Power Trip

Pay equity requires transparency, so I’m revealing what I know

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Art by Judson Collier

I’m a software engineer with three years of experience, working at Square, a public tech company in San Francisco. I make $130,000, plus $47,500 in stock, for a total of $177,500 a year.

I didn’t negotiate my base salary. I did, however, negotiate my four-year initial stock grant from $150,000 to $190,000. I started my job on February 5. The current value of that grant, which fluctuates by the day, is $412,390.02. If this stock price stays the same until I vest my first year of stock, my “real” annual compensation will be $233,097.51.

Writing all of that terrifies me. Strangers and peers may see what I earn and think I’m vastly overpaid. (“Are you kidding? What does she even do that could justify that kind of money?”) Or they may decide I’m underpaid. (“She must not be good at her job if she’s getting paid that little.”) Inevitably, companies that wish to hire me in the future will see my previous salary and either anchor my future pay at that level, limiting me from pay increases when switching jobs, or opt out of interviewing me at all out of fear that I’ll be too expensive for them. …


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Heads up, we’ve moved! If you’d like to continue keeping up with the latest technical content from Square please visit us at our new home https://developer.squareup.com/blog

This month is WomEng Spotlight Month at Square, and so we took it as a time to celebrate women engineers—in the company and outside of it. We organized a Square seller pop-up at our office, featuring women engineers and designers… who happen to be makers with their own small businesses as well. Here are their stories.

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Time has passed and passed and passed and, sure enough, it’s been a year since I last wrote anything longer than a tweetstorm.

But, as I’m beginning to see as a pattern, today was a really hard day for me, and so I needed to sort through my emotions through writing. It’s difficult to explain why it was hard, except that Anthony Bourdain died today.

Still, that doesn’t explain much, really. I’d seen a few of his shows, but I never met the man or even followed his career with any depth. When my boyfriend mentioned the news this morning in passing, I was briefly shocked, but it didn’t register as an immediately devastating fact. …


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Tech is not a meritocracy. It never has been. But it’s clearer now than maybe ever before just how structurally damaged it is.

It started one day in February when a former engineer at Uber, Susan Fowler, posted to her blog an account of her year working at the company. Then, a few weeks ago, it escalated with an article about Justin Caldbeck, co-founder of Binary Capital, and several different accounts from women he sexually harassed. And then, last week, dozens (dozens!) …


Every time I go to an airport, I watch the people. Thousands of intersecting threads, weaving in and out of an ordered disarray, converging and diverging with each plane’s arrival or departure. Each flight I take has a distinctly different character. There are always older men in suits on my way to New York, young men in Google- or Facebook-branded hoodies on my way to San Francisco, grandparents in bulky sweaters and blue jeans on my way to Houston.

Election Day was two weeks ago. There was a lot I wanted to say — and a lot I did say to more people than I can remember — but I couldn’t bring myself to add to the noise by writing yet another take. I’ve read op-eds for The New York Times and exposés in The Washington Post and investigative pieces by BuzzFeed News. …


We live in strange times. Fact and fiction blur when it comes to news. 140-character snippets of text conceived out of pure imagination can define a presidential election. Maybe you’ve felt it, maybe you haven’t — but there is a war waging right now, between factions that absorb and perpetuate lies and conspiracies and ones that hold fast to the truth. At times (more than ever, this election cycle), it feels like the former is winning.

Maybe that’s always been the case. But I’m inclined to think not, because the internet has changed incentives for the media, the people who put forth information about what’s happening in the world. In the past, with a finite number of news sources and new stories, fact-checking was important. A reputable institution would publish a story backed by a team of people whose jobs it was to vet the facts it presented. They were motivated to do that well because their business model relied on trust, reputation — which takes time to build and is easily destroyed. On the flip side, new sources that published misinformation or flat-out lies could only get so far before they were debunked. …


Some of you know the reference from the naming of this newsletter, but for anyone who doesn’t, M. Mitchell Waldrop’s The Dream Machine is the story of how personal computing came to be. It’s an epic for the ages, featuring J.C.R. Licklider, a psychologist and computer scientist from MIT, and a group of a few academics across the country who created the vision for personal computers and, eventually, the internet.

Fast-forward thirty years. Like most kids born in the nineties, I was a child of the internet. It — and the people I met through it — formed who I was, as much as my family, my friends, and the people who occupied the physical space around me did. By middle school, I was on Xanga, Blogger, MySpace. Facebook launched when I was nine, and I created an account (under false pretenses) at ten. When Tumblr emerged, I started microblogging, where I made friends with kids around the world… some anonymous, whose real first names I would never know, and some who added me on Facebook and later met with me in real life. …


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A few weeks ago, I marked a year since I started coding every day. Last year, for me, began with a breakup. I remember crying in bed at midnight on New Year’s Day, a few minutes after ending a three-year relationship with someone who’d been my best friend since I was eleven. It felt unimaginably final, and even though I knew that it was the right decision, it didn’t feel that way.

This story’s not about that. It’s about a year I spent learning more than I thought was possible and doing more than I could have anticipated. …


We need more female engineers. But what happens when that’s not what women want to do?

I’ve never liked fulfilling stereotypes. Female, Asian, young… a few descriptors, and you’ve already formed assumptions about who I am, what I do, how I see the world.

That’s not your fault; it’s how we’re wired. But even as a child, I sought to defy expectations, subvert first impressions. On the surface, I’m probably what you’d expect: an Ivy League student from an upper-middle-class family, planning to enter an industry where people of my race (who represent 5% of the population) consist of 30 to 40% of the workforce.

But I didn’t get into college by winning science fairs or debate tournaments, the stereotypically Asian formula. At fifteen, I bought a camera and started shooting photography. I founded an online fashion magazine later that year, then a nonprofit called Fashion Cares at sixteen. By the time the stereotype I fit had shifted solidly from race to gender and everyone assumed I would be another girl going into the fashion industry, I graduated in the top percent of my class, set on a career in tech. …


We need more female engineers. But what happens when that’s not what women want to do?

I’ve never liked fulfilling stereotypes. Female, Asian, young… a few descriptors, and you’ve already formed assumptions about who I am, what I do, how I see the world.

That’s not your fault; it’s how we’re wired. But even as a child, I sought to defy expectations, subvert first impressions. On the surface, I’m probably what you’d expect: an Ivy League student from an upper-middle-class family, planning to enter an industry where people of my race (who represent 5% of the population) consist of 30 to 40% of the workforce.

But I didn’t get into college by winning science fairs or debate tournaments, the stereotypically Asian formula. At fifteen, I bought a camera and started shooting photography. I founded an online fashion magazine later that year, then a nonprofit called Fashion Cares at sixteen. By the time the stereotype I fit had shifted solidly from race to gender and everyone assumed I would be another girl going into the fashion industry, I graduated in the top percent of my class, set on a career in tech. …

About

Jackie Luo

Engineer @Square, previously @Nylas.

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