Sarah Drasner describes career laddering as "a system used to show what expectations are at different levels of a role, a purpose of which is defining how one might be promoted. This can have different forms, but tends to be an internal document that states the expectations of a staff member at any given stage of their career."
Most developers (with early stage startups as an exception) know their place on an internal career ladder.
According to the 2021 State of Developer Relations annual survey, 34% respondents said they have a defined career path in their organization. This is very concerning and it's time for this to change.
You shouldn't have to work at exceptionally large companies like AWS, Google, or Microsoft in order to have a ladder. I believe it's critical for field of Developer Relations to have career ladders to grow and mature. With 2021 going down as probably one of the hottest years in the Developer Relations job market, there will be many folks who will be needing career ladders. Also, there is a growing number of Developer Relations folks who are going on five, ten, or more years in the field. There needs to be paths, especially in individual contributor (IC) roles, for folks.
Often one of the hardest challenges in Developer Relations is clarity. Clarity around goals, metrics, place within the organization, but most importantly clarity about your career path. A lack of clarity can easily lead to burnout, frustration, and more. Like I said before, most software engineers and developers have some idea of what their career ladder looks like. It's time for those in the Developer Relations field to have the same clarity.
I've been sharing some of these ladders for the last two years, but there's no one centralized place I've been able to share with folks in Developer Relations and their managers. From some of the managers I have spoken to, they are not sure where to start when working on a career ladder for developer advocates, technical community managers, and other similar roles. One ladder won't fit all teams and companies, but I think having more examples out there can help teams get ideas and build their own.
If your team has a publicly available career ladder, submit a pull request to get your's added. If your team has a private career ladder, consider talking to your manager and/or people team to see if it could possibly become publicly available. From my experience, teams who are more open with their Developer Relations career ladders have a recruiting edge over teams who have no established career ladder.
Here are the ladders I have collected so far: