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Establishing A Career Path Is More Then Copy and Pasting

Managing Expectations
Salary / Work Conditions
Different Skillsets
Sharing The Vision
Changing Company

7 April, 2020

Frederic Cerdan
Frederic Cerdan

VP of Engineering at Amenitiz

Frederic Cerdan, Director of Engineering at Payfit, shares his story of how he helped establish a career path at Payfit. It was a challenging process because establishing a career path with a younger company requires you to start from scratch. The career path he would create would impact everyone at Payfit, making it a constant guess to figure out the next step. He learned a lot along the way including what to do, and what not to do.


About four months ago, I started as a joint director at Payfit. We needed someone to tackle career paths. They had tried to create a career path before me at Payfit, but they were not successful.

At the time, the current career path they tried to create and to build was a bunch of sophisticated metrics. Mostly, the model was complex, and people did not understand how they fit into the organization at Payfit.

Payfit is a relatively young company in just less than five years, but we are scaling it right now. We have 500 people with a goal of 2000 by the end of 2021.

With the age of Payfit and the projected growth, we needed to take these career paths and to try to build it so that it would correlate with the current maturity rate of the company. We also wanted a better understanding of the individual contribution and management level that we wanted to put in place.

Actions taken

To start, I explored the internet to review models of other companies like Spotify or Google. It was quite interesting how they put their career ladders in place. Some of my research showed that not all companies need to have a career path at the very beginning. However, as the company becomes more established, it is essential to establish career paths.

They need to build it when they are ready to make it. Moreover, I think there was not enough maturity at Payfit to create this career path.

One of the mistakes we initially made was trying to take another company's career path and replicate it at Payfit. We simply tried to change the names and levels of the different levels and engineers.

Unfortunately, people did not find themselves fitting into or relating to these metrics because these were the metrics from another organization. That is not how the organization in Payfit works. For example, Amazon is working well with their career ladder because they have many layers that we do not have.

I then realized that to start creating our career ladder, and I needed to understand and discuss the elements of a career ladder with as many people as possible at Payfit.

By doing this, we could start pushing some ideas around. We could collect some votes from people and get their feedback. I am trying to put together this working concept as much as possible by including everyone. I included people from different zones, different teams, not only managers, not only decision-makers but people from different backgrounds and skills.

I still used the outline of Spotify's career path because they attempt to sum up everything and then find out how people fit themselves into the organization. Being able to see where people fit is crucial to make sure the career path is a good fit.

After establishing this, I started to build a framework more than the career path. This framework allowed people to see the differences within the organization.

So, in using the step framework from Spotify and establishing our own, I also wanted to make sure it was collaborative. To make it collaborative, I made sure to put people based on some of their personality traits.

For example, I could organize it with optimistic people. Then we also have pessimistic people who are part of the vital balance. I do not think pessimism is a bad thing. They are the ones to explain that some things will not work. They are a sense of accountability before I publish anything out to the company. They help realize and learn from some mistakes.

Furthermore, I started to reintroduce data that Payfit was not using. With this data, I could create the levels they wanted and organize things accordingly. I established six layers and two axes. It covered individual contributions, management, junior associates, etc.

With this, I created a PowerPoint presentation to share with everyone. In the presentation, I shared with everyone the career path so far to help them understand how we would work. I showed them the framework and how they would fit into it based on their skills, title, and level.

Then we could go through the necessary steps to grow with the company. It also explained how to move from one position to another within the company. As long as it is natural and logical, switches and position changes are entirely acceptable.

However, to make changes, we need to put in place a new kind of discussion, which is a development discussion. We realized the need to separate the one-on-one performance review to make it only oriented into their division of the career path.

This idea was vetted with the managers, and one of the first questions I had after my first session was, "What happens if my performance review is bad?"

This question highlighted is the charm of removing career growth from individual skill development. We can almost look at this as separate things that still benefit one another. Your performance review can be poor, but that does not mean that you cannot grow in the company or independently. You can grow despite not reaching the objectives. This approach can help people thrive because they can identify the expected skills that you should add to achieve the goal for this position.

This feedback could also be an indicator that your position is not the right one for you. This indication means that when we separate skills development and career development, anyone can work on skills that might be more valuable for them. This way, we have a graph that allows people to design their steps to growth. They can say, "Okay, I have this level in these skills, so I have some skills for this position, and the scale allows me to figure out what I need to do to grow."

Based on this, we develop this so I can see my profile, I can see the expertise profile, and I can see if I am over preforming in some skills underperforming in other some skills. What is the best learning plan that we can put in place to help my performance my best in this position?

Depending on the position, I would like to go, then I just have to overlap my actual skills to the expertise skills, and then we have to work all together to determine the learning plan to help to grow on these directions.

I put together another PowerPoint, and I made it as easy and to digest and to understand. I did not display the full matrix. That was something we could work on after they realized the changes. When that is done, we have some skills, the whole position, and we can establish some steps.

I was then able to establish a ladder where the steps were explained. It explained step one, step two, level one, two, three, four, five, and six.

After defining and establishing the steps, I started to work on scope. The scope is the measure of influence an individual has within the organization or company.

The first step of scope is in the team, the squad, etc. Based on this, we try to determine it, so it is not what we expect. We expect that the scope level encourages that the interactions you have at the company are more transversal to many squads or teams at the company.

Overall, once this was all established, people began to build their career paths with the framework and everything we developed. Now we can start collecting metrics and understand the changes and evolution of the company. These metrics will allow us to adjust in the future because we will have a granular and integral understanding of how someone grows at Payfit.

Lessons learned

I learned that the job position and the understanding of a whole position, a name, a level, a title, have different meanings in every company. You cannot just substitute another company's career path to make one within a different organization.

Once I realized that I had to restart from scratch and then to adapt the, uh, the titles, the job position so that everyone can understand. That way thing still accurately translates within the industry outside of Payfit. Let us say a staff engineer means this in Payfit, and a senior program manager means this at Payfit. We can then establish expectations while helping our people grow within the company and the tech industry.

We can ask questions like, what do we expect as a director of engineering or what we expect from the VP of learning?

I had to rebuild everything from scratch because not everything I thought I knew applied in this situation. This process was no small task, as it would influence everyone at the organization.

I had to learn from everyone in the company. They were asking, what do you understand by this position? What are you doing? Established workers within the company would have to adjust to the changes we were making. These challenges are hard to navigate because I am creating something from scratch based on the information I am discovering.

Now, however, people can see themselves grow. I got to ask them what they want, and this was critical because I was including the people who would be most impacted by the changes and new career paths. If they grew in their position, what more could they expect to do within the company? Do everyone, and everything have the same meaning? These are the tools to build these positions to help each other grow into our jobs.

I had to do a lot of learning, and that is okay. I had to learn so that I could teach. The new titles, and new framework, the new career path has to be very understandable by everyone. They needed to know what we expect and to give them opportunities.

This was complicated in some instances because splitting individual contributions and management is not easy. I have to establish what to expect from individual contributors and management. This split had to be fair and to be fair, and we had to make the same number of steps, depending on if you want to grow as an individual contributor or if you want to grow as a manager.

That was super important to be super fair about the number of steps at every level and on each side.

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