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Decode Software Engineering Job Titles & Hierarchies: What You Need To Know 1

Decode Software Engineering Job Titles & Hierarchies: What You Need To Know

While the concept of climbing clearly-defined rungs in today’s fluid job space is questionable, the flat ‘company paradigm’ doesn’t yield much good either. A hierarchical job ladder or lattice through which one traverses laterally is not only a great help to job-seeking or employed software engineers, but is also necessary for managers, HR personnel and other stakeholders. 

As an engineer, knowing a company’s software engineer hierarchy is an ideal way to see which edge of the knife needs sharpening, or in other words, what your short-term goals could be and the skills or experience needed to achieve them. 

A quick survey of the job market will reveal that a host of tech companies adopt the dual-track career path. Here, the software engineer career path deviates when you pick between managing code or managing people. Below is a description of a generic software engineer promotion path, drawing from templates outlined by Rent the Runaway, Glossier and Meetup. The salary figures are from PayScale.

Taking The Road Best Travelled

LevelYou haveYou are expected to You earn
Engineer I <1-2 years of experience. Competence in 1 core language and a grasp of programming foundations. Take on defined tasks. Contribute ideas to team meetings. Test code. Imbibe the company’s values and strike a balance between asking for help and finding solutions.Rs.3.8 – Rs.4.95 lakh per annum
Engineer II2-6+ years of experience. The ability to write correct code with some supervision, using company best practices. The ability to learn from mistakes quickly. An understanding of the workflow and the potential to own tasks, from design to completion.Give junior engineers guidance and take constructive feedback from seniors. Document work. Deliver high-quality solutions. Work without little day-to-day supervision, efficiently. Minimise rework. Rs.4.95 – Rs.8.60 lakh per annum
Senior Engineer I5-8+ years of experience. Proven to make ace design decisions and be fool proof when debugging. Been thought to be extremely reliable. The skills to own medium-complexity projects.Work independently. Advise QA and deliver bug-free products. Take on complex projects. Mentor junior engineers. Spot and fix issues not assigned to you. Contribute to the company wiki. Rs.9.73+ lakh per annum
Tech Lead 7+ years of experience. Chosen to step into the managerial side of things, take on additional responsibilities, and lead a team by providing technical direction.  Take 100% responsibility for an engineering project. Improve your team’s quality and effectiveness. Make decisions alone. Draw out software development plans for engineers. Work with important projects and clients. Rs.10+ lakh per annum
Senior Engineer II6-9+ years of experience and have assumed some tech lead roles in the past. Proven to have expertise in at least one domain of your company’s codebase. Earned the trust of seniors. A top-level grasp of your contributions and a great deal of technical and emotional maturity.Deliver products on time. Take responsibility for technical testing. Apply your knowledge across domains of the product to arrive at creative solutions. Review code/ design. Communicate effectively with seniors. Own code launches. Rs.9.73+ lakh per annum

Technical track: If you prefer managing code, this is how your software engineer career progression should pan out.

LevelYou haveYou are expected toYou earn
Staff Engineer10+ years of experience. The skill to engineer a solution for an unclear project quickly. Launched quality projects. Expert knowledge of the codebase. Vastly improved systems in the past. Mentor others with high-level technical guidance. Improve the company’s technical prowess. Put customers first and set strategic short-term targets. Take up open-ended problems.~Rs.23+ lakh per annum
Senior staff engineer~12 years of experience. The vision to anticipate technical change. Been in good books with your company’s leadership, owing to your competence. Delivered products having cross-team contribution and impact. The skill to resolve emergencies with leaders.Contribute to a multi-year technology strategy by planning and forecasting. Provide direction for design and architecture. Funnel the company’s engineering talent to promising avenues. Lead reviews and mentor staff engineers.~Rs.302 lakh per annum
Principale Engineer/ Chief Architect 14+ years of experience. Clear vision of strategic worth. The ability to provide overarching technical direction. Foresight of technical snags. Deep knowledge in your area of specialization and are recognized in the industry.Refine your company’s multi-year technical strategy. Scale projects while reducing costs. Point engineers to effective technical and architectural approaches. Own major areas of the codebase and their long-term roadmap. Monitor engineers and suggest promotions. ~Rs.30+26 lakh per annum

Management track: If you prefer to manage people, the software engineer hierarchy has these levels in store for you.

