Thursday, January 5, 2012

Next on The Life of Pixie: Drama, rumors, and a little better pat on the back, Part 2

Just before Guy and I left for Christmas, I finally got my yearly review. Howie and Sven were involved, as well as another architect and manager I'd been working with on Gestalt, a fantastic designer and overall good fellow named Charlton. Howie and Sven went on and on about how great I'd done on Gestalt during the past year, and how much I'd grown as an architect and a manager over the past year, and how great it would be to get me working with Bosley again in 2012 on some small hospital projects. I thanked those present for their kind words and for the opportunities for growth that I'd been given int he past year, and I reflected that I was looking forward to working on the small hospitals as well. As much as I liked working on Gestalt, I felt like working on full-on hospitals in the next few months would help me (re)sharpen my design and project management skills. I appreciated the compliments and was looking forward to doing more for Design Associates.

Then, the money conversation. Sven reflected that according to the stats that the firm had been looking at, architectural salaries were flat in 2011, but they wanted to give me a raise and a little something extra because they valued me. So, my new promotion was to be Senior Architect, and my raise would be 5%.

The Pixie was Not Amused.

I then explained to the attending partners and managers that, while I appreciated their efforts to reward me, I believed that my efforts in the past year merited a 10% raise, and that the 2011 AIA Compensation report backed me up on that. My 2011 base salary was below the bottom quartile salary for those at my level in the Denver area (meaning that more than 75% of the architects in Denver that did my job made more than me), and a 10% raise would put me closer to the median salary. There was a moment's pause--lo, it was only half a second, maybe less--but the pause was there. Howie's face froze, but his eyes flicked. The flick told me everything, told me just what he was thinking:

She's onto us.

Howie explained sheepishly that the AIA's numbers weren't totally accurate because of how and who they survey, and DA uses this other report over here because it's more accurate, etc. but I think the damage was done. We talked a while more, and as we left the room amicably enough, Sven said, "So, you were looking at...?

"10 percent," I replied calmly.

Sven nodded. "I'll see what I can do and get back to you."

I seethed over the holiday break. I seethed because I had every indication that the people who had direct knowledge of my skill were trying to underpay me yet again. I've heard it over and over again for eleven years: things have been tough, we're not sure what the market is going to do, there's some instability or uncertainty.... Fair enough, but at some point, you're going to have to pay for quality if you want to keep quality. And I seethed further, knowing that Sven, for all of his many good qualities, was not a particularly tough person or partner. I doubted deeply that I would see any change in my raise, began to wonder where else in town I could work that had DA's environment but paid appropriately.

The day I returned to the office from Christmas, Howie called me into a conference room and said, "So, you asked for more at your review, and so the partners talked, and starting on January 1st, you'll be on salary at a 16% raise--" I looked at the paper in front of him; there was a huge number on the salary line.

It was my turn for my face to freeze and for my eyes to flicker. "Um, wait, salary? And I got 16%?"

Howie looked up from the paper he was looking at. "Yeah, salary," he said brightly. "The, uh, partners talked and..."

"I'm not complaining, believe me!" I said, trying to catch my breath. "It's just that when we talked last week, I was still hourly and..." I blinked, still not comprehending.

"Well," Howie explained, "you and Laura and Elliott are getting promotions to Senior Architect this year, and the partners talked about how best to pay you three in this new position, and then it was mentioned that you had asked for more money in your review--"

Sven. Sven had brought it up. Sven had stood up to the other partners. I would never doubt that man again.

"--so, you're getting 16%, which is--" and pointed to the amazing number I had already seen on the sheet of paper in front of him. I thanked Howie for the good news and told him that this was more than a raise for me--it was validation that the work I did was important. I told him that this was motivating and affirming and elevating, this raise and promotion. It was the culmination of so much effort for me, and I really appreciated the recognition. Howie smiled and his shoulders relaxed. I don't think he's used to being thanked; I reckon it doesn't happen much.

I went back to my desk and emailed Guy, then texted my sister about the good news. Then I whipped out a calculator and ran the numbers just to confirm the math: I had just received a 16.4% raise, above and beyond the 10% I'd asked for in my review. Good God. I then texted Vinnie, my erstwhile antiques-dealer-turned-psychologist pal to see if he wanted to do happy hour before I went home for the evening. He and I met shortly after work, and as I finished recounting the story to him, all he did was shook his head and smile. "Pix," he mused, "well done. You scared hell out of 'em. They knew they had to do better or they were gonna lose you."

"I'm not so sure about that," I replied, swirling my Riesling in my glass and looking out into the unseasonably warm late December streets. "I suppose it--"

"Pixie," Vinnie interrupted. "You came in there with ammo, research, and you asked for the first time in your whole career. You let them know that if they weren't gonna take care of Pixie, Pixie was gonna take care of Pixie." He drained his highball glass. "I don't have to be in that room to know what was said around the table."

Looks like 2012 may be getting off to a pretty decent start.


ms. kitty said...

That is incredibly fantastic, Pixie! I am so happy for you! I can't quit smiling about it! (Or using exclamation points, apparently!)

Andrea said...

Awesome Pixie! And what a great way to start the new year!

Miss Kitty said...

Heh-heh-heh. EPIC WIN.

Did you find out anything else about the "big wheel" who's never in the office & never does any work or answers his phone/e-mail? I was kind of hoping for an O.K. Corral-type showdown...

scarlett said...

Good job, girl. Way to kick ass.

Also, can I tell you how sorry I am that you are excited about a raise that takes you to the salary level I was 10 years ago? That is simply criminal. The amount of schooling and work and licensing you have to go through to get that salary. Gah. It makes me angry for you.

I'm guessing the "salary" designation means no more pay by the hour type weeks? So they have you in slow times and they get you in busy times, right? Welcome to the sprint plan: 2cents a minute, and free nights and weekends. But I think you are already familiar with it. :)

Congrads. Save some $$ and we can go PLAY when you're here next month!

Mile High Pixie said...

Thanks, everyone--it feels good indeed to be recognized. Scarlett, you're totally right--it's an insult to know all the hoops we jump through and liability that we take on as architects and we still can't get paid like our engineering counterparts. And Kitty, so far we haven't seen a real change (or dismissal) of Gregg. He does seem to be in the office more these days, which I'm sure just kills him, but he's still foisting his work off on other people.