Invest in your biggest asset — YOU! Your knowledge, skills, and abilities are your assets. Invest in yourself to increase your value in the marketplace. If your current employer doesn’t realize your newly created value, another company will. When I found out a male peer was paid 50% more than me for the same work, I invested in myself by learning how to negotiate. The result? I was able to triple my salary! Invest in yourself and start reaping the benefits.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Hasson.
Lauren Hasson is the Founder of DevelopHer, an award-winning platform with online programs to help women in tech get ahead, stand out, and earn more in their careers. Her best-selling book, The DevelopHer Playbook, was the #1 New Release in multiple tech categories on Amazon. Lauren also works full-time on the frontlines of tech herself as an accomplished software engineer at a leading Silicon Valley payments company.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you so much for having me!
Over six years ago, I had just returned from a UK G8 Innovation Summit and had a conversation with a male coworker that changed the trajectory of my life. During our conversation, he complained to me about how little he made. When he told me his salary, I was stunned. He was making exactly what I made at the time though my experience and credentials far outweighed his relative value to the company. I also found he had been hired at a rate 50% higher than when I first joined the company. To be frank, I was appalled.
After this conversation, I made a promise to myself I would not wait for these opportunities to be handed to me, I became the change I wanted, and I got it. I have repeated this throughout my life. I create my own opportunities and advocate for the value I bring.
This started a journey of learning, action, and growth that would change my life forever. Within two years, I was able to triple my salary in that short, two-year span, and that difference meant an additional six-figure amount that I would earn EVERY year moving forward.
Of course this journey was one of trials, failures, and iterative successes. Each failure brought new insight into the journey and how I could use what I learned from each failure to my advantage to ultimately succeed. I retained every piece of knowledge I could find on personal and professional development and salary negotiation to arm myself with the tools I needed to get my salary to match the value I brought to the workplace. It was in the failures that I found what worked for me, and how I could leverage my own strengths to achieve new heights.
Negative experiences and personal loss are ALWAYS opportunities to learn. This is one of our key messages at DevelopHer and what we strive to instill in other women.
To pivot into how I ended up creating DevelopHer, achieving this success in my day job wasn’t enough for me. I had invested thousands of hard-earned dollars, as well as hours and hours of my life, overcoming my own pay inequity. I looked around and saw so many women struggling with the same issues. Someone had to make a change and decided I must be the change. I wanted to arm women with tools to overcome pay inequity, without having to struggle to find the resources as I did — and DevelopHer was born!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
What is most interesting and that people don’t often realize is that when I founded DevelopHer, I had so much imposter syndrome that I didn’t think anyone would care about my own story. Instead, I shared the stories of other leading women in tech and their career journeys. Who was I to tell my story when there were so many other women, more accomplished, more successful who would better be able to tell their stories?
One of the most surprising things I found was that women relate to me personally. My story was one of the every-woman. Because I have been genuine and authentic, without glossing over the less glamorous details of my experiences, they wanted to hear more of my story. Since I found my own voice, I have been able to engage more audiences and reach more women than ever before.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
As a newbie in iOS working at a development agency, I worked in an open floor plan. When someone would have a bug that got unexpected results, I would often hear one of the most senior engineers ask, “What does Charles say?”
One day when I had a bug, I walked around the bullpen looking for Charles. After much searching, and later much ribbing, I learned that Charles wasn’t an employee, but was the name of a web proxy debugging tool the engineers used!
My lesson learned? Know your data and never take people so literally!
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
DevelopHer has accomplished significant social impact in the realm of equality in a male-dominated industry, technology. I launched DevelopHer in late 2017 with only my personal savings and no outside investment, and all while working full-time as a successful software and application security engineer. DevelopHer was created to share my experiences and help other women see there is always a way to get through challenges and be a positive force in their own careers. I wanted to distill the essence of how to negotiate for higher pay into a scalable, relatable, and affordable program to help women overcome pay disparity and arm them with tools to earn higher salaries and give them the confidence to reach higher in their careers.
Since it was launched, DevelopHer has become the realized vision of a scalable and affordable platform that can reach millions of women. The DevelopHer platform has empowered thousands of women to earn up to 80,000 dollars salary increases in just a single negotiation. Women have also gained the confidence to secure better positions and move beyond glass ceilings, bridging the challenging opportunity gap.
My goal is and has been from the beginning to create real change at a grassroots level. Since 2017, DevelopHer has expanded its reach and influence to thousands of women. The change is real and all from women sharing their knowledge and experiences. The change and impact are evidenced by the clients DevelopHer has served, and by the recognition DevelopHer has received, which you can check out at DevelopHer’s website.
