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Introducing Our New Career Grid

As our organization has grown and evolved, we realized that our job descriptions had lagged behind our progress. They no longer aligned with the reality of what people were doing in their day-to-day roles, recognized the breadth of skills and experiences that fuel individual and business success, or reflected our values. We noticed a few things:

  • Multiple people with different titles were doing the same things
  • People with the same titles were doing different things
  • Our job descriptions focused on only pieces of what it took to thrive at 8th Light
  • The existing growth path was very narrow; you had to progress in a fixed sequence in order to move forward at all, which discouraged people from exploring other ways to grow
  • We place a huge value on sharing knowledge and having a growth mindset, yet these traits and skills were underrepresented in how we defined our levels

We brought together a cross-functional, cross-location team to find a better way to map out a fulfilling career at 8th Light. This group researched existing models (thanks mostly to https://www.progression.fyi), defined what we needed in a new model, and got to work.

We thought about how individuals add value to an organization, specifically to our consulting organization, and realized that some have deep mastery of craft—they have broad and or deep knowledge of code, or design, or HR practices, or sales techniques... Others have fundamental rather than advanced knowledge of their craft, but excel in mentoring novices, or leading teams, or writing and speaking. These activities are also critical to our growth as a company, and went unrecognized in most career frameworks.

The result is the Career Grid.

posts/2020-01-21-career-grid/career-grid-full.jpg

Rather than a path, or a linear progression, the Career Grid allows for growth along both a technical axis as well as what we’re calling an organizational influence axis.

posts/2020-01-21-career-grid/career-grid-axes.jpg

Technical Axis

The criteria for progression up the technical axis vary by capability. We’ve created specific learning outcomes matrices for engineering and design (and will be building them for HR, marketing, finance, and other capabilities that are critical to our business) that define progression through three levels of mastery.

Our engineering matrix has detailed progressions in the following areas:

  • External quality
  • Internal quality
  • Languages and tools
  • Architecture, security and performance
  • Process and communication

Here’s how part of one of the areas looks:

posts/2020-01-21-career-grid/external-quality-matrix.png

You can view the whole engineering matrix here.

Our design practice is based on four specializations. The matrix focuses on these four areas:

  • Visual Design
  • UI Design
  • UX Design
  • UI Engineering

All designers are expected to have generalist levels of proficiency across all four, then pick one (or more) to specialize in, and progress across the matrix in that specialty. Here’s how the UX Design matrix looks:

posts/2020-01-21-career-grid/design-matrix.png

You can view the whole design matrix here.

Organizational Influence Axis

As we thought about what it takes to be a great consultant, teammate, and member of our community, we identified three areas—awareness, collaboration, and growth—where we could build progressions similar to those in the technical areas.

Here’s what the awareness part of the matrix looks like:

posts/2020-01-21-career-grid/awareness-matrix.png

You can view the whole organizational influence matrix here. Similar to design, there are opportunities for specialization here as well. People need to progress in awareness and collaboration to move ahead, but can choose to focus their growth efforts in business development, mentoring, teaching, or speaking and writing.

Initial Assessment

All engineers and designers were asked to take a self-assessment, where they chose from the following answers to each item in their matrix:

  • I have strongly demonstrated this and am an example for teammates.
  • I have demonstrated this with little to no guidance.
  • I have demonstrated this with guidance.
  • I haven't demonstrated this consistently yet.

They also took a similar self-assessment for the Organizational Influence matrix. Participants were asked to rate themselves using the following statements:

  • I do this consistently and regularly
  • I've done this, but not consistently and regularly
  • I have not done this

The results of these assessments were validated by managers, team leads, and review feedback. Everyone was placed in row 1, 2, or 3 reflecting their technical progress, and column A, B, or C, aligning with their organizational influence.

Levels and compensation

At the heart of this model is the belief that there are many ways to add value to our business. For this reason we’ve constructed levels diagonally across the grid.

posts/2020-01-21-career-grid/career-grid-deconstructed.jpg

This means that in our minds someone in square 3A, who displays a high level of mastery and works as an individual contributor, adds value in a way that is comparable to that of someone in square 1C, who leads high-functioning teams and partners with clients but isn’t hands-on-keys much if at all.

We’ve structured our salary bands to reflect these levels. The green square in the above illustration is our crafter/designer level, where people start their careers. The pink is our senior level. Orange is principal. Blue, director.

A work in progress

As iteration is core to all we do, we will live with this for a while, and see how it works in practice. We’ll continue to streamline the assessment process, and refine the expectations that align with each square.

Claudia Richman, Chief Operating Officer

Claudia Richman is 8th Light's Chief Operating Officer.

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