I’m excited to bring you another entry in my famous Breadwinning, Six Figure moms series – the story of Stephanie Assi. She’s a breadwinning six figure mom in tech who loves to cook and read – much like me! She reached out after I posted on the Choose FI Facebook group looking for interviewees, and I’m so glad she did. And I know you’re going to love her story just as much as I do.
So let’s meet Stephanie!
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Stephanie Assi, I am a Lead Software Developer at a Fortune 500 company. I was born and raised in Ivory Coast, and permanently moved to the United States for my Higher Education studies in Computer Science. I am also the mother of an energetic 11-year-old boy. During my free time I love to cook and read, I am probably Audible’s favorite customer because I get a new book every week or two. I also enjoy working out especially weight training.
Let’s get some details – how much money do you make, and how long did it take you to get there? And are you a millionaire or are you on the way?
I make in the 150-200k range. It did not take me long to get there because I have been very aggressive in going for what I wanted in my career. I entered the IT career early at 22, I was a contractor for the State of New York so I was getting a higher salary than state employees. My hunger for more grew from there, I was putting double the effort to meet deadlines and I made sure I outperformed the other developers. During the evening at home I would learn new programming languages on YouTube and practice them on my own.
After a year I became a valuable part of the team and requested a salary adjustment as a result. It was granted. After New York I landed a great opportunity in Washington D.C. Once again I followed the same pattern, overworked myself to be worth a promotion, a bonus here and there. After a year I made my first 100k. It was such a great feeling, but I didn’t stop there. I gained some confidence and left the company for another one, and requested a higher salary which was granted. The reason why I was able to make those demands was because I knew how valuable my skills are, I had a track record of great performance and results to show for them. Today I am at a place where companies themselves reach out to me with career opportunities, I no longer have to market myself as hard as I used to.
I am not yet a millionaire but I am well on the way. It is not an end goal for me, I know sooner or later I will get there. What I am aiming for is for me and my family to be financially independent and have the ability to do the things we love without money being a problem.
How did you get started in the workforce?
I have always been passionate about Science and I was very good at Math. In college studying Computer Science opened my eyes to making great things possible if I knew how to write a piece of code. I started off as a simple web developer, over the years I learned new languages and improved my skills.
How did you get from where you started to where you are now?
It was certainly not a straight line, I had lots of ups and downs. I was let go from my first job after two years due to some personal issues. After that I decided to relocate to D.C. This was the best decision I have ever made for my career. Working in the nation’s capital with such talented people and high achievers has motivated me to get better and most importantly be the best.
- Where do you want to go in your career – and your financial life?
As far as my career is concerned I am slowly taking on more managerial roles, eventually my long term goal is to run the entire Technology department as CTO either at my current firm or elsewhere. CMO Note – I love this goal!
Financially I am confident for the future, financial independence is my goal and every month I take necessary steps to get closer and closer. My biggest regret is not maxing out my 401k when I started working, but when you know better you do better.
6. What do you see as the key to earning such a high salary?
The key to earning a high salary regardless of the industry is too acquire more knowledge. Whether it is through training, a career change or certifications, never limit yourself to what you already know. Employers will pay you more if they see value in you and what you can bring to the table. Additionally, you must know yourself and your worth. This is especially true for women because we tend to downplay our potential. I always negotiate my salary because I know what I am worth, I don’t settle for less and I am not afraid to walk away from a company that no longer aligns with beliefs.
Have you ever experienced issues in the workforce because you’re a woman? What did you do in response?
Of course, not only as a woman but as a Black woman I have faced many challenges throughout my career. Working in the Tech industry I am either one of few women on a project or the only woman on the team of developers. Issues that range from managers doubting my abilities to colleagues refusing to follow suggestions coming from me. I have had one instance where a colleague directly told me he did not want me to review his code. I have learned not to take anything on a personal level but simply ignore those behaviors.
However, I refuse to be silenced during meetings while I am voicing my opinion. It has occurred a few times where male opinions were well received but when I decided to express myself I saw eyes rolling and was told my turn to speak would come later. Always address these issues immediately because if you show signs of weakness people will continue to treat you as such.
Chief Mom Officer is primarily a personal finance blog – tell us about your saving and investment strategy
I don’t have a Finance background but I have always been very interested in the economy, how banks operate and the financial industry. I have read plenty of personal finance books which convinced me to embark on a journey to financial freedom. I am a big advocate of saving, paying yourself first. I max out my 401k, Roth IRA and save 40% of my paycheck, I also have a fully funded emergency fund with 6 months’ worth of expenses. I have trained myself to live on the bare minimum and never getting what I can’t afford to pay cash for.
I invest in index funds (Vanguard) and I also have a dividend investment strategy so I own shares at each of the top 10 dividend kings, diversified by sector. I started real estate investing in 2013 with my first multi-family rental property, which I sold last year. I currently own a single family home where I reap the benefits of house-hacking for extra cash flow.
What’s the top three pieces of advice you’d have for someone just starting out in the workforce, struggling with their career, or just looking to improve how they handle their money?
The first piece of advice I always give to just about anyone is to get out of debt fast, real wealth cannot be built properly while carrying the weight of debt every month. I know not all debt is bad, but things like student loans and credit card debt can really slow you down. Saving becomes so much easier when all the debt is out of the way.
For career, I encourage people to go for what they would love. Work does not feel like work when you enjoy what you are doing. That has always been my motto because I refuse to spend 8 precious hours of my day being miserable at work. Therefore it is important to pick your career wisely, money is important but peace of mind is a lot more valuable.
Where can people connect with you?
I currently don’t have a blog or twitter account but readers can reach me by email at email@example.com, or Stephanie Assi on Linkedin. Thank you.
CMO Here Again
Thanks again to Stephanie for stopping by to share her story! I love getting to virtually “meet” others like myself. A big part of why I write this series, and Women on FIRE, is to help do my part to share amazing inspiring stories with other people.
I really enjoyed reading all of her story, but I wanted to point out her philosophy on the 401k as something especially to learn from. Rather than kicking herself over not maxing it out earlier, she said “when you know better, you do better”. It’s so true! Regretting the past won’t help you, you just need to move forward.
Be sure to leave Stephanie a comment below!
If you haven’t already, be sure to swing by my one-stop shop page for Breadwinning moms, featuring all my prior articles and interviews (plus some updates on prior interviewees!). Know someone that would be perfect for this series, or is that you? Hop over to my “Be Featured!” page to access the request form.
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