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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Money

How This Humanitarian Pro Found Success With Entrepreneurship

Courtesy of Reece Soltani
Courtesy of Reece Soltani

For most people, a substantial income is the end goal. The finish line. The dream. And Reece got there, earning up to $180,000 per year in various humanitarian development role after getting her master's degree in public health.

While most people think a humanitarian career is heavy on purpose and fulfillment but light on compensation, that certainly wasn’t the case for Reece. Even her first position out of grad school offered her a starting salary of $90,000—a full $20,000 more than what she had asked for.

She stayed in that position for about two years before making a move to the private sector, where she saw her earnings increase even more. When negotiating her first position, she applied tactics she learned from Ladies Get Paid (an organization she’s now an ambassador for) and negotiated a base salary of $130,000. “I also got them to pay for me to move to New York and help me pay for the rest of this certificate I was doing at Harvard,” Reece says.

Reece achieved two promotions in her time there, one with a $20,000 pay increase and another with a $30,000 pay increase, bringing her salary to $180,000—double what she was making only a couple of years earlier.

Quick stats 

  • Job: Entrepreneur
  • Based in: Los Angeles, CA
  • Annual income: Interest off of high-yield savings account or other financial investments

That was huge not only for Reece, but for her parents too. “I’m a child of immigrants,” Reece says of her parents, who immigrated to the United States from Iran. “Even to get to $130,000 was more money than both my parents had ever made combined. It was a big moment for them as well. They were like, ‘We’ve done it. We’ve accomplished the American dream. All of our work was worth it.’”

Reece eventually moved on to a new position that interested her (but meant a pay cut back to $125,000). And then five months ago, she did something most people wouldn’t expect: she quit.

“Ultimately, I reached the point where I was like, ‘I don’t think I like this work.’ It was very different from what I had envisioned,” she explains. “I always thought I’d be in the field working with people directly. But I ended up in these innovation and strategy positions, which were of my own doing. But it was not fulfilling at the end of the day. And that’s why I ended up leaving.”

Today, she’s exploring a few different entrepreneurial ventures in Los Angeles. But until those are up and running, she’s not bringing in the money she was used to. “My current income right now is basically the interest I’m making from a high-yield savings account,” Reece shares. “It’s all the initial financial investments I had made in the stock market or where I had put my money to make money for me.”

She notes that the decision has come with some sacrifices, like downsizing her housing and cutting back on travel. However, it’s also made her more conscientious about where she puts her money and even inspired her husband to negotiate higher salaries. “It’s been interesting that he’s learning from me how to ask for more so that we can be more comfortable,” she adds.

Her husband isn’t the only person she shares her advice and encouragement with. In fact, Reece isn’t shy about talking about money with anybody, especially her friends. “Within a year, we all quit our jobs, got raises, and went somewhere else just because we were talking about it so openly together and created the space to do it,” she says. “It’s been really meaningful.”

For Reece, money is just another topic of conversation—not a taboo, gauche, or hush-hush issue. “A big thing I’ve taken away from Ladies Get Paid is intentionally being casual about talking about money,” she explains. “It’s what I’ve been doing for the last few years, and I think it helps.”

On that note, she says there’s one more thing that helps: simply asking for what you want. Reece says it really can be that simple. “I always tell people, don’t be afraid to ask for more,” she concludes. “Ask early, ask often. The worst they can do is say ‘no.’”

In her own words:

What’s your favorite thing about your job? The freedom and the ability to learn without judgment.

If you could test-drive another career for a week, what would you choose? Anthony Bourdain’s old job. A TV personality, traveling, and talking to people and pulling in politics and culture and just eating delicious food.

Do you have any financial or savings goals this year? Making sure we’re making the right investments. I’m really focused on building equity this year.

What’s your favorite thing you own that costs $50 or less? Skincare products, especially this cupping tool. It’s so soothing and it cost me $15. It’s the best thing ever.

What’s your number one piece of career advice? You will make more money hopping job to job than you will waiting for a raise. Do not stick around hoping to get the raise or hoping to get the promotion. If you’re not learning or being given opportunities to grow, get the hell out. You’re going to make more money bouncing around.

Go here to read more about The Path to Six Figures, including stories from other women like Reece.

Level up to your own six-figure salary by signing up for Ladies Get Paid’s negotiation course. Click here for more info!