Engineering talent review process


The set of ICs under consideration, plus their managers and directors (at first, this will be all of engineering; as we grow, we will eventually need to split this up at the director-org level).
Talent review
This entire process.
Calibration meeting
Meeting with EMs and directors of a group to evaluate each IC for the purposes of determining promotions and ensuring we are all well-calibrated to the engineering levels.
Performance category
The performance that a teammate is attaining against the expectation of their current level
  • Needs improvement - falls short on some of the expectations at the indicated level, but performs strong enough not to be classified at a lower level.
  • Meeting expectations - meeting all the requirements of the expectations at the identified level
  • Exceeding expectations - performing at a very high level at the identified level and possibly showing some signs of starting to perform at the next level


We’re in the process of standardizing our talent review process across the company. Here is where we expect to end up:

Talent review is performed every 6 months (February, August). This will be aligned with a refresh of our comp data and lattice reviews.

We expect it to be rare, but we can consider off-cycle promotions and we will deal with these exceptions on a case by case basis.

Unless we have made a mistake in someone’s compensation, we won’t make non-promotion compensation changes outside of the normal 6 month cycle.


Prior to the calibration meeting, each EM should evaluate each IC reporting to them using the level descriptions and determine if they are meeting/exceeding/struggling-to-meet the expectations of their given level. EMs should prepare a short statement to justify this, which they will share during the calibration meeting. If they believe the IC to be performing at a higher level, they should also ensure that the IC is meeting the expectations for that higher level, as well as write up a brief promotion pitch. (Note that compensation increases within a level, such as from the start of the compensation band to the midpoint, do not need to go through this process; those can happen any time and are between the EM and their director to decide.)

This pre-work is greatly aided by Impact review cycles, so we schedule the talent review accordingly. (Since we do 360º feedback every 6 months, it would only be available for every other talent review.)

Because of the quarterly cadence, it’s important that this be as light-weight as possible. The pre-work should take an EM less than an hour per IC not being pitched for a promotion. (For ICs being pitched, the cadence isn’t a consideration: an EM will have the same number of promotion pitches to make regardless of cadence. More frequent evaluations means fewer pitches per talent review.)

Prior to the calibration meeting, EMs in a Group will share their evaluations and any promotion pitches for async review/commenting, and for supporting or challenging promotions.

Calibration meeting

The calibration meeting is a several-hour meeting (possibly spread out over two days, depending on logistics) with all of the EMs and directors of the Group, plus an observer from People Ops for the purpose of reducing unconscious bias. (If the Group is not all of engineering, then at least one other director is invited as well, to help ensure that all Groups are well-calibrated with each other.) Upper management may be invited, but are not required and have no official role.

All ICs at a given level are reviewed together, starting with level 1. Every EM with an IC at level 1 places their ICs into one of these categories: struggling/meeting/exceeding expectations. Then, one at a time, each IC’s placement is explained by their EM. (Note that in the interests of time, the Group might decide to focus conversation on ICs who are under- or over-performing, especially given the async prework described above.) If they are being pitched for a promotion, that is also shared. Other EMs then provide additional feedback/insight they might have, either to challenge or to further justify the IC’s placement. This is not adversarial: the EMs are working together to best establish where each IC is, and to help prepare the EM to provide meaningful feedback to the IC.

During the discussion, there is a rotating moderator whose job it is to ensure that a fair, balanced, and productive conversation is happening. This can include asking questions of the other participants, calling out potential biases, and calling “time” when things are going in circles.

After all level 1 ICs have been discussed, we move on to level 2 ICs. For any IC being pitched for a promotion to level 2, they are evaluated along with their prospective cohort. (They are not discussed again in the same way, but after discussing other ICs with the same meeting/exceeding evaluation, a quick check is done to validate that they are performing similarly to those folks at level 2.)

This is done for each of our engineering levels.

After the meeting

Any qualitative feedback for an IC that came out of talent review is shared with them in their next one-on-one (if not sooner).

For ICs being considered for promotion their manager will complete a promotion request. It’s important that this process moves quickly! If we leave people wondering for a month or more if they will be getting a promotion, we’re creating needless anxiety and uncertainty.

Finally, we should have a retrospective after each of these, so we can continue iterating and improving upon this process. We should also consider changes/clarifications to the level descriptions at this time, in case any of the existing definitions were cause for confusion.


Our career development framework defines the levels that exist at Sourcegraph. Compensation for each of these levels is derived from Option Impact, a startup compensation tool that Sourcegraph and many other companies use to determine their compensation bands.

Promotion requests

During the talent review calibration meeting managers indicate which teammates they would like considered for promotion. These teammates are then evaluated against their peers at the level they might get promoted to so that the manager can confirm they are indeed performing at the right level for promotion.

If the manager believes the candidate is ready for promotion, a promotion request is made following the talent review calibration meeting.

The Engineering Manager will complete a promotion request using the promotion request template, upload it to the Promotion documents folder, and submit it for approval in the #eng-managers-private Slack channel tagging the @eng-directors group.

While all EMs are invited to review and comment on the promotion request, the Directors are the final decision-makers. The expected turn-around on a promotion request for approval is 7 calendar days.

Once approved by the Directors, the promotion needs to be submitted to PeopleOps for execution by completing the changes to role and compensation form.

Once confirmed by PeopleOps the promotion can be communicated to the teammate using the promotion confirmation template.

Decisions regarding promotions are prioritized, and made quickly, and communicated back to the ICs in a timely manner.

Considerations for promotion

Teammates are considered for promotion to a new level when their manager can make the case that they have had at least one quarter of high performance at their current level, and one quarter performing at the next level. We want to avoid situations where someone is promoted to a level in which they struggle to meet expectations.

The engineering levels describe performance expectations in 3 categories. It will be extremely rare for an engineer to be exactly at the same level in all of these categories. Since the levels describe the minimum expectations for each level, an engineer must meet the expectations for all categories before they can be considered for promotion.

This does imply a distinction between high performance at current level vs. ready for promotion. A level N engineer who is consistently exceeding level N expectations in some areas, but whom we do not feel would be able to meet level N+1 expectations, should not be promoted (despite their high performance in some areas).

Compensation increase requests

An in-band compensation increase (while staying at the same level) can happen at any time, in recognition of a teammate exceeding expectations in their current level.

The Engineering Manager will complete a compensation increase request using the compensation increase request template and submit it for approval.

After approval from the relevant decision-makers (EM, Director, VP), the compensation increase request is submitted to PeopleOps using the compensation change form. PeopleOps will confirm to the manager once the compensation increase has been processed and the manager can then proceed with communicating the increase to the teammate using the compensation increase confirmation template.