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Our office has had a rough year with engineering, communication, and strategy. Over the past few months, myself and one other (both engineers) have stepped up to address these concerns. To do so, we've created and pitched product strategy, offered solutions for communication, and presented an engineering org structure that would avoid future difficulty. The ideas are well received and are in the process of being implemented by senior leadership. In my opinion, the initiative shown here is well above the station of a typical engineer.

As is natural, both of us would like to be rewarded for the initiative and contribution to the business. The proposed "engineering org" involves the team migrating from a totally flat hierarchy to one with well defined roles and ownership. Without going to more detail, we've identified "Staff Software Engineer" as a role that ensures sane engineering and architectural practices across teams. We both want this position.

I have never asked for a promotion or title change, but in the interest of advancing my career I think this is the right opportunity. Right now our office is small, but expecting to grow considerably in the next few years. I am about 10 years junior to my co-worker and fear that if there can only be one, he will be selected. In my biased opinion, we both deserve that role.

In an ideal org, we will be "Staff" level engineers on separate teams with the goal of supporting good engineering across the division. These teams may be small now, but will grow substantially. How do I/we approach senior leadership with a stronger message than "please promote us both"?

  • Well defined roles and ownership is actually pretty normal – Kilisi Oct 2 at 19:00
  • Does your colleague share your feelings, or is this a unilateral initiative? – P. Hopkinson Oct 2 at 19:15
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    Yes, he shares this view. He initiated the thought of "what if leadership only picks one," but has been a proponent of both of us getting the role. – Chris Oct 2 at 19:37
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How do I/we approach senior leadership with a stronger message than "please promote us both"?

You express all the reasons why the company needs more than one person in that role, and why you two are the best possible folks to fill two of those slots.

To do that, you must ensure that you understand the details of what the company is expecting from that role. You must understand the details of why that role cannot be filled by a single individual. Then you simply match up your abilities against those expectations, showing why you are the obvious choices.

While internally you may be feeling that this is a "reward", don't express that directly. Instead, focus on the benefit to the company going forward.

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Titles are not completely disconnected from reality, but the connection is not all that strong, either. So there are two questions here, what your org chart says and what your business card says.

  • There is no rule that a company can't have two staff software engineers. (By the way, I would have expected senior software engineer instead. YMMV)
  • Getting this title does not have to come with a pay raise. Your call how you will handle the proposal, but extra responsibility should be rewarded. If not now then later.
  • The team dynamics will be affected by titles, especially when more junior software engineers and software engineers are hired.
  • If you have two staff software engineers leading and instructing other software engineers, would senior management and neighboring departments prefer to have one phone number to call, not two?
    • Are you both equally comfortable with people management? That will come if your team expands.
    • Might one of you ask for a title like Chief Technology Officer or is that way too much? Head of Software Development, maybe?
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