We're probably bad at job titles. And it's OK.

We're probably bad at job titles. And it's OK.

There's no point in re-inventing the wheel. We all walk in the footsteps of industry pioneers & use the legacy of their lessons learned for our advantage.

However ...

Think for yourself

I hate mindlessly copying "industry standards" & "best practices". Software Engineering varies so heavily & is so contextual that what (IMHO) works best is crafting your own solutions to solve your own specific problems (by MAPPING others' experiences onto your own environment). This involves three critical steps I call:

Awareness -> Understanding -> Clarity
  1. Awareness is all about asking the proper questions, relentlessly exploring the reality (instead of acting "on autopilot") & questioning what may seem to be axiomatic
  2. Understanding means interpreting these observations - dissecting them, correlating them (e.g. causability or coincidence), finding patterns, being able to distinguish symptom from root cause
  3. Clarity is about finding out how to proceed by building the inner confidence, that this is the solution you badly want to commit yourself to

Needless to say, sometimes crafting your own solutions may be very challenging - I'll give you one example which is in fact ... the main topic of this post :)

We're a small company (80 people, 70 of them working on Product Engineering, 60 of those are actual Software Engineers) on a steep growth curve - growth in terms of business, but also in terms of headcount. Scaling is never easy - if finding people weren't hard enough, first you need to know what kind of roles/positions you're looking for, how to organize & position them, who they'll report to, etc.

I've worked in many organisations before - big & small, I've seen various operating models & executive structures, so as I'm the guy "in charge" (in other words: if something was screwed, it'd be my balls on the table ;P) the natural question would be - which one did I decide to recycle & use?



In my Leadership Team (yupp, Leadership is a Team here) we never come up with the titles / "cookie cutter templates" first. Everything starts with the actual needs:

  • what activities would a person do (typically)?
  • what goals would (s)he have?
  • which gaps would (s)he fill (in the org)(?
  • how would we say whether (s)he does well or not?

As soon as we agree that the list is cohesive, understandable & means enough work for at least one person, we start working on the profile. Which is not only about expectations & duties, but also "selling points" - what would you gain by applying? why is it interesting? why is it an opportunity you can't miss?

The title (position) comes last. But it has to truly capture the idea of the role. To be a super-concise depiction of our vision behind the job.

Vision behind the role

Because the naming is important. One good phrase can frame the concept better than a full one-pager of bullet points.

And now the hard part begins - in many cases what we've come up with makes perfect sense & is a super-attractive job for taking, but it sounds completely unlike anything on the job market. Such functions/career models ... simply do not exist in the wild (if by "the wild" you mean the general job market).

Examples? Here we go:

  • Data Insights Engineer
  • Functional Architect
  • System Modeling Analyst
  • Ruby |> Elixir Developer *
  • Talent Development Catalyst
  • Engineering Brand Ambassador
  • Platform Reliability Engineer **

* - yes, this thingie (|>) has a specific meaning only the indented audience will understand :)
** - if you were wondering - there are no "rockstars", "ninjas" or "gurus" on the list ;P

Does it work?

And you know - in fact - it's a problem. Such creative "role-crafting" significantly reduces the number of "visits" (clicks) for our job offers (we know it by actual comparison: facts > predictions). BUT on the other hand - since we've introduced this change, we've improved by the level of magnitude when it comes to the quality of candidates who decide to apply - new ads seems to resonate with the correct people!

In other words - we have fewer SOLID (competent, experienced, knowledgeable but ... typical) candidates, but among the ones we get, there's a significantly higher percentage of candidates who are GREAT MATCH for the offer - who actually do claim openly that this particular ad was like shaped exactly for them, because "this, this & this".

If you ask me - it's a win.

Sebastian Gebski

About Sebastian Gebski

Geek, agilista, blogger, codefella, serial reader. In the daylight - I lead software delivery. #lean #dotnet #webdev #elixir. I speak here for myself only.