Engineering growth: frequently asked questions

Part five of a five part guide to assessing professional growth at Medium

Medium Engineering
Oct 17, 2017 · 7 min read

As we continue to learn, we are now on our third iteration of this process. Please see here for the latest update.

We recently undertook a project to define professional development for members of Medium’s engineering team. As part of that, I wrote this document to answer some questions that came up during development. It was originally published to Hatch, our internal version of Medium, on August 25, 2017. For more information about Medium’s practice of making internal documents public, see Hatching Inside Medium.

This is the actual document used by Medium to answer questions our engineers have, and has replaced the version on Hatch as the source of truth.

Preface: Introduction
Part 1: Framework overview
Part 2: Tracks
Part 3: Assessing progress
Part 4: Appeals process
Part 5: Frequently asked questions

You can also read the rubric in full, and use the interactive tool.

Q: Do I have to become a manager to grow in this framework?

A: This framework isn’t designed to benefit managers. In fact, that’s something we consciously worked to avoid in creating this framework. We strongly believe that there are many paths for engineers to increase impact, and that leadership comes in many forms. There are different ways for someone to achieve the highest level without needing to formally manage any direct reports, and your group lead can help you create a career plan that works best for you.

Q: What are the different “shapes” of my potential career path at Medium? Examples?

A: There are many different paths for engineers at Medium. Some engineers might have deep spikes in certain tracks, while others might be more well-rounded. While some specific roles will require progress in certain tracks — like Career Development for a group lead — the framework is also flexible. Engineers can make progress in different areas and with our growth tool, you’ll be able to see how progress in different paths will affect your overall level.

With the help of your group lead, you can plan career paths that speak to your interests, while increasing your impact at Medium.

Q: Do people at the same level get the same salary? How about equity?

Level-based salary and equity will be the same for all engineers at the same overall level. There may be rare occasions where this is not the case due to external factors or extenuating circumstances.

Medium also may periodically offer refresher equity tied to tenure and performance at the company. For that reason, not every engineer at the same level may have the same amount of equity. Medium may in the future choose to offer cash or equity bonuses on a one-time basis. In the event that we do so, we will make that process transparent and fair.

Q: Are we going to publish the salaries for each level?

A: No. Your salaries are not secret, and we expect that people will discuss theirs with each other. However, we don’t plan to publish salaries.

Q: Do we consider prior-Medium experience when assessing engineers? If so, what is the strategy?

A: Many people have experience outside of Medium, which contributes to their overall ability. We wanted to make sure we fairly capture that in this initial progress measurement and with new hires. When making the first assessment for current Medians, we considered what they had done in recent previous roles. However, prior experience was less of a factor the longer someone had been at Medium, as they gained more opportunities to demonstrate their skills firsthand.

Q: How do we assess new hires?

A: We’ll sit down with each new hire and show them the Growth Framework, explaining how we measure the engineering team. In that conversation, the group lead speaking with the candidate will ask for some input on what the candidate has done in their recent previous experience, and what milestones they think they would hit. The hiring committee will make an overall level and provisional milestones determination based on recent relevant experience and a comparison to similar engineers already at Medium.

If the candidate accepts the offer, their group lead will share this information in detail. They’ll check in with them at 6 weeks and 3 months to talk about how their work aligns with their milestones on the rubric, and where we expect them to be for their level. At the 3 months point, their milestones will be confirmed.

If there is a substantial mismatch with the expected overall level and the observed performance, we will have an honest conversation about remedial steps to bring the engineer up to their assigned level as quickly as possible.

Q: Will I know my milestone in each of the tracks? Will other people?

A: When your group lead shares your growth assessment, they will share your overall level and the milestones you’ve achieved in each track. Although overall levels will be internally public, we are not currently planning to do the same for milestones.

Q: Will I know my percentile of each of the tracks?

A: We don’t currently have plans to share this, but may do so in the future if there’s a compelling reason.

Q: How do we think about tenure for assessment?

A: We do not consider the tenure at Medium as a factor in determining someone’s contributions. The growth rubric focuses on behaviors and deliverables instead of tenure. Inevitably, the longer you are at Medium, the more opportunities you will have to demonstrate your skills and to grow.

Q: Given my personality traits and areas of interest, will I reach a ceiling of my growth at Medium?

A: We are proud that our team is made up of engineers with different personality traits and areas of interest. We want to help you find ways for you to continuously grow in ways that speak to your interests and personality. Medium’s Growth Framework provides multiple opportunities for progress that counts towards your overall level.

Each milestone can be achieved through many different types of behaviors or tasks. This means that there are different ways to achieve a milestone, and your group lead can help you identify the best way for you to achieve that next milestone — including helping to advocate for opportunities.

Q: What happens if I do not agree with my milestones or level?

A: We recognize that the review panel may make mistakes from time to time. To address this, we’ve created an appeals process. See details on how to appeal here.

Q: What happens if I think the rubric values the wrong things? Or misses areas that I think are important?

A: We would love to hear your feedback. We’ve created the #eng-growth-framework in Slack and we also have an anonymous feedback form at go/eng-growth-feedback.

Q: Will my level degrade if I switch roles?

A: Our Growth Framework is designed with our engineering values in mind — one of which calls out that roles are not static, and we strive to help people grow and change. You will not lose the points you’ve already gained for switching roles. We may in the future change our approach such that there’s a decrease in points for areas where you aren’t actively using those skills to contribute to the company. We do not currently plan to do that, but if we do, we will provide plenty of notice.

Q: Who determines a person’s level?

A: A review panel comprised of senior engineers determines the current milestones for each engineer using the growth rubric.

Q: Do I have to make progress in every track?

A: Making progress in all tracks at once is highly unlikely. It will typically be more effective to target a couple of tracks, and to work with your group lead to make a career plan that helps you understand which tracks to focus on. You have a whole career to grow :) By focusing on fewer tracks, you can continue to progress in ways that make sense and are achievable. There isn’t an expectation that anyone will make progress on all tracks at once (or get to milestone 5 on all tracks, even in their whole career). We have very senior engineers at the company who have zeros in some tracks!

Q: What if I haven’t done the examples?

A: The examples in the rubric are provided to help give a sense of what type of behaviors we would expect from someone at that milestone. The examples aren’t specific criteria that must be met — instead, they help paint a picture of what type of things someone might do when they’ve achieved that milestone. You can exhibit different behaviors and achieve different tasks of similar complexity, scope, or impact, and still achieve a milestone.

Q: What about cross-functional roles like PM+Eng or Eng+Design?

A: For hybrid work, your growth rubric will correspond to your “home” organization. If you interviewed as an engineer, for example, you are part of the engineering organization unless an explicit change is made. Within this rubric, you may not see as many specific examples of hybrid work, but the examples are not exhaustive. In these cases, we use the overall framing for each level and category and consider how your work fits within each one.

Q: Will the rubric change over time?

A: Yes, we reserve the right to modify the rubric as necessary to meet the needs of the business. We may also make minor changes to examples from time to time, to keep it current. If we make changes that materially affect the usage or outcomes of the rubric, like modifying levels, adding milestones or making milestones substantially harder to achieve, we will give plenty of prior warning.

Engineering Growth Framework
Engineering Growth Framework
Engineering Growth Framework

About this Collection

Engineering Growth Framework

Documentation for Medium’s professional growth framework

Documentation for Medium’s professional growth framework

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade