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I'm about to receive an offer that is quite aligned with my experience, and the pay is excellent. However, I'm concerned about the implications of the title change based on my career trajectory.

At my last employer, I was started as a Staff Engineer and quickly promoted to Engineering Manager. There is a strange, almost unspoken situation here with many engineering organizations where this is considered a lateral move, but I was met with "congratulations on the promotion" nonetheless. Either way, I was very excited for this role change, I consider myself someone that is much more interested in this part of the job--even if it is truly lateral.

Anyway, I was ultimately responsible for technical direction, project management, and people/performance/career development for several direct reports. Of course, I was also still knee-deep in parts of the codebase that had a large impact.

This new role in front of me shares many of the same responsibilities. I will be accountable for direction, planning and people leadership. I will also be coding about at least 50% of my time, a slight increase from around 30-40%, but that feels like semantics.

What is really throwing me for a loop, which I hope you can help me with--is that the title is just "Senior Engineer." To me, the responsibilities go far beyond where I've seen this title before, but the company has assured me that they have a uniquely flat model where everything I've mentioned before is expected even at this level.

On to my concerns:

  • The pay is right, more than I made as an engineering manager or staff engineer. This is significant.
  • I do want to continue my track as a people manager. I really enjoyed this role previously. I'm concerned that going back to an individual contributor role officially, even if I'm unofficially still performing this task, will raise questions and set me back career-wise for that next time I'm looking for work.
  • Taking the people management track out of the equation entirely--I'm going from Staff Engineer to Senior Developer. Again, the responsibilities required of me go beyond what I saw other Staff Engineers previously be accountable for at previous employers. Does this matter at all? Should I care about this?

Overall my main concerns are how this will impact my career on title alone. The responsibilities seem to be 1:1, perhaps even more than what I've ever done previously. Will it be reasonable to expect people to read past the title on my resume/LinkedIn? Or is that flexible enough where I can put a more applicable/generalized title without being sketchy?

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  • For what it's worth you can probably put Senior Staff Engineer as your title and with the previous title of Staff Engineer it's pretty easy to justify Oct 13, 2022 at 8:26
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    Every company I've worked at has a unique set of titles and responsibilities. My resume tells people what I did there, not the title. Oct 13, 2022 at 9:21
  • Does this answer your question? What are possible consequences of accepting a lower job title Oct 13, 2022 at 11:47
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    @mattfreake it’s quite similar, yes! I think this is slightly different as it’s not necessarily only about seniority, but a lot of great answers in there too. Thanks.
    – Eee
    Oct 13, 2022 at 15:18
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    Titles might have some minor importance within a company but comparing titles between companies is an absolute waste of time and not worth worrying about.
    – deep64blue
    Oct 20, 2022 at 9:00

4 Answers 4

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Focus on the dream job you've apparently been offered, and not on the jobs you may be applying to 5 or 10 years down the road.

Titles are meaningless. It's your responsibilities and achievements while you had those titles that hiring managers care about.

If you're truly concerned with your resume or Linkedin profile, put something parenthetical like "Senior Engineer (Technical Management)." It's not as if those are official documents that have to match something word for word.

Don't worry. Be happy. Good luck.

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    Thank you. It's easy to overanalyze why one may or may not be rejected for applications during a job hunt, and "the right title for the right amount of time" is doubt number one. I think your point about circumstantial clarification is really helpful, I appreciate it.
    – Eee
    Oct 13, 2022 at 5:13
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    @Eee, job titles and corporate structures are now so variable that few employers would be concerned about whether your CV exactly matches your contractual job titles. There were stronger industry norms about job titles in the past (often they were collectively bargained for an entire industrial sector, and corresponded directly with pay scales, and duties which could be neither more nor less than the title), and that's why employers were fussier about knowing the contractual title back then.
    – Steve
    Oct 13, 2022 at 7:07
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    I'm coming back to this a year and change later. I just want people reading this later to know that this answer is extremely correct. I'm interviewing again already (long story) and getting EM interview callbacks.
    – Eee
    Jan 27 at 4:09
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The same job titles have different responsibilities depending on the organisation you're working for.

As you seem completely happy with the job apart from the title I would not get too hung up on it, you could simply do something like this on your CV:

Company X - Senior Engineer (Tech Lead)

Replace Tech Lead with something descriptive which represents what you are actually doing and then just list the responsibilities on your CV as you normally would.

This will show the progression as well as your official job title, so you won't fall foul of any background checks in the future.

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Most good HR and recruiters will find out what your skills are plus experience to work out if you are a suitable candidate.

Relying on job titles is a bit of a lottery as some places hand out titles like "Director of..." like kids get lollies...

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From a certain point forward, titles are just words on a piece of paper. If a company would value my titles more than my experience, I would not join them.

Both your titles (Engineering manager ans senior engineer) require you to do both engineering and management. So in the end, is it worth spending time on this topic? I would get over it in less than a few minutes. I would not miss a good opportunity just because of this kind of title change.

From my own experience: I switched several times in my career between engineering and project management. Some recruiters tended to see going from management to engineering as a regress, but I explained my reasons, they were satisfied with the answer, and there was no impact on the interview or on the result from this switching I did.

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  • I would not assume when reading a CV that a Senior Engineer did any management (but I would assume they did at least some engineering). I would not assume that an Engineering Manager did any engineering (but I would assume they did at least some management). Oct 18, 2022 at 15:09
  • You are wise. Assumption is the mother of all f..kups.
    – virolino
    Oct 19, 2022 at 6:20

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