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How do I turn SWE roles behaviors/descriptions into concrete actions in a startup environment?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer at Series B Startupa year ago

Question: "For being promoted from SWE I to SWE II, how do I take the behaviors my company has associated with each role (below) and make that more concrete for a growth plan, taking into account the changing & flexible timelines startups have?"

For context, I already have weekly one-on-ones with my manager (who is new at being a manager & is also my mentor), and a growth plan (that I created with him) that roughly outlines (meets most expectations, meets expectations and exceeds expectations for my role). Additionally, keep in mind I work at a startup w/ <30 people so highly specific concrete goals set on a particular date can change in 2-3 weeks as priorities change. Also, my company has defined a series of behaviors as to what each SWE level should be able to accomplish. Here it is.

Software Engineer I (<1 year - 2 years)

  • Technical Skill
    • Broad knowledge of CS concepts
    • Focus on growing as an engineer, learning existing tools, resources, and processes
  • Getting Stuff Done
    • Develops their productivity skills by learning source control, editors, the build system and other tools as well as testing best practices.
    • Capable of taking well-defined sub-tasks and completing these tasks
  • Impact
    • Developing knowledge of a single component of our architecture
  • Communication & Leadership
    • Effective in communicating status to the team
    • Exhibits company’s core values, focuses on understanding and living these values
    • Accepts feedback graciously and learns from everything they do

Software Engineer II (2-6Years+)

  • Technical Skill
    • Writes correct and clean code with guidance; consistently fellows stated best practices
    • Participates in technical design of features with guidance
    • Rarely makes the same mistake twice, begins to focus on attaining expertise in one or more areas(eg. embedded , testing, algorithm, support code, commlink).
    • Learns quickly and makes steady progress without the need for constant significant feedback from more senior engineers.
  • Getting Stuff Done
    • Makes steady progress on tasks; knows when to ask for help in order to get themselves unblocked.
    • Able to own small-to-medium features from technical design through completion.
    • Capable of prioritizing tasks; avoids getting caught up in unimportant details and endless “bikeshedding”.
  • Impact
    • Self-sufficient in at least one large area of the codebase with a high-level understanding of other components
    • Capable of providing on-call support for their area including systems that they are not familiar with.
  • Communication & Leadership
    • Gives timely, helpful feedback to peers and managers
    • Communicates assumptions and gets clarification on tasks up front to minimize the need for rework.
    • Solicits feedback from others and is eager to find ways to improve
    • Understands how their work fits into the larger project and identifies problems with requirements.


(1 comment)
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    Staff Software Engineer @ DoorDash, ex-FB, ex-Klaviyo
    a year ago

    how do I take the behaviors my company has associated with each role (below) and make that more concrete for a growth plan

    First of all, I want to stress that one of the reasons people want to work at a startup is the ability to own large scopes no matter what ur current level is. What really helped me grow faster compared to lots of my peers is this mindset

    show up, own the hardest problem from the get go. It's ok to fail. 
    As a matter of fact, you should frequently fail. 
    If you are not, it means you are not challenging yourself enough.

    Now to your specific question. I think on a tactical front, the rubric you shared already made everything pretty clear

    • Technical Skill
      • become an expert in some areas that matter to your company
    • Getting Stuff Done
      • Implement stuff & build lots of features
    • Impact
      • lead larger projects and take them across the finish line
    • Communication & Leadership
      • help others
      • communicate ur progress & unblock yourself when needed

    The transition from SWE I -> SWE II (E3 -> E4) is very straightforward. It's basically you doing more stuff better and faster.

    Leverage your manager to make sure you are on track and you should get there relatively fast.