skip to Main Content

Engineering Career Ladder

This is our guide to software engineering roles at Looper. This aims to be a clear guide to the skills and approaches you will need to progress through your career.

All members of the technology team are expected to exhibit the company values and a professional attitude, regardless of seniority.

This guide was adapted from the RentTheRunway.com Career ladder created by Camille Fournier.

 

Technical
  • Engineer 1
  • Engineer 2
  • Senior Engineer 1
  • Senior Engineer 2
  • Principal Engineer
Management
  • Tech Lead *
  • Engineering Lead
  • VP Engineering
  • CTO

Hiring & promotion

We hire using this ladder, with up-front salaries for each level. We don’t ask for your previous salary or title and we don’t require arbitrary years of experience.

Take a look at the levels and apply for whichever one best describes the work you can do.

We conduct quarterly reviews and help you identify and track areas to progress in. Promotions are awarded after consistently performing at a new level for 3 months.

Engineer 1

Salary: £40,000 GBP

Displays solid understanding of core programming concepts. Focused on growing as an engineer, learning the team’s tools and current processes, and developing productivity skills, as well as learning about the best-practices of software engineering such as testing, source control, and agile planning.

Capable of taking well-defined tactical sub-tasks from a larger project and completing these tasks in a reasonable time frame.

Self-motivated, working without needing to be told what to do next.

Focused on learning about a specific component or product sub-area and mastering that component.

Communicates status to their manager and team, and strives to learn the Looper core values and exhibit these values in their daily work.

Engineer 2

Salary: £55,000 GBP

An engineer will enter this level capable of taking well-defined tasks and completing them in a way that is considered by the team to be high-quality with supervision from more senior team members. The progress through this level is focused on taking tasks of increasing complexity, scope and importance and completing them with very high quality with a lessening need for oversight.

This level is the bread-and-butter level of engineering growth. Engineers at this level should be focused on becoming great engineers, learning how to set high quality bars for their work without sacrificing productivity. All engineers at and above this level should religiously follow stated best practices for the team without excessive handholding. Engineers at this level will continue to make mistakes, but should be improving the speed at which they learn from these mistakes. By the time an engineer 2 is ready to be promoted s/he will have focused on some technology as their expertise and become capable of mentoring interns and new engineers in these areas. They will start to participate more in the technical design process, often with guidance from senior engineers.

Engineers at this level are assumed to be constantly making steady progress on tasks that are assigned to them and know when to ask for help when they are blocked. They can own their independent small-to-medium features all the way through from technical design to launch. They are capable of prioritising the work in front of them and able to make forward progress, avoiding the temptation to focus on unimportant details or excessive bikeshedding.

The impact at this level is focused on task completion and depth in a small area of the code base. Engineers at this level should be capable at release responsibilities for their area as well as on-call support for simple incidents in areas that they are not always familiar with.

They communicate well and are capable of delivering feedback to peers and their manager. When given a task with unclear requirements they know how to ask for clarification, and ensure that all assumptions are vetted before work starts to reduce the need for re-work.

They understand how their work fits into the larger picture for their team, and use this to identify conflicting requirements to their tech lead and product manager. An important focus of this level is developing empathy for the users of their software, whether they be internal employees, customers, or other developers on the team. A team member at this level is seeking out the context they need to understand the why of a particular feature and nurturing this empathy via that understanding.

Senior Engineer 1

Salary: £70,000 GBP

The senior engineer 1 should be seen as a rock-solid engineer who is a master of their specific domain. The senior engineer 1 is capable of owning technical design for projects of moderate complexity, and understands the tradeoffs in creating good software in their area.

They hold a depth of knowledge in systems that enables them to debug those systems effectively without flailing. In addition to writing consistently high-quality code they are aware of industry best practices and trends, and have acquired at least one major skill outside of programming such as monitoring, performance optimisation, documentation, integration testing, visual design.

The senior engineer 1 gets a lot done. They are responsible for complex tasks and complete them despite roadblocks, grabbing others for help or insight as necessary. The senior engineer 1 requires very little oversight beyond high-level direction; they can take a complex user story, break it down into sub-tasks, and complete their sub-tasks with relative ease. The senior engineer 1 shows initiative beyond knocking tasks off a list; they are able to identify and suggest areas of future work for themselves or their teams. They always have a higher-level plan before jumping into implementation work. They seek evidence to support their ideas and start to build cases for these ideas. They deliver products to QA that they believe are well-baked and bug-free.

The senior engineer 1 has end-to-end responsibility for projects of increasing complexity that encompass more than their own development. They contribute to the common code bases and standards for the team. They understand the business that their code supports, and possess empathy for the users of their software; they use this understanding to influence their task prioritisation. They assist QA in identifying and validating test cases and can identify regression risks in their features. In general, they can identify risks in code, features, and design, and communicate these to the appropriate parties.

