Locastic, Agile, Nov 28, 20233 min read

Project Manager’s seniority matrix

As the team lead for the Product Management department at Locastic, I created a seniority roadmap — a guide to navigate the professional development of our team. 

The objectives were clear:

  • Implement a standardized framework for assessing the skills and career progression of team members. This matrix serves as the backbone for performance reviews, promotions, and bonuses.
  • Enable project managers (PMs) to gauge their competencies independently and have a clear overview of what’s needed for the next step.
  • Has to be specific enough for the PM role but not too specific as to mention certain techniques or processes in detail as methodologies change, evolve, and differ among projects
  • Associate each tier of the matrix with relevant educational resources, workshops, and courses.
  • Provide clear milestones and guidelines that will help PMs achieve the next step in seniority.
  • Aim to significantly reduce subjective judgment in evaluating the expertise of our team members.

I’ve gone through a number of seniority roadmaps, blogs, and ebooks and took bits and pieces of each one to come up with my own method.  I’ll highlight the most influential resources at the conclusion of this post.

Five levels of seniority

Our refined seniority matrix categorizes career progression into five levels:

  1. Trainee
  2. Junior
  3. Mid
  4. Senior
  5. Lead

Each level is underpinned by eight skill categories: Communication, Time Management, Organization, Planning, Problem-solving, risk management, Business analysis, and leadership.

Mastery of these competencies is cumulative; proficiency must be demonstrated at one level before advancing to the next.

Four Progressive Steps per Level

We’ve divided each seniority level into four steps — sub-levels designed to guide PMs through their career journey. For instance, a “Junior Step 3” PM might exhibit the following attributes:

  • Slowly starts to master the ability to break down projects into tasks without supervision.
  • Has the ability to estimate how long a task will take (most likely).
  • Starts to show ownership of whole (small) projects while still having strong mentorship.
  • Starts to implement minor changes and improvements that improve his own processes.
  • Low responsibility for the final success of the project.

To bridge the gap to the next step, they still need to be able to own assigned projects with less guidance. They need to start actively looking for process improvements and reviewing suggestions with their mentor, etc.

I believe that this way, both the team lead and the team member know exactly what’s expected of them in which stage of their career, and it’s pretty easy to plan out how to achieve the next step. This is especially effective if paired with regular performance reviews containing specific action plans and educational materials that will help guide the PM to the next seniority level. 

Project Manager Seniority Matrix (Open in new tab)

If there’s a disagreement on the topic of evaluated skill level between a team lead and a PM, our roadmap provides a solid foundation for discussion, as it’s quite easy to support your evaluation with concrete examples.

Having seen tangible benefits from implementing the matrix, I decided to share it publicly as it might also benefit your teams. It is still in Google Sheet form, and we might create a cleaner UI and make it part of our website or wiki in the (near) future, but right now, this is what we’re working with. I’m keen to hear your experiences and insights. How do you approach professional development in your teams?

Hope it helps, and let me know your thoughts!

Inspiration and resource list:

Career progressionbuckhill.co.uk

Levels of seniority roadmap.sh

Software Engineer Qualification Levelsaltexsoft.com

Software Engineer Seniority: What are the levels? rootstack.com

Seniority level in software engineeringmadewithlove.com

How we determine seniority levelsbornfight.com

Engineering Career Frameworkdropbox.github.io

Programmer Competency Matrixsijinjoseph.com

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