On this very special episode of Underrepresented in Tech, Allie speaks with Camber Clemence of Stellar WP about how to negotiate salary.
Welcome to the Underrepresented in Tech podcast, hosted by Michelle Frechette and Allie Nimmons. Underrepresented in Tech is a free database, but with the goal of helping people find new opportunities in WordPress and tech overall.
Welcome everyone to the Underrepresented in Tech podcast, this is Allie Nimmons. Unfortunately, Michelle is not feeling well today, so she will not be joining us. But fortunately, I have a very special guest on the show. Camber, has agreed to join us for today’s episode. Camber, hi, welcome.
Hi, thank you so much. I’m super happy to be here even though it means Michelle’s not feeling well, don’t love that.
Agreed. But yeah, I’m happy to have you on. Could you tell the listeners a little bit about you and who you are and what you do, and all of that fun stuff?
Sure, absolutely. My name is Camber, my pronouns are she/her. I work in social media management and community management for GiveWP, a WordPress plugin company. I identify as female, as I said, my pronounce are she/her, and I’m also part of the LGBTQ community, so I’m extremely happy to be on your podcast today.
Yay. That’s so great, I’m so happy to have you. Always happy to have like a little kind of… Even though we did not work there at the same time, always happy to have a little GiveWP reunion.
Totally off topic, but I see you’re from South Florida.
Yes, I am. I live actually in Southwest Florida, it’s a little bit quieter here. But it’s a super sunny day, it’s still easily 88 degrees most days right now. So I am absolutely dying-
… for there to be a little cold front.
I actually just moved to Austin, Texas from Southeast Florida, from North Miami.
So yeah, that’s kind of [crosstalk 00:02:02].
I grew up on that coast, in the West Palm Beach area.
I actually grew up in Lubbock, Texas and moved to West Palm when I was about 14.
That’s crazy. We have the opposite experience.
Yeah, a little overlap.
Awesome. Well, today we wanted to talk to you… We held a little poll on the Underrepresented in Tech Twitter to see what our listeners wanted to hear about this week, because Michelle and I were kind of torn about what we wanted to talk about. And the responses were pretty interesting. The options were talking about raises and promotions, talking about how to negotiate a salary, and talking about how to write a proposal. And salaries was tied with raises and promotions, which was pretty interesting to me. So today we’re going to talk with you about negotiating a salary, and I guess next week we’ll talk about raises and promotions with Michelle.
But I know that as an underrepresented person, as anybody, it can be very difficult to try to negotiate a salary when you’re looking at a job, when you’re talking to a hiring manager or anything like that. I’ve only done it once and it was terrifying and nerve wracking. And I was lucky that I got to do it through email, I wasn’t even like face to face, like in the moment. I got to really draft my messages and have somebody read it over for me and things like that. Yeah, it can be really scary to negotiate a salary, especially if you feel like you are being low balled, and there’s that fear of if I ask for too much, they’re just not going to give me the job at all. There are all of these fears that when you add imposter syndrome on top of those fears, they just double or triple or quadruple.
So I wanted to know what your thoughts are on when to negotiate a salary, how to negotiate a salary in a way that’s agreeable. Because I’ve also then heard from hiring managers where it’s like, “Oh yeah, we were going to hire this person, and we were happy to negotiate, but they were just really inflexible about what it was they were going to accept.” So I feel like there’s kind of sometimes a right and wrong way to do this, and we don’t always know what that is. So what are your thoughts on that?
Yeah. I have a lot of thoughts. So compensation is super complex, it’s your salary, there’s stock, there’s options, bonuses, benefits, paid time off. So negotiating that salary is just really one piece of the puzzle for your overall job satisfaction. Albeit, for many, it’s really the most important one because that’s the number that we live off of, our stock options, those things, don’t impact our daily lives. So, coming in like you’ve received an offer and it’s not quite what you wanted, that’s where you start to wonder, “What are the things that are most important to me?” So you want to negotiate your salary… I always suggest, and coming from a hiring background, I always suggest coming in a little bit over what you actually want. So let’s say your goal is 60,000, maybe ask for 63 so when they meet you in the middle, it’s a little bit closer to what you actually want.
But really, I think the most important thing to negotiating a salary as a candidate is, there’s a lot of things, you have to understand the company’s limitations. So understanding who you’re coming in, what kind of company you’re coming into, large companies typically have like a strict salary cap or pay bands that they really can’t be inflexible with. So determining if there are other things like a flexible work life balance, like maybe you can work from home, is there a stipend that they can give you monthly to cover expenses like your wifi or your gear or your home office? Are there other ways to increase your actual take home pay without having to increase your salary, is another important part of it. But really, it’s about justifying your request.
