Competency matrix

Personal growth

Pro Tip: Be aware that Progression, the tool that we're using for the matrix, refers to the competency matrix as "framework"—the two terms can be used interchangeably.

Our competency matrix is the foundation of our growth framework and it permeates pretty much all aspects of Nebulab—you'll see it mentioned very often.

The matrix helps us solve a large set of challenges:

  • It allows us to have a clear career path for every team member, so that they know exactly what skills they to develop to increase their impact.
  • It reduces bias in our performance management processes, because teammates are directly responsible for their own career growth.
  • It reduces any salary gaps that might be caused by a candidate's negotiation skills, or lack thereof, during the hiring process.
  • It helps us promote our culture at scale, by recognizing and rewarding team members that work in alignment with our values.

How the matrix is structured

The competency matrix is organized by department, and each department has one or more disciplines. Currently, we have three departments (Engineering, Design and Operations) with a total of four disciplines in them (Software Engineer, Engineering Manager, Product Designer, Operations Manager).

Each discipline has multiple levels of seniority (IC is used as a prefix for individual contributor roles, while M is used for management roles), with comparable impact across disciplines—for example, an IC3 Software Engineer has similar responsibilities and impact at the company as an IC3 Product Designer.

Each seniority level requires specific skills. These skills are split, for convenience, into three main impact areas:

  • Human: skills that relate to cultural fit and the ability to work with others.
  • Craft: skills that relate to the technical capabilities required for the role.
  • Leadership: skills that relate to the employee’s ability to be a leader.

Each seniority/skill combination contains a description of the abilities and traits required by that skill, as well as practical examples to help teammates and managers in the evaluation process.

A couple of aspects to keep in mind:

  • Each level comprises previous levels, so an IC3 Software Engineer, for example, also exhibits all skills of IC1 and IC2 Software Engineers.
  • Not all skills can be grown linearly with the teammate's seniority level. Certain skills, for instance, may top off at IC2.

Using the matrix to grow

As we mentioned, you and your manager should use the matrix to determine what areas you need to work on to increase your impact at Nebulab.

We use Progression for evaluating team members. The process requires both your input and your manager's, which allows us to minimize bias on both sides:

  1. You will log into Progression with your Nebulab Google account and start a check-in. Your manager can help you understand if you should check in against your current position or the next one.
  2. For each skill in the matrix, you will need to select whether you are working towards, meeting or exceeding the expectations for that level.
  3. Once you've completed your side of the check-in, your manager will be notified and will follow the same exact steps.
  4. When your manager has also completed the check-in, you will both be notified and should schedule a meeting to finalize the evaluation.
  5. To finalize the evaluation, you will look at both your check-in and your manager's and reconcile any differences.

The result of the evaluation will tell you whether you're working towards, meeting or exceeding the overall expectations for your position at Nebulab. Depending on the result and on your previous evaluations, your manager will then help you understand what growth areas to focus on next.

As a general rule, all team members are required to complete a check in at least once a year, but most managers at Nebulab encourage their reports to start an evaluation themselves every six months.

Promotion process

Once you're meeting the expectations for the next position in your competency matrix, your manager will talk to a Director and get approval for the promotion.

In general, our promotions are descriptive, not prescriptive: in order to be promoted, you need to consistently exhibit all skills and traits from the higher level for a significant period of time. This is to prevent people from rising to the level of their incompetence.

In some cases, you may be promoted before you're fully aligned with the matrix for the position. This might happen if your manager is extremely confident that you will soon meet all the expectations for the role—we don't want to hold people back in their journey because they're working on a single skill out of 20!

Note that, when you get a promotion, your salary will be adjusted during the next compensation review.

Switching disciplines

Certain departments provide you with the ability to switch disciplines. For instance, if you are a Software Engineer, you may at some point decide to take the management path and become an Engineering Manager.

If you want to switch disciplines, you can do it by talking to your manager. If they think you might be a good fit, they will ask you to check in against the new discipline. This will help you understand whether you already have all the skills you would need, or if you need to work towards meeting some of the expectations for your new role.

Your manager will support you in the transition by assigning you progressively more responsibility until you're fully aligned with the new competency matrix. Once you're ready to take on the new position, you will be officially switched over!