I Make $135,000 As A Marketing Strategic Lead — & I Dropped Out Of College

illustrated by seung won chun
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 marketing strategic lead in Los Angeles. Previously, we spoke to an international tax manager in Pittsburgh, PA, a physician in Philadelphia, and a tech product manager in Dallas.
Job: Strategic Lead, CRM Marketing
Age: 28
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Degree: I didn't graduate from college.
First Salary: $32,000
Current Salary: $135,000
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
"I wanted to be an archaeologist. From a very young age, I had an enormous love for traveling and for ancient history. My favorite movie was The Mummy, and I often daydreamed about ancient Greece and Rome. I'm really introverted, so I spent a lot of my childhood reading as a way of escaping."
What did you study in college?
"I got accepted at and attended a well-known private university for two years, until I had an emotional breakdown. My family wasn't able to support my private-school tuition ($60K a year), and I was taking 22 credits a semester, plus working and interning part-time. I burned out fast and hard. I took a year off and moved back home, and when I thought about going back to school vs. the real-life experience I had learned, I didn't see the value in continuing to pursue higher education."
Did you have to take out student loans?
"I did to cover my first two years. I had over $100K in student loans, both from a private company and in federal student loans. I've paid off approximately $75K of the private, and now am working on paying off my federal loans because they have a lower interest rate. I'm currently saving to buy my first home, so I'm not paying as much toward these as I could, but I will once we make that purchase."
Have you been working at this company since you graduated from college?
"No! I have been in my career now for almost eight years. I started out in customer service and gradually asked for more web-related responsibilities. For the first five years, I did everything from answer questions about orders to write product copy on websites. It wasn't until the second half of the past eight years that I really found my groove in email and CRM marketing.
"I've always been very interested in technology and coding, and found that when I made the transition into email marketing, I was able to pick it up quickly. Those days of coding my MySpace paid off, and I was able to build email templates and advanced audiences with minimal confusion.
"I also want to add that I've been very lucky to work with great female leaders who have made the time to take me under their wing and teach me about retention and data-based marketing. Without them I wouldn't be able to say I am where I currently am in my career. While I may not have always seen eye-to-eye with them, they taught me invaluable skills that were more important than any experience I got in a classroom or while interning."
How would you explain your day-to-day role at your job?
"In a nutshell, I help marketing teams make smart decisions around the technology they use, how they message their customers, and how they plan for the future."
Did you negotiate your salary?
"My newest job is the first time I've ever successfully negotiated my salary. I did a lot of market research to learn what I was worth, and when I went into final interviews for two jobs, I took full stock of what they had to offer. One company offered higher compensation, but no bonus structure or stocks. I went back to the second company and asked for an increase in base pay, and accepted the current bonus and stock offer. I negotiated about 10% higher than originally given, based on a competitive offer."
Is your current job your “passion”? If not, what is?
"It is. I LOVE what I do. I get the best of both worlds — everything from technology to creative briefs. I'd love to move up the ranks in the industry and find myself an EVP or CMO role one day, or maybe own a consulting company. I don't see myself wanting to chase another career path."
If you could, would you change anything in your career trajectory?
"I would have realized my value sooner. My previous job was one that I loved very dearly, and I stayed longer than I should have, even though I knew they were paying me under market value."
What professional advice would you give your younger self?
"Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself! No one is going to speak up for you. If you have thoughts or ideas on how to make something better, SAY IT. Your ideas and thoughts have value, even if they are in the minority."
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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