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What do career levels structure in big tech company look like? What are the responsibilities for each level?

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Engineering Manager at Sincha year ago

I'm defining a career path for my company, and don't know where to start. I would like to see how Meta, Google are doing this so that I can tailor to match my smaller company.

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  • 32
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    Staff Eng @ Google, Ex-Meta SWE, Ex-Amazon SDM/SDE
    a year ago

    Amazon Engineering ICs:

    • L4 - College hire, or little experience, responsible for self with help. Code, start to work on small features, design very small subsystems
    • L5 - Workhorse, huge in terms of scope. Starts at self-sufficiency and some team impact, grows to system ownership and design, team leadership, cross team impact.
    • L6 - Senior SDE, leads one or multiple teams. Owns large pieces of infrastructure, designs new large systems. Impacts an org between 25-50 engineers at the high end.
    • L7 - Principal. Rare. Councils directors and VPs on tech, owns multiple large systems driving a business unit, impacts 50-100+ engineers.
    • L8 - senior principal. Launches huge systems no one else has before, impacts large lines of business, 100s of engineers. Defines tech direction for large parts of the company
    • L10 (9 doesn’t exist) - VP, distinguished engineer. Industry leaders, long term company vision. James Gosling was hired into this level, as an example.
    • L11 - SVP, first promotion to this level was recent, James Hamilton. Advises Jassy, etc.

    Managers:

    • L5 - Rare, transitional. Manages a small team, limited scope and short term vision
    • L6 - general line manager, manages 2 pizza team. Rarely manages managers. Medium to large scope, longer term vision
    • L7 - Senior SDM. Org leader, manages managers and senior ICs, large scope, org vision.
    • L8 - Director, large org, sometimes large engineering org, or running a business across disciplines (GM)
    • L10 - VP, strictly engineering isn’t as common anymore, but would be a medium-large business unit’s whole engineering org. AWS’ CTO Werner Vogels is at this level.
    • L11 - SVP, not sure if anyone that only owns engineering has this job. Seems like “no” if Vogels isn’t there.

    I don’t have the energy to write up Google or Meta. They have more levels of engineers, slightly more granular but not really. L3 is smaller, than the levels sort of “bridge” Amazon’s. L5 is senior, L6 staff, L7 senior staff, L8 principal, L9 distinguished, L10 fellow at Google. Meta is pretty similar but are weird about leveling, seems to top out at 9, say senior at 5 but it’s murky. Management I don’t have extensive knowledge of, but Meta it’s pretty similar to Amazon at L6/M1, M2 senior, D1 director, D2 senior director, then there’s… 2 levels of VP. Google is similar. L7 senior, 8 director, 9 senior director, 10 VP, 11 SVP.

  • 10
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    UI Engineer @ HashiCorp (Nomad)
    a year ago

    Here's a list of every public career ladder: https://www.swyx.io/career-ladders

  • 9
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    How small is your company in terms of engineering headcount? If there's less than 500 people in the engineering org, it probably doesn't make sense to have the same level structure as Big Tech since their ladder has so many levels.

    I joined Course Hero back in 2015 when it was only 20 engineers with no levels. Over time, the company grew to 100+ engineers and introduced a basic version of engineering levels, which might make more sense for you. Here were the levels:

    • Junior
    • Mid-Level
    • Senior
    • Staff
    • Principal

    On the management side, it was just:

    • Manager - Senior and lower-end of staff maps here.
    • Director - Higher-end of staff and lower-end of principal maps here.
    • VP - Higher-end of principal theoretically maps here, but engineering ICs pretty much never transition into a VP-level role.

    To better understand the responsibilities of engineering IC levels in particular, check out this playlist: [Taro Top 10] Understanding Engineering Levels

  • 16
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    10 months ago

    Here's the breakdown of IC levels for Meta for those who are curious (Google will be exactly the same except for L4 being terminal there instead of E5). The difference from Amazon is that Amazon's levels start becoming very wide at L5 [SDE 2]. This is why Amazon SDEs starting from the higher-end of SDE 2 will generally get up-leveled when they switch companies.

