Time seniority != Level seniority posted on 20 April 2024

While job offers often mention a required number of years of experience, this is more a guidance than anything else. For example if you move from Google to Meta, Meta will match your level regardless of how many years of experience you have.

In general, you need some time to get promoted to the next level – e.g. the median L3 engineer needs 2 years to get to L4. But time is not enough, that’s why you have L5 with both 3 and 20 years of experience. You do need time to grow though because you need some experience that can’t be learned in books – e.g. you don’t know how to manage a large team until you have actually done it. How much time you need depends on your skills (and luck).

One important takeaway is also that cruising (and getting time seniority) doesn’t get you promoted nor does it get you a raise – you may have gotten one in the past as the job market was getting more competitive but you can’t assume you’ll get an annual raise if you’re cruising. With time, you have more knowledge and become more efficient but in the software industry, this is not enough to get promoted beyond L4/L5 – being an efficient L4 doesn’t make you L5.

Last but not least, getting promoted at your current company is the easiest way to get a senior position somewhere else since companies care about impact, scope and leadership rather than years of experience. This also why writing your actual impact on your resume rather than your number of years of experience is better.

Keep a growth mindset if growing is something you desire. Do not settle for mediocre systems/processes, learn from others and keep reflecting every now and then on yourself.

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