I'm A Technical Account Manager & I Made More By Going Hourly

In our series Salary Stories, women with long-term career experience open up about the most intimate details of their jobs: compensation. It’s an honest look at how real people navigate the complicated world of negotiating, raises, promotions, and job loss, with the hope it will give young women more insight into how to advocate for themselves — and maybe take a few risks along the way.
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Age: 32
Current Location: San Francisco, CA
Current Industry & Title: Online Advertising, Technical Account Manager
Starting Salary: $24,000
Current Salary: $100,000 + $15,000 potential bonus
Number Of Years Employed: 9
Biggest Salary Jump: From $55,000 to $67,000 in 2014
Biggest Salary Drop: No true drop, but a change in pay structure in 2018, when I went from $130,000 (working an hourly rate + overtime and bonuses) to a $100,000 salary with potential of up to $15,000 in bonuses.
Biggest Salary Negotiation Regret: "My biggest negotiation regret was in my early 20s, when I was transitioning out of law and into advertising. I was getting paid nothing at the law firm I spent over a yeah and a half at. I worked for really aggressive and demeaning lawyers who would tell me that I was lucky I was employed by them every time I brought up salary. Looking back, I would have brought up the salary discussion in a different way, but as a 23-24-year-old, I did not know how to confidently and appropriately request a salary increase. Working for those types of lawyers/employers made me feel like I wasn't worth a higher salary."
Best Salary-Related Advice: "The best salary-related advice would be to 'know your worth. It's very cheesy but very sound advice I got from my parents. Going in for an interview seems very one-sided from the perspective of the interviewee, but we often forget that we need to look at the interview process as a way of assessing if the employer is a good fit for us as well. Employers will more times than not initially offer a salary below their threshold, and that is where we can lose confidence in negotiation. Do your research on similar positions in the industry, understand your potential value to the employer, and always ask for more than you're comfortable asking. Setting the bar higher will increase the possibility that you'll get an initial offer closer to what you really want."
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1 of 9
"My first job was as a case manager at a personal-injury law firm in California. We were basically a 1-800 Yellow Book law firm. It was my first job out of school, and I was so happy and honored to move to a full-time position from my internship. I assisted in taking in new clients, setting the clients up for doctors' appointments and tests, and corresponded with insurance companies.

"But the atmosphere was toxic in my opinion. A couple of attorneys (one of whom I worked directly under) were at times verbally abusive and very dominating in personality. Personal-injury attorneys have a reputation, and this place was not the exception. Our main priority was to make as much money as possible, even if it was at the cost of the clients' and the employees' well-being.

"When I approached the lead attorney for a raise, he yelled at me (where everyone in the office could hear) and told me that I was lucky to have this opportunity. I was getting paid $24k a year, which could be lower than minimum wage. The clients were another story — many of them (sadly true) were there to make money as well, and often used me and other case managers as punching bags. I got a lot of insight into a world I had never grown up with, the level of poverty people experience that would drive them to look toward our services to get their 'big break.'

"Not everyone at the law firm was as cruel and hard to work with as the two main attorneys. I did make many friends. But it was an experience that was less desirable, but honestly I am happy I went through it. Everyone has that one horrible job, and it's one I can reminisce on and reflect at how far I've come since then."
2 of 9
"I decided to quit my job in law because I was overworked, under-appreciated, and worn out. During my time off, I was looking to move to San Francisco and came across a receptionist position for online advertising. I was taken aback by the offer of $45,000, as it was more than a $20,000/year increase from my position at the law firm. I gladly accepted.

"As a receptionist at a very profitable larger private company with a startup culture, I manned the front desk, took calls, assisted visitors, made food/snack/drink/office supply orders, etc. Overall the work was great — I really loved it when I first started. Anything was better than the law firm, and I was making almost 2x as much! But toward the end, it was too easy and I was looking for something more challenging. But I felt very lucky to get free meals, drinks, gum, tampons, etc., as this was something I could never have imagined a workplace could provide."
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3 of 9
"During my time as a receptionist, I got amazing chances to work with the execs and different directors doing admin and organizational tasks. One exec reached out, thinking I would be a good fit for a position as a campaign manager on his team. I decided to go through the interview process and transfer positions. This was very validating for me, as I had felt very insecure coming into the tech space without any experience. Within two years, I was able to live comfortably in a city that is very expensive and got great feedback from colleagues, something I would never have expected at my first job.

