internet is one of the easiest ways to get information, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to get lost,” she says.
Das, who lives with the chronic Ehlers-Danlos heart-valvular syndrome, hopes that posting his own salary breakdown will encourage others from underrepresented backgrounds to find space for themselves in tech. “I’m a biracial Indian, disabled woman in my early twenties. Breaking into technology hasn’t been the easiest thing for me.”
Das has also become more comfortable discussing compensation with his colleagues. During her first week on the job, she asked someone how stock options worked. Her co-worker ended up going over her starting salary, her progression through the company, and how she negotiated her salary — which Das plans to take with her in her next conversation about salary with managers. She believes the startup encourages a culture of transparency, which makes it easier to talk about money.
Das admits that working towards promotion and a raise during the year “feels like crazy fast development”, but given the feedback she has received from supervisors, she feels “very confident that I will be able to accomplish this, whether within my current organization or moving to another.”
Eventually, she wants to rise through the ranks to become a technology executive and lead organizations towards “more success, more growth and more inclusive behaviors in the long term”.
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