The Women in Technology lunch and panel discussion at the PASS Summit last week had a great topic: negotiation. When it came time to Q & A, I knew exactly what topic I wanted to introduce.
How Should You Prepare to Ask for a Raise?
It’s funny this was my question, because I don’t need to ask for a raise. As a co-founder and co-owner of a business I am no longer salaried. Instead of asking for raises, I negotiate contracts and use the principle of least regret.
But I wanted to talk specifics about this topic. Why?
Over the years I learned the hard way about asking for a raise. First, it took me a long time to learn simply that I should ask. I’m not alone: according to this study men are nine times more likely to ask for more money than women. If you’re a woman, or are close to a woman professional, this is worth some conversations. When is the last time you asked for additional compensation? How did you do it? When do you think is the right time to ask again?
Once I started asking it took me a long time to learn techniques to support my request. Through trial and error I discovered there are relatively easy things you can do daily to show the value you bring to your company. This is important— for DBAs and developers, I find we need to outline a methodology before we get moving. Once we have a plan, we can move forward.
Today, I will share tips from panelists at the WIT lunch and introduce additional tips which have been key to my own success.
Use Your Performance Reviews
Karen Lopez ( blog|twitter ) emphasized using your performance reviews to your advantage. I agree with this strongly— and if you are one of the few people who don’t have a formal annual performance review, I think you should (gasp!) ask for one.
We all tend to dread performance reviews. We think of one thing: paperwork.
Here’s how to look at your performance review differently. Think of it as being about data. Your performance review is a chance to show data about the value you provide to your company. This is, in a sense, an annual resume. Your resume is better when it highlights facts about how you perform well on the job.
Here’s the type of data to include in your performance review:
- I reduced the speed of processing daily ROI for PandaBears by 20%, ensuring that data is delivered to customers well within SLAs;
- I identified ten customer impacting bugs and drove 8 to resolution;
- I implemented monitoring for application availability across 100 production SQL Server instances;
- I wrote and presented three brownbag training sessions for developers across departments on optimizing transact SQL.
Karen emphasized that you should describe not only how much work you did, but also quantify the impact of your work. If you identified bugs and drove them to resolution, how much time did this save customers? If you consolidated databases on SQL Server instances, how much money did this save the company over the next five years?
This requires a bit of research, but it has a silver lining. To discover the impact of your changes, you’ll need other people to help you. What would hosting and maintenance cost for those servers you decommissioned? Ask the team who manages your datacenter. How did resolving those bugs impact customers’ daily lives? Ask their account managers. Did anyone learn something in those brownbags you gave that they used in production code? Ask a sampling of people who attended and include explicit examples about how it was useful.
By asking these questions you will build stronger relationships with your coworkers. By talking about how you’ve made things better together you’re increasing the likelihood that you’ll be helpful to each other in the future.
Yanni Robel ( blog | twitter ) shared that she proactively keeps a weekly list of threes: the top three things she did, the top three things that weren’t done due to other priorities, and the three things she plans to address the next week. She shares this list with her management and uses it to track her own progress. This is a way in which she creates data she can review over time for her own performance.
To Do: Today, write down a list of three things you’ve improved in the last three months. Create a weekly half hour calendar appointment for yourself to expand on this list by adding items, adding facts, and adding impact statements. Each week, work to introduce more facts and think about ways you can measure your impact on the company and incorporate the data into your performance review and conversations about advancing your career.
Perform Health Checks
One of my favorite things about working on a SQL Server Health Check with clients is training them how to use the Health Check process to advance their careers.
When we perform a health check with a client, our chief objective is to identify the client’s pain points and design targeted, realistic solutions. We step you through a top-to-tails approach to your SQL Server environment and train you on the process: how to take the pulse of your system, how to interpret the results. As part of this process we baseline the system together.
This process is fully repeatable by you after the health check is over. The health check doesn’t just give you solutions, it gives you the tools you need to make things better and show the improvement with data.
Performing repeat health checks and baselining your system is an extremely powerful method you can use to connect with your management chain— and this goes for both DBAs and developers. This is data that your management team can use to show the value of your team and raise your profile in the organization.
By focussing on the data and providing metrics about improved performance, you become increasingly valuable and visible. This will lead you to great career opportunities, many of which have increased compensation.
Negotiate Your Rewards
There are times when a raise isn’t in the cards, and you should always be ready to ask for more than money. Think ahead of time about what may be useful to you. You can score in multiple areas, and you may win more than you expect.
What does promotion mean in your organization? In some organizations, promotions aren’t directly tied to huge raises, but may increase other benefits and lead to larger bonuses.
What training opportunities are available? What skills would you like to advance by being assigned to a particular project? Do you have an idea for a way to improve your system that you would like to have time to test in a lab? What improvements might that make?
There are many types of rewards you can use to advance your career in addition to direct monetary compensation. When you’re in a spot where monetary compensation is truly limited, you want to maximize the rest of these areas so your experience grows and your career continues to move forward.
When negotiating training and project work, keep a close eye on your time commitments. While you take on additional responsibilities you must also account for time to transition some of your older tasks to other people, or to automate those tasks so they don’t require daily work. Put this in a positive light and think in terms of creating a successful proposal for making good use of your time.
Takeaways to Take Home More
The key here is to remember a few things:
- It’s important to ask for a raise or promotion. By doing this you are explicitly stating “I actively want to advance my career.” Don’t assume your management knows this about you.
- Ask in a way that shows your strengths. Even if your request isn’t granted this time, take this opportunity to talk about your successes and strengths in a way that can open doors later on.
- Know that “no” is not a final answer. As long as you’re taking action to increase your knowledge and advance your career, you’re moving in the right direction.
- Value your time, and value time you can devote to learning.