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How do I work with my manager to get to L5 in the "quickest" way?

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Mid-Level Data Engineer [L4] at Google10 months ago

I was informed by my previous manager that once we move teams, promo is "reset" i.e. only the work in the new team counts for the promo cycle (despite being on the same job ladder of TSC, DE etc).

I am currently at L4 and the role I am going into is scoped for L5 (they were targeting a L5 hire). Given I am changing team mid-year, I am not sure I can get a rating beyond SI in the Jan GRAD cycle.

What is the best way to work with my manager to secure an L5 promo and what timeline is realistic for this promotion at Google (I was targeting next August)?



  • 19
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    Android Engineer @ Robinhood
    10 months ago

    I'd break the conversation down into 2 buckets:

    • What projects can you work on
    • What behaviors are expected from you

    At L5, you need to demonstrate that you can own projects end-to-end independently (through a mix of technical leadership and/or raw code volume). Every team/company has different expectations on what that looks like, so it's important to work with your manager to figure out what projects you're able to own and how to execute on them.

  • 14
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    10 months ago

    I question the premise that the timeline for promo is reset when you switch teams. If you've shipped something meaningful in your old team, that can provide further evidence that you're sustaining next-level performance. Of course, the most recent team carries more weight, but your history is not completely discarded.

    Google is slow to promote -- the timeline will depend on the team and manger, but generally at least 2 years is expected for a fresh promo. See more in the Google description at promotions.fyi.

    Here's how I'd suggest having the conversation with your manager about promotion timelines -- you want to strike the balance between being ambitious and also understanding the needs of the team.

  • 12
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    Tech Lead, Senior Software Engineer [L5] at Google
    10 months ago

    Promo "resetting" is probably not the right way to think about it, but it's a common thing managers use to tell reports to be patient / that they are not yet ready for promotion.

    Having said that, I do think it's true that moving teams, especially when those teams have very little in common with one another, will soft-reset your promotion progress. I think this is true across Big Tech, not just at Google - it definitely happened to me during my L4->L5 promo at Amazon where all of the promo artifacts came from the team I was on then and nothing from my prior teams.

    But I think the main reason team transfers resets progress, especially for L5+ promotions, is that those promotions depends a lot on two things that definitely reset when you move: your reputation amongst your peers, and your relationship with key stakeholders. Ultimately, for you to get promoted, people other than your manager needs to vouch for you and put their own reputation on the line to advocate for you.

    Okay, that's the "bad" news. Here's the "good" news.

    Reputation and relationship can be built outside of project delivery timelines. It means you don't have to finish shipping a massive project to get promoted. These things are primarily built with the right set of behaviors. Basically, if you think and behave in a way that L5 would consistently, then people will take notice, and they will start giving you opportunities that together will help you get promoted. If you are unclear what this set of behavior means, then figuring it out with your manager is probably the first step, but there also exists plenty of resources here on Taro that should be able to help you.

    If you are already behaving in a L5 manner, e.g. being a thought leader in your team both technically and interpersonally, then promo in 1 year isn't out of reach. But often it takes longer, because to behave at L5 level requires to change your mindset and how you approach your work more generally (maybe especially so at Google). The truth is, your own internal growth doesn't reset when you move teams (it probably encourages more growth instead!). When you've internally grown to an L5... often the external indicators such as promotion will follow.


    A quick note about GRAD and Promo! From what I understand, these are now separate processes. You could easily get a S rating in March and get promoted in August, because the S band is incredibly wide (~70% of people gets this, including some people that got SEE in previous perf system). It is useful however to discuss where in the S band your rating falls with your manager - for example, if you are getting near bottom of S, your promotion likelihood isn't high.

    • 3
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      Mid-Level Data Engineer [L4] [OP]
      2 months ago

      All of the comments on this thread were incredibly helpful, especially this one.

      My manager wrote on my GRAD I am performing to an L5 level (when I implemented the comments above) and there is business need for an L5 in this role. I will take this as a good sign. :)

    • 0
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      Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
      2 months ago

      That's awesome - Congrats on the progress! Hope the L5 promotion isn't too far away 😁

    • 0
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      Senior SWE, Manager at Google
      a month ago

      That's great news! Glad this was helpful. Happy to talk more if you wished to reach out over chat / slack.

  • 21
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    10 months ago

    Others have commented on how "reset" isn't exactly the right term to describe this (it sounds too harsh), so I'll go straight to answering the core question around how to achieve a "quick" promo:

    • Start the dialogue with your manager - Be clear (but not aggressive) about your promotion goal and make sure to maintain the conversation over time, regularly asking for real feedback and doing mid-cycle check-ins.
    • Write a growth plan for yourself - Work with your manager to add clarity to it and keep it accurate as team priorities inevitably change. We talk about this in our video here: A Huge, Often Unused Way Your Manager Can Help With Promotion
    • Analyze L5 engineers for inspiration - Of the L5 engineers on your team, observe them closely and emulate their behaviors like we discuss in this video: Properly Learning From Software Engineers More Senior Than You
    • Strive to become the most likable person on the team - Build deep relationships and constantly add value to others. This is crucial for L5 as it's generally a tech lead role and you need the connections to lead. Follow the advice from this masterclass: [Masterclass] How To Build Deep Relationships Quickly In Tech
    • Prioritize relentlessly - An L5 packet generally needs 2-3 shining gems, big projects that outshine the rest. Figure out what those "gem" projects are, deliver them awesomely, and aggressively drop tasks outside of that core scope. Here's a great thread from another L4-level engineer that digs deeper into that: "How does one effectively handle pressure especially when the stakes are high?"

    Here's our playlist around L4 -> L5 as well: [Taro Top 10] Mid-Level Engineer To Senior Engineer (L4 To L5)

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