The post below is an excerpt from the Quick Base Software Engineering Career Ladder documentation. The full documentation includes the technical and leadership expectations for each of our individual contributor and people leader positions. I’ve left those parts out because I am not sure they are highly relevant to the outside world.
Career Development Philosophy
The Quick Base software development organization believes in a growth oriented mindset. While all engineers, architects and managers are required to demonstrate specific qualities and capabilities for their current position, they are also expected to focus on their own growth in service to furthering their career and growing the business. Your manager will help identify growth areas and align opportunities, but the drive for professional development is something that you must own.
A promotion is a recognition of your growth over time. A change in title demonstrates that you have fundamentally changed your approach to software development and leadership. A fundamental change is not something that happens in a matter of months. You should expect to put in significant effort over a period of a year or more to develop the technical and leadership qualities of the next position. The “spacing” between positions is not equal. Going from a Staff Software Engineer to a Principal Software Engineer requires significantly more growth than going from a Software Engineer 1 to a Software Engineer 2.
One of the quickest ways to damage a career and a team is to promote individuals before they have demonstrated an ability to be successful in the new role. In order to protect our team and Quick Base, we will do everything we can to avoid the Peter Principle. For example, a Senior Software Engineer is required to demonstrate competence in all the technical and leadership qualities of a Staff Software Engineer before her title will be changed.
As you develop your own career plan you should understand the expectations of all of Quick Base’s software engineering titles. You should work with your manager to map out a long term plan with clear short term objectives. There is however an uncomfortable truth: a healthy software engineering organization has more people at the early stages of their career journey than it has people in the later stages. It may be that you outgrow our organization. On a team of forty engineers, we simply do not need twenty Principal Software Engineers. The extent to which your growth is recognized through a promotion is dependent upon your technical and leadership qualities as well as Quick Base’s need for someone in a new position. Your manager is responsible for helping you grow even if your next step is with another company.
Scope of Responsibility
The descriptions of the positions below are intentionally very explicit. They can be read as independent, self-contained descriptions of the qualities expected for each position. However, each position builds off of the positions before it. They represent a growth journey. A Principal Software Engineer is expected to exhibit the qualities of a Staff Software Engineer in addition to a few others. The best way to understand the scope of responsibility for a specific position is to fully understand all of the positions that lead up to it.
At no point in your career at Quick Base should you feel that your ability to make an impact is limited by your title. No one should ever tell you, “You can’t do that because you are only a Senior Software Engineer.” Everyone is able to make significant impacts regardless of where they are in their career. While everyone has the potential for unlimited impact to our business, more senior positions are expected to solve more complex problems leading to broader solutions with greater impact. In other words, there is no ceiling, but there are definitely minimum expectations.
Commitment to Growth
Growth isn’t easy as it requires openness and commitment. Be willing to contemplate and accept feedback and commit to using it effectively. Feedback is, by definition, a loop; you get from it what you put into it. That means to get great feedback, you need to give great feedback. By doing so, you help the organization meet its commitment to you: providing growth oriented structures. Quick Base is committed to the growth of its engineers. To demonstrate this commitment, the Software Engineering Management team makes this promise, to which you can and should hold them accountable:
In exchange for your hard work toward helping Quick Base achieve its business goals and toward your own growth as an engineer, your manager will provide transparent feedback in the form of appreciation, coaching and evaluation. At all times, you should know that your manager understands what you have accomplished and how you have contributed to our larger goals. At all times, you should know what opportunities exist for your personal growth and how achieving them impacts your career. At all times, you should know your progress toward achieving your personal career goals.