Developer Growth Framework

Hi! I'm Tamara and for the last few months, I've been putting together a simple framework to help developers/engineers with their career growth based on my experiences managing devs in a few different companies. The below info and framework is free for you to use and amend although please make sure to link back to this page so that appropriate people I've credited in here can also get credit (as well as me!). 

What is the framework?

The 'Developer Growth Framework' is a simple spreadsheet/matrix to help identify and clarify appropriate behaviours and expectations for developers at different stages of their careers. It has a summary sheet which has some high level information about expectations for developers across 4 categories '#build' '#deliver' '#lead' and '#connect' and then it deep dives into those 4 categories in more detail with relevant examples. This is simple compared to some other frameworks out there which suited the needs of the teams I worked with but you can also see it as a first step in a journey, making it more detailed and sophisticated over time. Check out the Medium one to see how awesome it could be. 

I made this framework with the following values in mind for its implementation:

  • Inclusion: the framework should feel relevant for both junior and senior developers in your company, it should feel like it values the work your developers who identify as women or non-binary perform, it should feel like it belongs to your developers just as much as it belongs to your management team. 
  • Human: I was really inspired by Buffer's framework in that it seemed much more about recognising that everyone's path is different and unique and human. I tried to reflect this in the language and examples I've used when creating this. Someone doesn't have to move 'up' in this framework, they could move to another discipline or adopt a new title to reflect their speciality and not lose the progress they've made on this framework. I hope that makes sense. 
  • Open: The intention behind this framework is that it's flexible and open and should be changed over time to reflect your company's values and growth. I believe it's important to listen to people who are using this framework and be open to change it based off feedback so if you hear something negative about how this has been implemented, I would encourage you to really hear what's being said and make sure it's reflecting the above values of 'Inclusion' and 'Human'.

The framework is based off and borrows wording and concepts from other frameworks that are also open source, published by Kickstarter, Medium and Buffer as well as based on my own experience working closely alongside developers, engineers and designers. A huge shout-out to everyone doing amazing work in this space and I think it's fantastic that we have so many options to choose from when we're setting up something like this in our organisations. 

Finally, without further ado, here is the framework available for you to view, make a copy of and implement in your company! 

Please do read the rest of this post to give you some more context and ideas for implementation.

Why did I put this together?

My personal motivation for setting this up was mainly to do with helping create a more inclusive environment for under-represented groups in tech, specifically for people who identify as women. After hearing many stories from women and non-binary folk, one of their concerns about the tech industry was the lack of clarity about what was expected of them in their workplace as well as a lack of transparency around how promotions were determined. There were a lot of stories about feeling like they were doing a lot of emotional labour for their team, helping them become high performing and yet that wasn't recognised or rewarded. This framework is just one small way in which we can make sure that the really important work outside of technical mastery is also recognised as part of developing as a developer/engineer/designer. 

Here are the top reasons for creating this and the benefits for implementing it:

  1. Clear expectations resulting in better performance of your team and a clearer way of setting goals with individuals.
  2. More transparency and accountability which helps to create a more inclusive space for women and non-binary folk as well as just making things all around a lot easier for people to have positive conversations about their growth without it being a bit secretive. 
  3. Helping to create more consistent and effective feedback loops. By using this framework to help guide more regular feedback loops for your team, you'll be able to help them grow and feel more comfortable both receiving and giving feedback, a hugely important skill for them to learn. 

How could I implement it?

Here are some ideas on how to implement this framework in your organisation. 

  • Make it relevant. Change up the titles in the framework to suit your context, put your company values in there, change the examples to fit your team's work. Make sure you are clear at this point on how you'd like it to work in your context - will it be purely a guide for managers to help set goals? Will it be used to structure your review process? You'll need to be super clear about your intentions for it before you follow the next steps. 
  • Collaborate! Involve your junior team members as well as your seniors when putting this together and make sure you have some diverse reviewers helping you put this together. The more representative you can make your review team, the better this will embed in your teams. So put together a quick draft, collaborate with your team and change it up as they give you feedback. It's important to get the buy in from your leaders and managers at this point too so that they can support you to launch this later.  
  • Test it. Take a couple of developers who haven't seen it before through the framework you've created and ask them some questions to determine what they think and how they think it could work. This is a great opportunity to get any of their fears out there about putting something like this into the organisation so you can either address those things by changing the framework or through your communication when you implement it.  
  • Arm your leaders. Take your leaders/managers through this framework now that it's tested and reviewed and hear any concerns they have, make sure they understand the scope of the framework and how your company intends to use it. These are the people who will be championing your framework and helping to make it a success so it's important that they are right there with you when it gets rolled out wider. 
  • Clear communication. Once you've tested this and armed your leaders/managers with the right info and you're ready to put it out there, please make sure that your supplementary material or communication is super clear. If this framework is just to be used as a handy guide but not used to drive promotions, make that very clear or you'll end up with some very worried and confused people. Publish it somewhere where everyone can see it and provide a really clear method of providing feedback or changes to the framework. 
  • Act on feedback. If you receive feedback on the framework once it has been implemented, make sure you follow it up and act on it. There has to be some trust between management and your developers that they'll be able to suggest changes and that it will be heard and taken on board if possible. 

Thanks!

A big thanks to the people behind the Medium, Kickstarter and Buffer frameworks for making their frameworks open source as well and allowing me to adopt wording and concepts. 

A huge thank you to my wonderful developer friends who reviewed and edited alongside me. Big thanks to Thomas Kear, Elise Wei, Libby Schumacher-Knight and David Leach.

I was fortunate to be able to put together a version of this for the last company I worked with, SilverStripe, and while that was a different version to hopefully be implemented in the near future, the work that the developers there did on that version absolutely inspired me when writing this post. A big thanks to Kate Muggeridge, Ingo Schommer, Tim Kung and Ben Manu for their awesome ideas and support. 

Coming up

I would like to publish a couple more posts related to this framework. One on how to use it for conducting regular reviews for your team and one on helping people set some goals using this framework. So please keep an eye out for that and let me know if there is anything else you'd like me to write about. 

Thanks again and looking forward to hearing your feedback. 

Tamara x