Making a Career
The average tenure of employees working at many technology companies today is shockingly low. At both Amazon and Google, it's just around one year. At Basecamp, it's just around five years as of late 2016. That's something to be proud of and something to ensure endures. When you work at Basecamp, it should absolutely be feasible to think about this as the place for making a life-long career.
Mastery & Titles
Advancing your career at Basecamp doesn't mean giving up on your craft and moving into "management". Whether you work in programming, design, ops, support, or whatever, you can become better at the work itself and level-up that way. This is especially important since we're a relatively small company with just two layers of managerial cake: executives and team heads. And both the executives and heads still spend the majority of their time doing actual work themselves as well.
We've mapped our trajectory of mastery to five different levels. That title structure is shared amongst all departments, but the particulars of what characterizes one level from another will of course be different. Here's an example of the titles for programming:
- Junior Programmer
- Senior Programmer
- Lead Programmer
- Principal Programmer
While this is how we recognize mastery, it's by no means an expectation that everyone will start as a junior and end up as a principal. Basecamp needs people and perspectives from all levels of skill. And for those who do end up progressing all the way through this path, it may well be a journey of many, many years, if not a decade+.
But these titles make it clear to everyone where someone is in their career progression at Basecamp. Note that these titles are about a particular role at Basecamp. Someone may well have been a "Senior Designer" somewhere else with a different assessment criteria and a different workflow, and then still start at Basecamp as a "Designer". We recognize mastery and titles at Basecamp for the work done at Basecamp.
Day to day, though, these titles aren't really much of a factor. It's not like they're printed on your HELLO MY NAME IS sticker at the meetups (not that we have those anyway!). But they do give newcomers another way of orienting themselves at the company and it gives everyone a clear way of tracking their personal career progression at Basecamp.
Pay & Promotions
Basecamp pays at the top 10% for our industry at San Francisco salary levels, regardless of where an employee lives. The comparison data is provided by a company called Radford that polls compensation data from all the major companies in our industry and plenty of our smaller peers as well. Because we don't pay bonuses, we match our base compensation to the base + bonus of our peer group.
The Radford data is reviewed once per year at the end of November. If it's warranted, that is if the market rates in the top 10% have gone up, we'll increase pay on January 1st to follow suit. We don't decrease pay, even if the market rates may have dropped. If that happens, we'll hold them steady until they come up again.
Everyone in the same role at the same level is paid the same at Basecamp.
When someone gets a promotion, that is goes from one level to the next, they'll get a corresponding pay raise January 1st as well.
May & November Reviews
We perform bi-yearly reviews in May and November. Everyone who has been with the company at least 90 days gets a review. The primary purpose of these reviews is to give feedback on career path advancement and recognize accomplishments. We wrap up our November reviews in time to make promotion related pay adjustments effective January 1st. We follow a simple process:
- Everyone writes up a 1-2 page summary and sends it to the head of their team.
- The head of your team reviews your summary and prepares their own thoughts.
- The head of your team will schedule a one-hour meeting to discuss.
The head of your team will reach out to you when it's time for you to write up your review. Of course you can (and should) ask for feedback as often as you'd like it.