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Engineering Career Ladders

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As engineering organizations grow and add more complexity with team members at different levels of experience, they also need to create clarity: the list of job levels, and what each role does. Done well, a career ladder can limit bias and provide a framework for hiring, paying, and promoting. Note: The articles below are often an introduction to the company's level guide, and the actual career ladder is a PDF or spreadsheet linked to from the article.
  1. Learn Engineering Career Ladders with the Practica AI Coach

    The Practica AI Coach helps you improve in Engineering Career Ladders by using your current work challenges as opportunities to improve. The AI Coach will ask you questions, instruct you on concepts and tactics, and give you feedback as you make progress.
  2. Intro: What Is a Software Engineering Career Ladder?

    A software engineering career ladder, also known as a career framework, is an organizational tool that provides a clear and consistent criterion for skills, achievements, and Compensation outcomes for engineers. Smruti Patel, an engineering manager at Stripe, says that it's essential in anchoring hiring rubrics, onboarding and managing expectations, performance evaluation, and making equitable Compensation outcomes. This tool is also pivotal in maintaining fairness, Transparency, and consistency within the firm. Each ladder level or point in the framework highlights traits and expectations, along with progression criteria to articulate Influence, scope, and impact. In addition, Lara Hogan, Kickstarter's VP of Engineering, explains that companies can have different paths like "makers" who focus on Software Architecture and results or "managers" who concentrate on team management and results. Michael White from Square argues that the career ladder is crucial in supporting engineers’ growth, allowing for consistent and fair evaluation and reward of engineers regardless of their team or background. However, according to Charity Majors of Honeycomb, employees should focus on the impact and discourage seeing the ladder as a checklist to obsess over. Majors also observes that companies can have different views on advancement. Some engineers might find it easier to advance in their careers at fast-growing companies, where everyone is stretched to their limits. Patience and understanding what needs to be done are key to reaching senior levels.
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  3. Common Engineering Career Ladders Challenges

    These are common challenges people face when gaining expertise in engineering career ladders. Tackling these challenges head-on can help you learn this skill quicker.

    I'm a software engineer at a fast-growing startup. As the company scales, I'm finding it challenging to navigate the engineering career ladder and understand the expectations for each level. I feel uncertain about what I need to focus on to advance my career. How can I get clarity on the expectations and identify the right things to focus on?
    I'm director of engineering at a mid-sized tech company. We recently implemented a new engineering career ladder to support our engineers. Some members of the team are frustrated because they feel that the criteria for promotion are unclear and subjective. How can I make the promotion criteria more transparent and objective so that engineers have a clear understanding of how to progress in their careers?
    Work on your own challenge with the Practica AI Coach
  4. What Are the Standard Career Levels in Engineering?

    The first step in understanding what goes in to an engineering career ladder framework is to understand engineering Job Titles and roles.
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  5. Role Progression of Software Engineers

    The role progression of an engineer varies based on various factors. First, the organization's size Influences Career Development. Smaller engineering organizations, as Smruti Patel observes, use a more personalized understanding of the individual's strengths, but as teams scale up, this understanding dilutes, necessitating a more formalized system of defining objectives, assessing performance, and hiring new team members. Team expansion also complicates defining roles, evaluating performance, and hiring new talent, as different projects may have varying scopes and complexity. Charity Majors advises not placing too much importance on titles and levels when making career decisions. She advocates for career objectives, performance improvement strategies, and making growth opportunities a regular topic in 1:1 discussions to ensure clear communication about expectations and challenges. She also indicates leveling is easier in fast-growing companies due to the abundance of work and stress-induced learning experiences, yet this can also be stressful. Michael White advises against promoting engineers to managers based on years of experience, highlighting the importance of demonstrated skills and impact. Ultimately, career progression in engineering roles requires the Alignment of individual and organizational goals, effective communication, and an inclusive environment that recognizes and nurtures talent.
  6. How To Build an Engineering Career Ladder

    This section provides guides to building and launching a career ladder.
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  7. How to Roll Out an Engineering Career Ladder

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  8. Examples of Engineering Career Ladders From Leading Companies

    Leading companies have established career ladders for their engineers. These ladders typically include multiple levels of advancement, with specific requirements and responsibilities for each level. Companies may also offer Mentorship and training programs to support career growth.
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