In our series My 6-Figure Paycheck, women making more than $100,000 open up about how they got there and what exactly they do. We take a closer look at what it feels like to be a woman making six-figures — when only 5% of American women make that much, according to the U.S. Census — with the hope it will give women insight into how to better navigate their own career and salary trajectories.
Today, we chat with an operations implementation manager from Austin, TX. Previously, we spoke to a marketing strategic lead in Los Angeles, an international tax manager in Pittsburgh, PA, and a physician in Philadelphia.
Job: Operations Manager in Fashion/Technology
Location: Austin, TX
Degree: Bachelor's in PR, English
First Salary: $39,000
Current Salary: $117,000
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
"When I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional gymnast. When I started to realize that may not be a long-term career path, I thought I'd want to be an astronaut or a marine biologist. Ironically, I didn't wind up pursuing science in school but do still wish I had."
What did you study in college?
"I went to college and got an undergrad degree in PR. I graduated at 21 and always intended to go back to grad school, but never wound up having the financial freedom to quit working long enough to go. I wanted to get an MBA, but I didn't know how I was going to be able to shoulder the $90K in debt while trying to live on a very humble salary out of school. If I could go back, I'd get an undergrad in computer science and a minor in business and call it a day. Now that I'm ten years out of school and have years of work experience, I've finally let my insecurities around not having a master's go."
Did you have to take out student loans?
"I took out about $50K for student loans and paid them off in three years out of school. I ate a lot of ramen, worked full-time while in college, and had two jobs once I got out of school."
Have you been working at this company since you graduated from college?
"I have had a wild ride career-wise since college. I was the director at a startup, joined a different startup that was acquired by a major player in the performance fitness space, freelanced for a year (had four or five jobs), and then have been at my current company for over four years."
How would you explain your day-to-day role at your job?
"I help build tools and create processes for a client-experience team for a big business that's expanding globally in the retail and fashion space. I used to manage large teams of people, but now primarily manage projects and product development."
Did you negotiate your salary?
"The first few jobs I tried to negotiate, but I have a long history working for startups that often had small budgets and couldn't give more at the time. I will say, I always worked for companies that had a mission and values I aligned with, and I actually counted those as part of my compensation because those have always been important to me. My current salary is comped based on market standards, and company-wide, salary negotiations aren't how we collectively choose to determine comp."
Is your current job your “passion”? If not, what is?
"Actually, I'm lucky enough to be able to say yes. I love my job. I absolutely love it. The value system of the people I work for is incredible, and they're making smart business decisions while maintaining their soul. I feel so incredibly fortunate to be able to interact with people in my professional life in a way that I choose to in my personal life as well, and that is something that, outside of money or even work required, I'm deeply passionate about. As for long-term passion, I have an entrepreneurial streak in me and am starting my own business on the side of my full-time job. Eventually I'd like to grow that into a place where we can expand nationally, and then I'll step out of hustling hard on someone else's dream and chase my own with all of my attention and energy!"
If you could, would you change anything in your career trajectory?
"Absolutely nothing about the past ten years of my life would be anything that I would change. I started with very meager pay and a simple lifestyle, only worked for companies that I aligned with that have good ethics, worked really, really hard wherever I was, and 100% earned my way up to where I'm at now. Those years of cranking at places that taught me what I know today made me tough, kind, and secure enough in my own intellect and work ethic to feel confident that I'll be okay wherever I go next. I feel gratitude every day for where I'm at, but none of it was luck."
What professional advice would you give your younger self?
"You are only as good as the people around you. Vulnerability and asking for help is not a weakness. Pull up a seat at the boys' table, even if they don't invite you. Be kind but be direct, and understand that being a true leader takes more work and effort behind the scenes than you could ever possibly prepare for until you're in it. It's easy to see someone on Instagram or in a Refinery29 post that you think encapsulates the definition of "successful," but what you don't see is the hours of effort and the untold "failures" those same folks have experienced in private. Success is a dirty word, and I think we should do away with it. Work hard, be kind, be truly confident, and chase what is right for you. Then everything else (money included) will follow shortly after."
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