Meet Suzy. She works for a small company of 10, where she’s the only writer on the team. A year later the company hires another writer. Now, whether or not Suzy mastered anything in her role, beyond missing the accountant’s head when playing darts, she is now a Senior Writer. She’s been there longer and her boss didn’t mind. Suzy ships a lot of work unsupervised and has come to believe she doesn’t need peer review. It’s fine as is. In a few years she gets bored of the work and decides to look for a different job.
Meet Linda. Linda joined a big software company with a whole content department. Linda performs better than her peers but there’s no such thing as a Senior Writer at her company. Everyone’s a writer and there’s a Content Lead, that’s it. Linda never cared for titles, she cared for experience. Linda learns an incredible amount of things, absorbs as much information as she can, and 3 years later feels like she’s ready to move to a different company. She starts looking for a job.
The same company gets 2 CVs. Who gets a callback?
On paper, Suzy looks like a more promising candidate who moved into the senior role quickly. Suzy must be talented! While Linda looks like an unambitious girl who’s been content with a stagnant position for 3 years.
Certainly, a good, discerning HR will be able to tell that Suzy is not qualified for the title and she doesn’t necessary get the new job. But who gets the callback? Who gets through the initial screening process? Suzies.
The scenario is universally applicable across the board. It’s Project Managers, Software Developers, Design Leads, User Researchers. The unabashed leadership plague where everyone’s a senior two years after graduation. Of course, I can easily imagine a gifted gem of a student who was drafting Hyperloop blueprints in grade 9 but a whole generation of prodigies? A simpler explanation comes to mind.
An explanation where meaningless titles are being thrown about, with no solid foundation, no quantifiable evidence of experience, no logic of growth and no defined trajectory behind it.
It is true, growth doesn’t mean years. You can grow immensely in 4 months or play darts for 5 years. But, in my firm opinion you can’t be a Senior Product Designer in a year. If you are, I beg you to question your company’s standards.
Titles should reflect growth and alas, in the broader IT industry filled with small agencies and young startups, right now they don’t. Not from where I stand, not from what I see.