Change is How You Grow

I haven’t had time to really write anything too deeply lately for blog posts lately. I’m learning SO much at the pet store right now.

I’m really pushing myself to get to that point where I understand the code underneath the abstraction.

But, the old blog calls out to me yet again, dear reader.

EVERYONE in tech feels underpaid, because recruiting / hiring in tech is completely broken and crazy. Financially, we are incented to switch jobs WAY more often than we are incented to stay in one.

Salary and turnover and hiring is a fun topic but I’m going to hit you with something.

You are more than your job.

Do you believe that?


It’s OK if you don’t. Took me till I was about 38 years old to really believe it.

Think about a hypothetical situation.

Meet Nia. Nia is an Associate Software Developer.

She applied for a job, interviewed well, and got it, and now is happily coding away under the direction of Software Developers and Senior Software Developers.

After 3 years… Nia’s got quite a few releases under her belt. She knows a few different languages well, she’s ridden a few late nights with releases that went sideways, but she doesn’t make anywhere near the same mistakes she made before.

The job, Associate Software Developer, is still exactly as it was when she took it those years ago.

Her title hasn’t changed, nor has the role in any real sense.

Nia did though. Drastically. She grew.

But, assuming she does nothing, she’ll stay an Associate Software Developer, and will likely get around a 3-4% raise every year for satisfactory performance. 

If she started with an annual salary of $50,000, that means after 3 years at a 4% raise, she’s making $56,243.20.

What happened to our hypothetical associate developer? She grew faster than her job did.

Ask yourself these questions:

Do you believe Nia is worth more than her job pays?

Me? I certainly do! She has more experience than the position requires, knows more languages, and is simply a better developer.

If she was your mentee, would you tell her so?

Me? I would! But I’m a cheerleader for you all anyway…

Would you advocate for her if you were her boss?

Of course I would! I’ve happily done so for many others!

Would you tell her to look outside her role if her boss couldn’t get it done for her?

You’re damn right I would, and I hope you would too!

What if I told you that HR has been recruiting, and offers for new associate developers need to start at $60,000, otherwise we aren’t a competitive place to work, and we won’t get good candidates?


(This should be apparent, but the salary numbers above are purely hypothetical.)

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, ask yourself why?

Why would you advocate for a hypothetical person, if you aren’t willing to advocate for yourself?

But maybe you’re spotting a trick…

“But wait… what if they just gave her a raise that put her in line with what they’d have to do to hire her as if she was new?”

There’s LOTS of reasons!

  1. Her Boss’s Budget. Unless Nia’s reporting to the CEO or the CFO, her boss didn’t set the budget for her raise. The budget came from an executive committee that looked at total salaries for the group.
  2. Her co-workers.  A limited budget–and even a large budget–has to be shared with your co-workers. If her boss is given 3 percent of her salary budget (see reason 1) for raises and gives a spectacular performer 5 percent, that means there’s less for everyone else.
  3. Her own salary band. Many companies don’t just give people salaries–they set salaries within what’s called a salary band. Her job is evaluated and given a range. If she’s at or above the midpoint of that grade, she’ll see very, very small raises.

Remember this.

Salary budgets aren’t personal. Ever.

Your salary just FEELS personal.

Forget about Nia because I made her up.

But YOU. You are real.

So let’s get real.

I’ve been in the position where the bank account is hitting the single digits, and I’ve got multiple days left until the next paycheck. Sure, I can hit the credit card, but that balance just keeps getting bigger.

I’ve been in that position where someone got hired with my same job title and started making 15% more than me.

I’ve felt that ‘I’m worth more than this in this market’ when I looked at my paystub.

I’ve felt that same frustration, anger, fear and doubt and most decidedly the self-recrimination. I HATE feeling stupid, or like I’m a sucker.

I’m worth more than my job.

I have heard cheerleader blowhards (great #selfown, Mr. Brown) and new-age-hippie-types (#selfown-number-2) say it plenty of times.

But simply put, mathematically, it’s just true.

My first job as a programmer was at a tiny video editing software company. I made $27,500 a year. Minimum wage was 4.25 an hour, and I felt like I was BALLIN.’

The company no longer exists, but if they did, the position I had, Application Developer probably would pay someone hired off the street somewhere in the low 90s

According to some F# I wrote (did you wonder when I’d get an F# reference in?) if I stayed in that job and got a 3 or 4% raise every year.

module Interest = 
    type InterestCalculationOptions = {
        Compounding : Compounding
        Rate : float
        Principal : float
        TermInYears : float
    and Compounding = 
        | TimesPerYear of float 
        | Constant 
    let compound options = 
        let core r e = options.Principal * (r ** e)
        match options.Compounding with 
        | Constant -> core System.Math.E (options.Rate * options.TermInYears)
        | TimesPerYear f -> let rate = (options.Rate / f) + 1.0
                            core rate (f * options.TermInYears)
/// Christopher gets 3% a year.
let threePercentRaise = Interest.compound {
                             Compounding = (Interest.TimesPerYear 1.0); 
                                Rate = 0.03; Principal = 27500.0;
                                TermInYears = 21.0  };;

/// threePercentRaise = $51158!!!

/// Christopher gets 4% a year.
let fourPercentRaise = Interest.compound {
                             Compounding = (Interest.TimesPerYear 1.0); 
                                Rate = 0.04; Principal = 27500.0;
                                TermInYears = 21.0  };;

/// fourPercentRaise = $62666!!!

The thing is I grew.

I took jobs that were different. More challenging. More interesting. Different languages. Different scopes.

And, well, they paid more.

Three years ago, I took a Principal Software Engineer job at the credit union that paid much more than an Application Developer in Bellingham. And you know what? I asked around, and I was probably underpaid.

Three years later I proved it moving on to the pet store.

I’m not the only one who grew.

You know who grew a ton, and did it all at the credit union? Rihanna.

(Not the musician Rihanna. This is a reference to a person who is freaking awesome like Rihanna, but whom I didn’t ask about publishing their name in a blog post.)

I won’t speak to her specific numbers except the following.

Rihanna told me that she’s currently making around 10x what she was making when she started at the credit union.

The job she held when they started at the credit union still exists. There are people right now doing what Rihanna used to do.

Those folks do NOT get paid 10x what it was back when Rihanna started.

Rihanna had to grow. Sometimes uncomfortably. She moved into other jobs, 9 times, and in completely different departments. She had managers go to bat for her and win…

… and probably a LOT more times than she knew about, go to bat for her and strike out.

Do you think each manager wanted “turnover” when it was time for Rihanna to grow? Probably not. In the short term, her managers would have preferred she stay in the role she was in, because it would have been easier to not have to hire a backfill for her.

Why would we ever want to encourage higher turnover?

Because turnover is how you grow.

You are more than your job.

When I first heard that, there were all these pictures of my kids and my family going through my head. Of course I was more than my job. My life with them was my highest priority.

But that’s not all it means.

It also means you will grow faster than your job.

Your brain calculates 38 thousand trillion operations per second!

That is in YOU, dear reader. You. Are. Amazing.

No job will truly hold the amazing machine that is you, unless you absolutely love it, and want to remain in it, but please accept this:

Change is how you grow.

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