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How do I pitch for a promotion?

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Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community2 months ago

I have been at my present job for a year now and I have been doing pretty well at my work. I have never had a discussion about the next level of responsibilities with my manager due to the fact that we have never had a one-on-one before (he has around 150 reportees and is always busy).

I am very keen on moving to the next level and I have a chance to ask for it in an upcoming one-on-one. I would not want to sound demanding or cocky but at the same time I would like to show that i deserve it. Apart from talking about my work, what would be the best way to convey to him that I am ready to move to the next level or at least to ask him to keep me on the radar and to help me grow so that i can get promoted soon.



  • 3
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    2 months ago

    We actually made a video about exactly this - I highly recommend it: Asking For A Promotion: The Wrong Way vs. The Right Way

    ...(he has around 150 reportees and is always busy)

    Is there an extra 0 there? Because if not, 150 is completely insane. If it's actually 150, I would ask if they have plans to hire more managers. At that point, the relationship between you and your manager doesn't really exist, and it's just another line in the org chart. There is no way anybody can adequately get to know 150 people, and this will make promotion almost impossible (who can actually vouch for you?).

    Never having a 1 on 1 with your manager is also a red flag (makes sense if they have 150 reports). If possible, I would look into switching to a different manager within your org (same skip manager) who isn't overwhelmed and can actually support you.

  • 7
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    Founder of Expanded Skills • Former Head of Engineering
    2 months ago

    I follow these 2 principles when it comes to promotions.

    1. Align yourself with their OKRs. Basically, get an understanding of what your manager is expected to deliver to your skip level. It might be tough in your situation given there's minimal interactions, but I always target the part of their scope that's giving them the most headache, which is usually falling short of OKRs as well. Several benefits to this.
      • You will do them a favor and they will assign it to you as long as they trust in your abilities
      • By definition, it's next level scope and already on the company's roadmap
    2. Bring those below you up. In parallel to taking on next level scope, it's important to elevate those below you as well. You don't need direct authority to do this while the company factors in your people development skills when you're moving out of the IC bracket. To get started, look for ways to scale your expertise and make it easier for others to perform their work (ideally both). Some examples include
      • Offer to run a training for something you have expertise in
      • Document how you solved a problem in a case study and share that
      • Find process optimizations in the SDLC that remove friction for others or raise the quality bar without sacrificing other parameters too much (e.g. velocity)
      • Do "glue work"

    I also have a 3 step promotion checklist that I run through before making the push. Here's the essence of it.

    1. Sponsorship: do you have the backing of the right people? Work backwards from the year end performance review discussion and figure out who needs to give the green light? What do they need to see to give you the green light? Reverse engineer this process rather than working forward and hoping it works out.
    2. Scope: You need a scope that is impactful enough and aligned with what your sponsors from the previous step care about. It's usually tied directly to why they would sponsor your in the first place.
    3. Support: Do you have the necessary resources to deliver on the scope? This can be help you get from other team members, the state of the code base/tech debt, timeline, and possibly funding. Based on these parameters, manage expectations accordingly and negotiate what will increase your odds of delivering.
  • 6
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    2 months ago

    I'll touch on one component of promotion that is often overlooked (particularly in Big Tech): ownership. The beauty of this is that you don't need to ask for permission for ownership -- just imbibe the mentality that "for anything related to X, the buck stops with me" and then provide tons of value to people curious about X.

    The most frustrating moment from my time as a Facebook engineer was when I was navigating the corporate maze, desperately looking for direction.

    I'd work on a bug/feature and discover that an unrelated team may be impacted; a team in a different org where I had no connection.

    These situations were always the most painful, since chasing down the relevant person could take unpredictably long.

    In Big Tech, finding the person responsible for a feature could take dozens of conversations and DMs and days of effort.

    Everyone you talk to simply says, "Sorry, I don't work on that," or "I don't know, but you may want to check with the on-call of this team."

    Finding someone who actually took ownership was breathtakingly refreshing:

    I don't own that surface area, but I'm going to get you the answer. Give me a day and I'll either fix the problem or I'll suggest a path forward.

    Take ownership and your promotion is effectively guaranteed.

    BTW, shameless plug, I'm teaching a course about the Senior to Staff promo in 2 weeks: https://maven.com/taro/senior-to-staff