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Vivian's Story

My salary was about $175K plus a bonus and a few stocks. But I’m a data scientist, which is a super competitive field. I didn’t appreciate just how underpaid I was or learn the tools to negotiate for a higher salary until I was matched for a Wager conversation last summer. I’m a technical professional in the finance industry in New York, and I’d been at my investment bank for more than five years. I was in a coveted role, and on a big promotion track, but I wasn’t happy, because I’d known for a couple years that I wasn’t being paid commensurate with my experience.

I was paired up with a very senior executive at a social media platform who was about 10 years ahead of me. She had the seniority and access to what people in positions similar to mine where making, and she opened my eyes. In particular, she emphasized that I should market myself for a management position in my next role, and that when negotiating for it, I should push hard for not just salary, but equity, a bonus and long-term incentives as part of my total compensation package. Data scientists are a dime a dozen, but there aren’t many people who know how to manage a team of 35 people. I needed to capitalize on my ability to rise to senior management and make things happen.

Then she really made my jaw drop: She said that from what she knew of the market, when I entered discussions for a management role like this, I should aim for a total compensation package of a million, particularly if it was at a tech company. The conversation was an epiphany, and not something I could ever have had with a colleague.

Once you learn you’re worth, you can’t unknow it. I couldn’t sleep until I got somewhere close to it.

While I didn’t end up following the tech company path, just a couple months later I was recruited by a private equity firm for a senior data management role. They asked what I was willing to make, and I said with a steady voice that I’d expect in the range of $650K compensation. They said, “That’s an interesting number, how did you get to it?” I explained that’s what I knew I was worth based on my understanding of the market and the value I’d bring to the company.

I stayed calm as we continued to negotiate, and I accepted the role in the fall--for $225K base with a total compensation package of $400K. That’s over $100K more than I was making just a couple months earlier.

A 30-minute conversation with the right person completely changed my life. And now it’s changed so many of my friends’ lives, because I talk about what I learned all the time.


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