When They Ask You What Your Price Is



If i can’t do
what i want to do
then my job is to not
do what i don’t want
to do

It’s not the same thing
but it’s the best i can

If i can’t have
what i want . . . then
my job is to want
what i’ve got
and be satisfied
that at least there
is something more to want

Since i can’t go
where i need
to go . . . then i must . . . go
where the signs point
through always understanding
parallel movement
isn’t lateral

-Nikki Giovanni

Hit the snooze button on your alarm the five times it goes off – sleep in – it’ll be the last time you’ll get to for a while.

Hop in the shower and blast your favorite song – put it on repeat – keep scrubbing with your favorite body wash until the hot water runs out.

Use that expensive face wash hidden behind the Listerol you never use. Turn on the cold-water faucet and wash your face two times – once to cleanse, and again to wake you up.

Grab your cocoa butter and let your skin soak up its moisture – make sure to get the creases of your nose and your eyes.

Brush your teeth for two minutes – choke on it as you’re scrubbing the back of your tongue – don’t forget to floss – ah shit you don’t have floss.

Drop your towel as you put on your favorite underwear and fresh socks – make sure they match.

Begin to drape over your body the clothes you had carefully primed and ironed the night before – take it off – grab the t-shirt and jeans instead. Much better.

Open the fridge – great – it’s empty.

Throw on your shoes you never wear because you like them too much to get dirty.

Survey the room to the find your: Phone? Keys? Wallet? Check! You’re ready to go.

Lock the front door – unlock the front door right after. You forgot to put on deodorant.

Warm up your car engine, look at yourself in the rear-view mirror and give yourself a pep talk.

Say a quick prayer – blast some trap music right after.

Roll down your windows, let the breeze kiss your face.

Pull up to the long-ass line in the Starbucks drive-through – order a double shot espresso – yea you don’t even like coffee – but, order a drink anyways so you look important and like you got somewhere to be.

Let the cars signaling merge in front of you – wave back when they lift their hand with gratitude.

Drive around a few blocks looking for street parking – after the third loop, pull into the garage.

Right as you’re about to take the keys out of the ignition, say another prayer in case God didn’t hear you the first time.

Today, is the day you’ve been waiting for.

When you walk through the front door greet the receptionist at the front desk by their first name.

Count your steps through the maze-like set up of the office and pause right when you get to the door that has the name of your boss engrained on the tempered glass.

Fix your posture – take a deep breath – clear your throat.

Knock on the door three times – not too aggressive (you don’t want to seem overly eager) and not too light (you don’t want to seem like a timid bitch).

When your boss opens the door say that you hope you’re not interrupting anything. They’ll insist you’re not and their face will light up as they welcome you and ask that you take a seat.

Make yourself comfortable.

Nod your head and say thank you profusely as your boss lauds you for an exorbitant amount of time.

Tune back in when shit finally gets to the point and your boss lays out paperwork on the desk.

It’s your offer letter.

Your stomach clenches – you don’t know if it’s from nerves or your abs supporting your faux posture.

Grab the pieces of paper – make eye contact and say you need time to read it over.

Your eyes skim through faster than any text in your lifetime, and rest on the pay figure.

Keep a straight face.

Your boss breaks the awkward silence by gleefully asking you when you think you can start.


Thank them for the offer but say it’s not exactly what you had in mind.

Don’t lose footing when shock swallows their face.

Let all their explanations and excuses fade into the tick-tock of the clock. They’re wasting your time.

They’ll shift from stating that the offer is non-negotiable to asking what it is that you’re looking for.

Great fuckin question

Say you appreciate their willingness to work with you, and that you’d like an additional 24 hours to thoroughly review the compensation package and submit a counter offer.

Get up – shake their hand.

Thank the asshole that tried to lowball you again.

Walk out of the office and swiftly to your car before you can turn around and change your mind.

Hop in the car, put your friends on three-way and let them remind you how great you are.

When you get home, crawl back into bed and stare at the ceiling in total silence.

Count your sheep, blessings, and fucks given until you fall into a light sleep.

You’re a bull caught in a dance with a jester – you need all the energy you can get.

When I graduated from undergrad with a major in American Ethnic Studies, I felt as if I’d hit the lotto when I was offered a managerial role at Amazon right out of school. School does a great job of prepping you for how to apply for jobs, and how to interview – but it falls short in teaching you how to negotiate once an offer has been made. When I got the call from the recruiter with a salary of $50,000 it seemed relatively low to the salaries I saw on Glassdoor. The recruiter made it clear, after a few minutes of haggling, that the pay for entry level college-hires was non-negotiable so I accepted the offer. Throughout my time at Amazon, I was fortunate to work with amazing people and learn operations at an expedited rate. However, I felt that due to being young, female, and a person of color I had to work twice as hard to meet the bar. Yet, I was still getting a fraction of the pay compared to my six-figure colleagues. I vowed to myself to never again allow a company to undervalue or underpay me and I left just short of my two-year anniversary and 15 shares (RIP) to pursue my Master’s.

