DataDIGEST’s professional technical ladders

This post is part of a series on our technical career paths,
or the technical ladders as we call them at DataDIGEST.

You can find a full index of the series at the end of this post.

We have designed the professional technical ladders and compensation levels on the following principles:

Fairness. There are no games. People on the same rung of a ladder are paid the same. You can’t hassle for higher pay, you grow and add more value to move up the ladder to get higher pay.

Transparency. A person’s rung is known, and how to move up is known. To be fair we have to be transparent, you have to know who is on your level and who is not, and why.

Competitiveness. To attract and keep the awesome people we want, our compensation structure must be market related for a company our size.


Working at DataDIGEST means you are a member of a team of awesome people who value and cultivate the following attributes, in no specific order:

Independence of work means you take ownership of your responsibilities and you don’t suffer from the "it’s not my job" mentality.

Problem solving means you can identify problems and find, communicate, and implement quality solutions.

Creative thinking means you can think outside the box, you can look at problems and situations from different angles.

Technical flexibility means you do not live and think in a technical silo. You can comfortably switch between technology stacks, software products and services to suit the situation at hand.

Communication means you can clearly, and concisely, exchange information with other people, this includes the ability to listen, mentor, teach, report and assist.

Team work means you understand and embrace the fact that we are all in this together and we can get more done working together than we can when working alone.

Continuous learning means that you share our belief that we can always do, and be, better. You actively seek out and learn new things, to share with your team and the community at large.

These attributes permeate all our actions at DataDIGEST. We believe that teams possessing high levels of these attributes will be awesome to work in, highly efficient, highly adaptive and valuable.

The ladders

We recognise that not all technical people want to become a "manager", thus we offer technical career paths that do not have management at the apex.

At DataDIGEST we have two technical career paths/ladders:

Software development. (Development ladder) Primary focus is the business of software development. Includes not only the physical writing of code but the whole process of producing awesome software.

Operational support. (Operational ladder) Primary focus organisational ICT operations. Includes not only IT Support but all ICT operations within an organisation to ensure that the ICT infrastructure supports the organisation’s smooth and efficient operations.

Being within one career path does not mean that you are absolved from learning the skills in the other career paths, it means that you have a focus on one path. In fact, moving past level 5 competencies in both paths will be required.

Your level within a path is denoted by a number 0-7

Level 0 is for interns.

Level 1 is where new college graduates, or people new to the industry, generally start. Then they work their way up to:

Level 5, which is full professional status. Most people won’t go beyond this level.

Level 6 and 7 can be achieved only by making significant, above average contributions to DataDIGEST.

Job titles

At DataDIGEST we don’t consider job titles to be terribly meaningful, as a result of which most people on the technical ladders have the title ‘Member of Technical Staff’ with the exception of level 0 and level 7.

Level 0 Technical Intern.

Level 1-6 Member of Technical Staff.

Level 7 DataDIGEST Fellow.

Determining level

Your level is determined by assigning a score to each of the two components:

Scope is a measure of your independence of work, work ownership and quality etc. In other words: What you have taken responsibility for and are producing outputs for at our expected level of quality.

Development ladder scope guidelines

Operational ladder scope guidelines

Skill is a measure of your technical and interpersonal skills. In other words: How technically proficient you are and how well you are contributing and transferring your skills to the team.

Development ladder skill guidelines

Operational ladder skill guidelines

Calculating your level on the ladder is a simply the average of scope and skills (rounded using normal maths rules, so 3.5 becomes 4).


Enablers are people who consistently and exceptionally enable other people to do their jobs better. They are people who motivate, rally the troops, improve morale, and provide leadership beyond their normal level. They are placed one level higher than they would otherwise deserve.

Series index
DataDIGEST’s professional technical ladders
DataDIGEST’s Development ladder scope guidelines
DataDIGEST’s Operational ladder scope guidelines
DataDIGEST’s Development ladder skill guidelines
DataDIGEST’s Operational ladder skill guidelines


Over the years much has been published on professional ladders and career paths, thus claiming that our structure is completely original would be dishonest. In this regard I would like to recognise, and thank, Joel Spolsky, in his capacity as co-founder and CEO of Fog Creek Software and co-founder of Stack Overflow, for his posts on this subject.

Furthermore it would prudent to note that “Historically, Fog Creek’s Professional ladder is based on Microsoft’s professional ladder, which was adopted and publicised by Construx” – Joel Splosky.

Many of the guidelines you see here are blatantly copied, with minor modifications for the culture we are creating.

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