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#344 – Updating our Skill Matrix

Friday Ship #344 | April 21st, 2023

Plant rising from the concrete

This week we updated our Engineering Career Skill Matrix.

Most of us have a want to grow in our career, learn more, and increase our scope of work. When you have a only a handful of people, or are just starting out, that just happens. You might not need anything formal at that point. But as soon as those people start to stay around for more than a year or two, you should think about having something like a framework that can show them what is expected and how they can grow.

Now luckily, we already have such a framework for our developers, or almost every role inside the company. But it felt a bit outdated. Fun story: updating our skill matrix was actually my Batting Practice project! Now almost 9 months later I finally did finish it.

To do it right, it takes time

We weren’t in an immediate rush, but the tension was there: developers were wanting to grow and understand what is needed to get to the next level. The old skill matrix was good, but was sometimes too focused, and just shared one single example of a skill. Not allowing for different shaped developers, it lacked flexibility.

A lot of research was involved. That’s how I’ve done it in the past too. Look at a lot of other frameworks out there. A good resource is, containing many transparently available frameworks. Because ultimately a career framework should be a mix between what the industry currently expects from people at a certain level, and what the company needs are.

Collecting feedback early on in the company is also a key thing to do. Do the changes resonate? Are they totally off-track? It gave me a good sense of heading in the right direction.

What is important?

I focused on 3 main areas. Levels, Expectations and Scope.

Levels – is self explanatory. They classify where you are at, and have to also work with the industry standard. A lot is connected to that: prestige, salary, etc. Levels go normally from L1 – L7/L8. Our levels are: Intern, Member, Senior, Principal, Staff, Distinguished, Icon

Expectations – or Skills. Those are the things developers need to fulfill in order to perform at this level. Most of the times, there are multiple categories focusing on certain parts of the job.

Our old skill matrix only had a main set of expectations. This time around we also created sub categories to allow for more flexibility and to be clearer in what this particular skill is about. Our categories are:

  • Software Design & Implementation (Quality, Architecture)
  • Ownership & Accountability (Productivity, Time & Task Management)
  • Innovation (Contributing to Product Enhancements)
  • Team Collaboration & Advice (Technical Collaboration, Project & Team Scope)

Scope – Defining a scope is important for each level. What is the particular need in the case of a Senior engineering talking about Architecture? This way, every individual can understand, even without asking for clarification, how far they should go on a certain topic.

What about People and Collaboration Skills?

Yes of course, they are important too. For us, they are governed as a separate part, because they should be the same for everyone, no matter the role. That’s why they live under an Exco policy and come in addition to the above Subject Matter Skill Matrix.

We hope that this iteration is clearer, and will help developers to work on their career growth in a much easier way. It will likely not be the last time the skill matrix will be updated. It should be a living document, because the industry and company needs change on a regular basis too.


Company Key Metrics for the week ending April 21, 2023

All green lights this week, as we see upticks after a shorter week with Easter.

This week we…

…shipped our first edition of our new Activity Library. This is for us internally but it is exciting to see. Paving a way for new features soon! We can now start meetings from the new design.

…started planning a new hack week after the next sprint. There are already some great ideas coming together.
…started considering a minimum PTO policy. We’ve heard from candidates that ‘unlimited PTO’ can sometimes be a red flag. We genuinely believe in breaks, so we’re exploring how our policies can support that.

…finished our internal mixtape competition! This is the second year that designer Enrique Sanchez has been running this contest.

Next week we’ll

…continue interviewing users about our latest prototype. We’ve been touched to see how many folks booked calls to check-out our Insights feature, and can’t wait to talk to more of our users to refine our plans.

Marcus Wermuth

Marcus Wermuth

Marcus is leading our Product Team as the Head of Product Development. He is very passionate about virtual leadership, and has been writing and speaking about it online. Most recently he worked at Remote, and before that for almost 7 years at Buffer as engineer and engineering manager. He is very passionate about coffee, food, music and lately running. Marcus lives and works from Munich, Germany.

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