Kiwi.com to Offer a Clear Career Path to Every Engineer
Posted on 04/09/2021, Tobiáš Potoček
Read more about our career framework inspired by the tech community. We aim to create a fair and transparent environment where engineers can thrive and grow.
Principle #1: We are all software engineers
When we started, we had 100+ engineering titles. We had Junior Automation Engineers, Senior Infrastructure Platform Engineers, Android Team Leads, and many many others.
We are pushing all that aside. We now have just software engineers. They are assigned different tech levels and those are universal across all of Kiwi.com. For each level, we’re defining explicit expectations in terms of hard skills, soft skills (independence, leadership, communication, etc.) and general impact & usefulness within Kiwi.com.
These expectations are identical for all our engineers on a given level, regardless of their technical domain or role.
For example, all our senior engineers (level 5) are now, besides being technical experts in their areas, also expected to be capable of owning a mid-sized project end-to-end and to have initiative crossing just their team’s boundaries. Thanks to the levels, every engineer will have a clear understanding of where they stand in their career and what the necessary steps to move forward are.
Principle #2: We reward seniority and impact
Measuring and rewarding performance in creative professions is tricky. We want engineers to work smart, not hard. We want engineers to proactively come up with inventive solutions rather than diligently repeating mundane tasks. And we especially want to avoid systemically encouraging overtime and crazy working hours. All of that is the reason why we take the tech level as the main factor when deciding one’s compensation. Remember: One’s tech level is based on one’s seniority (hard & soft skills) and their impact within Kiwi.com.
You want to get promoted and make more money? Don’t work harder. Don’t do more of what you already do. That’s not enough. Learn something new and use it! Change how you work!
Principle #3: Promotion is a reward
In the traditional model, you are promoted to a “position” which usually comes with new responsibilities but also privileges and benefits, such as salary increase.
Following the big tech companies, we split “positions” into roles and the tech levels, and introducing “retrospective” promotions:
An engineer is promoted to the next level (L+1) if and only if they are consistently performing on the next level, i.e., clearly meeting the expectations of that next level.
In other words, promotion to the next level is a simple acknowledgement that you’re already operating on that level. This makes the system predictable, fair, and trustworthy, guaranteeing that:
nobody is promoted unfairly (= overpromoted), and
if somebody works hard to upskill themselves and meets the requirements of L+1, they will be rewarded with a promotion.
Along the way, our engineers are expected to assume and drop different roles in the company (mentors, team leads, people managers (!), project owners, tech product owners etc) simply to get more opportunities to grow. This should be an organic, informal process, which is easy to reverse.
This career framework was a completely new thing at Kiwi.com in 2020 and it affected hundreds of our engineers. Rolling it out was not an easy task.
The framework radically changed some core assumptions around career growth and also alters the long-existing, deeply embedded mechanisms. Even though we were not reinventing the wheel, it took endless hours for the discovery process, discussions, clarifying questions and obtaining buy-ins from a huge number of stakeholders.
We did not want this to be a simple top-down change, so we invited many individual engineers from across the company to join the process, increasing the pool of stakeholders.
We had to agree on what we understand by different levels. Who is a junior? Who is a senior? What do we expect from them? Is it okay to take away the senior title from some engineers? This, in particular, made the process sensitive.
We had to write down the initial level expectations. We wanted them to be easy to understand, interpret, and evaluate and also actually applicable across all roles and domains. Judging from initial feedback, we have still a lot of work to do.
Where we are now and what are our next steps
In the next phase we wrapped up the first phase, at the end of which all our engineers had their new levels assigned. As for the next step, we were collecting feedback on the skill evaluation process and tried to improve it. We also officially kicked off the new promotion process and started working on the compensation scheme.
On behalf of Kiwi.com, Tobiáš Potoček, Engineering Manager for Booking & Self-Service, and Stanislav Štefanič, VP of Engineering.
You can see that a stable work environment and fair conditions are not just a phrase at Kiwi.com. Wanna join? Check open positions in engineering!
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