Promotion Story – Episode 5 (Manager to Director Level)

Promotion Story – Episode 5

Welcome to episode #5 in a series of posts sharing inside details on what it really takes to get promoted at work.

Served up in a Q&A format, we learn how others have successfully managed to move up at work. Including…


General Questions


1) Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m a proud cat mom in my late 20s who is married to a fabulous partner. We recently moved to the IL/WI border to pursue a quieter life away from Chicago as we shifted to permanent remote work. It’s been a blast to reconnect with nature and spend time together working on DIY improvements to our house on an acre of land!

2) What do you do for work?

I am the Director of Marketing for a non-for-profit IT standards organization. We recently expanded and added four non-for-profit technology programs which I have the pleasure of owning and growing. I get to work with our members, who I consider some of the smartest and brightest people in the world regarding technology.

3) Tell us about your employer/company.

My current employer is a small <50 employee non-for-profit IT standards company with about 10 million in annual revenue. We work with nearly every industry, but my programs are focused on emerging technology and IT standards development. Everything we do is member-driven and unique because we focus on solving various problems requiring a collaborative, global approach.

4) How long have you worked in your industry?

I’ve worked in this industry for just under two years. It’s been a breath of fresh air to work on programs that have a meaningful impact on the world. Our standards are everywhere, from the International Space Station to your cell phone. I love that I get to learn about new technology and challenges every single day.


Promotion Process Questions


1) Tell us about your promotion.

I was recently promoted to Director of Marketing from Marketing Program Manager, after moving to that role as a specialist in just a year and a half. This has been my third promotion in my professional career. Still, it has been the only promotion I’ve been excited about because I feel that my work is genuinely valued, and I am the best person for this role despite the many challenges this position faces.

2) Why did you want to get promoted?

I’ve always been highly motivated to enhance my career. Whether it is a job interview or 1:1, I always discuss where I am, where I want to go, and what it will take to get there.

Very early in my career, I was out with a group of people who laughed at my ambition and told me I’d never be more than an assistant. There’s nothing wrong with being an assistant; however, it was not the job I was doing, and their comments cut deep into my confidence at the time.

I channeled that anger and frustration into fearless determination to prove them wrong. I also cut those people out of my life and have surrounded myself with people who support me no matter what I choose to do.

3) How long did it take to get promoted?

It took a year and a half. I honestly was not expecting it after turning down a similar promotion earlier in the year because I didn’t feel I was the best person for it. I’m glad I turned down that role because, in the few months between opportunities, I learned more about myself and where I needed to improve to be successful. Looking back, it’s the best decision I could’ve made.

4) Did your compensation increase with your promotion?

My compensation increased by 20% base pay after receiving a 5% increase a few months before due to good performance. I countered their first offer due to the scope of the promotion and received what I wanted.

5) Describe the promotion process.

My manager and I talked about my goal to become a director by 30; however, I didn’t want the title to have the title. To get there, I wanted to earn my seat at the table. I did this by crushing the goals we set on the path to get there.

6) Were you promoted as part of an annual performance review process or during another time?

I was promoted a few months after my annual performance review.


Reasons for Your Promotion


1) Did you have to build a case or submit a justification for your promotion?


My performance and confidence spoke for me. My manager made a case for me to our CEO and leadership team because she felt I could do the job better than anyone else despite a sea of new challenges.

2) How did you get promoted? What were the most important factors?

The most critical factor in getting promoted is that I always have a plan, and I carefully consider before I react. I have been a split resource in previous roles, which helps me excel at prioritization.

I am adamant about our priorities and stick to the plan. If something comes onto my team’s plate that isn’t a priority or doesn’t resonate with our goals, it usually goes away. I measure most of the things we are doing to see where our time is best spent, where we can double down, or where we can improve. Being candid and transparent about what worked and did not work helped me stand out.

3) Did you have to adapt or change any behaviors to become more promotable? Any missteps?


Early in my career, I took things personally. I learned that over time, some people would be shitty because that’s how they are. When I get upset about something or someone, I either address it if necessary or move on to things I can control. Work is just a paycheck and removing personal attachment was the best thing I ever did.

I’ve made several missteps by trying to force a promotion that I thought I deserved. That backfired into a promotion that didn’t meet my expectations, often because me and my manager or HR were on a completely different page.

4) What was the most difficult part of getting promoted?

The hardest part about getting promoted to where I am now was overcoming age and gender prejudice. I’ve been harassed, taken advantage of, and undervalued/underpaid in my career. My age and gender have been used as a weapon against my character.

I could not overcome these barriers at specific companies, so I left. In my current role, I have faced similar challenges, but our executive team has vouched for my talent, which I am incredibly grateful for and is why I work there today.

5) How much did each of these areas influence your ability to get promoted? (rate on a scale of 1-5, where 1 is little to now influence, and 5 is significant influence)


Being seen as a top performer and delivering exceptional results

4: Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if you are a top performer driving exceptional results. However, it will matter if you can speak about your results to someone who values them and believes in you.

Being seen as a high potential employee who could take on bigger responsibilities

4: I always get picked to take on bigger responsibilities because I have a can-do attitude and always follow through.

Being seen as someone who strong presence who shows up with impact.

5: You need to have a presence to be seen and heard. You can be a quiet introvert and the loudest person in the room. It all depends on how you seize the opportunity and deliver on it.

Gaining advocacy and support from others for your promotion.

2: Though I have had many great professional relationships, they had a small impact on my promotion because I have changed industries often.

6) Were you given advice about what you needed to do to get promoted?

Yes, I have often been told to get promoted, I need to exceed goals and build influence. Sometimes it mattered. Sometimes it did not. If you are somewhere where you cannot be influential, it will hurt you.

More promotion story Q&A interviews

Promotion Story 2

Promoted from Director to Executive Level

“I received a 15% bump in total compensation (base, bonus, equity).”

Promotion Story 3

Promoted from Coordinator to Manager Level

“I’m proud to say I got promoted because I asked!”

Promotion Story 6

Promoted from Manager to Director Level

“I had to get better at working with other groups and influencing without authority.”


Future / Misc Questions


1) What’s next for you? Do you want to continue to climb the ladder?

I want to continue to climb the ladder and see where it takes me. I know where I want to go. However, I have a series of constraints to navigate before I can get there. That’s what drives me forward every single day.

2) What guidance would you give to someone else working to get promoted?

Find a manager and organization that believes in you, and then put in the work. Solve and scale complex problems that other people can’t or won’t. Lean into your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses. Be clear in what your professional goals are and stay true to them. Don’t ever let anyone put you down.  

3) Do you have any books or podcasts you would recommend to someone working to get promoted?

I would recommend following thought leaders on social media who are in your industry. I haven’t always had a mentor to turn to, so I talk to random people on social and ask questions. I spend about 30 minutes each day consuming content that has helped me try new approaches I usually wouldn’t have considered.

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