In our series My 6-Figure Paycheck, women making more than $100,000 open up about how they got there and what exactly they do. We take a closer look at what it feels like to be a woman making six figures — when only 5% of American women make that much, according to the U.S. Census — w ith the hope it will give women insight into how to better navigate their own career and salary trajectories.
Today, we chat with a client success manager from Shawnee, KS. Previously, we spoke to a senior partnership manager in Tinton Falls, NJ, a development manager in Seattle, WA, and a head of talent acquisition in San Francisco, CA.
: Client Success Manager, Commercial Insurance
Age : 31
Location : Shawnee, Kansas
Degree : Bachelor's in international business and Spanish, plus industry designations
First Salary: $28,000
Current Salary: $101,000
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
"I actually wanted to be a basketball player on the men's Kansas University (KU) basketball team! I never understood growing up in a neighborhood of all boys that girls and boys didn't play together after a certain age. I used to dream about Roy Williams, who was the former KU head coach, seeing me play and asking me to join his team. Embarrassing."
What did you study in college?
"Double-majored in international business and Spanish in college. Also pursued and completed insurance-industry designations (CPCU, AU, AINS)."
Did you have to take out student loans?
"I was very fortunate to have parents who committed to paying for four years of college for me, as long as I kept my GPA above 3.5, which I did while working sometimes two jobs and leading my sorority as president. It took me 4.5 years to earn dual degrees, so the last semester — which was around $5,000 for my small state school — was on me. It took me about a year after college to repay it."
Have you been working at this job since you graduated from college?
"No, I was sucked into a pyramid scheme right out of college. The company was marketed to me as a sports and entertainment firm, and I was told that I would be dealing directly with the 'decision makers' of local businesses to offer promotional products. In reality, I walked around knocking on doors of businesses and offices all day in my assigned territory, hawking glorified coupon books for spa packages and sports tickets. It was completely commission-based, and I'm a hustler, so I made a good amount of cash. However, they then want you to build your team, lead an office, all the normal multilevel-marketing song and dance. You can imagine how well that went.
"After I got out of the pyramid scheme, I started in commercial insurance and have been in the industry in different capacities ever since, starting in 2011. I started at the very bottom of the totem pole, issuing certificates of insurance all day for a large broker.
"I tried out two smaller specialty agencies and jumped at the opportunity to join a startup with an industry-disruption goal. I clawed my way here, and I recently found out I'm up for a promotion to a vice president position, which makes it even sweeter."
How would you explain your day-to-day role at your job?
"I am responsible for a team of four other insurance professionals, anticipated to double this year due to explosive growth. We perform daily servicing for our clients, answer questions, and propose to prospective clients. I'm also responsible for our renewal retention rate, which is currently at an astronomical 98%."
Did you negotiate your salary?
"Absolutely! The recruiter I worked with let me know what the top salary was, and I asked for it and substantiated why I deserved it. I ended up with a base about $15,000 lower, but that was almost completely made up by an annual bonus.
"I expect my base to increase around $10,000 this year and my bonus to increase about $10,000 as well; this will put me at above $120,000."
Is your current job your “passion”? If not, what is?
"Shockingly, yes. I have the flexibility to make my position and my team my own. In a startup environment, I get to influence a lot of larger decisions and be involved in things that would normally be outside my scope. If someone told me even ten years ago that I would be in this job, or even the industry, I would have looked at them like they had two heads. Now I can't recommend the industry enough to new grads and seasoned workers alike."
If you could, would you change anything in your career trajectory?
"Honestly, no. My first job in the industry was extremely entry-level, repetitive, and mindless. However, the skills and knowledge I gained during that time are still used every day in my current position.
"I got a lot of grief from friends and family for job-hopping a lot, but I've learned you have to find the right fit for you, not for anyone else. From my vantage, challenging yourself to stretch to roles you may not think you're qualified for, and continuing to explore opportunities that scare you, is essential to your development and satisfaction."
What professional advice would you give your younger self?
"Network as much as possible and seek out a mentor who will guide you and take you under their wing. Challenge the status quo and don't accept less than what you know you're capable of.
"Don't just be a 'yes' person — they are worthless to leaders who need genuine feedback and difference of opinion to find meaningful solutions. Speaking up in a thoughtful way shows great courage and intelligence."
Are you a woman under 35 with a six-figure salary ($100,000+) and want to tell your story? Submit it here.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?