Promotions are the most tangible marker of career growth, a formal recognition of your advancement within a company. They also generally come with more money, influence, and status, so it’s no surprise that promotions are top of mind for so many of us. I’ve gone through the engineering promotion process at several tech companies, with several success and failure outcomes. I’ve also seen the process as both a manager and high-level IC.
Here are 5 things about promotion that I wish I knew at the beginning of my career. Understanding these would have made me a better engineer, and as a byproduct, I would have been promoted faster.
The mark of a senior engineer is the capability to take a large, ambiguous problem, decompose it in a tractable way, and progressively de-risk the project through technical skill and collaboration. This is something that a junior engineer simply cannot do, no matter the time or effort they put in. The upshot is that a senior engineer is not simply a junior engineer who codes faster; the types of problems they solve are fundamentally different.
Senior engineers get promoted not because they write 1000s of lines of code, but because they design solutions which make it easy for others on the team to write the code, or (even better) prevent the code from being written in the first place.