Know Your Worth: Knowing it and How to Show it

Hexagon UX Toronto’s inaugural event offered tips on negotiation, self-advocacy and more by a panel of leaders.

On February 28, the Hexagon UX Toronto chapter hosted its first event, Know Your Worth, at the headquarters of Wealthsimple.

With students, full-timers, freelancers and contractors filling the seats, the event featured a panel of badass female industry leads, digging into topics including salary negotiation, and knowing the right time to make a move.

Photo by Maggie Chan.

On Preparing for Performance Reviews

Nat Cooper, Product Designer at Prodigy Game and Farwa Kazmi, Founder and head of Product Design at Explorux, both swear by using lists to track achievements, wins, and losses. Lists can keep you motivated and accountable, preventing you from walking out of a performance review without having negotiated anything.

In addition, going into a manager’s review with a list of your achievements helps root the conversation in the reasons why you deserve what you are asking for.

Leen Li, CFO of Wealthsimple, added that you should be prepared to set personal expectations for the next three to six months. This allows you to grow, meet, and exceed these expectations.

Pro tip: don’t forget about growing your soft skills alongside your technical skills.

“Impostor syndrome is overused…You actually have to have achieved something to have impostor syndrome,” said Christina Truong.

On Negotiating

For a higher salary:
Christina Truong, an independent developer and tech educator, acknowledged that people don’t like to talk about how much money they make. To get around this challenge, she advised talking about money to people you trust, and gathering data that way.

Consider Googling salary ranges for type and level of work you do (i.e. junior, mid-level, senior designer) in your location — this way you will have a baseline level of comparison. Learn from other people’s experiences, think outside the box, and put it to practice (read one success story).

When it’s time for a conversation with your manager, give them a heads up so they have time to prepare. Then own your accomplishments and confidently say, “This is why I think I’m worthy of a raise, this is my value.”

It’s not aggressive to ask for what you want. It’s confident.

Everything is negotiable, as long as you can demonstrate business impact. Translate your asks into solid metrics on how a raise will benefit your products, and the company.

On negotiating rates as a freelancer:
Reframe your thinking; don’t look at negotiation as an end-sum game of gaining something while the other party loses something. You may be paid for your time, but the employer’s time is also valuable.

“Say you set a price of $60,000 for your work, and you get it done for the client in a week. This is efficient and can result in high quality work. But let’s say, you set the price of $10,000— this could take six revisions, three months, and more headaches than you need. In this scenario, you lose time, when you could have been one and done with the client,” Truong said.

Pro tip: Save money. This gives you the power and breathing room to say no to clients that are not willing to meet your asking price.

On Making a Move

Nat Cooper said that her decision of whether or not to change roles is based on how happy she feels.

“If I look forward to going to work every day, it’s a place I want to stay. If you had a rock for each day of the year, and you arranged them into piles of happy rocks and sad rocks, what would your distribution look like? Is your happy pile bigger than your sad pile?” she noted.

Farwa Kazmi added that definitions of happiness and success are individual. Her strategy is to reflect on questions such as:

  1. Am I learning every day?
  2. Am I growing?
  3. Am I valued as a member of the team?

Leen Li advised professionals to look at their long-term career goals and take the route that will help them reach these goals quickly. She once took a 50% pay cut, but doing so put her on a faster track towards her personal goals.

At the beginning of your career, make sure you have a company that helps you grow the most in the first five years. Be really careful with the companies you choose.

Breakout Sessions

Following the panel, Know Your Worth continued with three breakout sessions led by Melissa Nightingale, Avery Swartz and Lindsie Canton.

Nightingale shared negotiation strategies:

  • “Go into negotiations like it’s a samba💃, not a combat…You still have to work with the person you’re doing the negotiation with, so don’t go in there swinging.”
  • “Use sentences like ‘I believe that I’m out of step with _____,’ and fill in the blank with ‘market rates,’salary bands,’ or ‘my peers in the organization’.”
  • “Understand three things: what you want, what the market looks like, and what your company and its culture can offer.”
Pro tip: You can get Venture Capitalists to give you anonymized salary data, including data on job titles and years of experience. Information is power. Photo by Maggie Chan.

Swartz focused on setting prices as a freelancer:

  • “Hourly rates are a joke. You’re penalizing yourself for being good because it will take you less and less time to do things with experience.”
  • “A contractor’s wage isn’t comparable to a salaried employee. There’s tons of perks independently covered when freelancing: vacation, sick days, rent, and professional development, to name a few.”
  • “If you don’t rise and go after the bigger, scarier gigs, then those gigs are going to someone else. Your playing small isn’t doing any favors to anyone. Go at your own pace.”
Photo by Maggie Chan

Canton addressed self-promotion and knowing your worth:

  • “When showcasing your work online, show how you get from A to B and how you solve problems by talking through your process.”
  • “Sell yourself by having an elevator pitch ready to share: who you are, what you do, what’s unique about you, and what your objective is.”
  • “Know your worth in monetary value by doing your research. But most importantly, stand up for yourself, be able to walk away from toxic situations and ask for what you need.”
Lindsie Canton shared tips on online presence, and encouraged attendees to create and share their own elevator pitches on the spot. Photo by Shiera Aryev.

Take Action

Think about your goals, but more importantly take action. It’s time we know our worth, and show it. 🙌

Photo credits to Maggie Chan. Illustration by Jennifer Zhang

Many thanks to Laura Palotie and Fiona Yeung for edits. A big thank you to all our volunteers, sponsors and chapter leads, Shiera Aryev, Andréa Crofts, and Jennifer Zhang, for putting on an awesome event! Without them this event would not have been possible.

Sponsors: Wealthsimple, TWG, Ada Support, and MakeLemonade. Psst.. all of them are hiring!

Hexagon UX is a community built to empower women and non-binary folks, level the playing field, and encourage them to be the best versions of themselves. Join us on Slack, where we will be continuing the conversation.