The Young Women’s Alliance is built upon four pillars: Lead, Educate, Network, and Serve. This month, we’re showcasing a different pillar each week, with stories about how our members have taken what they’ve learned in YWA and applied it in their own lives. This week, YWA member Kelsey Isaacson talks about how a YWA program helped her advance her career through negotiation.
When Kelsey Isaacson attended a 2018 YWA Speaker Series event with DevelopHer founder Laura Hasson, she didn’t know she would leave with a lesson that would soon help her land a raise and a promotion.
We sat down with Kelsey to hear more about what she learned and how she put it into practice in her career.
Q: Hi, Kelsey! Let’s get started with you telling us a little about yourself and what you do.
A: I work at BigCommerce, which is an ecommerce platform aimed at midmarket and enterprise customers. My current role is Team Lead on one of our software engineering teams.
Q: So, back in 2018 you attended a Speaker Series event that had a big impact on your career — what stood out to you about that talk?
A: The main message was about negotiating your worth, and the speaker talked about how, within two jobs, she basically tripled her salary.
She told us how, at her first job, she took what she was offered without negotiating. But once she started doing the market research and talking to other companies, she realized how underpaid she was — not only relative to what other companies were paying, but also to other employees in her own company.
She gave us some very specific tips about how to sell yourself, how to come prepared to a salary negotiation discussion, what to say, and even how to respond to various objections or questions from management.
I remember that when I left Speaker Series that night, I felt really empowered. I’d been at my job for about a year and a half at that point, had taken on some new responsibilities, and felt that it was time for a raise. The next time I sat down with my manager, I decided to broach the subject.
After some discussion, my manager went to HR and they evaluated my salary based on others with my title. Based on that, he was able to secure a raise for me. Several months later, during an annual review, they came back and said that I was doing the job at a level above my title, so they gave me a promotion as well.
Q: What was the most nerve-wracking part for you?
A: The ask, for sure. It’s one thing to lay out all the things you’ve done well; it’s another to say, “And this is why I’m worth this much money.” Translating that value into a dollar amount that I think I should be paid — it’s hard. There’s a fear of rejection in it that’s very scary.
Q: How did Lauren’s tips help you navigate that discussion?
A: I don’t know if I would have had the courage to initiate that conversation otherwise. I was just listening to what she said and what had worked for her, and it led to both a raise and a promotion for me in 2019.
Q: What made you decide to join YWA?
A: I joined YWA because one of my good friends had just joined and was really enjoying it. She suggested I try it out. I was looking for more female friendships in the community. Working in tech, I work in a really male-dominated industry, so I was trying to find ways to get more professional networking with women.
Q: What YWA activities have you been involved in?
A: I got involved my first year as a chair on the Membership committee. I used some of my work skills to contribute to the organization by building some spreadsheets and data-driven tools that the team still uses.
This year I have two chair positions. The first is website chair on the Operations committee, which was another way for me to use my work skills to give back. But I’m also pushing myself outside my comfort zone a little bit as Speaker Series chair on the Programs committee, doing logistics and setup for the monthly speaker events to make sure everything goes smoothly and members enjoy themselves!
Q: One final question: For all the other women out there who see themselves in your story, what tips would you give them for negotiating their worth and asking for a raise or promotion?
A: First of all, do your research. I did a ton of market research on what other people with my title are making. Websites like Indeed.com will often show salary ranges for different jobs.
Another thing I’ve started doing recently that I was nervous about at first is sharing salary information with my peers in similar roles.
Finally, have an ask ready. I came in with a number in mind. You need to know what you’re worth and what you want. Ask for a little bit more money than you want, even, to account for negotiation.
Becoming a Member of YWA
Membership is open throughout the month of January, so sign up today.