So if you are requesting an increase in salary, you’re negotiating in that initial part where they’ve offered you and you’re coming back and saying, “This isn’t quite what I need,” being able to justify your request is most important, and doing it in a way that is, this is going to sound like it doesn’t make sense, but doing it in a way that it’s like confident humility. So this is what I’m worth, this is why I’m confident about that, but I’m not arrogant in this conversation, because that’s going to turn someone off. You’re negotiating with a person, so appealing to that side of them while showcasing your personhood is what’s really going to get them to fight for you. Does that make sense?
Yeah, that makes total sense. I actually pulled up that conversation that I had had in the past to see kind of how it’s measuring up to what you’re saying, and I’d love to do a little exercise with you. If I could read this out, I’ve kind of trimmed it for certain things, I’d love to have you critique to say what did I do well, what could I have improved upon, because I think it’s really helpful sometimes to have an example.
So in this circumstance, I was given a number, and within my response I said, “I want to make sure that the salary is actually what I’m looking for and that I’m being completely transparent with you about that. It’s important to me that I don’t end up taking a pay cut by moving to this company,” because they were currently offering less than what I had been making at my previous company. “The perks in healthcare are fantastic and a huge benefit to me. However, I have to make sure I’m not going backwards. The low end of the national average for somebody working in blank is blank. At this point in my career with the experience and the unique skillset I have, also considering the amount of perks and benefits I would be offered blank to blank would be my I ideal range.” What do you think about that response?
Honestly, I think that you hit on so many key points in your response. The one thing that really stuck out to me is that you clearly did your research on what market value was for this position based on location and based on years of experience. So that’s really important, hard data, that is tangible information that you are coming to whoever with. Whether it’s an HR person or the person that you’re going to directly report to, it is hard and fast data around a salary request. And then mentioning your experience also aligns with proving your worth and why you deserve that increase. And then you came to them with a range. So it’s not a hard and fast, “I absolutely must have this number,” it’s like, “This is where I’m comfortable. Is there somewhere that we can meet in the middle?”
And it also kind of gives them a little bit of control back. You’re still controlling the narrative because you’ve let them know this is your expectation but they can meet you somewhere, and that allows them some control. So when they go to HR or whoever makes those salary decisions, they can say, “This is the range that she’s comfortable with. I would love to meet her at this number, and this is why. So here’s this hard data that she gave us. I looked it up, I can back it up, that’s correct. But also she has X, Y, Z years of experience and we want to ensure that we’re putting her in a place where she doesn’t feel like she’s, backsliding, whether that’s a salary, position, responsibility.” So you give them lots of data to be able to go to bat for you in that response.
Yeah. So that that number you’re giving doesn’t feel arbitrary to them.
Yeah. Exactly. It doesn’t feel like you just pulled that number out of the sky and it’s just a number you’re fixated on, there’s real data behind it. Absolutely.
Yeah. All of that is so helpful. Do you… How am I trying to phrase this? Do you feel like, in your experience, being an underrepresented person has affected your ability to negotiate a salary or the willingness of somebody else to negotiate that salary with you?
So I think, specifically, as a woman, I feel that there is some hesitancy around negotiations. I know that, statistically speaking, women and any underrepresented person, but women specifically, do not negotiate. And I think it’s a confidence thing, that kind of thing. So I do feel that in the time that I’ve had to negotiate my salary or other compensation benefits, that it kind of came as a surprise to the person. So I think there’s expectation around like, “Just accept it. This is what we’re giving you. Just take it.”
So the one time I can think of when I really pushed hard on my compensation package, the person literally said to me, “Oh, we weren’t expecting you to push back on this.” And so I think that’s really where I find that there’s an issue, there’s an expectation for women or anyone who’s underrepresented in any space, any industry, whether they’re older or they’re neurodivergent to just take what you can get and don’t throw a fit. Like I used to say that to my kids when they were little. I’d give them dinner and say, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” We don’t do that anymore.
But, I think, there’s some idea that, “Just take it.” And it also is highly dependent, I think, on the labor market. So if there’s a weak labor market in general, and candidates have less bargaining power, even less, if you’re an underrepresented person. So I definitely think that it impacts depending on the industry that you’re in, the company that you’re going into, this person specifically that you’re dealing with and what their biases are towards whatever group you’re in.
We should have an episode about salary transparency at some point in the future because one of the things that I find so valuable about my friends who are dedicated to being good allies is their openness about how much they make. I think it’s so ridiculous that it’s so taboo to talk about how much you get paid. Because if all straight white men were honest about how much they got paid, I feel like underrepresented folks would be in a much better position to negotiate and say, “Well, I have just as much experience as this person or more experience than this person. I don’t feel comfortable accepting an offer that is less than what is being made here.”
