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I am in a dilemma about a job offer from a top 10 semiconductor companies in SF bay area. I have about 10 years of experience at various small to large (> $1 billion) companies in bay area. After my Graduate degree about 10 years ago I started at a big company in Bay area as as Sr Engineer. However, due to job change after a 5 years from that position, more job changes afterward, and not caring too much about titles, I am currently (still) a Sr Engineer at another company. Having had so many years of experience in Hi-tech I now realize that titles are important too.

The dilemma is that this offer from another company also is for a Senior Software Engineer, and not a Staff or MTS title, which I after some investigation realize to be higher titles than just Sr engineer. Should I be asking the company (and its recruiter) to give me a higher title than a Sr Sw Engineer; is that expectation reasonable?

I had the same Sr Engineer title 7 years ago and after many job experiences and a graduate degree I think I should be acknowledged by the new company making the job offer as a higher staff engineer.

Is there any way to find information about the company hierarchy as I can not trust the information company's recruiter is giving me due to his vested interest? There are reviews about the company on sites like glassdoor but they do not provide a chance to put questions to employees. Are there any interactive websites/forums for Hi-tech employees (hardware design as well as software) where one could ask such question and hopefully get an answer from someone working at the company?

PS: If needed, the company regularly appears in googled list of top 20 semiconductor corporation by sale for every year.

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-1: this question is too localised to you. It does not apply to programmers in general. –  Matt Ellen Apr 7 '11 at 7:44
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@Matt: I do not agree. It can serve as a basis for a general discussion about careers and titles. –  jv42 Apr 7 '11 at 7:53
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@jv42 I see a discussion of titles as too general (applying to any profession) and the same as with the career aspect. I think this is reflected in the 2 answers so far. So -1 anyway! –  Matt Ellen Apr 7 '11 at 8:00
    
@Matt: I see what you mean, still disagree :) –  jv42 Apr 7 '11 at 8:16
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8 Answers

Titles/positions are very subjective and company specific. In fact I've never heard of the position Staff Engineer before (but maybe I am moving in the wrong circles).

I don't think many people would pay a lot of attention to the difference between "Senior" vs "Staff" appearing in your CV sometime in the future (and if some recruiter does, it's probably a sign of a workplace you wouldn't want to work at anyway :-). The main thing (from the recruiter's perspective) is (or at least should be) whether you can do the job, get things done, solve problems efficiently and correctly. And from your perspective, what is your actual role(s), responsibilities, job grade in the company's system etc. going to be.

The only way to decide what (and whether there is any) significant difference between those positions in that company is indeed to contact current or ex employees of the specific company and ask them.

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Professional Networking Sites such as Linkedin.

  • Contact the employee's directly through blogs,Networking sites, Tech forums.
  • For Dirt contact ex employees (This may vary sometimes due to many factors such as nature,how long ago they worked,position held and their relation with the company).

It all depends on the extent of your search efforts. Google works both ways i.e for the employer and the employee .

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Job titles mean nothing. The only real recognition of your experience, seniority, and skill is your compensation package. Ignore everything else.

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…your comsensation package and the satisfaction of a job well done. Without that feeling of satisfaction, even the most generous compensation package leaves one feeling hollow. –  Johnsyweb Apr 7 '11 at 21:58
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I agree, titles shouldn't matter that much, but I also discovered as you did only late in life that titles DO matter, especially if you work for bigger companies. In the smaller companies I do agree, this doesn't carry much weight. However, for bigger companies, this will definitely count against you if it is you and 1 or 2 other people in the running for the final selection.

As for "staff", I find that this title mostly occurs in US companies. I would try to ask for a "higher" title for the simple reason that in bigger companies your title also determines the pay scale you are in and by how much you can be bumped up each year. (If you are at the top of your pay scale they will not give you a raise because "you are at the top of your payscale").

I know, I know, this shouldn't happen and the world should work different but unfortunately this is reality for some of us, if this doesn't apply to you in your company, be thankful.

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Forgot to add....depending on how interesting the job/company is and how badly you want the position, it might be worth it to ask for this but not push too hard. Also, don't mention anything about money but make it more about recognition of your skills and ability! –  NomadAlien Apr 7 '11 at 13:07
    
You can, and should, edit your answer to add more information. –  ChrisF Apr 7 '11 at 22:01
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I wouldn't worry too much about a job title. The same job title might mean completely different things at different companies. Try to find out what tasks are expected in that position during the job interview. Then make your decision.

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As AdityaGameProgrammer, professional networking sites are a great place to check up on what the titles at a given company might mean, additionally, company review sites such as Glassdoor.com can also be quite useful as well.

That said, what the others are saying in regards to titles not meaning much is generally quite true as one companies Programmer I might be a Programmer II at another company. So what is generally more important is the job title within the company (i.e. where does it sit in the company hierarchy) as well as the salary bands that the titles fall into. If you are still in the hiring process and are a senior level candidate, the company should be willing to disclose this information to you and you should just ask the recruiter. Most companies have this hidden somewhere in the company intranet, but still available to employees so that they can plan their career development.

Also, something else to ask them about is how the title determinations are made within the company as this can also prove to be useful during your negotiations. But all of that said, worry more about the salary band they want to put you in as opposed to the title they give you: you want to make sure they don't give you a different title but no additional pay just because you are asking about it.

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A developer is a developer is a developer. Titles frankly are irrelevant, I had a snazzy title at my previous organization, but it really didn't mean too much. The pay grade was dependent on technical competency.

When a job was advertised, it looked for a specific set of skills and some relevant years of experience, not for a specific title. Depending on your expertise a relevant grade would be selected during the contract negotiations.

Where I work now, we're all just developers, some have more (or less) experience, but titles again are irrelevant - we do a job we enjoy!

So, the fundamental question is, is the work offered something you want to do? If it's not, find another opportunity - if it is and you think you'll enjoy it, does it really matter what you are called??

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Title IS important - it should accurately reflect the responsibility developer shoulders and is indicative of whether his or her contributions and capabilities are acknowledged in the organization he or she works at. Saying that title does not matter is somewhat dismissive and shows a lack of interest, if not ignorance, of the larger picture of how engineering business and engineering industry works. –  user22353 Apr 7 '11 at 19:12
    
@WKN, so what does "staff engineer" vs. "senior software engineer" tell you about the person? Titles are for folk who want to play politics in the office.. Everyone else just gets on with it.. –  Nim Apr 7 '11 at 20:41
    
I disagree slightly, titles are important to the extent that they are generally tied to salary bands and having a higher title could mean a significantly larger paycheck at the end of the day. –  rjzii Apr 7 '11 at 21:51
    
@Rob, that's the neat thing with a site like this, we can agree to disagree. As I said in my answer at my previous place, your technical level was almost secret (this controlled your pay), we had outward titles like Analyst/VP/MD etc, aside from MD, the others really didn't mean much in terms of pay... The thing is that a random sample from this site, will come across a plethora of different situations where it's most likely that no two are alike, IMHO, titles like Senior this or that is simply fanning egos... –  Nim Apr 8 '11 at 7:34
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Title IS important - it should accurately reflect the responsibility developer shoulders and is indicative of whether his or her contributions and capabilities are acknowledged in the organization he or she works at. Saying that title does not matter is somewhat dismissive and shows a lack of interest, if not ignorance, of the larger picture of how engineering business and engineering industry works.

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I have to disagree. You might feel it >should< be that way, but with > 25 years in the industry, my experience is that titles are entirely idiosyncratic to individual organizations, and not comparable between organizations. –  Charles E. Grant Apr 7 '11 at 21:30
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