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Engineering Career Framework

Stephen Sitton
By Stephen Sitton — August 9, 2022 -

Read time: 7 mins

Mention Me is scaling up — the Engineering team is now made up of 21 people (and counting)! It’s an exciting time, but this also means we need to adapt to accommodate this growth. From listening to our engineers, we’ve discovered that one of their main requests is for more visibility around their options for development at Mention Me.

As a startup, having a flat structure worked well when the team was small. But as the team has grown, having a levelling structure is important to provide support and guidance to our engineers. 

What we needed from a framework

We have many different roles in Engineering, such as Backend, Frontend, Data, QA Engineers, as well as Data Scientists. A framework would need to be designed to encompass all of these roles, as having frameworks for each isn’t feasible at our size.

Also, not everyone wants a role in management, so it's important for us to provide growth opportunities for those looking to stay more technical in their career. This means there would need two tracks: technical and managerial.

As with any framework, it must be able to steer growth and career conversations across Engineering. So the focus areas have to be relevant to us as a team, as well as the whole company. Then for each area, we need clear expectations across each level to cover the wide range of abilities and interest areas across the team.

The new career path

Before this framework, the only growth opportunity for engineers was into a Tech Lead role. 

This added the extra responsibilities of leading a team and being a line manager. 

Understandably, not everyone wants to follow this path. Many love the technical challenges, but not the project management or career conversations side.

So, we needed to think through alternative options:

  1. Our Tech Leads are also line managers, so could we have two types of Tech Leads, with one that doesn’t line manage?
  2. Could we introduce an Engineering Manager role and have Tech Leads staying more technically focused?
  3. Could we have Lead/Staff/Principal roles?

After thinking through these options, we decided on the following career growth path:

The introduction of a Lead Engineer role provides the technical track we needed. This was the clearest solution to provide growth opportunities while keeping our current Tech Lead roles in place. As this shows, a Lead Engineer is at an equivalent level to a Tech Lead. 

A Principal Engineer is now a possible growth opportunity. Although we don’t need someone at this level yet, it will become an important position as we keep growing. The person/people in this role will sit outside of our Product Teams and work across them to investigate, design, and implement solutions that add value to the platform.

Scope and Ownership

Now we’ve created the levels, we wanted to easily show the scope of each role and how they overlap. We took inspiration from the ‘Growth framework based on scope & ownership’ diagram on honeycomb.io’s blog to create the following:

Is it a ‘melon’ or a ‘balloon’? The jury is out! We’ll wait to see which one, if any, catches on… 

This diagram shows how the levels overlap, meaning that each level still includes the expectations from the previous level(s). In addition, you can see how each level expands in scope and ownership as they progress.

The Career Framework

So, here it is, Mention Me’s Engineering Career Framework. It’s designed to guide everyone within Engineering in their growth at Mention Me.

We’ve used more generic titles to fit all our roles, so this framework can align with Software, QA, and Data roles, as well as Data Scientists.

Individuals can look through the expectations for their role and see how they match up. They can identify areas in their role where they can increase their competency and impact, while doing the same for higher (and lower) levels. 

It’s important to emphasise that it’s not a checklist to tick off areas to make it to the next level, it’s a guide.

Managers should use the framework for career development conversations with their direct reports. Highlighting areas that are strengths and discussing expectations that can help people grow in their career.

A work in progress

Finally, this framework isn’t set in stone! It will evolve through feedback, and the exceptions will develop as we grow.

We're excited to see how the team uses our new framework going forward. We hope you see a path with us too - and if we've sparked an interest, we're always hiring!

See open roles

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