Technology titles & performance reviews

At TIM in 2012 we specified our titles and promotion path for members of the Technology team, which was later adopted by other parts of the company. The criteria for promotion was the scope of impact and there was a direct mapping of titles to perceived scope of impact. I’m sharing this model here at the request of alumni who want to borrow it, and also so I can share it in all those conversations I see where people ask about engineering ladders.

The text below comes pretty much directly off our wiki. Happy to answer questions or add clarifications for things that don’t make sense.

  • Associate: Assisted individual impact. They are either recently out of academia or have 1-2 years’ work experience somewhere else. They will be expected to learn the required practices, methods, conventions, and standards required in their role. They are able to do their role however are expected to learn and ask assistance on to complete their projects and as part of their growth to acquire proficiency in the fundamental skills required.
  • Professional: Individual impact. The employee is familiar with industry practices and therefore can work independently as necessary. They have demonstrated ability to deliver on their projects. The employee makes significant contributions to individual projects and contribute substantially to team / company projects’ successes. Employees are able to explain / account for the work they have done / are doing.
  • Senior: Team-wide impact. The employee consistently participates in all aspects of small and large projects and has been essential to those projects’ successes. They are not only able to account for their own work but communicate / account for work on behalf of the team. They have a track record of consistently rendering clear judgment (business and / or technical) and routinely considers wider issues (for example architecture-level, project-planning, client-service, and other project-level issues depending on their role). The employee ensures that their (and their team’s) work is conducted in ways that benefit Company objectives. They contribute at team level. The employee generally provides technical or business guidance or supervises others.
  • Staff: Department-wide or Company-wide. The employee routinely provides direction to others across the company on technical or business matters. Their areas of competence extend beyond project-level issues to company-level issues. The employee is able to account for company-wide matters and drives collaboration beyond team boundaries.
  • Principal: Industry-wide. Their areas of competence extend beyond company-level issues to industry-level issues. They have impact on an industry whether that is changing how the industry do things or driving improvements in particular areas.

When comparing to the Fog Creek and Construx ladders (both based on Microsoft’s levels from the 90s) we believe these are the equivalent levels:

  • Associate: Level 8-10
  • Professional: Level 11
  • Senior: Level 12
  • Staff: Level 13
  • Principal: Level 14-15

To help with assessing the overall impact we evaluate the individuals impact in various “Strengths and Competencies”. This approach was inspired by the StrengthsFinder model which recognizes that people have different paths to achieving impact. At the same time we felt this list of strengths provided some guidance to what we value.

The strengths we evaluate people are:

  • Judgment & Accountability
  • Knowledge & Execution
  • Planning & Adaptation
  • Alignment
  • Communicate, Collaborate, Consult

Judgment & Accountability

Judgement: The ability to analyse and discern facts. The employee applies knowledge appropriately to carry out tasks and solving problems. This allows them to make sound technical and business decisions.

Accountability: The employee is willing to take on work and take account for their or their team’s work (they are able to explain why they or their team took an action). They are able to explain why the work has gone well or poorly, giving a clear rationale for the actions and events. They are reliable and follow through in an appropriate and dependable manner.

How does this translate to ‘scope of impact’ for each level?

  • Assisted: Relies on the judgment of others, and others account for their actions.
  • Individual: Can account for their actions and shows strong professional judgement behind their actions.
  • Team-wide: Can account for the work of the team and show strong professional judgement behind the actions of the team.
  • Company-wide: Can account for the work of the department/company and shows strong professional judgement behind the actions of the department/company.
  • Industry-wide: Can provide accounts to the industry on the company’s decisions. Their judgment encompasses complex interactions of the company within the marketplace.

Example of judgement on a performance review:

Judgement: Expected Scope of Impact – Individual, Actual Scope of Impact – Individual
Comment / Rational: Sherlock has worked independently on a number of projects since the mid-year review and delivered the majority on time without requiring an expected amount of assistance for his level. An example project is the mock of the new standalone careers website where Sherlock clearly used his familiarity with best practice in industry to create a modern style efficient website in the required timescale. Sherlock drew on the knowledge and expertise of colleagues where required, demonstrating excellent teamwork by clearly communicating his requirements, his views and rationale behind the views and by taking on board the feedback given on his work and subsequently modifying the mock up.

Example of accountability on a performance review:

Accountability: Expected Scope of Impact – Individual, Actual Scope of Impact – Assisted
Comment / Rational: Sherlock is willing to take on work and can account for their work in the projects taken on since the mid-year. In the main Sherlock has been reliable and followed through in an appropriate and dependable manner. However on two occasions Sherlock has found it difficult to explain why the project has not been on schedule and has not been able to provide clear rationale for his actions and the events even though this was discussed at the time. One of the occasions was the candidate feedback survey project. This project was scoped to be a short project to be completed in one week from concept to delivery to the candidates. As yet this project has not been completed, the reasons given were conflicting priorities, difficulty collating email addresses, and formatting the message. We have discussed this project and determined that the underlining cause for the non-delivery was due to the other projects being of far more interest at the time to Sherlock.

