At Google and Amazon and Facebook, a Distinguished Engineer is equivalent to a Vice President in pay. But how many of those engineers do they have? I'll bet you could name most of them, because they are world famous experts in their fields. How many VPs do they have? Can you name more than a few?
The ratio of DE to VP is about 1 to 100. To be a DE, you need to basically be the best in the world at what you do. To be a VP, you have to be a great manager. In other words, while they may claim to have an equivalent engineering ladder, if you actually want to have a chance of moving up to those levels of pay, you had better go into people management, unless you think you're the best in the world at what you do.
I agree i’ve never heard an understandable explanation as to why a company with 1 or 2 principal engineer level employees can have hundreds of VPs.
One of the biggest things I took issue with was that you had to have some sort of "community involvement" but management had to approve your speaking engagements to some degree (be it time off, messaging approval, etc) so it was quite easy to put up a lot of blockers to achieving that. Who knows- they may have dropped that part.
The most striking thing to me, between this article and what happened in my personal experience, is that I was told "your technical skills are senior level" "but you are too emotional" to promote. I don't deny being emotional but as a reason to deny promotion on a tech track? Would they have said that to a woman or is OK since I'm a man it's not an inappropriate comment?
Funny. I got a direct opposite experience. Being told that I got technical skills, but I focus too much on the technical side and don't consider other engineers' emotions. The team was pretty toxic though and I'm happy I left as soon as my lock-in expired.
Jesus fucking Christ how is that even remotely acceptable as management feedback?
> if you actually want to have a chance of moving up to those levels of pay, you had better go into people management
Your own strengths and weaknesses as an individual are are much more important part of this decision than the baseline probabilities of becoming a DE or VP.