Navigating a career in leading technology companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook has a unique journey marked by distinct engineering levels. These corporations have revolutionized how we live, work, and communicate, and their engineering hierarchies reflect their commitment to excellence and innovation.
This article summarizes the engineering levels within these tech giants, shedding light on the career progression pathways, challenges, skills, and processes you can expect as you embark on a professional journey.
A general interview process may have the following steps:
- Application: Start by applying online through the organization’s careers portal or job portals.
- Resume Screening: The HR team reviews your resume and qualifications.
- Phone Screen: A recruiter may conduct an initial phone screen to assess whether your profile fits the role.
- Technical Interviews: This stage typically includes multiple technical interviews, often conducted by current engineers and seniors. The format can vary but usually involves coding, problem-solving, and technical discussions.
- Onsite Interviews: For more senior roles, you might be invited for in-person interviews at an onsite office. These may include additional technical interviews and behavioral assessments.
- Behavioral Interviews: For leadership positions, you can expect interviews that assess your leadership, decision-making, and teamwork skills.
- Hiring Committee: A committee reviews your interview feedback and decides.
Below are the skills that are mandatory for engineering positions across organizations:
- Coding and Algorithms: Strong coding skills, algorithmic knowledge, and problem-solving abilities are essential, especially for entry-level positions.
- Data Structures: Proficiency in data structures and their applications is crucial.
- System Design: For more senior roles, you’ll need expertise in designing complex systems.
- Domain Knowledge: Depending on the team, knowledge of specific domains such as machine learning, networking, or distributed systems may be required. For example, iOS development and macOS knowledge are necessary in the Apple interview process.
- Soft Skills: Effective communication, collaboration, and adaptability are valued at all levels.
- Leadership: As you progress to higher levels, leadership and managerial skills become increasingly important.
- Competitive Selection: These tech giants attract top talent globally, making the competition fierce.
- Complex Technical Interviews: The technical interviews can be challenging, requiring in-depth knowledge of data structures, algorithms, and problem-solving under pressure.
- Cultural Fit: These organizations strongly emphasize cultural fit, so candidates should align with the company’s values and mission.
- Adaptability: Engineers must continuously learn and adapt as technology evolves to stay relevant.
- Scaling and Complexity: You’ll face complex technical challenges at higher levels, often involving scaling products to millions or billions of users.
- Leadership Expectations: Leadership roles guide teams and make high-impact decisions.
- Innovation: Engineers are expected to contribute to groundbreaking technologies and products.
- Attention to Detail: These top tech companies are renowned for their meticulous attention to detail, and engineers are expected to maintain high quality in their work.
- Design Excellence: Engineers are expected to ensure that products are functional and aesthetically pleasing.
In the next sections, let us look at the different engineering levels in these organizations.
L2(Level 2): Software Engineer I
An intern in the final year of an engineering degree or a fresh college graduate is hired at L2.
L3(Level 3): Software Engineer II
An undergraduate or master’s degree engineer is a good fit at L3 with 0-1 years of experience.
L4(Level 4): Software Engineer III
Google hires engineers with 2-4 years of experience or a Ph.D. at L4.
L5(Level 5): Senior Software Engineer
Engineers with 6+ years of work experience are hired at L5.
L6(Level 6): Staff Software Engineer
Manager roles and responsibilities start at this level with 10+ years of experience.
L7(Level 7): Senior Staff Software Engineer
This level is equivalent to a Senior Manager role with 10+ years of experience.
L8(Level 8): Principal Software Engineer
This leadership role is equivalent to a Director role in an organization.
L9(Level 9): Distinguished Software Engineer
Technically accomplished individual with leadership qualities and is equivalent to a Senior Director role.
L10(Level 10): Google Fellow
L10 is a senior role equivalent to a Vice President, runs individual projects or research, and manages a few thousand engineers.
L11(Level 11): Google Senior Fellow
At L11, a Google Senior Fellow is the equivalent of a Senior Vice President.
L4(Level 4): SDE I
Fresh college graduates are hired at L4 as entry-level Amazon Software Engineer Level 4 in Amazon.
L5(Level 5): SDE II
After 2-3 years of experience, SDE I is promoted to SDE II.
