by Leon Rosenshein


Last week at the Core Platform All-Hands meeting I did a short presentation on Owning Your Career, but I was having some internet issues and there were some dropouts so I figured I'd take some space here to spread the info a little wider and make sure I got all my points out. As a refresher, I started with a review of what a level is and that it's really a reflection of your scope of influence.

The other two key things to remember about level is that it's recognition of consistently demonstrating the core competencies, not an aspirational motivator, and that while the arc of the competencies tends up and to the right, it's not always a steady increase. How you are measured against those competencies is impacted by not only experience, but also role changes, job changes, and external events. As I described in the slides, over my 32 year career thus far, my effective ability to demonstrate those competencies dipped quite a few times. Each time I was able to recover, but it does have an impact.

But all of that was really a lead-in to the core of the matter, which is that you are responsible for your career. Your manager and your mentor(s) can help. but it's up to you to know what you want and drive to get there. To that point, the key takeaways are:

  1. It's Your Career - There are lots of people who want to help, but the key is help, you own your career
  2. Be Valuable, Not Critical - You want to be adding value to the company. Do important things and make a difference, but if you're critical in one spot you can't move and grow.
  3. Find Your Balance - Understand what you want and what makes you happy/fulfilled. Recognize that it might change over time and that's OK. I thought I wanted to eventually be a Director or similar, but as  I learned when I was a manager of managers, that's not me, so I don't do that anymore.
  4. Personal Growth, Not Career Growth - This goes back to the original premise, that level = scope of influence and it's a recognition of what your scope is. If you spend your time chasing the level you'll miss the opportunities to learn and grow along the way. Grow your scope and the career will follow.
  5. Understand the Big Picture - Finally, keep the bigger picture in mind. Don't get hung up on bumps in the road or detours. There's something to learn in those situations as well. The overall arc is up and to the right, but it's not constant.

And finally, the most important of the action items. Own your career. Figure out what you want your career to look like and talk to your manager about opportunities to make it happen. Understand the differences between how you see yourself, how others see you, and the engineering competencies by level.

A couple of years ago I put together the eng-stories framework, which I used to describe the arc of my career. I've found it to be a really good way to frame those discussions and identify the differences. Once you know the gaps you can work to close them. Without that knowledge it's impossible to know if you're working on the right things.

If you've got any questions about levels and scope, the arc of your career, using the eng-stories tool, or anything else related, happy to discuss in email or 1:1.