"As a campaign manager, I worked with brands and agencies to execute online video campaigns on our platform. I would assist in tagging the creatives, setting them up in our platform, and trafficking and optimizing the creatives to websites, geos, audience segments, etc. in order to achieve the goals of our clients. It was a very analytical role, which (as a history major) I wasn't fluent in. It took a lot of time for me to get used to it, and at times I felt insecure I wasn't fit for the job. The job could be very stressful, as we were dealing with a lot of money and advertising. One mistake could cause us to lose a lot of business. However, I worked with a great team (some of whom are very good friends to this day) and really did feel proud and driven by my work."
4 of 9
"Within a year in my position as a campaign manager, I was given a sizable increase. Personally, I believe it was because I did not get a promotion that others got, but my manager was still able to take care of me with the increase. I basically got a promotion increase without the promotion. One thing I really wish I pushed during this time was a promotion, but coming from very demeaning bosses at the law firm, I was very timid in asking for something like that. Others had been assertive in asking consistently for promotions, and they rose to leads and management positions a lot quicker than I ever did. This struggle comes into play further down the road, as you'll see."
5 of 9
"Pretty quickly after my increase to $67k, I got another increase. Not sure why — I was not really given an explanation, aside from a great review from my manager. By then I had become pretty active in bigger projects on top of my day-to-day, and the increase in responsibility was reflected in the form of a pay increase. Still no promotion, however, and I was beginning to feel very bitter and confused as to why I hadn't gotten one yet. I still was not actively pushing for one, but at the time I assumed it would naturally come. Others who started after me and who did not have as much responsibility were getting promoted to positions higher than me. I really wish during this time I knew to be aggressive about this. Money increase is a very great thing, and I am so grateful to have been consistently getting more money; however, recognition and respect were things I wanted more of at the time."
6 of 9
"My company was acquired by a bigger and more corporate company, and as a result my position was moved to hourly. Anyone in online advertising knows that it's never a 9-5 — you work on the weekends and at night/odd hours to ensure your campaigns are running smoothly. This switch to hourly seemed like a demotion at the time, but I eventually appreciated the new structure, as I was really making closer to $80,000-$85,000 base yearly due to overtime."
7 of 9
"Again I was getting salary increases without promotions. I was now making $80,000, plus $8,000 in stock options that would vest after three years. Note that at this time, I was still on the same level as I was when I first started as a campaign manager in 2013. But in a bigger corporate company, promotions are a lot harder to come by. I was aggressively pushing for a promotion by now, and I was told by my manager and directors that I was "next on the list"; however, as promotion cycles went by, I saw others get promotions and still nothing for me. By this time I was getting burnt out with the current position and wanted to pivot into project management. I was working on so many side projects while managing campaigns that it felt like a natural move."
8 of 9
"I was approached for this position without even seeking it out. I felt so lucky and excited! With the new position I was able to get up to $90,000. On top of the new job, I was able to finally get the 'promotion' I had been seeking. Logistically, it was easier for me to gain a level at the same time as changing positions. This increase in a level would be VERY beneficial to me later in 2017, when I was part of a round of layoffs. I received six months' severance with benefits (I know, very nice) because of my level increase seven months prior. If I hadn't had that level increase, I would have only gotten four months of severance, so I was very relieved with the extra two months. By then I was burnt out with the company I had spent the past five years of my life with, and getting laid off with six months' severance seemed like more of a gift than a punch in the stomach."
9 of 9
"With only two weeks left of my severance, I started at a new company. I had spent 5.5 months not working and enjoyed every second of it, but of course I needed health insurance and a paycheck, so I needed to get back to work. I was approached by my now manager for this position, which was very similar to my position in project management. I was initially offered $95,000, with bigger bonus potential, but one thing that was missing that I had grown to expect from my previous job was equity. Being able to vest stocks, which I was granted at my previous company, provided me with extra income of $5k–$10k per year. Plus, in 2017 I made close to $130,000 with overtime hours and bonuses, so I was prepared to counter. I made the argument that I relied on equity as an extra source of income. They came back and offered what I make now, and I gladly accepted. This process was huge for me; it wasn't about making more money as much as it was pushing myself to have this difficult conversation with my potential employer. I am still at this position, currently making the same amount of money. It will be a year in a few months, and I am starting to conceptualize where I want to be by the end of 2019."
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