I'm A Development Manager In Real Estate — & I Kinda Regret Getting My Architecture Degree

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 real estate development manager from Seattle. Previously, we spoke to a behavioral psychologist from Indianapolis, IN, a school psychologist in San Francisco, and an attorney in Charleston, SC.
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Job: Development manager, real estate
Age: 33
Location: Seattle, WA
Degree: Master of Architecture & Master of Science in real estate
First Salary: $60,000
Current Salary: $137,000
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
"I wanted to be an architect."
What did you study in college?
"I have a bachelor's degree in architecture, a master's degree in architecture, and a master's in real estate."
Did you have to take out student loans?
"Yes, I took out $120,000 to cover my graduate-school tuition as well as my living expenses. I worked as much as possible during my studies, but with two degrees, I ended up taking more out than I had originally planned.
"I was in school for three years. I still have $80,000 to pay off! But I just refinanced so that I can get more aggressive with the pay-down."
Have you been working at this job since you graduated from college?
"I’ve been working since I was 15, but most of my relevant experience post–high school was in the architecture field. This is my second job since grad school and also my second in real estate."
How would you explain your day-to-day role at your job?
"Being a development manager in real estate is about managing an investment through a high-risk period: permitting and construction.
"I put together a budget and schedule, build my team, which consists of an architect, a general contractor, all the engineers and other consultants. We work through design and get the building permitted.
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"Then the fun part starts: construction. We work through marketing and leasing, report to investors, and manage the whole process to keep the investment goals on track. I manage three to four projects at a time and have a team of three."
Did you negotiate your salary?
"Yes. After graduation, I just took the first job without negotiation. That company was good about frequent merit-based raises, and in three years I was making $90,000. Then, when I changed jobs two years ago, I asked for and received $100,000.
"Last spring, I realized I had taken on a lot of responsibilities, like [being the] primary person for client interface, managing other staff members and holding trainings, and being the primary point person for a large portfolio, with all the tasks and responsibilities that entails.
"I asked for a meeting, presented my case (I had done a lot of research), and negotiated up $30,000 in one sitting! I had asked for a $40,000 raise knowing they would counter. I had found out before the meeting that my male colleagues were making significantly more than I was, which gave me the motivation to ask big. I just received a merit-based raise for $7,000 at the end of the year, landing me at my current salary, pre-bonus."
Is your current job your “passion”? If not, what is?
"Absolutely! I’m a huge nerd for building science, architecture and urban design, and sustainability. Most of my best friends are in this field, due to shared passion for it."
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If you could, would you change anything in your career trajectory?
"I would have dropped my Master of Architecture degree. I honestly haven’t used it at all. But at the same time, I made so many friends through it, so I don't completely regret it."
What professional advice would you give your younger self?
"You don’t always have to spread yourself so thin. Be choosy so that you can make sure you really shine at what you do."
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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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