Our future is in the continual adoption of the DevelopHer platform by businesses and institutions of higher education. We have seen early success with universities like Indiana University, Chapman University, and Tufts University as well as success within large technology companies like Dell, Google, Intuit, and Armor. This continual adoption will allow women at all levels to learn and grow personally and professionally with the cost of the program covered by their employer or institution, and to conquer the gender pay and opportunity gap.
Through my experiences with DevelopHer, I have personally witnessed that teaching and arming women with knowledge and empowering them to take responsibility for their career growth creates value, not only for the individual but for the companies where they work. According to one company officer, members of their women’s network who attended, “left ready to take a new look at how they are approaching career growth and personal motivation.”
In terms of social impact, there has been so much growth and progress from DevelopHer in the past few years, but there is much work to be done. As we push forward, DevelopHer will be the go to resource for women and employers of women and the international benchmark for companies who wish to credential their commitment to women.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Tracy’s complete story is featured in my book, The DevelopHer Playbook, but I’d like to share a bit of it here so you can really understand what an incredible transformation she made for herself. When Tracy first learned about DevelopHer, she was 55 years old and had been living on disability for the last 18 years due to mental health issues. She had experience as a social worker and had a master’s in IT, yet was working at the neighborhood Walgreens, grateful even to have a minimum wage job. Tracy figured she had nothing to lose by attending one of my hour-long webinars and listened to my story about hitting rock bottom and wanting to transform my career. My story really resonated with Tracy and encouraged her to question her own position in her career and life. “I told myself I was worth it. I could do this.”
After signing up for DevelopHer’s salary negotiation course and also becoming a monthly DevelopHer member, Tracy recognized that she wasn’t alone in wanting more for herself. There are so many hard-working women who are looking to further their careers. That’s exactly why I created DevelopHer — to give that push in the right direction. Tracy just needed the confidence to get started and invest in herself. So, she signed up for classes to brush up on her tech skills and began to network purposefully. It took a lot of dedication and hard work. Sometimes she’d slip up — it happens to all of us — but the monthly DevelopHer meetings inspired Tracy to keep going.
Within just one year, Tracy became a technical project manager working as the only woman on a team of ten men. For every dollar Tracy invested in herself, she received 28 dollars back through increased salary. In other words, Tracy gets a 2800% return on investment every year. Talk about a great expenditure. She holds her own, knows her worth, and continues to look to the future
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
I think the community, society, and politicians alike can consider these three things to begin to address the root of gender inequality in the workplace:
1. Role Models
There is a deficit of women’s role models, especially in male dominated industries like technology. Women have achieved success across many disciplines, yet many of their stories remain untold. This lack of prominence of female role models is especially deficient in STEM and tech. This deficit short-changes professional women in STEM and tech who would benefit from the collective histories and the shared experience of what it means to be a professional woman in technology.
Personally, to this day, I don’t have a single female technical mentor to whom I look up to and want to be like. Instead of pointing the finger and wishing for it — I encourage people to go out and find mentors to highlight and share their personal stories to help light the way for others.
2. Organizational Professional Development Programs and Practices
We need to encourage organizations to implement practices that facilitate the professional development of women. Often career growth and leadership development are seen as nice-to-haves in many organizations. In truth, the development of future leaders, especially in the ranks of professional women, is critical to organizational success and company profit margins.
Through my experiences with DevelopHer, I’ve found that teaching and arming women with knowledge and empowering them to take responsibility for their career growth creates value, not only for the individual but for the companies where they work. I have personally witnessed this fact in the companies with whom I have been hired and research backs this up as well.
3. Encourage Personal Responsibility
Women need to take more accountability for their outcomes. Coupled with the underrepresentation of women in STEM, I have seen through my experience there is an expectation that since they are underrepresented, they should be entitled to have someone to help them grow their careers. This mindset is detrimental to the advancement of all women. Women must adopt a growth mindset and take personal responsibility for their career paths and own their outcomes.
Through DevelopHer, women are encouraged to take personal responsibility for both where they are and where they want to be. We cannot blame others for our current situations; instead, we need to take ownership of the future we want and the things we need to do to realize that future.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
In a world where employer support for professional development, and where professional female role models are not given the same weight or audience as professional males, I have been hard-pressed to find mentors. I have never let this lack of employer support or the existence of female role models stand in my way. Instead, I focused my efforts on creating a mindset of success and getting the game between my head together. This is how I define leadership. The personal empowerment messages offered by Tony Robbins have been instrumental in helping me get a start on this. His approach to taking control of your life helped me establish a base for my success.
