How Patreon Levels Engineers

This is a reprint of a Medium article I wrote while at Patreon, announcing our revamped leveling guide and its principles. I led the rewrite, and worked with a cross-functional team of engineers to capture our shared values.

How Patreon Levels Engineers

Valerie Lanard

Valerie Lanard · Apr 10, 2018 · 3 min read  · 662 claps

Today we are excited to share Patreon’s revamped Engineering Leveling Guide. In Patreon’s early years, we had little in the way of objective criteria for leveling engineers. We’ve come a long way since then, and our engineering organization is much stronger and fairer for it. We want to show you how we define levels now and what it’s like to work at Patreon.

Why does this matter?

Our leveling guide helps codify the qualities we value in our team members, as well as provide a roadmap for career growth. It also keeps us focused and fair in upholding our commitments as an engineering team. Here are the top commitments this guide serves:

  • We’re committed to providing transparency into how we assess the engineers we hire and promote.
  • We’re committed to building a diverse team to support the wide variety of creators and patrons we serve.
  • We’re committed to calibrating people’s levels fairly across the board.

What does the engineering leveling guide provide?

Career guidance for engineers. Clear level definitions enable every engineer (and prospective candidates) to see how they fit into the organization and where they can potentially grow. Individuals can see objective criteria by which all engineers at Patreon are measured, for transparency and fairness. This includes role expectations, specific skillsets, and the progression of skills associated with each Individual Contributor (IC) level. Engineers can use the guide to help identify specific focus areas they wish to target for career development.

A valuable reference for framing feedback. Engineering managers and mentors can use the guide to frame discussions and coaching for personalized employee development. Engineers can use it as a foundation for crafting meaningful peer feedback, tied directly to our expectations of engineers at a particular level. We value feedback so greatly at Patreon, in fact, that one of our Core Behaviors is “Be candid and kind”. The guide helps us set consistent expectations around roles, and directly influences hiring and performance evaluation decisions. Current and prospective engineers are held to the same high bar at each level.

Mobile engineers Mayuko, Cassidy, and Alex collaborate

Inclusive guidance for all types of engineers. Our guide is designed to apply to engineers across multiple domains and varying types of teams. Different specializations (for example, mobile vs front-end) present engineers with unique organizational exposure, team structure, and opportunities, but the fundamental skillsets and categories in our leveling guide are relevant across the board. This reinforces our commitment to inclusion and fairness across careers at Patreon.

Support for differently shaped careers, not a one-way ladder. Many rich careers do not involve a strictly continuous upward trajectory, so our guide is not designed to be a ladder. The guide enables room for depth, growth, and progression within a given engineering level, senior and above, without a mandate or pressure to climb. We recognize that not all individuals have the same career goals and that expertise within a level can grow with tenure.

Cross-team sync

Paying It Forward

Thank you to the companies who have publicly shared their ladders and methodologies that have in turn, inspired ours. In particular, we were heavily influenced by and are grateful to Khan Academy and Rent the Runway. Thanks for helping our teams get better.

We hope you’ll find Patreon’s Engineering Leveling Guidelines helpful for understanding our engineering culture and values. May it even help you formulate something similar for your own company.

Valerie Lanard

I am a fitness buff, engineering leader, and wearables lover. This blog originally started as part of my now-defunct fitness video startup, Gigabody. It has evolved to encompass my writing on tech and work culture as well. Find me on a bike, on a hike, in a skort, or near a usb port.

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