Chapter 47. Introduce an Engineering Ladder

Lisa van Gelder

You know you want to implement an engineering ladder at your company. What’s next? If you just tell your engineers that you have defined a ladder and it now applies to them, you might find that they revolt!

As vice president of engineering, I’ve introduced an engineering ladder at two companies: Stride Consulting and Bauer Xcel. Here, I present the seven steps that I’ve gone through to ensure it has been successfully adopted.

1. Communicate the Why

You want your team to feel the ladder is for them. If your company has never had an engineering ladder, you need to be very clear about why you think now is the right time to introduce one and what problems you think it will solve. Explain how they will benefit.

2. Get Your Team to Define the Levels Themselves

You want your team to feel that the ladder is for them rather than imposed on them. The best way to do that is to task the team to define the ladder itself. I start by taking Rent the Runway’s engineering ladder and adapting it to the organization. Then, I share it with the entire engineering team, along with some other example ladders (Kickstarter, Meetup, Intent Media, etc.) and make the ladder editable by the entire company. Everyone gets a chance to add comments and define levels—including their own level—before the ladder goes into effect.

At Stride, I had a ...

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