How much am I really worth?

TL;DR: I am worthless, yet I am worth too much.

How much am I really worth?
The beginning of #KnowYourWirth

In the last 2 days, the tech community on Twitter blew up with the #KnowYourWorth movement. The TL;DR it is to share your salary, so that minorities can have a better grasp of what the market rate is, instead of relying on anonymous sites that you never really know if they can be trusted.

And just like every movement on Twitter, immediately there are a lot of supporters, along with a lot of criticisms. And what I want to do today is to share my 2 cents of what I fell about #KnowYourWorth.

First, I would like to get a few facts straight, before jumping into my own train of thoughts:

I am sure there are a lot of peer-reviewed studies on these topics, just go to Wikipedia and go through all of the citations for gender disputesarity and gender pay gap, not to mention race, sexuality, age, and more.

The TL;DR of what I think I am worth boils down to the following:

  • Honestly I think right now I am worth less than what my company is paying me
  • However, just 2 years ago, I am probably underpay (because I know nothing)
  • I wish the society has less stigma on compensation transparency
  • And hopefully with that, we can have a much better look at the inequality as a whole

What should be the criteria?

One of the bigger group of discussion focuses on “should people with the same title have the same compensation, regardless of where they live”. Personally I am more in the camp of “pay people with same responsibility with same base compensation + compensation based on context”.

The reason why I am against same salary for everyone is because it is kinda unrealistic. Some people are gonna like to live in expensive places (SF, Norway, etc.) for a wide range of reasons. And unless you pay everyone that high level of compensations, you are excluding them based on something that they may have no power to change. There are also a lot of other reasons why you might want to pay people differently, like appreciation of loyalty, compensation in salary vs days off, and not to mention bonus on performance of individuals.

Ok, so what are you really worth?

And based on this criteria, I honestly think I am very lucky and maybe even overpay. I did not ask my teammates what their compensations are (since this blow up during the weekend), but from what I understand about our company’s pay structure, they probably get paid less than I do, while doing the same or even more than what I do. I fucked things up on such a regular basis, that I am still wondering if I am gonna pass the probation period 🤞

And in terms of the context, we more or less joined at the same time, with more or less the same amount of expertise of what we do (more then I do to be honest), and surprisingly similar backgrounds, and we are all living in Berlin now, so I think from that perspective we should more or less score the same as well.

Umm, so are you gonna do anything about it?

This is something I have been thinking about for the last 48 hours (i.e. not that much time), and here’s my train of thoughts:

  • I should ask my leads on criteria of judging our pay grade
  • I should find out what’s the law on “keeping salary a secret” in Germany
  • Try to remember and write down how I got this offer (which is more than 5 months ago), and hopefully some of it can be useful to others
  • Spread the message to border audiences

Wait that it?

For now that’s the list of things that I can come up with, and that brings up to a topic that I am no an expert in, but after watching this video, makes me appreciate this whole movement a lot more:

While it is not about salary or compensation or money, it does bring up a quite interesting topic on how much an individual can do, when facing a deep-rooted mental model that the society held. And from this video, this reminds me of this somewhat exaggerate & American-focus snippet of Adam Ruins Everything:

The more I think about it, the more I agree that currently the common practices for companies are the biggest bottleneck for achieving fair compensation regardless of age, gender, sexuality, race, and more. How can people have an open discussion on how to tackle pay gap, when people are still arguing that pay gap is not real (although to be fair, there are also people who think the earth is flat, so I guess data and statistics are not as powerful as I think they are 🤷‍♀️).

Hopefully one day, we can all sit down, have detailed and meaningful analysis and discussion on the inequality in the tech industry, and how we can tack the issue as a whole.

Closing thoughts: some criticisms of #KnowYourWorth

  • Intentional or not, some of the tweets gonna feel more like humble-brag (“Oh I make 1000k in SF and you should too!”).
  • Privacy is absolutely a big issue here. I get the point here is “This is my name, this is my compensation, and you can trust this info”, but judging by the amount of people who backtracking their decisions, and amount of things people can extract from these data, I guess it is safe to say this is not a scalable solution to raise awareness.
  • Context is absolutely still a very big problem. Does earning 200k in SF means the same thing as 100k in Berlin? And what about things that money cannot buy, like public health care that does not cost an arm and a leg, or nicer weather, or friends and family?

I hope that it could be the beginning of a much bigger movement towards eliminating inequality, and I swear to god I will do my best to make that happen!