Very shortly after Erica (name changed upon request) had signed on for a new role, she realized she was being underpaid. During the movement of engineers sharing their salaries on Twitter, it became clear she was earning significantly less than male peers on her team doing the same work.
“That’s horribly demoralizing,” says Erica. “I stayed at the company far longer than I normally would have because I loved the project. But I did not want to get to my next job and realize I came in too low or underleveled because I didn't believe in myself or thought I would prove myself after I was hired rather than entering at my value.”
As she began interviewing for other opportunities, she got an offer to join Amazon in an L6 role. While there was a lot of cash on the table, Erica didn’t know if it was a good offer or not, so she reached out to me for help.
Before the recruiter sent the written offer, it occurred to Erica that the L6 role would be a lateral move and too much like her current role, rather than the next step up in her career.
"I’m already chafing under this particular level where I am,” she says.</br></br>
"This was going to be a huge change for my life. I would be moving to a different country. I really needed to see that there was a payoff for doing that beyond just money. Because money isn’t everything — being challenged and having responsibility and resources means a lot more. I knew that if I came in appropriately leveled and appropriately compensated, my head wouldn't be turned by other opportunities. I could solely focus on delivering.”
The process for interviewing L6 and L7 is different. Because she was uncomfortable with the L6 level and it is rare and difficult to get leveled up after an offer, I advised Erica that she should immediately open the discussion with her recruiter about interviewing for L7.
“I asked Josh, ‘Well, how do I do this? I don't want to just say that I want a higher offer. How do I show them what I'm seeing? That this is about more than money. This is about trajectory. This is about responsibility,’” says Erica. “He gave me the best advice on how to put it in the hiring manager's ear and walked me through being patient, because it was going to take awhile.”
For the next few months Erica continued to interview for other opportunities. She also adjusted some of her activities in her current role so that she’d be able to better demonstrate how the work she was doing aligned with the L7 role qualifications.
Six months after pausing the L6 offer, Erica now had a slew of opportunities lined up, including an L7 position at Amazon.
The offers were disparate and Erica wasn’t sure how to compare them or choose between them. I helped her evaluate the offers in terms of the trade-offs and walked her through the long-term impact they might have for her, which Erica says helped reduce the stress of the decision making for her.
”Josh is kind of like a career therapist. You go talk to a therapist because they’ve seen it all. Josh has seen many different careers go many different ways. You tell him what you are wanting and he can be like, ‘I've seen people choose this path who have the same wants and needs and they've experienced these results. Is that the path you want to walk?’ It helped tilt my decision making process in the direction that was best for me."</br></br>
"It was also great because I felt I was being objective and that I had permission to turn around and say ‘no’ to choices that might not make me happiest in the long term. It’s tough to say no to people who obviously adore you and want to work with you. Josh even walked me through the polite way to do it and when appropriate timelines were. So I feel like I did my best by everyone.”
I walked Erica through each stage of the negotiation process and provided context on what was happening behind-the scenes and what to expect next. I also helped her tactfully deal with a less experienced recruiter who was brought in mid-way through the process.
“I loved how empathetic Josh was,” Erica says.</br></br>
“This new recruiter was obviously a little overwhelmed having to pick up the ball suddenly and we could see that they were being a little timid. Josh was like, ‘we need to equip this person with the data that they need to make a compelling case.’ I love how he wasn't just on my side, but he also looked out for this poor little green recruiter who was just trying to do their best. I just appreciated that we managed to be tough, but professional. I really love that vibe. I want to carry it forward.”
Erica also appreciated being able to lean on the ghost-written drafts that I provided for all her communications, which took a lot of pain out of the process. I also gave her alternate drafts in case she got snap responses immediately after a big holiday weekend that fell in the midst of our negotiation.
As a result of our work together, Erica successfully landed an L7 offer from Amazon. We negotiated an additional $80,000 in sign-on bonuses over two years ($40,000 more in year one and $40,000 more in year two).
“We left NOTHING on the table. NOTHING,” says Erica. “I'm not underleveled, underpaid, or underappreciated. I finally have a dollar amount assigned to my forehead that I think is in keeping with what I can do for the company. Now I can just focus on providing the value that I promise, not worrying about whether or not I got a fair deal. The level raise also changes where I sit in the tech recruiting landscape and opens all kinds of strategic and leadership opportunities.”
Erica says the work we did together to evaluate all the options and peer into the futures they offered made her feel more secure that the choice she made was the right one and that this was the best opportunity for her.
“Josh coached me through it objectively in a way that friends, family, and colleagues were hesitant to do. Friends always say, ‘Oh, I want what you want.’ That’s kind, but I want to know what is going to make me happy and what's going to challenge me and take me where I want to go. You need to pay somebody for that information apparently, and it's worth it because everyone else just wants to be a friend and make you happy, but Josh wants you to win.”
Armed with more of an understanding of how the negotiation process works, Erica says she’d be better prepared to do it on her own in the future, but would likely still choose to work with me.
“Josh works with so many different people and he has that insight with all of the major FAANG companies, he can tell you about the trends and what’s going on behind the scenes,” she says. “The kind of spooky behavior that you might take personally, he can explain all of it scientifically so you're not confused or blind-sided. I value not being in the dark, not being confused. I love that he draws on that wellspring of experience to give this custom advice."
Erica says she has been regularly recommending working with me to others, particularly to her minoritized peers who don’t realize how much they’ve been leaving on the table.
“There's an entire market of underpaid folks. For people from disadvantaged groups and backgrounds, I am saying you need somebody there to kick the machine and make it work for you. Because it's not. Make sure you're getting what you're worth, because years and years of people not seeing that in you is a cumulatively dangerous thing for you, your net worth, your career, and your loved ones. You owe it to yourself to talk to Josh and let him give you all the inside playbook.</br></br>
Josh will help you find out what your worth is. He will help you go into these cringy, scary situations where these people have an entire department that is hell bent on getting you in for the lowest price possible. You need somebody in your corner. You need somebody who can tell you how to navigate this because they're not going to do it for you. They just want you to sign on the dotted line. Josh will make sure that you sign on a dotted line that's worth your time.”
I'm Josh Doody, a professional salary negotiation coach who helps Senior Software Engineers and Engineering Managers negotiate job offers from big tech companies. On average, Software Engineers and Engineering Managers improve their first-year compensation by $47,273 with my help.
Apply for a free 15-minute intro call to learn how I can help.