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Career Paths

We have the following pre-defined career paths, which includes our standard promotion path. The standard promotion path includes roles that folks can be promoted into without an application process. Additionally, there is no cap on the number of folks who can be in a role in the standard promotion path.

Positions that are not part of the standard promotion path are denoted with an asterisk ( * ) in the list below. Moving into a role that is not part of the standard promotion path requires an application and interview process.

Design

These positions outline the Individual Contributor track.

Development

These positions outline the Individual Contributor track.

Designer and Developer Management

Available to anyone at Senior Designer or Senior Developer position or higher.

General

Process

We expect team members to grow and progress in their career path while at thoughtbot. We have a standard promotions path for folks in general and technical roles. The standard promotion path is made up of individual contributor (IC) roles.

Positions that are not part of the standard promotion path are denoted with an asterisk ( * ) in the list above.

Moving into a people management role is not part of the standard promotions path. We list openings for all positions that are not part of the standard promotion path and all positions that are responsible for managing others internally and externally, and conduct interviews for those positions.

While it is possible for an existing team member to be promoted to a position that manages others, we also need to consider the limited number of leadership positions we have and ensure equity and help build a diverse team. Therefore, if an existing role is to be expanded to manage others, or someone would otherwise be promoted to a position that is responsible for managing others, we treat that as a new position and advertise it internally and externally, and conduct interviews for the position (in accordance with Colorado's Equal Pay for Equal Work Act). This also allows for folks to give feedback (including concerns and recommendations) on anyone moving into people management.

For all positions, once a team member has shown that they meet the expectations for promotion, they are ready to be promoted. The evaluation will be reviewed by the People team for approval. Once approved for promotion, other details will be confirmed on the thread including promotion date and any salary changes.

Apprentices, Designers, and Developers

Designers and Developers work through a skill self-evaluation with their team lead or manager to identify strengths and areas for growth. Apprentices use the same evaluation but work on it each month with their mentor. Each skill category can be thought of along a 1 through 5 scale, with 1 representing beginning, 3 representing the expected level, 5 representing a rare level of expertise. Skill evaluations cover the following areas:

Shared Skills (Designer and Developer)

  • Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI): A 1 here could mean that you come from an industry or background where you have not had exposure to DEI issues. You have not thought about it, but you demonstrate open-mindedness and genuine curiosity about learning more. A 3 indicates that you can clearly articulate reasons why DEI is important. You acknowledge the complexities of DEI initiatives. You back up opinions with examples, things you've read, or direct experience. A 5 indicates that you actively run DEI initiatives, and mentor or sponsor underrepresented people in the wider community.

Developers

  • Community: A 1 here could mean that you have not been involved in a professional community in any manner -- no events, no writing, no open source contributions. A 3 indicates that you participate in professional community regularly in a way that helps you, helps thoughtbot, or helps the community itself. A 5 indicates that you are an important figure in the community, such as an organizer or open source maintainer.
  • Communication: A 1 in communication means that you are still working on effectively communicating regularly, proactively, and clearly with teammates, clients, and stakeholders. A 3 means that you communicate effectively. A 5 means that your communication skills are sought out; for example, you are consulted when a client is troublesome or you improve the ways we as a company communicate.
  • Specialization: A 1 in specialization indicates that you have just begun your technical knowledge. A 3 means that you know your technical specialization in depth, able to work unaided and assist people who are still learning. A 5 is for knowing your specialization at a recognized expert level; this could involve being sought out by others for questions, or contributing upstream.
  • Process: A 1 in process means that process is not a thing you've focused on. A 3 means that you participate in and lead the processes for your project, such as planning, estimates, design sprints, prioritization, or automation. A 5 indicates that you treat process as its own entity that can be improved and you seek large improvements to the process in a way that impacts future projects.
  • Mentoring: A 1 in mentoring is for when you haven't mentored, in an explicit mentor/apprentice relationship or in a simple ad hoc pairing situation. A 3 is for when people feel like they learn every time they collaborate with you. A 5 means that you are a mentor to other mentors.
  • Tooling & Configuration: A 1 in tools means that you don't think about your tooling apart from using the basics. A 3 means that you have a solid grasp on your tools and configuration for your specialization, including how to debug and improve them. A 5 indicates a greater understanding of tooling that might include helping others, customized tooling, or a wider reach beyond the company.
  • Implementation: A 1 in implementation means that you are at the start of your technical journey. A 3 means that you understand the concepts well enough to apply them across different contexts as appropriate. A 5 indicates the discovery of novel implementation techniques.