I have also looked to assimilate with leadership from other fields. There are many methods and paths to success. Learning from others and “standing on the shoulders of giants” has helped me learn from the successes and mistakes of others to propel me forward. Everyone teaches you something, whether the lesson is how to succeed, or how to learn from failure.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
These are a few tips I like to give anyone entering the technology industry, and tips I wish someone would have told me:
1. Success is the result of small actions taken over and over again
Success takes consistent, directed action repeated over time. An example of a personal success was an invitation extended to me to the UK G8 Innovation Summit. This invitation was extended because of a hackathon at which I had volunteered over a period of time grew. Since I had invested my time and talents with the organization, I was first in line to have a new opportunity when one presented itself. Plant the seeds of consistent action and the investment will grow into new opportunities.
2. Build a network along the way before you need it
When I worked for Morgan Stanley as an investment banking analyst, my performance after one year was good enough to warrant a top tier bonus. When bonuses were announced, I was placed in the second tier and therefore received less though management in the West Coast office was aware of and regularly acknowledged my top performance. The problem? By working for the West Coast office, not enough people in the New York HQ knew what I did and the impact I had on the bottom line.
Don’t wait to reach out to others and create connections. Conversations about what you do creates shared experiences and builds resources, not only to help you in your daily work, but in your career growth.
3. Constantly build new skills and your portfolio to show you have those skills
When I returned to technology, I didn’t just take the first opportunity that came along. I looked to the marketplace to help me decide where I should focus my efforts. I looked at what skills were both in demand and in short supply. I then worked to build the required skills and place my efforts toward finding a position for those newly acquired skills.
Start now. Build your skills in areas where there is high demand and short supply, then work on a portfolio that highlights those skills. Continually look for opportunities that will build your arsenal and make you the one in demand. When a new career opportunity presents itself to you, you will be ready to take it.
4. Build your reputation
You may be the best at what you do, but if no one knows what you do, your work as well as your career will suffer for it. Communicate the projects you are working on to give others an idea about what you do as well as your capabilities. This will give you an insight as to who can be a resource for you as well as give others an insight as to whom they can call to get the job done.
Building a reputation as a person who gets things done and who can be called upon as a resource will build your professional credibility and open doors to new opportunities.
5. Invest in your biggest asset — YOU!
Your knowledge, skills, and abilities are your assets. Invest in yourself to increase your value in the marketplace. If your current employer doesn’t realize your newly created value, another company will. When I found out a male peer was paid 50% more than me for the same work, I invested in myself by learning how to negotiate. The result? I was able to triple my salary! Invest in yourself and start reaping the benefits.
One thing you can do is to get a professional coach to help you build your value. A coach can help guide you on the path of increasing your asset value and help you choose the right path. Companies hire me to teach their female employees how to build their best careers and become amazing assets. I inspire women to action that achieves measurable results. My award-winning program has helped thousands of women build their professional value for their companies.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement I am trying to continually inspire with DevelopHer is women’s equality in the workplace, especially in male dominated fields like technology. It is absolutely imperative that women know and advocate for their worth in the workplace to not only increase their salaries and raise their job titles, but to pave the way for other women in these industries as well. With the right tools, together we can accomplish anything.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I’m unstoppable not because I don’t have failures or doubts, but because I continue forward despite them!”
Pick yourself back up after a bad day, and keep moving forward. Everyone has their moments, but it’s important to rebound from those moments and continue in forward motion.
While creating DevelopHer, it was important for me to remove the veil hiding the path, open an honest dialog about challenges, and provide encouragement that we can not only overcome but thrive as professional women. Each woman I help move forward moves the needle forward for all women.
I want other professional women to stand on my shoulders and learn as much as they can from my mistakes.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would like to have an in-person meeting with Melinda Gates. I found that we have much in common. We are both from Dallas. We both went to Duke University, are both computer science majors, and are both Thetas.
Most importantly, we are both advocates for women in tech as well as experienced tech women ourselves. We both believe empowerment of women in tech is a necessity for companies to truly be successful. Supporting and empowering tech women in their careers creates value, not only for the individual but for the companies where they work. Melinda Gates embodies this message, and it would be an honor to meet with her in-person.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find me on social media at:
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Thank you again for having me — it’s been a pleasure!