Sourcegraph engineering career development framework

Our career development framework is here to help you understand the expectations of your role, and to provide a common language for you and your manager to discuss and plan your career growth. It is also an important part of our larger goal of ensuring everyone is equitably recognized for the impact they have at work, and to reduce bias in promotions and hiring.

What are the expectations of my role?

There are currently six levels for software engineers at Sourcegraph. A level is composed of three categories, each with a summary statement and several example behaviors. These categories are:

  • Proficiency: This is your demonstrated expertise on the skills relevant to your role and level. Proficiency changes in two ways as you progress in your career. You will increase your technical skills in both depth and breadth — often more heavily leaning on one or the other, but still growing both over time. Technical skills include, but are not limited to, quality of code and code reviews; knowledge of relevant technologies, code bases and tools; technical design skills. You will also add and grow other skills that make you a more effective contributor such as providing directional feedback within a relevant scope, giving feedback to others, and over time, setting scope by mapping between business goals, user needs, and technical solutions.
  • Execution: This is knowing how and acting on what it takes to be productive and achieve the right outcomes for Sourcegraph. Effective execution is generally accompanied by achieving impactful outcomes, but the key element is the skills and consistency you demonstrate to achieve the outcomes, not the specifics of an individual outcome. As you grow in your career, your focus will move from personal productivity and impact within your team to helping broader groups productively reach broader goals.
  • Teamwork: This is how you collaborate with others to make both them and yourself more effective. Teamwork includes how we interact with both teammates at Sourcegraph and external stakeholders such as our clients. At all levels we expect a professional and collaborative approach to teamwork. As you grow in your career, the span of people you regularly interact with will increase from your working group to multiple groups to stakeholders across and outside of the company. Your influence on our culture will grow from practitioner to champion to shaper.

It’s important to understand that what is listed in the level descriptions are example behaviors, and not checkboxes for promotion. Doing everything listed there is neither necessary nor sufficient for a promotion. The expectation is that you demonstrate a level of impact consistent with each of the category descriptions for your level. The magnitude of your impact is ultimately the measure of your career growth.

In most cases, a level builds on the expectations from the preceding levels: someone at level 2 must also meet the level 1 expectations. In addition to what is listed there, we expect engineers at all levels to exhibit our values.

Rather than precede each bullet point with “Consistently”, we leave it as implicit.

The level descriptions correspond to the start of the level, so that if an IC has a level N impact in all categories, they should then be promoted to level N (and not before). Or to put it another way, the level descriptions state the minimum expectations.

These are the expectations for ICs after they have completed their onboarding. Some of these expectations (such as around communication) would start on day 1, but others (such as expertise in the codebase) would not be expected until they are fully ramped up.

In line with our continuously grow company value, we expect every engineer to eventually reach at least level 3. It is the responsibility of your manager to track this, and to ensure that you are given the support and opportunities needed for career growth.

When do I get promoted?

When your manager can make the case that you’ve had at least one quarter of high performance at your current level, and one quarter performing at the next level, in all three of the categories. It takes time to demonstrate the “consistently” implicit in the expectations, and we don’t want to promote anyone to a level in which they will struggle.

Promotions from one level to another are considered in our twice-yearly talent review. An in-band compensation increase (while staying at the same level) can happen at any time, in recognition of exceeding expectations in your current level without having yet met the expectations of the next level.

To learn more, see “Considerations for promotion” in our talent review process.

IC1 - IC6 Framework


* Coming soon

As an IC you’ll progress on several axis:

  • From individual contributions to team contributions to departments to company
  • From tactical thinking to strategic thinking
  • From “Can work alone for X days” to “can work along with 3 others for X months”
  • From “Solves small problems” to “solves big problems” to “finds problems we need to solve”
  • From “has a hard time dealing with ambiguity” to god-like-world-building-powers
  • From practitioner to champion to shaper in regards to the influence on our culture


Level Proficiency Execution Teamwork Additional Notes/Key Points/Examples

An engineer focused on learning, growth, and establishing themselves as a contributing teammate. Entry level.

  • Prerequisites: Minimum relevant bachelor degree, or equivalent related experience.
  • Years of experience: Typically 0-2
  • Contributes technical solutions to well-scoped tasks, with guidance.
  • Demonstrates the essentials needed to do work in their domain.
  • Reviews code for their teammates by asking questions and applying what they learned.
  • Integrates feedback from teammates to deliver high-quality solutions.
  • Increases their technical knowledge through reading, observing, and doing.
  • Familiar with our docs and knows how to efficiently acquire knowledge.
  • Understands how Sourcegraoh works @ the highest level.
  • Manages their own time and wellbeing, meeting commitments while finding balance and creating rest.
  • Asks for guidance in unfamiliar areas or for underspecified tasks. Speaks up if not comfortable with the scopes or timelines.
  • Exercises user empathy, whether their users are internal or external.
  • Recognizes when they’re blocked and asks for support.
  • Eager to learn and solve problems.
  • Actively asks teammates questions to seek feedback and clarify, including cross-functionally (e.g. Design and Product).
  • Participates and demonstrates curiosity in team meetings.
  • Follows documented team processes and helps keep the handbook up-to-date.
  • Communicates empathetically.
  • Is flexible to change.
  • Reacts well to feedback and is able to quickly learn from it.
  • Entry level for professional careers. Still learning the role.
  • Core skills limited; requires detailed direction.
  • Focused on learning, growth, and establishing themselves as a contributing teammate.
  • Analogy: rode in a boat once; knows what sailing is.

