Better Data Got Me a 40% Pay Raise


I was shocked too.

Since I’m not terribly important, I wasn’t able to comment on SalaryFairy when it first appeared on ProductHunt. I had to wait until it showed up on Reddit, where I warned them I would write a case study for them if their data actually got me any sort of raise. This is what I wound up writing.

It was May 2011, the day before my graduation from RIT, when I received my first real job. The Great Recession was just starting to sort itself out, so I was more than happy just to get something — and since my salary impressed my parents, I was content too.

That was pretty much how things went for the next few years. A 1-2% annual raise? Well, that’s par for the course, I figured. Can’t be making crazy swings all the time. I did manage a 20% salary boost when I moved from Buffalo to Portland, but that just kept up with cost of living.

Still, the numbers were good. I know many people my age who would love to make what I was making. But, between cost of living and student loans, it just didn’t feel like enough.

Almost a year after moving, I found myself with the lovely curse of being laid off.“Great”, I thought, “time to work out the salary problem.” I did my research and figured out that, if I really applied myself and pushed what I declared my skill level to be, I could muster a 25% raise.


What I couldn’t figure out was how to actually get that raise. Every recruiter I talked to (and in software, you talk to a lot of recruiters) wanted to know my salary history. I tried to dodge the issue, but I didn’t have much in my corner, and I would always relent. Armed with that data, none of them were willing to push me any further than 10%. I wound up taking a 7% raise and getting back to work.

Shortly after starting that job, and almost 3 years after graduation, SalaryFairy popped up on ProductHunt. It was a great pitch — get other people to figure out what I’m worth! Hooray laziness! Except that you have to predict others for them to predict yours, and it’s a fun little guessing game regardless. At least I thought so, considering that I predicted so many I wound up on top of the weekly leaderboard.

Soon, the predictions came in for me. And I was shocked. Utterly shocked, that people thought I should be making that much more. Early numbers pushed towards a 50% raise. I thought I was underpaid, but not that badly. Eventually, it settled down to a mere 25% higher. A massive raise, seriously. (To top it off, all but one of the 20 predictions I received were higher than my existing salary.)

When I talked to recruiters next, I didn’t tell them my past pay rates. I gave them my SalaryFairy number, told them exactly how I got it, and they took it. One was skeptical of the source, and when I explained that it was crowdsourced, assumed it must be too low. So he put me in at 15% higher than my number. Which was crazy, but I didn’t flinch.

I would’ve been happy with the 25%. It would’ve made paying off my student loans much faster. But because I was so confident in that number, and because some people are still skeptical of crowdsourcing, I wound up interviewing for a 40% raise. So instead of going in meek, hoping to go up by 10% or so, I walked in there like I deserved a 40% raise.

And I got the job.