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.
Job: Senior Director of Curriculum & Instruction
Degree: Bachelor's in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Master's in Nonprofit Management
First Salary: $41,115
Current Salary: $100,000
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
"As the oldest child of two immigrant parents, I don't exactly remember what I wanted to be when I was a kid, but I do know that the expectations were really high. At some point in high school, I decided that I wanted to be in medicine, and so I followed a pre-med track through college. However, by the time I wrapped up my undergrad degree, I was super burned out and was looking for any way to take a break from school, while also paying my bills. In thinking about that, I kind of fell into teaching and I've literally never left school ever since."
What did you study in college?
"I have a bachelor's in brain and cognitive sciences from MIT with a minor in public policy. I also have a master's in nonprofit management from Northeastern University with a concentration in leadership."
Did you have to take out student loans?
"My undergrad degree was covered completely by my college. I did have about $5,000 in credit card debt from books and other college expenses. I also had roughly $35,000 in debt from my graduate degree, though about $17,000 of that was forgiven for my years of service while working at a school in an underserved community. Thus far, I've paid off an additional $10,000, so now I have a little over $7,000 left."
Have you been working at this company since you graduated from college?
"No. I was initially hired as an apprentice teacher at a school, and was promoted to teacher, instructional coach, and principal over the span of eight years. I recently changed schools, and I now work at a district level."
How would you explain your day-to-day role at your job?
"My job is to support principals with the specific types of coaching that need to happen at their schools."
Did you negotiate your salary?
"For most of my career, I didn't negotiate my salary because most schools have pretty ironclad teacher salary scales that are negotiated by teacher unions. However, this past year, when I decided to leave a school that I had been at for about eight years, I purposefully told myself that I wouldn't accept a job that offered less than six figures. I knew my skill set and my experience matched up with what I was asking for."
Is your current job your “passion”? If not, what is?
"No. While I enjoy this level of work, I do miss the daily interaction with students, teachers, and parents. Ideally, I would like to have a job where I get to have a more direct role with the students in our school. Being a young principal of color was a super unique experience that I know really inspired my students, and I miss having that level of impact."
If you could, would you change anything in your career trajectory?
"I would spend a little more time networking and building relationships outside of my organization. When the time came for me to change things up, I really relied on the friendships and partnerships that I had created along the way."
What professional advice would you give your younger self?
"Take the job even if you feel unprepared — chances are that a good mentor and a willingness to work hard will make up the difference."
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