Looking to build clearer career progression for your team?
Don't worry! Here are some good examples of public and open source frameworks and career pathways to help you or your team with personal growth.
From the team: We love it when teams challenge the expected way of building progression frameworks. The 8th Light team and Claudia have devised a new way of looking at the problem, placing technical ability and organisational impact on different axes, reflecting the diversity of interest between ‘born ICs’ and people more interested in moving into leadership or management roles, amongst other things. The write-up introduction is a useful overview of the methodology.
Apptension focuses its guide heavily on technical skillsets with granular check-boxes for individual skills in a developer toolkit. There’s some nice rationale around how to move between roles and what to do in your first couple of weeks, but it’s missing the softer skills and may be a bit ‘in the weeds’ for some.
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An engineering framework divided up into the three As: attitude, abilities and actions. Succinctly written, covering the main engineering skill sets across five levels of seniority. In a blog post Will detail the process of connecting compensation to progression through the growth framework.
Part of the open handbook for Basecamp. Simple, but goes also into rituals like pay and promotions.
One of the most in-depth open employee handbooks we’ve found, including deeply written skills across multiple roles as well as a hell of a lot more. There’s so much reading and such a lovely tone of voice to this document, thanks to the work of Roland Grootenboer and the team.
Brad put together an engineering framework (originally for his team at Under Armour) which strikes a great balance between simplicity and detail.
The team at social scheduling app Buffer have put together one of the few purely generic frameworks, complete with write-up to cover how they’ve iterated through flat to more traditional company structure to get to their currently 80 staff. They also go into more detail about how they actually measure this, including levels and steps.
Buzzfeed implemented this framework in 2015, and updated it in 2016 to the current version. It documents both IC (Individual Contributor) and Manager responsibilites for designers at Buzzfeed.
Brighton digital agency Clearleft have long been known for not only their work but their industry events, including UX London and Leading Design. The team have been vocal about career progression for years so it’s nice to see how they imagine skills working within their team. The framework doesn’t come with ‘roles’ so much as a bunch of defined skills which people can use to create their own.
One of the very first, and very complete. The white paper, in particular, is worth a read as it provides a bunch of theory as to how they think about capability as a function of knowledge and experience. Also of note: levels run from 9-15 and there is a provided reading list for each level.
From the team: A set of shared expectations that we use to explain Farewill engineering at different levels of seniority. We’ve intentionally focused on a core set of examples that we think can fairly apply to any engineer at Farewill, but they’re not intended as a finite list of everything a great developer could do or be. There are many ‘shapes’ of engineers, and we’ll aim to celebrate people’s different strengths whilst also aiming for fairness and clarity through our core expectations.
Still in Alpha (at the time of writing), but with its own mirosite and API(!?), British newspaper The Financial Times nods to previous work from GDS and various others with their in-depth framework for the 240+ staff in the CTO’s organisation. This is a true product, and should grow and evolve over time.
Probably the most comprehensive framework on this list in terms of number of skillsets and roles covered (38 disciplines at last count). The Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) Profession have done a thorough job with their DDaT Capability Framework.
One of the biggest frameworks in this collection, stretching across engineering, design and many more roles, Gitlab’s dedication to documenting their people practices is admirable. Famously a remote team, the level of detail they’ve gone to is probably indicative of what’s needed to both hire and run a global team asynchronously at scale.
Inspired again by Rent the Runway’s work, Intent Media created their ladder to answer the questions of (a) what expectations everyone had of each other’s work; (b) what opportunities people had to grow within the company; and (c) what areas of their work they could focus on in order to best move into those new opportunities. There’s a great description at the start of the PDF giving more context as to the company size which necessitated this.
Frameworks for product management and design from Dublin-based product legends intercom.
Product Management: Described as helping PMs to “Identify the most valuable problems to solve, enable your team to ship and iterate high-quality solutions quickly, and validate market impact”. Breaks skills into five areas – 1) Insight Driven, 2) Strategy, 3) Execution, 4) Driving Outcomes and 5) Leadership Behaviors.
The product and content design framework is one of several open source resources on the beautiful intercom.design site, the format matches the PM ladder in part, though picking ‘Products and Teams’, ‘Execution’, ‘Behaviours’ and ‘Results’ as topics.