L6(Level 6): SDE III
Level 6 engineers require around 8 years of experience.
L7(Level 7): Principal SDE
This leadership position requires leading a team of engineers with around 10 years of experience.
L8(Level 8): Senior Principal SDE
Level 8 is equivalent to a Director role requiring more than 10 years of experience handling complex systems.
L10(Level 10): Distinguished SDE
Level 8 or 10 have very few people in the organization. Level 10 positions include a CTO (Chief Technical Officer), Vice President (VP), or Distinguished SDE.
E3(Level 1): Software Engineer I
Level I is generally tailored for individuals seeking internships where they operate under the direct guidance of their supervisors.
E4(Level 2): Software Engineer II
Level II Software Engineers (SWEs) are expected to have a foundational understanding of software application design with a minimum of two to four years of practical experience.
E5(Level 3): Software Engineer III
Level III Software Engineers (SWEs) at Facebook must possess at least five years of engineering experience and may serve as entry-level Software Engineering Managers.
E6(Level 4): Software Engineer IV
Level IV Software Engineers (SWEs) lead considerably larger teams of Software Engineers and operate independently, typically having approximately a decade of experience.
E7(Level 5): Software Engineer V
E7 Engineers are equivalent to Principal Engineers and lead large technical and non-technical planning teams.
E8(Level 6): Software Engineer VI
E8 is equivalent to the Director (D1) level, where their primary job role revolves around enhancing company culture, formulating policies, initiating large-scale projects, and integrating emerging technological approaches.
ICT2(Level 1): Software Engineer I
Level 1 is the entry-level position; usually, new graduates are hired at this level.
ICT3(Level 2): Software Engineer II
Software engineers with an intermediate experience level are hired at this level.
ICT4(Level 3): Software Engineer III
3-5 years of experience in software development is required for this level and is equivalent to a Senior Software Engineer position.
ICT5(Level 4): Software Engineer IV
This senior team member level is equivalent to a Team Lead or a Staff Engineer.
ICT6(Level 5): Software Engineer V
This senior level is equivalent to a Principal Engineer role.
Apple employs a consistent nomenclature for its senior staff, refraining from designating unique titles. Instead, all software engineers are uniformly addressed as Software Engineers, complemented by a rank that signifies their level of seniority.
The job title is Intern, and fresh college graduates are hired for this level.
The job title is Contractor with different experience years.
Level 59 – 60: Software Development Engineer (SDE) I
The job title at these levels is Software Development Engineer (SDE), and there are two distinct salary tiers for entry-level software development engineers, designated as levels 59 and 60.
Level 61 – 62: Software Development Engineer (SDE) II
The job title at these levels is SDE II, with experience of 2-5 years.
Level 63-64: Senior Software Development Engineer (Senior SDE)
The job title at these levels is Senior SDE, with experience of around 8 years.
Level 65-67: Principal Software Development Engineer (Principal SDE)
The job title at these levels is Principal SDE, with experience of around 12 years.
Level 68-69: Partner Software Development Engineer (Partner SDE)
The job title at these levels is Partner SDE, with experience of 12-16 years.
Level 70-69: Partner Software Development Engineer (Partner SDE)
The job titles at these levels are Vice President and Distinguished Engineer, with experience of 17-25 years.
Level 80+: Technical Fellow
The job title at this level is Technical Fellow, with experience of 25+ years.
Resources to Read
- Full-Stack Engineer: Job Description and Responsibilities
- Scrum vs. Kanban vs. Lean: Choosing Your Path in Agile Development
- Director of Engineering Cheat Sheet
- Apple, Google, Meta, Amazon, or Microsoft: who offers the best compensation to techies
- Top-25 VP of Engineering Interview Questions
In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike. And no two journeys along the same path are alike. – Paulo Coelho
Tech giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook demonstrate the structured progression and diverse career paths available for engineers within these organizations. From entry-level positions with opportunities for skill development to more senior roles encompassing leadership and strategic responsibilities, these companies offer a framework for career growth.
Each organization may have its terminology and criteria, but they all share a commitment to fostering talent and innovation in the ever-evolving landscape of technology. If you aspire to join them, consider these engineering levels carefully when planning career trajectories within these influential tech companies.