Designers

  • User Research: A level 1 means you can plan, execute, and synthesize a research study/usability test with support. A level 3 means you teach others how to plan, execute, and synthesize a research study/usability test. A level 5 means you are recognized as an expert in the domain of user rsearch inside/outside of thoughtbot.
  • Group Facilitation: A level 1 means you facilitate a group through established design exercises with support. A level 3 means you teach others how to facilitate a group through established design exercises and deal with challenging situations that may arise. A level 5 means you are recognized as an expert in the domain of design facilitation inside/outside of thoughtbot.
  • Visual Design: A level 1 means you establish and execute on a consistent brand and interface for a product with support. A level 3 means you teach others how to establish and execute on a consistent brand and interface for a product independently. A level 5 means you are recognized as an expert in the domain of visual design inside/outside of thoughtbot.
  • User Experience Design: A level 1 means you ensure a consistent and intuitive experience across all of the features and products with support. A level 3 means you teach others how to ensure a consistent and intuitive experience across all of the features and products you are designing. A level 5 means you are recognized as an expert in the domain of user experience inside/outside of thoughtbot.
  • Design Implmentation: A level 1 means you implement design work on web, mobile, and service with support. For web applications, you implement your designs with HTML & CSS, maintaining a clean markup and style, and working with our Developers in Git through pairing. A level 3 means you teach others to implement design work on web, mobile, and service. A level 5 means you are recognized as an expert in the domain of design implementation inside/outside of thoughtbot.
  • Product Thinking: A level 1 means you think strategically about how to release design in small pieces and regularly look for opportunities to validate the team's ideas with support. A level 3 means you think strategically about how to release design in small pieces and constantly look for opportunities to validate ideas independently; you can lead a design team on a project. A level 5 means you are recognized as an expert in the domain of product thinking inside/outside of thoughtbot.
  • Consulting & Communication: A level 1 means you explain your design decisions to teammates. You share work and seek out constructive feedback on the work you have done. A level 3 means you build trust with clients quickly; you give constructive and impactful feedback to other team members; you educate clients and prospective clients on how design makes them more successful. A level 5 means deescalate heated situations; you turn challenging clients into desirable clients; you work to make exclusive environments inclusive.

General positions

Guidelines for those expectations are:

  • Coordinator: Responsible for execution in an area within the responsibility of an overall department or role led by someone else Manager level or higher.
  • Specialist: Contributes to strategy and responsible for execution in a specialized area of expertise.
  • Manager: Responsible for managing the area and standard decision making. Leads larger projects, thoroughly researching and presenting final options to all stakeholders.
  • Associate Director: Increased responsibility over multiple areas, or higher-level strategy of a specific area.
  • Senior Associate Director: Distinguished experience within their job role. Responsibility over multiple areas, or higher-level strategy of a specific area.

Design Directors and Directors of Software Development

The qualifications we look for in a Design Director or Director of Software Development are:

  • They reinforce the thoughtbot culture. They are consistently shipping great work and are fun to work with.
  • Consistent, positive feedback from team members in past reviews, and the respect of their team as an expert in their field.
  • They have consistently shared their opinions while demonstrating an openness to understand different points of view and adopt new approaches.
  • They have demonstrated strong leadership on their Team with mentoring and sales.
  • They have demonstrated strong leadership across the company. They've contributed unique and positive perspectives in Slack, Hub, Trello, GitHub, or in-person.
  • They have demonstrated leadership outside of the company via open source contributions, blog posts, speaking, leading local meetups, etc.

Design Team Leads and Development Team Leads

The qualifications we look for in a Team Lead are:

  • They reinforce the thoughtbot culture. They are consistently shipping great work and are enjoyable to work with.
  • Consistent, positive feedback from team members in past reviews, and the respect of their team as an expert in their field.
  • They have consistently shared their opinions while demonstrating an openness to understand different points of view and adopt new approaches.
  • They have demonstrated strong leadership on their Team with mentoring and client projects.
  • They are interested in shifting their career towards management or exploring management as a career path.
  • Their questionnaire answers indicate that they have potential as a manager.
  • They understand the importance of Team sustainability.
  • They can help others understand the necessary trade-offs to achieve Team sustainability.
  • Are already a Senior Product Designer or Senior Developer, or the equivalent if the candidate is external.

Talk to one of our product experts about building success into your process.