I think that the taboo around money, for everyone, makes it so uncomfortable to even… Like in that email that I sent, I approached the beginning of that email by saying, “This is the part I don’t like. I really don’t like talking about money, it makes me uncomfortable, but I feel like I have to say this.” And it’s a really awkward thing to have to do, especially when you don’t know what the context is. And so I would say for any allies listening, if somebody approaches you about a job opportunity at a company you work at or something, be willing to share that information, it does you no harm and it can only do them good.
And I think there’s a little bit of fear around it because so many companies have made it a thing when they find out that you shared your salary. They’ll send out kind of scary emails like, “We don’t condone this practice,” but there’s nothing illegal about it. So I vividly remember, I was maybe 10 years old and I was on an RV trip with my grandparents across the country. And we stopped to have lunch or dinner or something at a restaurant, and I went up with my granddad to pay the bill. And they said the total, and as a 10 year old, I was like, “Wow, that’s a lot of money.” And I remember my grandfather was like, “We don’t talk about money, we don’t comment on money, we don’t comment on expenses.” And that really set the tone for my life. It took years before I was comfortable talking about how much money I made even in relationship where it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into from an income perspective. But it’s so important to share that information.
I had a friend who was up for a promotion into a role that was lateral with mine, and she felt very much that she was being low balled. We had very similar backgrounds, very similar years of experience. We worked for the same company, so we talked about even like reviews, “What had those looked like for you in the past?” So when we went through all the information, we were very much aligned. And so I said to her, “I’m in this role, I make X. This is what they offered me when I came into this role.” And it was like a good 10 grand more than they were offering her, so not a small chunk of change. So for her to be able to then take that information and say, “I know that X, Y, Z position is getting paid this much, and I really feel that I’m being low balled and I’m not being paid fairly. So, I would appreciate something closer to that number,” and having that life example to bring to somebody.
It’s so important and it allows you to hold that company accountable. And I
Absolutely. And, I’m sorry to interrupt, on the flip side, it’s so important to hold organizations, companies, businesses accountable in the very beginning to what is the starting for this role. How much are you paying for this role? When I joined GiveWP, from the get go it was, “This is the salary. Are you okay with that? If not, we won’t move forward. If you are, great, let’s continue.” And that really helped me set my expectations for what I was coming into, was I comfortable with that number, and moving forward. So having that upfront transparency about, “This is the amount. Are you good with that? Or, no, we don’t want to waste your time.”
Exactly. Yeah. And I feel like that can tell you a little bit about a company at the beginning. If they’re trying to low ball you 10,000 grands worth, even if you come forward and say, “I don’t think that’s particularly right or fair, this is what I’m looking for,” what does that say about the integrity of that company that they kind of tried to do that in the first place? You know what I mean?
It can tell you a lot, yeah. Let’s go ahead and wrap things up here. I feel like this could be a podcast in and of itself.
Is it really could be.
Negotiating salaries, figuring out how much you’re worth, doing that research, because in that email that I read out, I did a ton of research because I really wanted that job but I wanted to make sure that I was asking for what was fair. And I knew that if I over asked and was unreasonable, then that would be… Yep, they’re not going to pull money out of nowhere. So I wanted to make sure that I was really asking for what they could afford and what I was worth. And spoiler alert, it ended up working out.
Yeah, that’s awesome.
Yeah. So thank you so much Camber for your time.
I really appreciate it. Where can people find you online if they wanted to get in touch with you, maybe ask you additional questions about this topic?
Yeah, absolutely. The easiest way to get in touch with me is on Twitter. My handle is cambermc, so C-A-M-B-E-R-M-C. I work in social media for a living, so I’m pretty much on there all the time. I would love to chat more about salary negotiations, even talking about balancing multiple requests, those kinds of things. There’s so much that goes into it, so I’m happy to have conversations or even jump on another show and really dig in.
Yay. Awesome. Thank you so much again.
Thank you for having me.
Of course. Have a great rest of your day and we’ll see you all next week.
Thanks. You too. Bye-bye.
This episode was sponsored by the following companies, Ninja forms. Ninja forms is a WordPress form building simplified, those beautiful user friendly forms that will make you feel like a professional web developer, no code required. StellarWP, StellarWP is a collective of WordPress innovators standing behind WordPress plugins like IThemes, The Events, Calendar, Restrict Content Pro, GiveWP and more. If you’re interested in sponsoring an episode using our database, or just want to say hi, go to underrepresentedintech.com. See you next week.