Developing Developers and Designers — a Career Map

Development is at the core of Varvet. But not just the development of mobile apps and web services that we help our clients with, but also our own development as individuals and as a company. Iterative improvements based on feedback is the foundation of how we run our projects and how we run the company.

Inspired by companies like Basecamp and Buffer we decided that we needed more clarity and transparency around what this means in practice, so we created our own career map. Or rather, our own “career onion”, since we illustrate the different roles as layers of an onion.

Here is an excerpt from our handbook that describes the different roles of developers and designers at Varvet (and Universal Avenue), and our reasoning around them. If you think any of these roles sound appealing, please take a look at our job openings!

Titles and responsibility at Varvet

This document outlines what we expect from colleagues of varying responsibility at Varvet. It’s organized as an Onion of Wisdom™, a collection of qualities that employees should strive for in order to make themselves useful as co-workers and employees. A fresh recruit straight out of school will start at the center and slowly work themselves outward through the layers as they gain knowledge and experience, while people with previous experience will be slotted into a layer when recruited and work from there. The onion is cumulative, so any lessons learned at lower levels are assumed to have carried over to the next level. Some qualities, however, can fade into the background as a maker progresses through their career: it’s ok to be a bit less curious as you gain experience, no need to eagerly hurl yourself at every hot new framework when you’ve seen the last ten come and go. We’ve put a little list of keywords below each role to illustrate the demeanor one would expect of a colleague at that level, and those don’t need to carry over either.

The Role Map defines employees of Varvet as “Makers”, a blanket term that covers both the developer and designer role. It follows a straight outward path until the outermost layer, where you get to pick your own path: strive for mastery in your craft as an Expert, or mastery over process and leadership skills as a Lead. There will be hybrids - and that’s encouraged! - but we think it’s in everyone’s best interest to make a conscious choice. We’re not all cut out for politics and sales, or deep arcane technical knowledge.

To progress to the next level, a maker should to hit all the bullet points defined for that role. Some are binary. Some are a continuum. Some might be impossible to hit for an individual maker in a given timeframe, because not all projects are alike, and edge cases happen. There’ll always be some leeway in the onion, but the guiding principle is to stay as true to it as we can.

It’s also fine to stay and hang around in a layer. The further out you go the more responsibility you’re expected to shoulder, and the company doesn’t take it for granted that everyone is in a situation to do this. While there is an indication of “years of experience” in there, it can be thought of as a threshold and shorthand for having built a number of real-world projects and learned from them. You can be a Maker for 20 years if that’s what you need.

Every layer comes with a fixed monthly pay, and that sum will be adjusted by a yearly percentage as stipulated by our collective agreement. Varvet will also apply a cost of living multiplier: Gothenburg is considered the baseline and the Stockholm multiplier is set to 1.1.

Behold the mighty Onion:


Area of responsibility: their own learning.

  • Focuses on growing as a maker, learning existing tools and processes
  • Learns from more experienced colleagues and actively seeks them out, pairing up as much as possible
  • Develops their productivity skills by learning the tools of the trade and testing best practices
  • Comfortable presenting and discussing their work and progress

Keywords: humble, open, dedicated

Maker I

Area of responsibility: their own work.

  • Basic working knowledge in their field
  • Is able to pair or mob with more experienced colleagues on real projects
  • Gets their work reviewed by colleagues to gain more advanced understanding
  • Can work on small, discrete chunks of work alone
  • Accepts feedback graciously and learns from it
  • Able to use our tool chain to coordinate and plan their work
  • Acts professionally both with clients and colleagues, and with small things like submitting time sheets and showing up to meetings on time
  • Rarely makes the same mistake twice
  • Communicates assumptions and gets clarification on tasks up front to minimize the need for rework

Usually less than 2 years of professional experience in their domain.

Keywords: eager, courageous, passionate

Maker II

Area of responsibility: their project.

  • Advanced knowledge in their field, capable of taking on broader roles
  • Can manage projects and work inside our tool chain
  • Comfortable expressing opinions in meetings and communicating with clients
  • Takes the initiative to fix issues before being assigned them
  • Can be thrown into current projects and be expected to follow established standards and processes
  • Updates and coordinates their work with clients, raising issues and pre-empting problems
  • Assists in sales by specifying and estimating projects
  • Takes active responsibility for their own time and utilization
  • Is able to write blog posts and participate in our Open Source work
  • Pairs with less experienced makers and helps them get unstuck
  • Possesses empathy with the user of the software they are producing and uses that empathy to guide decision making

Usually requires 2-5 years of professional experience in their domain.

Keywords: focused, considerate, thorough

Maker III

Area of responsibility: Their department.

  • Deep and impressive knowledge in their field
  • Proactively identifies problems with requirements (lack of clarity, inconsistencies, technical limitations), and takes initiative to fix it
  • Acts as a mentor and helps train and improve others
  • Identifies opportunities to increase company-wide utilization
  • Gets their work noticed outside the company when they can: for instance by writing blog posts, doing Open Source work, attending meetups etc
  • Identifies and tackles technical/design debt before it grows and requires significant work to resolve
  • Deep experience of software projects, knows common pitfalls and strategies that have worked for us in the past
  • Attempts to identify business opportunities in their network
  • Researches and proposes new technologies and methods for us to adopt
  • Makes well-reasoned and grounded estimates and manages client expectations
  • Delivers quality work at a reliable pace
  • Understanding of the whole stack: can design applications and APIs, weigh in on infrastructure and scaling etc (Developers)

Usually requires 5-8 years of professional experience in their domain.

Keywords: well-rounded, mentoring, skillful

At this point, the outer layer splits in two. Choose wisely:


Area of responsibility: the company.

  • Sought out for guidance, anticipates issues, and makes decisions to avoid them
  • Capable of delving into the most complicated systems
  • Consistently able to reduce the complexity of projects, services, and processes in order to get more done with less work
  • Has made an obvious positive impact on the entire company's technical or design trajectory
  • Leads and inspires conversations internally about the direction of major areas of technology or design
  • Seen as a role model to technical or design members of the team
  • Capable of solving the toughest problems that the team encounters

Usually requires 8 years of professional experience in their domain.

Keywords: masterful, luminous, recognized


Area of responsibility: the company.

  • Defines, documents, and promotes our processes, standards, and ideas. Both through their own actions as a role model, and as a mentor actively coaching more junior team members.
  • High-level perspective balancing tradeoffs between company, product, and team needs
  • Leads workshops, retros, and external meetings
  • Leads teams in our most complex projects with many moving parts
  • Works proactively with recruitment, finding potential candidates, defining roles, etc.
  • Takes responsibility for quality and satisfaction, follows up on projects, and suggests next course of action

Usually requires 8 years of professional experience in their domain.

Keywords: communicative, responsible, directing

Would you like to know more? Contact us or apply to any of our job openings!