Build effective engineer career framework | Marshall Shen

Build effective engineer career framework

Build effective engineer career framework

At the beginning of a startup, the team is small and scrappy, and there’s litte structure on career growth. As a startup grows, more engineers join, and each engineer has different expectations and needs. To establish a common baseline in which people can anchor for their growth becomes essential, and one common critical baseline is a career framework.

The ultimate goal for creating a career framework is to form common language around one key question - what’s expected of me for my position and level at this company. A company has its core set of values, and the career framework serves as a concrete layer of translation, mapping abstract core value to areas of action.

An engineering career framework should communite how engineers can grow and how engineers are being compensated. An effective career framework should serve as a direct linkage between reward and responsibility. A software engineer can be at a specific point of career, and a career framework should help clarify how to grow to the next level and how compensation is directly linked to that specific point of career. Managers and engineers can use the career framework as the base for 1-1 conversation and performance review.

In addition, an effective career framework should be used before an engineer joins a company - during the interview evaluation process. Create a map between interview rubrics and career framework helps identify an engineer’s level and helps establish the first 90 day goals if they join the company. During the interview evaluation, collect feedback from interviewers and map it to a percentile for each pillar (e.g., given a senior engineer level, candidate X is in the top 75% for execution based on the feedback), and then use an aggregated percentile to determine the compensation package.

effective career framework helps engineers grow

  • how do engineers grow
    • identify pillars based on the company’s core values
    • define levels based on pillars
    • for each level, define the expectation of each pillar
    • show the progression of expectation for each pillar, each level
      • progression can be shown in the phrasing of expectations: “sometimes do X” v.s. “always do X.”
    • revisit the wording of the career framework once a year

effective career framework helps communicate how engineers are compensated

  • how are engineers compensated
    • each level has a wide range so that it can allow salary flexibility in the same range
    • jumping from levels should guarantee a non-trivial compensation rise (e.g., 10%)
    • re-level the salary bands once a year
    • re-level the compensation for individuals once a year

To summarize, an effective career framework should:

  • answer “what’s expected of me for my position and level at this company.”
  • specify “how can engineers grow” by providing a concrete translation of the company’s core values
  • map how people are being compensated based on position and level