    SWE IC Levels

    • E3 [Junior] - Able to complete basic to medium-complexity coding tasks reliably. Working on a time-scale of 1 month or less. 0-2 years of experience
    • E4 [Mid-Level] - Highly proficient shipper, working on medium to high complexity tasks on a 2-3 months time-scale. Can be the SME of their area and leading small projects of 2-3 engineers. 2-8 years of experience
    • E5 [Senior] - Usually follows the tech lead archetype, working on very high technical complexity tasks. Scope is 4-12 engineers and 3-6 month time-scale. This is the terminal level at Meta and engineers are forced to progress from E3 -> E5 within 5 years as we detail here: "How does up-or-out work and what's the transition generally like for E3 -> E4 -> E5?". 8-15 years of experience
    • E6 [Staff] - Cross-team impact, usually across 3-5 teams with 20-50 engineers total, working on projects spanning 9-18 months. Has a huge impact on org direction and will own the overall goal for their immediate team. About ~15% of Meta SWEs are E6, and most teams will only have 1-2. This is when the growth path becomes extremely hazy as engineers tend to slot into archetypes to really play to their strengths and fill in their org's gaps. 15+ years of experience
    • E7 [Senior Staff] - Org-wide impact, think everyone underneath an engineering director. 75-150 engineers and 7-20 teams worth of scope and will often need to think 2-3 years into the future. This is when things start getting really impossible - If you're able to get into Big Tech and are talented/work hard, you can generally get to E6 eventually. This is not the case for E7. Every E7 I have worked with didn't feel human. Just ~3% of Meta SWEs are E7.
    • E8 [Principal] - VP scope, often carrying entire major product lines like all of Instagram Stories or all of Facebook Marketplace. 175 - 300 engineers worth of scope across 20-40 teams, thinking 5+ years into the future. Often times will be an industry leader - If you go to a Silicon Valley cafe and mention their name with some engineers there, there's a good chance they have heard of this person. Less than 1% of Meta SWEs are E8.
    • E9 [Distinguished] - SVP scope, carrying an entire product space or tech stack. Think something like all of Meta iOS infra or all of Meta VR/AR. 500+ engineers worth of scope across 50+ engineering teams. Should definitely be a well-known industry leader. There are less 50 E9s across Meta.
    • E10 [Fellow] - Company scope, will work directly with multiple SVPs and probably the CTO directly. Legend across the industry. 2,500+ engineers worth of scope across 250+ engineering teams - Which engineers are uplifted will vary constantly as they're just trying to solve the biggest technical problem facing all of Meta. There are less than 5 E10s at Meta.

    For the most part, Big Tech companies (both the old guard with FAANG and the new era IPOs like DoorDash, Airbnb, and Pinterest) will follow this leveling matrix. The letters may be different and the number might not start at 3 (e.g. Stripe starts at 1 and Airbnb starts at 7), but the compensation, expectations/scope, and title will be the same.

    If you want to learn more about E6+ engineer archetypes, I recommend this thread: "What does a path to staff look like in a coding-heavy environment?"

    If you want to learn about how Big Tech works in general, check out this masterclass: [Masterclass] Should You Work At FAANG? - What Big Tech Is Like For Software Engineers

  • 3
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    Director of Software Engineering at Sakara Life
    4 months ago

    You can find most of the levels posted and salaries listed on https://www.levels.fyi/ based on the big tech company you are looking for. As for responsibilities and skills, there's some good examples listed here - https://www.levels.fyi/blog/swe-level-framework.html. There are different levels based on the company you are looking for.

Sinch, formerly CLX Communications, is a telecommunications and cloud communications platform as a service (PaaS) company. Headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, Sinch also has offices in over 30 cities worldwide across multiple continents.
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