Need advice on - promotion to UX


#1

Hi everyone! I’ve been working about 2 years solid on getting a title change from Senior Graphic Designer to UX/UI Designer where I currently work. I found out today - that is going to happen. All I know for sure about is a title change. But - I am sure hoping they move my salary a bit to match the title change as well… I guess I am just not sure how to approach this meeting - since I really don’t know what is on the table. I am assuming financials for this year are already check marked off and its not going to be a negotiable matter when it comes to salary. But I also sadly expect to not get the kind of bump that I would get if just going to a new company into the same title. So I just need some advice. Again, I don’t know what is going to happen - but let’s say worst case scenario and they offer me a typical yearly raise rather than bringing my salary up to the title? Should I expect more? I feel like I should - but maybe not? I don’t want to appear “ungrateful” but already feel I’ve been taken advantage of for the past 2 years doing the work without the pay or title. Perhaps I am worried for nothing - who knows. But what advice would you give me as far as expectations should go here? I’ve been with the company almost 9 years.


#2

Everything is negotiable, salary included.

Do. Your. Homework. Use a site like Glassdoor to figure out the average salary of a UX Designer, and come prepared to ask for that number.

Always ask for what you’re worth. If you’re worth the title, you’re worth the pay. Find that number I mentioned above, and come prepared to ask for it.

The conversation doesn’t have to be adversarial. This isn’t personal, it’s business. After a lifetime of employers training you that your salary is a highly personal matter that shouldn’t be challenged or discuss, it’s hard sometimes to grasp that your skills are you commodity, and you’re are the salesman.

They want a specific set of responsibilities and expectations from you - and you’ve obviously proven your ability to do them, otherwise you wouldn’t be having this conversation.

You’ve proven your value, now go out and ask for it. I wouldn’t expect you to sell me a brand new Porsche for the price of a '89 Honda. That’s what your company wants.

Your value is worth full market price.

The leverage in any negotiation always lies with the party that is willing to walk away first. If your company isn’t willing to pay at least industry average for your area, be prepared to turn down the title. @mag_sobieszuk had probably the best response I’ve yet heard when faced with a similar situation.

Unfortunately, I had to resort to the final argument “I will get this money for this kind of job somewhere else”. But it worked!

Turning down the title will result in one of two moves:

1.) The company comes back with a more competitive counter-offer.
2.) You continue with your current title and begin putting in applications elsewhere until you find a UX title that will pay you your value.

Good luck, and go get 'em! Let me know how it turns out?


#3

I know this is a tough situation (been there, done that). It seems to me that you have the same personal approach to remuneration, which is inconvenient but not wrong at all (at least to me, I get attached a lot). Anyways, listen to @dougcollins - he has the best advice ever!
And let us know how it went.


#4

Thank you Doug for your thoughtful answer.

I did have my end of year meeting and came prepared for the worst. It was worse than I thought actually. They already had prepared everyone in the team meeting letting us know how “poorly” financially our group had done overall (not really even our groups but other groups combined in with us that determine raises and bonuses at the end) and to not expect much if anything in the way of salary increases or bonuses - so I knew it was going to be bad already.

So to give you an idea - as a senior graphic designer in my city, I was already 10k under market value. They gave me a “title change” to UX designer without a level promotion - and a 1k raise… and my bonus was about 1k less than last year. So I actually now make less money overall this year than the last by $100.

So now as a UX designer who has already been DOING the job for at least 2 years - not to mention all of my previous experience as a graphic designer which can’t be discounted - I am approximately 30k under median value for my city - and not even at the lowest (according to glass door).

My manager felt really uncomfortable and bad about delivering me this news I could tell. He tells me time and time again how I do a great job - advocates for me and talks well about me to everyone. And basically passed me a flaming pile of crap for my end of year. I feel kind of heartbroken honestly. I have worked day and night to not only gain the skills but to create new solutions for them that will make my department millions of dollars - millions. And I got - 1k.

I was very honest with him about how I felt about it but also remained professional - but I also feel like they are giving me no choice but to look for new employment. I feel really used and undervalued. He promised that he would try to get me more by mid year and that he is my biggest advocator and I am his number one priority to get more money when he can - and he is going to try by mid year but of course there are no guarantees. I talked with him briefly again today and basically stated I wasn’t angry at him because I know he is just the messenger it all comes down to it but I also feel disappointed knowing that staying on here would mean to me that I would never make what I rightfully should as a UX designer either - and that isn’t really fair to me. I think I made my case crystal clear to him - and he is still on my side, and claims to have my back - but I don’t know. I can’t wait another 6 months to have them throw another 1k my way or whatever they scrounge together after raking in the millions they will due to the work I’ve done for them. It’s all just so wrong.

I am not able to put in my 2 weeks, but my new part time job is putting my resume and portfolio together to look for a new job. At the least - now having the title might make it easier for me to find employment as a UX designer elsewhere.

Any further advice is appreciated and thanks for advocating that I stand up for myself because I am glad I did that even though it didnt pay off to do so.


#5

I’m so sorry things worked out like this. It’s great that you’re able to convey your feelings professionally. I can tell that you’re still going to give your current position your all, even as you search for something better.

Hang in there.


#6

Yes, I am still giving it my all. Was all I could do to not call in sick today - but I knew I had a site mockup for a very large client - of course all unbillable work that they don’t count towards our “goals” anyway. Really - things are not stacked in my favor as a developer of new solutions and large sales initiatives. Seems totally backwards to me but what do I know… our production artists that get tons of billable hours just making edits to solutions I develop get a higher percentage of raise than I do because they had a higher number of billable hours… go figure.


