Design career frameworks

I started a new role this month leading a small team of product designers at ConvertKit. One of the first things on my list is to create a design career matrix to define the skills and expectations for each design level in our current career path. This isn’t my first time creating a design career ladder, so here are some of the things I’m keeping in mind as I approach it this time:

Loop in people ops early
It’s likely that your people ops team is already thinking about how to standardize role level expectations across the organization, so there is probably already something to build on and you don’t need to start from scratch.

Don’t reinvent the wheel
There are plenty of example design career frameworks out there, so even if your team doesn’t have something to build on, you still don’t need to start from scratch. I’ve linked to some examples below – take what’s close enough to your existing levels and tweak it to work for your team.

Collaborate with your peer managers
Bring your peer design managers into the process of creating a career ladder to gain buy-in and to benefit from a variety of perspectives.

Treat it like any other design discovery project
Conduct research, synthesize your findings, prototype, test and iterate. Your (current and future) team members are your users and your peer managers (and others in people ops and leadership) are the stakeholders – share your work early and often with them.

Keep it simple
Both in terms of the skills (you can’t cover everything) and the formatting (it needs to be easy to modify and keep updated).

Be clear about who the matrix is (or is not) for
If your team includes content strategists, UX writers and/or user researchers, make sure the framework uses language that makes it clear whether the matrix applies to those roles or not. If your matrix is multidisciplinary, be careful with terms like “practitioners” that imply that something applies only to those in a particular discipline or field.

I’ll keep you updated on how our design levels framework comes together at ConvertKIt.

In the meantime, here’s a list of resources that I found helpful in creating a product design career ladders / skill matrices:

Are you working on something like this for your team? What methods or resources have you found helpful?