Knowledge & Execution

Knowledge: The employee has sufficient knowledge to contribute to the organization. They understand concepts and are able to apply their knowledge on the job / in their role.

Execution: The employee is able to apply their knowledge and deliver more independently.

How does this translate to ‘scope of impact’ for each level?

  • Assisted: Building a knowledge of standard job-specific industry practices and how to apply them.
  • Individual: Has a knowledge of standard job-specific industry practices and competently executes them in their individual work.
  • Team-wide: Applies their knowledge of industry practices to improve knowledge and execution of the team.
  • Company-wide: Applies their knowledge to improve the knowledge and execution of the department /company.
  • Industry-wide: Applies their knowledge of practices to improve the industry. Can competently adapt practices from other industries. Can skilfully adapt to novel situations.

Reflection & Adaptation

Reflection: The employee has the ability to gather the relevant information and apply this in critical thinking, evaluate, learn and respond appropriately.

Adaptation: The employee has the ability to adjust planned work, to alter, balance and prioritise competing needs. They are able to demonstrate and promote flexibility in a changing environment.

How does this translate to ‘scope of impact’ for each level?

  • Assisted: Is learning to apply reflective practices to their own work and adapts at the direction of others.
  • Individual: Reflects on their work and adapts their practices based on learning.
  • Team-wide: Reflects on the team’s work and adapts the teams’ practices based on learning.
  • Company-wide: Reflects on the company’s work and adapts the company’s practices based on learning.
  • Industry-wide: Reflects on the industry based on the company’s learning and adapts the industry to learn of the company’s practice.

Alignment

Alignment: This applies to all employees not just managers and team leads. The employee has the ability to communicate what they do, how it contributes to the company vision and team goals rather than just doing what they are told. The employee communicates their role within the company in a way that gains support from others. In addition an employee can mentor, motivate and guide others towards goals.

How does this translate to ‘scope of impact’ for each level?

  • Assisted: Learning to accept direction. Directs their own actions on projects of minor scope.
  • Individual: Understands how their work relates to the company goals and can direct their own work accordingly.
  • Team-wide: Builds a shared understanding across the team on how their work relates to the company goals and will direct the team towards those ends.
  • Company-wide: Builds a shared understanding across the department and company on how department’s work relates to company’s goals and will direct the department and company towards shared goals.
  • Industry-wide: Builds understanding across the industry about the company and department goals and can direct others outside the company towards the company goals.

Example of alignment from a performance review:

Alignment: Expected Scope of Impact – Assisted, Actual Scope of Impact – Assisted
Comment / Rational: Sherlock has required continued assistance in setting his priorities and understanding the larger scope of his deliverables, i.e. how these are benefiting the company as a whole. An example is the candidate survey project which would certainly assist the company in understanding the ‘candidate experience’ and would allow us to take the appropriate actions where required. Had Sherlock properly appreciated this he would have given this project more attention.

Communicate, Collaborate, Consult

Communicate: The employee is able to keep others informed, they express verbal and written ideas effectively and are able to communicate effectively with peers and managers. They interact well with others and resolve conflict. The employee communicate using the mutual learning model where we share all information.

Collaborate: The employee is able to work with others co-operatively towards a shared goal, focusing on the shared interests rather than individuals ‘position’ on a subject.

Consult: The employee is able to seek and / or provide expert or professional advice and / or guidance.

How does this translate to ‘scope of impact’ for each level?

  • Assisted: Learning to communicate, collaborate and consult appropriately for their own work.
  • Individual: Communicates their activities and status appropriately. Collaborates well with their colleagues. Consults with others when appropriate.
  • Team-wide: Communicates on behalf of their team. Drives team collaboration and collaboration beyond team boundaries. Ensures appropriate consultation beyond the team.
  • Company-wide: Communicates on behalf of the department or company. Drives collaboration across the department and company. Ensures appropriate consultation across the company.
  • Industry-wide: Communicates, collaborates and consults across the industry.

Example of alignment from a performance review:

Collaboration: Expected Scope of Impact – Assisted, Actual Scope of Impact – Individual
Comment / Rational: Sherlock has demonstrated a higher level of collaboration since his last review demonstrated by extensive collaboration with many members of his team and in addition external parties. He has on a number of occasions taken the initiative and sought external views and taken into account the possible impact of suggested solutions on other team members.

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