For example, a technical manager, director or vice president might use such titles as “consulting engineer” or “corporate marketing consultant” in lieu of management titles such as “engineering director” or “vice president of marketing.”
In the absence of a technical career ladder, many technically gifted employees have been forced to move into management to attain more senior positions and the rewards that go with them. Many find themselves unhappy in these management roles and want to return to their technical specialties, but are reluctant to give up the higher salaries and perks they have attained. When this happens, the company often loses a competitive technical edge and, at the same time, has some senior managers who are unhappy in their roles and end up leaving the company, voluntarily or involuntarily.
There are generally specific criteria that employees must meet to be promoted on the technical ladder. These criteria typically include the following:
• Contributions to company products or services, including patents obtained or intellectual property created: How important the candidate’s work has been in creating value through the creation of new products and services that give the company a competitive advantage. In other technical fields, how important the candidate’s contributions have been to, for example, the creation of winning marketing strategies, the development of key support systems or the development and maintenance of strategic customer relationships is important.
• Successful team leadership: While employees on the technical career ladder may not directly manage groups of people or businesses, they are expected to lead key team efforts within their area of expertise.
• Reputation: Reputation within the company and externally in their field of expertise.
• Presentations at industry conferences or technical papers for industry journals: The candidate’s work in a technical specialty has been recognized by peers or within the company’s industry, resulting in invitations to speak at conferences and requests for articles in technical or industry journals.
• Mentoring of junior technical staff: Just as the candidate relied on learning from others in the company while climbing the technical ladder, he or she is expected to help others learn and climb that same ladder.
Typically, employees who want to be promoted on a technical ladder must prepare a portfolio to document their achievements, and that portfolio is reviewed by a panel of senior company officers who pass judgment on each application. If an application for promotion is denied, panel members then offer advice to the candidate on how to strengthen the portfolio to be considered for promotion in the future.
Talent leaders should make employees aware that not everyone at a given management level will have the opportunity to climb higher, but many people can find a rewarding career at each level.