By: Dezbah Duchicela
8 years ago I realized that I needed to stop being a bystander and start taking deliberate steps to grow my career in technology.
Here is my story:
In 2009, I was living in Austin, Texas. I was working at IBM as a software engineer, and I joined a women’s organization called Young Women’s Alliance (YWA).
At one of the monthly YWA meetings, the guest speaker was a career coach named Ann Daly. Prior to this event, I had no idea what a career coach was or how one could help me. I had heard of mentors and sponsors. But being in tech, I found it very challenging to find good mentors and sponsors in my everyday work life. So, I decided to give career coaching a try!
I connected with Ann shortly thereafter and we worked together over the next couple of years. I would typically meet with Ann once a year or twice a year. I often sought her advice on my transitions, or if I was looking at all the right angles when I switched to different companies.
As I worked with her, I started to realize it was incredibly helpful to have a non-bias, experienced point of view to help me evaluate my decisions. Ann has worked with many women in the tech field so she knew salaries, positions, and common pitfalls. I trusted her to give me the honest truth. Ann armored me with the tools to succeed. She taught me how important building a network was. She taught me that conferences were an amazing investment.
Advice That Helped Me Negotiate a Higher Salary
With all the great advice Ann gave me over the years, it really came full circle in 2014. I loved my job at the time, and I was recently promoted. But even with the promotion, my salary wasn’t the competitive rate for the work I was doing.
I worked with Ann over the next couple of weeks to do research, practice my pitch, and get a plan together to negotiate a higher salary with my manager. With her advice and the work we did, I felt comfortable enough to discuss this with my manager. Ann’s advice and techniques paid off: I asked and I received what I was asking for without any further negotiation.
Do I Need More Than Just a Mentor?
I think mentors are incredibly powerful. I will be honest though… its pretty tough to find the advice that a career coach will give you in a mentor. I have been paired up with mentors through work or just individuals I have connected with. They definitely have valuable advice, but they don’t do this for a living. They don’t get the full breadth of common secnarios. They can’t rattle off the different salaries for the different levels. They don’t spend the time with you practicing your pitch, if it’s a promotion or a negoation. Tech is not an easy industry for women. I have been working in it for 10 years. I don’t think I could have navigated my career in these 10 years if I didn’t have that constant support.
Doesn’t a Career Coach Cost Money?
Yes, they are providing a service. But I would argue that their fee is well worth it if you are able to negotiate a significant raise. Or find your dream job. Or find the path you should follow next. It’s really a nominal fee to get someone dedicated to making you successful. It’s worth it, I promise.