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c'est la vie

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Sep 17th, 2015
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  1. Totally Honest Software Engineering Negotiations
  2. --------------------------------------------------
  4. What follows is the real history of negotiating my salary. My situation is (as is every person's) totally unique, and you cannot take it as typical, nor atypical.
  6. You may be wondering why you are reading this on pastebin rather than some normal blogging platform. The answer is that my social media accounts are tightly linke to my public persona, and my career would potentially be jeopardized by revealing such information. And pastebin is still a fine tool for anonymous posting.
  8. I graduated in 2010 from a solid non-Ivy university in New England. I was working at a startup during my senior year, about 30 hours a week. At first, I felt like an idiot. It took me weeks to do something that a senior engineer could do in a few hours. I realized quickly that the difference between a junior engineer in his 20's and a senior engineer in his 50's is about 10,000% productivity increase for less than 5x the salary increase. Never deny the truth of the 100x developer (I truly believe it's more like 500x, but that's not the subject of this post).
  10. That being said, I have always been a ruthless learner, sacrificing my health and relationships for more knowledge. I devoted myself to the startup and study of the technologies used, and let my university grades suffer. By February 2010 of my senior year, the company had succeeded in getting some customers and buzz, raised around $10 million, and extended me an offer for a whopping $46k salary plus a few thousand shares as a Software Engineer.
  12. It didn't take more than a few conversations and Googles to realize I was seriously low-balled, especially since I intimately knew the architecture of a VC-backed company's platform in a team of only 4 engineers. But my manager was a smart and effective negotiator, and when I finally got the balls to demand more, the conversation ended with me being happy to be getting an offer at all! I got home, realized my mistakes, and vowed to get more $$$.
  14. I found a new job at a shitty company, and did my absolute best to impress at the interview, just so I could get an offer in hand. They asked me what my other company offered, and I said $60k (a lie, I added $14k to the original offer). They offered me $58k plus a $7k performance bonus, for a theoretical $65k package. This new company was owned by private equity, and offered no stock.
  16. I went back to my original employer and said I had a new job offer for $70k, and I didn't want to negotiate, I just wanted their final, last ditch offer. This removed any potential for skilled negotiators to outwit me. Later that night they emailed me an offer for $66k and a few thousand more shares.
  18. I accepted their offer, because that's what I wanted all along.
  20. After only 2 weeks of effort and stress, I increased my starting salary by $20k and several thousand more shares. Not too shabby.
  22. 1 year passes, and raises come up. My company gives me a 10% raise, bringing my salary to about $73k. Shortly thereafter, my friend graduated from the same university I went to, with worse grades, with significantly less drive, and received a starting salary offer of $75k and decent shares from a medium sized company. I was disgusted by this fact and stewed on it for a few days. I got my nerves up and marched into the CTO's office and demanded a raise, or I would walk. When he asked why, I said it was because starting salaries were higher than what I was being paid, and as I felt I was making key contributions, he could either match it or lose me. He raised me to $80k (not: this time I did not have another offer, which I do not recommend).
  24. One more year passes. During this time, I was obsessed with software development, and drastically increased my skills and productivity. Dissatisfied with my pay, I answered one of the 5 recruiter requests I received per day on LinkedIn. I found a solid startup, _one_I_would_actually_work_at_, and tell them I make $100k (a lie, I added $20k to my current salary). They match my "current" salary and also give 3% equity. (I feel it's key to find a company you would actually work at, so you aren't truly bluffing when you demand more money from your current company and threaten to walk).
  26. I approached my CTO and told him I had another job offer, and if he didn't increase my salary to $100k I would leave. He agreed. After 2 years of professional employment I was making a 6 figure salary. However, I still wasn't satisfied :)
  28. 1 more year passes, no raise. I pull the same stunt again, find a new job that offers me $115k, then lie to my current company and say I have an offer for $125k. My company offers $120k, and I accept.
  30. 1 more year passes. Serious problems in sales, engineers are leaving en masse. We lose several key people. I wait until the worst possible moment for the survival of my company, and tell them I'm leaving. They not only bump my salary, but promote me to manager! My salary goes to $148k and get many thousands of more shares.
  32. And that's where I'm at now. After 5 years of employment, I clawed my way to management, plenty of shares, and about $150k in salary.
  34. I posted this anonymously not to gloat. The goal is to help people realize their true value. I have an engineer working for me who makes $75k, who is absolutely *critical* to our company. If he walked up to me and demanded $50k more tomorrow, I would ultimately accept. But this guy would never do that, and if he did, I would talk him down to something far lower. C'est la vie.
  36. So in summary, get some balls (and I mean this in the metaphorical sense, for the ladies out there), know your worth, and demand what you are due. I did, and while it did involve some sleepless nights and lots of self-doubt, I ended up for the better.
  38. Don't give up and never settle. Always push yourself and ask for more! It never hurts to interview, and there's no harm in lying about salary. This is capitalism, and no matter how much your company "values" you, you will be fired in a nanosecond if push comes to shove and the company's survival is at risk. It is your responsibility to get what you are owed.
  40. ~ I hope this helps ~
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