An engineering career framework

Between the end of 2018 and early 2019, I worked with the CTO at Syncromatics (now GMV) to develop a framework for developing an engineering career within the organization. I had the joy and pleasure of speaking with Katie Wilde at Buffer about the groundbreaking work she did and shared publicly. We followed her example and also made our career framework available for public use and review.

This was in place during my tenure until I left in 2022 after a series of changes in leadership. After a surprisingly short time after leaving, the company career framework was unpublished.

I am sharing my last known copy of the formerly-public career framework. References to “Syncromatics” have been removed.

Engineering Career Framework

About the engineering team

The engineering team is made of the people who define, design, and implement transit solutions. Within this team, there are two groups who work closely together: software and system integration.

We are an agile team. (In both the “agile” and “Agile” senses.) Iteration and delivery are key drivers for us. We are frequently exploring the edges of new technology looking for new and better ways to get things done.

We love our craft. We work on a range of problems whose solutions directly impact people’s ability to move around. Finding new, creative, and efficient ways to increase people’s mobility is exciting, as is finding new algorithms for predicting bus arrivals and designing ruggedized hardware.

We love and support the engineering community. As much as is possible, we strive to make our software open source and available to others. Developing relationships alongside technology is important to us.

About the career framework

We took a lot of inspiration from Buffer’s Engineering Career Paths Framework. (Thanks Katie!) Particularly, Buffer’s “focus on the journey, the growth and evolution that is a career” is exactly the focus we want to have for the engineering team.

We have built this career framework to have two dimensions: Title and Distinction. The title describes a person’s scope of influence and ownership of their work. The distinction describes a person’s domain of expertise.


Title Scope of Influence Contributions Ownership
Intern Themselves and their tasks. Completes well-specified tasks while receiving technical mentoring. Striving to learn in a self-directed way. No ownership responsibility yet: this person is learning and being actively developed by others.
Associate Themselves and their tasks. Works on well-specified tasks in a self-directed manner. Collaborates with team and asks for help when working near the periphery of their knowledge or experience. No ownership responsibility yet: this person is learning and being actively developed by others.
Engineer Their project and their peers. Breaks down large and complex tasks into manageable tasks. Co-owns an area with guidance & takes initiative (e.g fixes bugs unprompted)
Senior Engineer Whole team/product area Translates ideas into projects with discrete tasks and guides and unblocks others on the team. Collaborates with non-technical team members to give technical advice. Has a consistent record of very strong ownership for their area, e.g. figuring out on-call schedules, establishing monitoring.
Principal Engineer Multiple teams/projects Leads architecture of new systems/technologies/processes to improve the business. Communicates complex matters in understandable terms for a wide range of audiences. Exhibits ownership across the org - this person is a guardian of the company.


Distinctions are grouped into “paths” that describe a collection of broadly related distinctions.

Software Engineering path

People in the software engineering path are focused on designing and building software.

Distinction Domain expertise
Platform Design, architecture, and implementation of Software-as-a-Service technologies. Includes databases, data structures, algorithms, and microservices.
Product Design, architecture, and implementation of user experience, including third-party developer experience. Includes focus on polish and reliability of the finished product.
Devices Research, design, architecture, and integration of Internet-of-Things and embedded devices. Includes electrical engineering as needed.
Site Reliability Hosting, reliability, observability, monitoring, and alerting. Includes developer experience, continuous integration/delivery, and tooling.
Test Testability, repeatability, quality assurance, and automation. Includes diagnosis and prevention.

System Integration path

People in the system integration path are focused on integrating software and hardware and certifying its viability and reliability for use in the field.

Distinction Domain expertise
Reliability & Readiness Testability, repeatability, and quality assurance. Emphasis on ensuring the software and hardware work together in harsh environments. Works closely with OPS to solve problems as they arise and to provide specific engineering specifications for different vehicles.
Research & Development Research, design, manufacturing/OEM sourcing, and documentation planning for field rollout. Focus on developing hardware solutions for new product features and generating appropriate documentation to accompany them.

Evaluating growth and evolution

The company relies on annual “360° reviews” where each person in the company reviews themselves and a number of their peers. These reviews are compiled by managers into anonymized feedback for each person reviewed.

Below are the questions and statements that make up our 360° reviews. The nearly all of the responses are a rating of confidence or agreement with the statement and a short comment.


Delivering on Promises


Final Thoughts