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I caused a mini Twitter storm – because of some job adverts I posted

It’s taken me a few weeks to get round to writing this. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t angry or upset and I had had enough time to reflect and weigh up all the facts.

I understand what happened fully now and, why people were upset.

But it was a misunderstanding.

A caveat before we get going (although I think it’s okay) I’m in no way saying my employer had anything to do with the mistakes made.

This makes it all sound very serious – it really isn’t.

What happened?

On a Monday morning a few weeks ago I tweeted out 4 roles I am recruiting at Co-op. 2 Lead front-end Engineers and 2 Front-end Engineers.

I went about my day.

Later when I got back to my desk I saw this tweet – and the resulting fallout.

This is normally where I’d embed the tweet. But I won’t be doing that. It feels fair to concentrate on what happened without calling anyone out.

Let’s carry on.

My stomach turned. What awful mistake had I made? I went completely into flight mode so I couldn’t really think straight. I sent a few initial tweets then stopped – as I wasn’t really answering the questions properly. I needed time to think, take a breath and decide what to do.

The problem I had caused

I had posted two different levels of role. A Front-end Engineer and a Lead Front-end engineer.

The Engineering department had posted one role level open – called ‘Software Engineer’.

The tweet was comparing the ‘Front-end Engineer’ to ‘Software Engineer’ and pointing out a huge pay discrepancy. A totally fair point except the comparison was incorrect.

I don’t blame anyone. It’s very easy to see why this was confusing.

Why the comparison was not correct – but was understandable

Front-end Engineer roles are actually grade E roles – junior to mid level. The Software Engineer roles are grade D – a mid to senior level.

The correct comparison would have been the Lead Front-end Engineer and Software Engineer. Both grade D with almost identical pay. There is no pay discrepancy there.

I completely understand why this is confusing. Why aren’t things named similarly? Why didn’t you check what other roles were open before you put them live? Trust me – I’ve asked myself all these questions.

I was a Front-end dev for years and never understood why it was not valued as highly as engineering in the past. I am glad we’re past all that these days and I’m glad to work at a place that values everyone’s skills equally.

That’s why I’m taking the time to write this down.

I care about what happened. Sometimes organisational, historical context and simple oversight can happen – and it’s best to learn from it.

What went wrong?

What I began to realise as the day wore on was that a lot of small differences in the adverts and the way our departments are organised had built up to create a huge looking problem.

I was trying to target my adverts

Engineering have a lot of roles open all the time – so they have a generic advert. It makes sense. The advert is always live waiting for applications. Not having this would cause a lot of extra work for them.

That works for them.

I’ve never had much luck with generic adverts in the past. Maybe I’ve written them badly. I’m not sure. I thought I’d try to target my adverts. I’ve had feedback in the past that people want to know what they’ll be working on. That meant creating adverts targeted to the team they’d be on and the role level.

The structure of design and engineering is different

Here’s a thing we need to tackle internally. Front-end falls under design at Co-op Engineering is a different area run by different people. There’s reasons for this – and it’s contextual to our organisation.

The reality is that once someone works here all divisions between job titles fall away.

What we do need to do is rationalise our job titles

In Engineering there is no Lead. Just a sliding scale from mid to senior. All with the same title. In Design we have ‘Designer’, ‘Lead Designer’, and ‘Principal Designer’ (me). People have different specialisms within that like User researcher or Front-end engineer’. The reason for that is that we want everyone to have some knowledge, appreciation and maybe do a bit of – each thing.

Front-end is in design because they are in many ways the closest link to the product and the customer so it is hugely important (in my opinion) that they have a user centred approach. Not that software engineers don’t by the way – it’s just a bit different.

There was not prefix on the Front-end engineer advert

Rightly that meant that the Front-end engineer advert looked comparable to the Software engineering advert.

I didn’t look what other jobs were advertised

Had I done that. I might have spotted what the rest of Twitter had. That – comparatively – looked bad.

I live and learn

Things like this make you better. They make you want to be better.

I hope this blog post goes some way to explaining what happened.

Written by

Service and interaction design. Product, team management and front-end engineering. matt.tyas.fyi

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