A solid and autonomous contributor, executor, and collaborator. Completes assignments which have clear, near-term objectives. Operates independently to perform routine tasks.

  • Prerequisites: Knows the organization and understands the group’s basic terminology and techniques.
  • Years of experience: Typically 2-5
  • Proficient in core technical skills of their primary focus area, while continuing to develop proficiency in some aspects.
  • Writes maintainable, well-tested code that aligns with the style and practices of the team/codebase.
  • Can explain the reasoning and trade-offs behind their technical decisions.
  • Provides helpful, timely code reviews.
  • Invests in their own productivity; willingly explores new tools, skills, and areas of the codebase.
  • Not scared of foreign code and embraces it as a learning moment.
  • Able to manage their time appropriately to encourage efficiency.
  • Breaks down tasks, plans, estimates and cuts scope as appropriate to deliver reliably.
  • Prioritizes their own work in alignment with team goals.
  • Detects problems in requirements and actively engages to resolve them.
  • Has understanding of how users interact with their product/infrastructure.
  • Reliably delivers results on time.
  • Ability to unblock themselves even if that means asking for help.
  • Self-sufficient and able to deliver without much guidance including being able to seek and lead smaller projects.
  • Communicates clearly (in meetings and asynchronously), escalating blockers quickly, clarifying requirements and sharing assumptions and context.
  • Exemplifies team processes; participates in identifying problems, suggesting improvements, and helping with solutions.
  • Proactively adds documentation to help others; is learning to present internally and externally.
  • Gives timely, helpful feedback to others and trusts them to decide to what extent to incorporate it.
  • Helps onboarding and orienting new team members; mentors more junior team members where possible.
  • Participates in the hiring process where possible, conducting interviews (with training) and writing helpful feedback.
  • Upholds team culture and levels the technical proficiency on the team up.
  • Task oriented, but gaining/demonstrating independence.Core skills functional.
  • Requires some direction.
  • Effectively delivers work without a paint, communicated being blocked, seeks “help, and communicates outcome.
  • Analogy: learns about sailing; takes orders on specific tasks (grab that rope).

An experienced, strong individual contributor (Senior equivalent). Represents an area of specialization within the organization. Independently resolves complex problems. Contributes to cross-functional projects. Trains others.

  • Prerequisites: Key differentiator from IC2 is the ability to prioritize and work under broad direction. Can resolve new and complex problems within an area of specialization.
  • Years of experience: Typically 5-8
  • Expert in their domain: deep understanding of their team’s code, debugs their team’s code expertly, and has mastered their tools (Git, $EDITOR, profiler, etc).
  • Willingly dives into unfamiliar areas of the codebase.
  • Finds technical solutions to open-ended, potentially ambiguously defined problems.
  • When finding solutions, identifies the core problems that need to be solved, as well as goals, risks, trade-offs, customer impact, technical debt, non-technical factors, etc.
  • Gives feedback on higher-level aspects (architecture, scalability, customer-focus, etc.) in code reviews and RFCs, holding teammates to the same high standard they set for themselves.
  • Maintains awareness of approaches outside of Sourcegraph that we’re not using, and uses this to help define best practices for the team/domain.
  • Exposed and comfortable in leading larger projects.
  • Independently scopes and implements solutions to complex, loosely-defined problems.
  • Estimates methodically, based on iterative learning. Sets realistic deadlines that drive effort but support healthy work habits. Cuts scope as needed, mitigating risk by shipping frequently.
  • When faced with roadblocks, identifies appropriate courses of action, engaging others or unblocking themselves as appropriate.
  • Accountable end-to-end, through planning, shipping, cleanup, and maintenance. Proactive about potential issues without overengineering.
  • Proactively identifies areas for improvement and improves common code, balancing new feature development with refactoring, upgrades, cleanups, etc.
  • Communicates progress and status updates to stakeholders.
  • Communicates technical issues and decisions clearly, brings clarity to discussions and helps drive them forward.
  • Routinely drives improvements in team/company processes (retros, testing, on-call, planning, etc.)
  • Considers effects of their work and words on other teams and represents the team well in discussions with other teams, customers, and stakeholders.
  • Shares their experience and expertise to help others grow, through mentoring and coaching more junior engineers where possible, insightful code/design/RFC reviews, etc.
  • Proactively proposes additions and changes to the team’s roadmap.
  • Mentors junior engineers and uplevels team culture.
  • Actively unblocks teammates.
  • Problem solver. Operates autonomously.
  • Strong core skills, requires minimal direction.
  • Analogy: helps sail the boat; knows basic roping techniques, does basic tasks without help.