Inviqa’s ladder is nicely built into its own branded site and includes levels from 2 (engineer 1) to 6 (Principal Engineer) across 5 different areas of skill. There’s also a decent amount of supporting documentation to get an idea of their process.
Iwoca have a straightforward 4 level framework designed to be as simple as possible for the reader to follow. It helps iwocans across design, product, analytics and delivery understand exactly where they are and what they need to focus on to develop.
A fairly lightweight framework showing IC and leadership tracks, Jorge focuses on five pillars for engineers: Technology: knowledge of the tech stack and tools System: level of ownership of the system(s) People: relationship with the team(s) Process: level of engagement with the development process Influence: scope of influence of the position.
Kickstarter’s framework was revealed shortly after Rent the Runway and again takes heavy inspiration from that work. It presents as one simple document, with roles and expectations for both engineers and data scientists written as prose.
An incredibly in-depth set of tools, blog posts and frameworks to assess engineering levels at publishing platform Medium. Noteworthy because it encourages a varied number of paths to seniority, as illustrated by Snowflake, an exploratory UI on top of the framework
Meetup just released their engineering ladders, alongside a great writeup of how they came to be. What’s interesting here is the definition of a ‘product engineering lead’ - a role not associated with seniority (it isn’t a title). Once again we see two paths, ‘maker’ and ‘manager’. Levels go from 2 to 8 (with management roles from 5+). These align with wider company seniority levels - the holy grail of growth frameworks.
British bank Monzo first introduced this tool (now archived) in 2017 to help engineers and managers make development and career plans easier across Backend, Data, Mobile and Web development teams, later added a bunch more roles, including Design and Research.
Last year they deprecated their original framework, and created a v2 for Engineering in a PDF with an accompanying blog post. You can still see their original v1 framework on Progression, below.
From the author: At Ockam we value our High Performance Team. It is the responsibility of The Team to provide an environment where every individual is empowered to be world-class in their role and to enable individuals to achieve more than they could dream possible for themselves. This level guide helps us to align expectations and to create a framework where we have a common language to describe growth paths.
One of the originals, by Peter Merholz, author of Org Design for Design Orgs. Does an excellent job of illustrating parallel Individual Contributor and Manager paths.
Redgate takes personal development seriously. We invest heavily in development opportunities and support individuals with Personal Development Plans, growing both individuals and teams.
Our Progression Framework helps our people grow more effectively. Giving a common sense of direction, along with visibility of different roles, it helps people to understand how to develop themselves while helping us grow as a company.
One of the first engineering ladders to be shared, and establishes the four pillars of “Technical Skill”, “Get Stuff Done”, “Impact”, “Communication & Leadership” that (often with wording tweaks) can be seen in many others now.
Sarah has open-sourced career ladders that she developed in her role as an engineering manager and VP. These ladders include engineering, developer experience and also technical writing (for documentation) - something we haven’t seen elsewhere to date. She describes the levels as such: Roles up to and including Senior, ladders are constructed around becoming the best at what one does that one might personally be. At Staff level, the career expands to help others be successful with what you do and know, and scale yourself. At Principal and beyond, you are trying to help others be the best that they can be, removing yourself and meeting others where they are.
Songkick’s engineering framework is a really nicely designed PDF with seven different areas of competency: Leadership, Mentorship, Technical skills, Communication, Emotional intelligence, Delivery and Business knowledge. Some good reading presented in a clear and legible way. Because each level is on a single page, each employee could have it stuck to his or her space as a reminder.
Wise (formerly Transferwise) have built and published an interactive career map for their product team, including detailed salary bands across different geographies.
One of the reasons they cite for the career map being valuable was as part of a general re-addressing of their diversity, moving their gender balance in PM from 20% to 40% female. Read all about it in their blog post, below.
VP Global Design at Zendesk Ryan shares the frameworks his team recently rolled out for Designers, Design Managers and brand designers. Ten levels of seniority (I particularly like ‘Distinguished Product Designer’ as the most senior IC role) with parallel IC and Manager tracks.
dxw have written a great accompanying blog post for their design ladder, explaining (amongst other things) the importance of parallel tracks and even how team members use the spreadsheets as part of meetings.
Also interesting to note that this framework is one of the few that separate skill levels and seniority levels (though for the most part senior designers have to top out most skills aside from leadership).