The senior engineer 1 is known outside of their core team as a technology leader. They participate extensively in code reviews, and mentor others via code reviews and pairing, as well as frequently presenting at Demos and team meetings. They work effectively with non-tech members of their pillar. They are able to identify problems with requirements and help their team course-correct around these issues.

Recommended reading: http://www.kitchensoap.com/2012/10/25/on-being-a-senior-engineer

Senior Engineer 2

Salary: £80,000 GBP

The senior engineer 2 exhibits leadership and influence well beyond themselves. This leadership comes in the form of team leadership (acting as a tech lead for a large group), exceptionally strong individual contribution, or something between these two extremes (extensive mentoring of junior team members while maintaining deep individual contribution, for example). Given a nebulous project, a senior engineer 2 will appropriately scope it, find a solution, implement and launch that solution.

The senior engineer 2 is viewed as the go-to expert in some significant area of the code base, and not just because they are the only person who has ever worked in that code base. They are involved in setting the standards for the entire organisation and providing technical advice and decision-making that affects not only their group but other teams or the company at large. They research and propose new technologies, and have a broad understanding of the entire architecture, as well as very detailed understanding of their area. They may not write as much code day to day but they still deliver features and have learned how to balance leadership and individual contribution.

The senior engineer 2 helps groups of engineers deliver complex projects. They are known for drama-free launches, and own the technical testing and performance planning side of these projects. The senior engineer 2 knows how to do project management. They take long projects or complex groups of user stories and break this work down into milestones to avoid large monolithic deliverables. They strive to deliver software on-time and improve the accuracy of their team’s estimations.

Beyond the day-to-day, the senior engineer 2 is starting to have a bigger impact beyond themselves and their immediate projects. They identify big issues and opportunities in the technology and organisation, and work across teams to create solutions to these issues. They proactively identify and clean up technical debt before it turns into a long-term problem, and encourage and enable their team to do the same. They are setting direction in some major part of the technology for their pillar and have a major role in the pillar or team’s decision-making process.

As a leader, the senior engineer 2 contributes widely to making others better via code reviews, mentoring, and training. They will sit on architecture review boards as appropriate and may be asked to provide feedback on projects outside their area. They understand the tradeoffs between technical, analytical and product goals, and strive to create solutions that satisfy all of these goals. They know how to not only identify technical problems and create solutions, but are also able to get cross-team buy-in for their solutions and manage projects to make these solutions come to life.

Technical Lead

The tech lead role is not a point on the ladder, but a set of project responsibilities that any engineer may take on once they reach the senior level. Depending on the situation this role may or may not include people management, but if it does, the tech lead is expected to manage these team members to the high management standards of Looper tech. These standards include:

  • Regular (weekly) 1-1 touchbases
  • Regular feedback on career growth, progression towards goals, areas for improvement, and praise as warranted
  • Working with reports to identify areas for learning and helping them grow in these areas via project work, external learning, or additional mentoring

If a tech lead is not managing directly, they are still expected to provide mentorship and guidance to the other members of the team.

The tech lead is learning how to be a strong technical project manager, and as such, they are scaling themselves by delegating work effectively without micromanaging. They focus on the whole team’s productivity and strive to increase the impact of the team’s work product. They are empowered to make independent decisions for the team and are learning how to handle difficult management and leadership situations. They are also learning how to partner effectively with product, analytics, and other areas of the business.

It is not required that an engineer work as a tech lead to progress, but it is the most common way for engineers to grow from senior engineer 1 > 2 and is required to grow from senior engineer 2 to engineering lead. Realistically it is very hard to grow past senior engineer 2 without ever having acted as a tech lead, even on the individual contributor track, due to the importance at senior levels of leadership and responsibility.

Principle Engineer

Engineering track

This role is TBD whilst the engineering team grows. As we reach 10-15 engineers we will add more details.

This is the most senior technical position available without line-management responsibilities. An engineer at this level has shown strategic impact over some combination of a large team, a very large technical problem, and/or a long time horizon. The problems that the staff engineer is solving are very open-ended even to the leadership who presented the problem. Most engineers at Looper would not be able to own and solve the problems that this person is attacking.

Engineering Lead

Management track

This role is TBD whilst the engineering team grows. As we reach 10-15 engineers we will add more details.

The engineering lead has gone from a tech lead of a small to mid-sized team to the manager of an entire pillar team’s worth of engineers (and may have tech leads reporting to them).

The engineering lead will spend less time writing code, but there is an expectation that they still engage in small technical deliverables such as bug fixes and small features, without blocking or slowing down the progress of their team. More than writing code, they hold responsibility for identifying bottlenecks in the process and roadblocks to success for their team and clearing these roadblocks.

We know that great people have wildly different skillsets. If you think you’d be a good addition to our team — even if you don’t fit one of our current openings — please get in touch.

© Looper Insights 2019