Every Public Engineering Career Ladder

"What will it take to get to the next level?"

Of course this is a very open ended question, but it can be nice to set some guide rails around what expectations are in a company. As an individual contributor, career ladders tell me what the company ostensibly values (and, by omission, what it doesn't value).

I recently compiled this list of career ladders and figured I would share it here. Some ladders include nontechnical jobs, I will just look at engineering and engineering management.

  • Fog Creek: from 2009, but obviously Joel's thinking has been very influential. Focus is on growing ownership, ability to write production code independently, shipping experience, and at senior levels, design/planning/architecture. Teamwork, self study, mentorship, and impact are all key, as well as the Joel Test.

  • Rent the Runway (spreadsheet): from 2015. Takes a fun D&D inspired Dex/Str/Wis/Cha stats based evaluation, corresponding to technical skill, productivity, impact, and communication/leadership. Management track is also included, with more focus on architecture, hiring, organizational skills, and leadership/salesmanship.

  • Artsy: inspired by Rent the Runway

  • CapGemini UK: also inspired by Rent the Runway

  • Basecamp: pretty simple.

  • Thumbtack (spreadsheet): from 2019. Breaks down technical skills into code quality/testing, debugging, and scoping/project design, and nontechnical factors to collaboration, citizenship, leadership, and impact. Leadership is interestingly broken down into Autonomy, Judgement, Initiative, and Consensus Building.

  • CircleCI (spreadsheet): one of the most well known ladders, detailed but not overwhelming. NOtably, one of the values assessed is Security.

  • Envoy: pretty simple ladder list, by a hot company.

  • Financial Times (webapp). Even has an API! lol. Only 4 areas across Technical, Leadership, Delivery, and Communication are assessed. Feels manageable.

  • Meetup: splits roles into Makers and Managers.

    • Makers focus on Architecture & framework & software development, Best practices & architecture & code reviews, Technical skills evaluation & mentoring, Introduce new engineering tools & mentor adoption, and Recommend process improvements & support adoption.
    • Managers focus on Performance evaluation, Career growth, Recruiting & resourcing, Rollout process improvements & adoption of engineering tools and Organization & administrative.
  • Socialbakers: seems pretty similar to Meetup's ladder

  • Medium (gist): has tracks for Mobile, Servers, Foundations, Web client, Project Management, Communication, Craft, Initiative, Org design, Accomplishment, Wellbeing, Career development, Evangelism, Community, Recruiting, and Mentorship! Phew!

  • Starling Software: Uses Big O notation to denote levels, which is a fun shibboleth. Skills are broken out to Computer Science, Software Engineering, Programming, Experience, and Knowledge. This one has a long record on Hacker News but is a good map of things that we can work on.

  • Kickstarter: basically a bunch of job descriptions, including Data careers and CTO.

  • Brandwatch: explains levels at a high level, and then breaks it out for IC's and Management in this spreadsheet. A total of 15 attributes to work on!

  • Spotify: famous for its "Squad/Tribe" structure - emphasizes "Steps", with a simple list of five sets of behaviors they want:

    • Values team success over individual success
    • Continuously improves themselves and team
    • Holds themselves and others accountable
    • Thinks about the business impact of their work
    • Demonstrates mastery of their discipline
  • Chuck Groom - this is unusual - personal thoughts on a Job Ladder, though the author is a senior engineering leader at VTS. Good discussions on how having ladders helps, as well as descriptions of Anti-patterns. I love the Principal Engineer antipatterns:

    Over-emphasis on scaling or high availability far beyond business needs. Spends too much time chasing the newest “shiny” technology. Doesn’t collaborate or ask questions. Condescending. Has “pet” agenda. Pisses off senior leadership.

Further Reading


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