LevelYou have You are expected to You earn
Engineering Lead~9 years of experience. Progressed from being a tech lead of a mid-sized team to manager of a larger team. Tech leads reporting to you. Less time for code, but more to clear bottlenecks. Manage engineers with varied skillsets independently. Guide recruiting efforts. Point teams to high-impact projects. ~Rs.3029 lakh per annum
Engineering Director10+ years of experience and ~5 years of experience leading an engineering team and managing engineers. The skill to research new technologies to keep your company ahead of the curve. A proven history of nurturing talent.Guide software development managers. Build high-velocity teams. Manage budgets alongside business goals. Communicate with stakeholders. Inspire recruits. Set aggressive OKRs and ensure teams refine standards and deliver results without snags.~Rs.40 lakh per annum
VP Engineering12-15 years of experience and competence in managing multiple engineering teams. Years of experience in managing multiple engineering teams. The ability to communicate effectively with leaders, board members, and stakeholders. The skill to debug organizations. Work with the CTO to make the company’s vision actionable. Remove bottlenecks. Communicate quarterly business goals. Recruit senior hires. Manage P&L. Lead directors and managers. ~Rs.40+ lakh per annum
Executive (CTO)15-20 years of experience. The ability to nurture your team’s culture, oversee its evolution and growth. Give organization-wide direction and executive-level strategy. Ensure that your technology opens doors to future possibilities. ~Rs.40-5027 lakh

A Word On Specific Software Engineer Titles 

Software engineering job titles range from the classic to the creative, from Google’s Distinguished Engineer to Influence Health’s Full Stack Magician. Nonetheless, these convey much about the job role. Moreover, depending on the specialized career track you choose, the titles in the software developer designation hierarchy differs. 

For instance, CoderHood notes that for a Quality Assurance Engineer the generic tracks described above could look like:

  • Technical: QA Engineer, QA Engineer I, QA Engineer II, QA Engineer III, Senior QA Engineer, Principal QA Engineer
  • Management: QA Lead, Sr. QA Lead, QA Engineering Manager, Sr. QA Engineering Manager, Director of QA, Senior Director of QA, Director of Engineering, Senior Director of Engineering, VP of Engineering, Senior VP of Engineering, CTO.

Further, research by AIM and Great Learning shows that in the field of Data Science, a new, developing avenue, job descriptions and career paths are fluid. Nonetheless, it is possible to look to the generic software career track described above for insights on the level of responsibility, accountability, and skill competence you must exhibit. 

Below is the corporate ladder for a Data Scientist as described by the GL and AIM report.

Title ExperienceSkillsAverage salary
Junior data scientist0-2 yearsPython, Pandas, AWS, R, Maths,StatisticsRs.7 lakh per annum
Associate data scientist 2-4 years Python, Pandas,AWS, R, ModellingRs.12 lakh per annum
Senior data scientist4-8 yearsPython, Pandas, AWS, R, Tableau,Project ExperienceRs.14 lakh per annum
Product Manager8-10 yearsPython, Pandas, AWS, R, Tableau, Google Cloud, Management SkillsRs.17 lakh per annum
Lead Data Scientist 10-15 yearsPython, AWS, Tableau, Google Cloud, Management Skills, Project ExperienceRs.22 lakh per annum
Director/ VP/ SVP15+ yearsPython, R,C++, AWS, Tableau,Google Cloud,ManagementSkills, ProjectExperience, DataVisualizationRs.50 lakh per annum

With a handle on the hierarchical levels normally employed in your field, you can proceed to hone your skills to traverse towards the path you desire. The software engineering roles and responsibilities demanded by each level give you a clear indication of how your job is viewed from the management point of view and priming yourself accordingly is a great way to stay head and shoulders above your competition.

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Satya Prakash Sharma

Satya Prakash Sharma

DevOps engineer at Talent500. Helping maintain security and infrastructure. Loves to develop applications. Lives for adventure!

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