#7

Well that really stinks.

For what it’s worth, I have a relatively similar story. It’s a bit long, but hopefully it will give you a bit of a lift.

In 2009, I found myself working on the phones for a major retailer’s credit division, making $12/hour (US) (about $25k/year). We had a really bad and outdated internal operations guide. We’re talking no search functionality, written in FrontPage 2004, and organized by alphabetical topic.

This which was a huge problem for a couple of reasons. We were required to follow detailed procedures to ensure we adhered to credit law, but had no reliable way of finding these procedures unless we knew exactly where they were in our online operations guide. There were a surprising amount of variables, and although nearly every situation was covered in excruciating detail, the way everything was setup made it impossible to know exactly where something might be.

I had a little experience with HTML and CSS. The computer I used had Notepad and Internet Explorer. In my time between calls (which was usually about 10-30 seconds), I began to build a tool that allowed me to do my job more efficiently by doing things like improving search functionality, linked to common workflows, and generated pre-filled notes for some of the more common situations that I could copy and paste into our customer account management system.

At the time, I was homeless due to stupidly chasing a girl across the country without having a place to live and not being able to make enough to eat and save up for a place in an area of the country with an extreme cost of living. In the evenings, I studied coding, development, and UX concepts in my 1998 Ford Escort parked at the rest stop that became my de-facto home.

The tool grew, though at a crawl, and over the course of a year or so I built a system that covered nearly every feature someone in the call center employee could want. I showed the tool to other reps and even found a way to share access using my computer as the host. I gathered feedback, made modifications, and showed it to my mangers. Everyone liked it, but IT was (understandably) scared poopless of it. I was ordered to stop sharing the tool and stop using it myself.

I stopped sharing the tool, but ignored the order to stop using it.

Over the next two years I was promoted to a series of slightly better paying, off-the-phone positions, but was still making around $35k/year.

The company held a competition to land what amounted to management training position, with the promise to be promoted to the communications, legal, IT, or marketing departments after the training position wrapped up. The competition was based on developing a business plan to present to the C-Level management for a worthwhile project for the company to implement, and of course I knew right away what I was going to present.

Of course I knew what I was going to present. I put together my proposal, and presented it to the C team. The CEO’s response when I wrapped up my presentation was to look at the other members of the team and ask “Why aren’t we doing this already?”

I landed one of the management training positions, with the caveat that I would be moving into IT as soon as possible to implement my solution. The management training position didn’t have a pay bump, but surely working with the title of “Software Engineer” for one of the retail world’s biggest names in a major tech hub would come with a pay bump, so I wasn’t overly concerned.

When I got the assignment to IT, I found out that my pay bump was exactly $0. They wanted to pay me $35/k year to be a software engineer. The average pay in my market is about $95k.

I took the job, and I implemented my system company-wide. By my conservative estimates, my system saved the company at least $700,000 in lost productivity in the first year alone, and converted at least $2 million additional a year in sales. That system has been up and running there for years.

For four years of single handed design, development, testing, and implementation of a system that improved the bottom line drastically, I was paid $120,000 before taxes.

Shortly after implementing the system, I moved to a company that made interactive digital signage (read: giant touch screens) for a wide variety of clients. I continued to study and implement UX principles in my designs, though in a much different environment, eventually becoming a senior sign developer and team lead (also without seeing a pay bump for the job change).

When I left that job to become a full-time UX engineer a couple of years ago, I was finally in a position to ask for what I was worth. I turned down a couple of jobs that weren’t connecting with me on salary requirements before coming to terms on my current gig with Trust Company of America.

I know right now, in this moment, you’re likely disappointed and looking out into the wider job market, wondering what the job world holds for you. It’s probably hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m not going to blow sunshine up your bum and tell you that you’re going to be an overnight success. But I will tell you that have the skills and the drive to be a huge success. Your skills and your value are worth much more than you’re making now.

My advice: take the frustration you’re undoubtedly feeling in this moment, and focus it on making yourself so damn knowledgeable and valuable that someone out there will have no choice to take you at the pay your deserve. Don’t just believe you will be successful, know it.

If I can do anything at all to help you on your way, let me know. I know how hard of a road it can be, and I’m passionate about helping and educating those coming up the same path I walked. I will do everything in my power to make your journey as easy as possible.

I hope that helps a bit. Let me know what I can do to give you a hand.


#8

Gosh well I haven’t done anything nearly as impressive as that - that I’m aware of. It makes me wonder how I come up with those numbers that really drive the point home as you did - saving the company X million dollars in lost productivity. etc.

I can say that when I designed our mockups and all of the assets that go along with it I was very careful about making it user friendly to the designers as well as the clients - which definitely will make money in lost productivity. Previously we had to change a million little icons for each site (actually roughly 50ish) ONE BY ONE - and I pretty simply actually linked them all together in a way that now they only have to change the one linked icon - and they all change. Sounds like a small pain point but a huge time saver really, especially on the tight turn around times we are given for projects. I put a ton of UX work into the designer side alone to make it easier on them - and myself. Maybe that is a good talking point I am missing.

As far as what you could do to help - I wish I knew. Maybe advice on what skills I should be really hammering down. I am a graphic designer originally so I feel I should be delving into coding a bit since I am unfamiliar in that territory. Any other skills you feel would make me more marketable as a UX person?

Another side note is I was a mental health specialist in the Army previously to even going to college for design - perhaps I should play that up a bit as I was really not counting that as relevant experience to my design work, though I hear its valuable to UX.

I did campaign for us to start using invision this year - finally - and we now are in “beta testing” - so far its a tremendous help. I can definitely claim responsibility for that streamlining.