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This blog post aims to explain the career path in Software Engineering. Although companies’ leveling systems could be slightly different, the basic idea will remain the same. You can develop your best strategy to advance your career by understanding it.

"The content in this blog series was originally intended to inform my agile team. Then when the intense demand came from my environment. I made it into a blog post. Unlike my other articles, this series contains exact quotes from the sources I have researched. You can find all the resources at the end of the article series."

To read the previous article about Staff, Principal, Distinguished Software Engineer please click here.

Team Leader


Team Leaders are responsible for the day-to-day management of a team of developers and are typically more technically oriented than managers. They're often involved in the code review process, and act as mentors to other developers on their team.

  • Leads, collaborate closely with other teams to make sure that projects are completed on time and within budget. 

  • The team lead is responsible for project execution and making sure a specific goal or project is completed on schedule.

  • Interacts with team members to help resolve daily issues. 

Further insights

  • Team leads are also responsible for making sure each member of their team is accomplishing what they were assigned to do, staying ahead of the timeline and adapting to any changes in plans or circumstances.

  • They also work towards the same organizational goals as the manager, coordinating day-to-day operations and tasks of a smaller group of people. Rather than focusing on the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the team's output

  • You may deal more with interpersonal issues between individual team members, tackling these and ensuring the team's welfare.

  • You may work with issues informally on a more person-to-person basis, helping colleagues when they are struggling.

  • You strive to create a good working environment and motivate your teammates to work to their very best.

  • Take responsibility for the underperformance of your team members.

  • Typically, reporting information that's maybe the team's shortcomings is a part of your role as well, as you are in closer contact with your team members.

  • Can celebrate the contributions of your individual team members with them, ensuring they feel recognised.

Software Engineering Manager


Engineering managers tend to be responsible for the “big picture.” While the team lead focuses on how a project is getting done, engineering managers typically oversee a team or sometimes teams.

  • Work with their direct reports to understand their career goals and help find professional growth opportunities. 

  • Step in when personal conflicts arise between employees, and also act as a go-between, building relationships with clients and higher-ups.

  • EMs are tactical guiding others to win individual battles and engagements.

Further insights

  • Collaborate closely with stakeholders to make sure that the business objectives are met.

  • Helps improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their team, the department, their processes and the company.

  • Translating the more technical work and decisions to various stakeholders, allowing those who are working hands-on with the project to focus on the task itself.

  • Employee performance reviews.

  • Career Planning, Promotions and Coaching.

  • Headcount Planning and Hiring.

  • One on Ones.

  • Participation in Technical Decisions.

  • Team Building Activities and Culture.​

  • Team Protection and Happiness​, Team Visibility and Recognition.

  • Team Productivity and Metrics​.

  • Objectives, Performance and Feedback.

Director of Engineering


Coordinate all engineering activities within his or her organization. Directors of Engineering are responsible for making sure that goals are met, standards of quality are upheld and legal regulations are adhered to.

Typically report to higher-level executive level management, and oversee one or more lower-level Engineering Managers.

  • Create Plans and Systems

  • Oversee Developmental Processes

  • Analyze Metrics and Finances

  • Ensure Safety

Further insights

  • Directors are operational. They coordinate and execute multiple efforts within a larger strategic goal. Typically they have more control over the how, but the why has already been decided for them.

  • While Engineering Managers work on a daily basis with engineers and their ongoing projects, Directors of Engineering take a more holistic approach and often rely on big-picture analysis to determine a course of action.

  • Charged with the task of evaluating schedules, quality assurance procedures and new releases in order to assess their value.

  • Ensure that the engineering process runs smoothly, these developmental processes must be examined systematically so that the positive and negative aspects of each one can be properly weighed.

  • Being able to understand, interpret and analyze complex sets of data. This can include the analysis of profits, losses, gross margin, operating income, assets, revenue, cost of goods, liabilities and more.

  • Working with your organization’s executive staff to develop new strategies, as well as to make changes to existing ones. The goal is generally to reduce unnecessary cost, reduce the amount of time it takes for the engineering team to complete their projects and grow the organization as a whole.

  • You manage other managers.

  • Budgeting and resourcing.

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.” – Sheryl Sandberg

We will continue the Career Ladder in Software Engineering writing series with VP of Engineering and Chief Technology Officer.

Follow the series, see you.


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