When and Why to Ladder

Small companies

Some companies don’t have formal ladders at all; they may be too small to justify the formality. However, it is still helpful for you to have a clear discussion with your managers about what is expected for you to succeed in your role. They should want you to earn more responsibility, increase compensation, and have some long-term plan to keep you growing and engaged for the next five to ten years. If they don’t seem to care about giving you a fulfilling long-term career, this is a big red flag.

Companies with 40 to 50 people

Companies generally start introducing formal ladders once engineering gets past 40 to 50 people. Given a standard ratio of one manager to six to eight engineers, that means between 5 to 8 engineering teams - just about the breaking point where a VP of Engineering stops being able to equitably manage the career progressions of everyone on a case by case basis. If you see an opportunity to ask for formal laddering, go for it. Your leadership in this matter will give you a voice in setting up the system you work in.

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