On Wage Transparency: My Pay History

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Updated 8/15: Got a new job. I’ll likely revisit this next year with some new thoughts on the effort.

Today (April 14th; yes it’s late but it still counts) is Equal Pay Day. Coming up often in the conversation is the notion that, in order to avoid perpetuating the differences in pay, people need to be more transparent about their salaries. Especially among coworkers; if I’m working with someone, doing the same work at the same level, and he’s getting $20k more than me every year, something is direly wrong.

But honestly, even that feels somewhat opaque. The conversation is among coworkers, but not among others outside the office. It casts a light on the situation, but it’s sort of a nightlight. To actually get the pupils widening, the conversation needs to be truly public.

Buffer is pretty good about this. I can see that my salary is actually higher than more than half of their staff. (Although, they get equity, so on the whole they’re winning out.)

I loosely entered the conversation last summer, with a guest post on the Salary Fairy blog (which is also duplicated here). You’ll notice if you read it that it’s all percentages. Primarily, I didn’t want to brag, since that marked the point where I was making more than twice what the average millennial makes. I also didn’t feel like the absolutes really mattered, the point was relative scale in negotiation outcomes.

But in the interest of true transparency, I’m going to go with real numbers.

I started my professional life in June 2011, in Buffalo. (Okay, technically I had jobs during college, but it turns out I genuinely don’t remember what I was paid then.) My college claimed the average salary out of college was $60k; I was hired on for $47,000 as a Programmer/Analyst. I did wind up with some raises (thanks in part to job title restructuring), so when I left in May 2013 I was hovering around $51,000.

I made my way to Portland for a job that was $35/hour on contract, with the option of a $65,000 hire. That only lasted a month (and not on the best terms; half of it was my fault), I don’t even include it on my resumé. It was followed by a $30/hour contract for the next 9 months until I was downsized. My last contract (for a while, hopefully) was 3 months at $32/hour.

Finally, I was back to full-time in the summer of 2014. That was the Salary Fairy shift; I moved from a contract-equivalent of $64,000 to a proper salary of $87,000, plus up to $4k bonus, with a title of Front-End Developer. And that’s where I’ve sat for the last nine months.

For an easy-to-read table:

  • June 2011: $47k in Buffalo, Programmer/Analyst
  • May 2013: $51k in Buffalo (8.5% increase), Programmer II
  • June 2013: $65k in Vancouver WA (27.5% increase), Web Developer
  • July 2013: $60k (equivalent) in Portland (7.7% decrease), Web Developer
  • April 2014: $64k (equivalent) in Portland (6.7% increase), Software Engineer
  • July 2014: $87–91k in Portland (~40% increase), Front-End Developer
  • July 2015: $87–91k in Portland, Front-End Developer
  • Aug. 2015: $103–113k in Portland (~17% increase), Software Engineer

According to Glassdoor, where I am now is just about average for a mid-career software engineer. Maybe that’s appropriate for me? That description seems to fit me pretty accurately, so maybe I have nothing to worry about.

At the same time, recent conversations with recruiters have implied that I should be commanding well over $100k, given the present market conditions in Portland. And even though my job title is unique among my coworkers, it’s barely enough of a difference in reality. If they’ve broken $100k, surely I should. I won’t know if that’s the case until we’re all open about what we make.

I’ve done my part. I’ve been open about what I make, and what I have made. If you’re reading this, it’s your turn.