I Went From Making $60K To $210K By Becoming A Product Designer

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 a senior product designer from San Francisco. Previously, we spoke to a customer success engineer from Cincinnati, a marriage and family therapist from the South Bay Area, CA, and a creative director from New York City, NY.
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Job: Senior Product Designer
Age: 33
Location: San Francisco, CA
Degree: Bachelor's in architecture
First Salary: $45,000
Current Salary: $210,000
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
"I always wanted to be an architect as a kid and was able to achieve that goal when I became an adult, which seems to be a rarity."
What did you study in college?
"I got a bachelor's degree in architecture. In college, my degree and career trajectory were pretty straightforward compared to my friends'. I got a degree in architecture and then became an architect. My passion for architecture at the time created a bit of tunnel vision. I was so set on becoming an architect that I didn't spend any time in college considering other career options."
Did you have to take out student loans?
"I attended an in-state public university before prices skyrocketed, so I was able to pay for most of it with grants, scholarships, and a part-time job. I took out $26,000 in federal student loans to cover the difference. Fortunately, my federal loans are at 2.25%, from before rates tripled or quadrupled. I have less than $3,000 left that will be paid off in two years. I've been taking my time paying them off, because the interest is so low and its longevity is contributing to my credit score being in the 800s."
Have you been working at this company since you graduated from college?
"Since graduating from college, I've worked many different jobs before this most recent job. All my jobs the first six years out of college were related to architecture and started off at $45,000, dropped to $35,000 during the recession, and peaked at $60,000. All my jobs in the past six years were in tech as a product designer, making $12 an hour to $130,000 and now $210,000. I took a pay cut to intern as a product designer at $12 an hour to get my foot in the door, and it paid off in the long run. "
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How would you explain your day-to-day role at your job?
"I design the experience of a section of my company's website and app. I work with my team to come up with ideas on how we can improve the experience. I'll create many design concepts to visualize those ideas. Then I'll test a few design concepts with customers to figure out which design provides a good experience and should get built."
Did you negotiate your salary?
"I usually negotiate my salary, but for my most recent job I didn't, because I was really satisfied with their offer. They offered me $60,000 to $70,000 more than what I was shooting for. I was aiming for the high end of what's typical for my role at a comparable company in this city. Their offer was above and beyond that."
Is your current job your “passion”? If not, what is?
"I don't consider my current job my 'passion,' but I enjoy it as a creative and flexible career that makes me happy overall in life. I was passionate about architecture but struggled with the low pay, competitive pressure, limited opportunities, and long hours."
If you could, would you change anything in your career trajectory?
"I wouldn't have stuck it out in architecture for so long. I would have opened myself up to other fields earlier on, instead of being hung up on following my childhood dream."
What professional advice would you give your younger self?
"It's okay to quit your dream career. Life is more than just your career. If your career is negatively impacting your ability to enjoy life, then maybe consider a different one. Think about the type of life you want to live, and find a career that can provide that life."
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Are you a woman under 35 with a six-figure salary ($100,000+) and want to tell your story? Submit it here.
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