In my Master’s program I took a course that taught me how to say no, and how to get others to say yes: Negotiations. I learned about the essential items to have in your toolkit before entering any negotiation: a Target, a Reservation Point, and a BATNA. A target is the ideal favorable outcome you wish to achieve from the negotiation. Your target is not to be communicated to external parties with conflicting interests. Rather, you provide a high “anchor” which starts off the negotiation at a better outcome than you’re seeking to allow a buffer to negotiate down to your target. A Reservation Point is a pre-determined value at which you walk away. This is the bare minimum you are willing to accept and is non-negotiable. A BATNA is an acronym for “Best Alternative Negotiated Agreement.” It means that if you must walk away from a negotiation you already have an alternative option aligned. In addition, I learned about distributive, integrative and compatible negotiations. A distributive negotiation is when interests of parties are mutually exclusive, this ultimately results in a win-lose outcome. An integrative negotiation is when interests are related but not mutually exclusive, this results in parties negotiating trade offs and can result in a win-win outcome. Lastly, compatible negotiations are when interests are the same and not mutually exclusive. This is the most favorable of negotiations because both parties can get exactly what they want. This is the ultimate win-win scenario.

After I had learned these frameworks, I got to practice applying them with various in class assignments. Novice negotiators tend to view negotiations as win-lose scenarios (distributive) without understanding that negotiations are a mix of claiming and generating value. I gradually became comfortable with communicating my value, my needs and not viewing the person on the other side of the table as my adversary, but my partner. I can undoubtedly say that this course single-handedly improved my self-assessment and proclamation skills to land the job of my dreams.

I studied Entrepreneurship because I’ve always had dreams of running a business of my own in the Fintech Industry. Life derailed – and I came across a person and sector that would redirect the direction of my career. One of my favorite TV docuseries is called, “This is Life with Lisa Ling.” I remember watching the episode called “Silicon Savants” that featured teens who are working to change the world through tech. One of the teens featured was a Habesha boy named Abenezer Mamo. After watching the episode, I reached out to him on LinkedIn and thanked him for inspiring me with his journey. I didn’t get a response until about 2 years later when he messaged me stating he was considering pursuing a job at Amazon and wanted to have an informational interview with me. We set up a phone call and got to chatting for upwards of an hour. Coincidentally, he was based out of San Francisco and I had a flight scheduled with my classmate to SF the following weekend. God works in mysterious ways. We met up that weekend and ended up grabbing injera and burning off the itis through a walk around the downtown corridor. We talked about everything from life, to religion to politics to business. I shared with him what my professional interests were, and he recommended that I look into something called blockchain and cryptocurrency. I was vaguely familiar with it at the time and he provided me with a high-level overview of the industry and its vision. When I arrived back to Seattle, I began to read more about it and immediately became sucked in. Fast forward a few months later and I contacted the CEO of the exchange I traded on via LinkedIn and asked him if his company is looking to hire and needed help scaling out their CS support side. A few weeks, calls and interviews later I was made an offer.

After being made an offer to hire I was asked by my employer what the salary I was looking for was. I pushed back and requested that they make me an initial offer to review first. We went back and forth for a while on the initial offer and due to timing and extenuating circumstances I caved in and gave my number first. I made sure to anchor it higher than the actual figure I was hoping for. The employer then counter offered with a low anchor and said the number I provided was way out of budget and that the role was capped at a certain salary. I declined the new figure they offered me and said although I was extremely interested in the role it was important that I be compensated fairly. A few conversations later I walked a way with an offer that was $65,000 more than the initial figure they provided me.

When you’re negotiating it’s important to not over explain – you’re not on trial. As individuals, we’re so apt at assigning value to external things, yet we struggle to assign value to ourselves. Systemically, I know this is disproportionately true for people of color. In predominately white spaces, people of color are undervalued and we, in turn, begin to internalize that as being an accurate assessment of our own worth. When we demand more, we’re often cross-examined or made to feel as if we’re ungrateful or asking for too much. One of my favorite movies, “Dope,” on Netflix nails this sentiment on the head. It shares a black male high school student’s journey to apply for Harvard. The closing line of the film was the last sentence on his Harvard college essay: “So, why do I want to attend Harvard? If I was white, would you even have to ask me that question?”

Throughout our youth, we over index on the preparation for our careers – we’re taught to go to school, get good grades, do meaningful internships, network, etc. Once we start our careers, we’re excited as we feel that our hard work has finally started to bear fruit. Yet, we soon realize the job and corporate America isn’t all that it was made out to be as we face disparities surrounding compensation, promotion and inclusion. The corporate environment can be toxic for young professionals of color, and I’ve lost track of how many people I know that have prestigious resumes but are zombies at work. Public perception should not be weighed more heavily than your individual happiness.

When I left Amazon, my colleagues and peers thought I was crazy. I heard things ranging from, “Why would you give up so many shares?” to “Why would you leave something secure for the unknown?” By taking that leap of faith, I was able to acquire a new degree and secure a job at a company I absolutely love, and that pays me well. The best career advice I’ve ever gotten to this day, is to ensure that every step you take in your career takes you one more step closer to freedom. Everyone has a different definition of freedom – it can be time, financial independence, autonomy to create, etc. When you walk into a negotiation with your employer, keep that notion of freedom in your mind because it’ll help you evaluate your return on investment (ROI). So that when you’re tossed a bone you won’t bite it – but throw it back.

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