While Symoné B. initially set out to pursue one vision for her future, life ultimately had other plans in mind.
Playing basketball was the Arlington, VA, native’s game plan since a young age. However, her father advised her to focus on computer science due to how lucrative the career field was. At 16 years old, Symoné got into tech by attending a vocational school, where she earned her CompTIA A+ certification.
Although the now 30-year-old broke into the space so early on, she had no prior knowledge of what software engineering was.
“My biggest risk in my career was switching from focusing only on basketball to focusing only on my tech career because basketball was my entire life,” Symoné told AfroTech. “I was really just getting into [tech], and I didn’t even know what software engineering was, and I did not know what it took to be a software engineer. Learning how to code was probably the hardest thing that I ever did in my life, but it all worked out.”
During her time at college, Symoné balanced being on a basketball scholarship while majoring in computer science. For her first tech internship, she made $10 an hour as a material handler. Her next career milestone was making $72,500 as a software engineer.
Now, Symoné’s role is a senior federal technical account manager and her salary is $275,000.
In her current role, Symoné is being paid for what she and her skills bring to the table, but there was a time in her career when she was being lowballed. As a government contractor, she was paid around $20,000 to $30,000 less than what she should’ve been making on the market. To combat the issue, Symoné job-hopped to another company that would pay her a higher salary.
“By getting lowballed, what that taught me is that you should always negotiate your salary and always be willing to walk away,” she advised. “If you don’t have the leverage and have the ability to walk away, you can never negotiate your salary and get the pay that you actually deserve.”
Symoné credits her willingness to relocate with playing a significant role in her career advancement. She has worked all over the U.S. and overseas, including in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Travel relocation gave her access to more opportunities that many others would turn down.
“Earning my salary in tech has afforded me the ability to take care of my family,” Symoné said. “Also, to be able to travel around the world and not really worry too much about the cost of everything in life. And just to be able to live a great life and have a lot of freedom.”
“When it comes to being in tech, definitely remember and understand that you belong in tech and there’s so many other people here,” she added. “And look for your community that you can use to bounce ideas off of and get to where you want to be at in your tech career.”