A particularly experienced, impactful contributor. Brings domain expertise to complex projects. Role requires contribution outside the direct area of responsibility. Leads interdepartmental projects.

  • Prerequisites: Has domain-specific knowledge and expertise. Key differentiator from IC3 is the established track record of resolving complex problems and the demonstrated ability to lead cross-functional projects.
  • Years of experience: Typically 8+
  • High-quality technical decision making, leading team-sized tasks that affect one or more complex systems or mission-critical areas.
  • Consistently incorporates non-technical factors into technical decisions and weights them appropriately.
  • Proficiency beyond their domain: broad understanding of our architecture, debugs expertly across the broader codebase, advises on broader technical issues, etc.
  • Invests in technology, tools, and processes that benefit their entire team, and lifts teammates through feedback, mentorship, and sharing reusable patterns.
  • Owns a project from the start including running it by a customer.
  • Able to make trade-offs knowing the impact that it will have.
  • Supports the EM and PM in ensuring that the team is always working on the right problems with the right scope given higher level goals, and that the team is reliably delivering on time.
  • Accountable for the team’s work quality and professionalism to ensure the team delivers high quality and work diligently to limit the problems for our customers or other teams.
  • Independently scopes and implements solutions to extremely complex problems, and identifies the problems to be solved.
  • Confident in: ambiguous situations, challenging situations, situations involving multiple stakeholders, etc.
  • Intentionally and proactively aligns their work around a deep understanding of how people use the products/services they build.
  • Proactively identifies areas for improvement beyond the scope of their team, and contributes meaningfully to solutions while continuing to deliver on their team’s goals.
  • Works closely with EM/PM to validate technical feasibility of team roadmap.
  • Identifies problems that need to be solved and executes on them.
  • Effectively able to convince and challenge teammates and cross-functional stakeholders using valid expertise and respectful communication.
  • Actively seeks dissenting opinions, disconfirming evidence, etc.
  • Shares a long-term vision that influences the team’s roadmap.
  • Helps retain customer relationships and incorporates solutions/suggestions from them.
  • Ability to delegate and clearly communicate capacity needed to work on those areas.
  • “Go-to” expert. Usually project leader.
  • Contributes outside direct area of responsibility.
  • Can hand off projects to other team members successfully
  • Analogy: sails smaller sailboats solo; knows advanced rigging techniques, confident sailor in most weather.

A Staff Engineer, responsible for identifying impactful problems aligned with business objectives that need to be solved and then driving the solution to those problems. Provides innovative breakthroughs to toughest challenges. Influences management on strategic direction. Will have an impact on multiple organizations, countries/regions and disciplines as well as outside companies. Not all career paths include level 5.

  • Prerequisites: Has unique knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge to a broader context.
  • Years of experience: Not essential
  • Sets the technical vision for their team, and influences the broader technical vision.
  • Initiates and drives projects with broad/deep impact that enable higher quality work.
  • Provides oversight, coaching, and guidance through code and design reviews, both on and off the team.
  • Acts as a trusted advisor, drawing on functional expertise to inform customer-driven strategy.
  • Demonstrates deep domain knowledge where teammates seek their advice on doman/code.
  • Responsible for working on the right thing.
  • Proactively identifies areas for improvement across engineering. Suggests process and methodology improvements.
  • Works closely with Engineering/Product leadership to validate alignment of team roadmaps within their org.
  • Independently scopes, designs, and delivers solutions for large, complex challenges.
  • Operates with calm and grace in ambiguous/uncertain situations. Does not shy away from taking calculated risks.
  • Identifies company wide trends and acts on risks.
  • Accountable for business outcomes.
  • Accountable for the team’s work quality and professionalism to ensure the team delivers high quality and work diligently to limit the problems for our customers or other teams.
  • Provides technical expertise internally and externally, informing what can be achieved.
  • Regularly shares knowledge to influence and up-level large and/or senior audiences.
  • Persuades and challenges clients and internal stakeholders, using valid expertise and respectful communication.
  • Responsive to a variety of unexpected requests for advice or consultation; gracefully handles more frequent context-switching.
  • Enables those around them to be successful.
  • Proactively provides feedback and flags concerns that are going on within the org.
  • Deep expertise/unique knowledge.Broad impact, broad context.
  • Provides breakthroughs & requires no direction.
  • Partners regularly with the exec team.
  • Analogy: occasionally takes the helm; navigates rough waters; knows how to sail different types of boats.

Senior Staff Engineer. We haven’t yet finalized the description of this level at Sourcegraph.