On April 16th, 2022, I stood on a sidewalk in Washington, DC and asked strangers two questions that would change my life forever: What do you do? And how much do you make?
Almost a year prior, I had begun a new role as a Senior Data Analyst making $90,000 supporting a military health communications contract. Unfortunately, this role quickly morphed into an unanticipated nightmare.
Not What I Signed Up For
Within my first month on the job, my only colleague was fired (or in contract speak, ‘reallocated to a different contract’). We were already stretched thin supporting analytics for six different departments, and with his departure, my workload tripled overnight.
As the newest employee, I was scared to rock the boat and didn’t question when the role would be filled. I was certain they wouldn’t let me struggle by myself for long, but slowly I started working earlier and later. Soon I realized I was both starting and stopping work when it was dark outside. Work-life balance? I didn’t know her.
Our client was stoked with my work though and as a glutton for positive feedback, I didn’t want to let them down. To keep up with the workload, I started clocking in 50+ hour weeks and began feeling the creep of burnout.
I went to my managers, the same ones who told me they had my back and prioritized my well-being, and asked for support. This was when I learned that the funding meant to replace my fired colleague had already been spent months ago on analytics software I had no need for.
At this moment, I began to question my role. What did the future hold for me here? And the biggest question of all: for all this stress, was I being fairly paid?
Finding Out I Was Underpaid
I typed into Google “What should a Senior Data Analyst in Washington, DC make?”. Each link I clicked on confirmed that I was underpaid roughly $20,000.
This realization that I was underpaid hit me like a ton of bricks.
I was confused. I thought my salary was fantastic, but each source said otherwise.
I was angry. For months I had sacrificed so much of myself, my time, and my energy for a role in which I wasn’t even making close to my market rate.
I was disappointed. I thought my company had my back and wouldn’t take advantage of me. At the end of the day, I was a great employee that they got at a fantastic discount.
I decided to move quickly and take action. I pulled together a formal letter requesting a raise to match my market rate, which I supported with my market research, stellar reviews from our client about my work, and noting the impact I’d had on the contract.
After several months of back-and-forth, my manager finally told me that they only granted raises to employees once they’d been with the company for at least a year, and even then, they didn’t hand out raises of more than 3-5% at any one time.
I was shocked, but I refused to accept this fate. I immediately began looking for another job, and in my first interview, the recruiter asked me, “What are your salary requirements for this role?”
Armed with my market research, I knew that I was looking for a range between $110,000-$120,000. I countered, “What is your budget for this role? I’m curious if my market rate falls in line with your predetermined budget.”
Without skipping a beat, the recruiter responded, “Our allotted budget is around $115,000.” I told them that was exactly in line with my expectations, and a few interviews later, I accepted their offer of $115,000.
Desperate to share what I had learned, I began posting videos on my personal TikTok account about these career experiences. I made a video sharing how much I made at every job I had, and the video went viral. Hundreds of people commented that they didn’t know analysts could make that much, that they worried they were underpaid too, and how this video had helped them realize their market rate.
I began to conduct more research on pay transparency and learned that it would not only help close existing pay gaps that marginalized many workers, but it would also help improve employee productivity, morale, and loyalty. I realized that pay secrecy was helping companies profit off their workers by underpaying them, and something had to change.
With that, Salary Transparent Street was born.
Leading Change With Salary Transparent Street
Our goal was simple: interview strangers about their careers, salaries, and experiences to help others recognize the value of pay transparency. Hopefully, with that momentum we could collectively demand corporations practice pay transparency. With the passage of multiple pay transparency laws in the past year and overwhelming support for pay transparency, I feel we’re achieving our goal.
After posting our first video and going viral, I quit my analyst job to pursue this project full-time. Throughout my career, I’ve been searching for a role that would allow me to have a real impact and help people. Unbeknownst to me, realizing I was underpaid allowed me to create that dream job for myself by helping hundreds of thousands of people realize their market value and begin advocating for themselves.