L5 vs L6 job performance differences

May 28, 2019 11 Comments

There’s a ton of interview prep differences, salary, etc. But not a lot of discussion about after you land the job. Since I’m coming from startups and companies that aren’t focused on software, so my evaluation of staff engineers vs senior engineers is probably quite a bit different than that at a place like FAANG.

At google, or FB, etc. What specifically (or examples) are some of the differences of what an L6 needs to do that an L5 doesn’t. Day to day, what will make an L6 succeed or fail.

I know the general, must lead a team, get others to buy in to your designs, communicate across teams, etc. But to me this doesn’t really convey what’s really needed day to day to prevent getting PIPed out of work. Do most L5’s think “I could do the job of the L6 guy”? Would an L6 say their job is difficult or just like any job, it’s difficult until you have the experience.


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TOP 11 Comments
  • Facebook / Eng msus33
    The typical L6 is a very different job compared to L5, requiring a much different skillset.

    Imo, the simplest way to look at this is that an L5 can still be just an individual working independently on a system, whereas an L6 needs to have team scope.

    A L6 is required to lead a team of 7~10 eng in technical direction, planning, goal setting, alignment with other teams and XFN, etc. if they’re not leading a team, they need to be working on large projects equivalent to a small team’s scope.
    They’re accountable for team performance. Take the team’s scope and goals, outline how to achieve them,prioritize, and breaking down in smaller parts for the other engineers on the team. If their planning estimates are completely off, they’ll suffer, and vice-versa. If they’re not able to get things done with their team or in collaboration with other teams, they’re screwed. If the project is much harder than anticipated and they don’t recognize this+reset expectations for others, they’re doing a bad job. If they want to be left alone building a feature, they’ll be pip’ed quickly.

    A L5 can do fine owning a big project the team needs, e.g. build the backend for a new project, maintaining a system alone (a L6 would be pip’ed if they just do this). A L5 can be a tech lead of a small team, but they’ll usually have a lot of guidance from a L6+ (if they don’t need it, they’ll become L6 quickly).

    A L6 needs to look ahead and set direction for the next 6~12m, working with managers, and xfn. This is quite different from pure eng skill that will take you to L5. A L5 can do fine waiting for the team direction, and picking projects that help accomplish that direction.

    Good performing L5s might be able to do some of L6 work in their current team but would likely fail if they switch teams (because they’re depending on their acquired context). A lot of L5s don’t want to get promoted because of this concern. Promotion is a one way road and if they stop delivering L6 work, they’re fired.

    PS: I’m E5
    May 28, 2019 3
    • Facebook / Eng msus33
      The difference between E4 and E5 is completely different. A E5 is expected to execute a project independently. A E4 is expected to require guidance throughout a project. A E6 is expected to come up with the projects that need to be done at the team level.
      May 28, 2019
    • Facebook / Eng msus33
      It’s not like a E5 won’t come up with projects or scope them down themselves, but the level of ambiguity that the E6 is expected to operate is much, much higher.
      May 28, 2019
  • New <a/>
    May 28, 2019 1
    • Honeywell wellHoney
      There’s a little bell button at the top for that
      May 28, 2019
  • This is brutal, I am hoping there are some FAANG L6 roles where you can just be super smart, do your normal coding — and rest and vest.
    May 28, 2019 1
    • Google / Eng

      Google Eng

      Amazon, Yahoo, Microsoft
      My manager says managing is likely the fastest way to get to L6. The tech contributions as an IC to get to L6 are pretty hard, likely has to span different PAs and opportunities are hard to find.
      May 28, 2019
  • Uber 3974738
    As an L5 you work for the company. As an L6 the company works for you.
    May 28, 2019 0
  • Amazon lmeubqbxu
    Politics. At L6, you need to be good at it!
    May 28, 2019 0
  • Magic Leap sunday3
    Some examples: if a team led by a L6 wasted a year without delivering something useful, say because it didn’t take into account the actual client needs, or didn’t understand key dependencies well enough, or because the technical architecture or delivery road map had major flaws, or because there was a failure to get the team to agree on a technical direction...
    May 28, 2019 0


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