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Recent posts have been advising against people switching to Google at a L4 or L5 because it takes so long to progress to L6 where you can actually lead people, if you’re coming from a role where you have leadership opportunities. Do you agree?

likehelpful
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Strong agree. Other folks will say having an official leadership position doesn't matter within Google, and that's true. BUT it does matter to other companies. So if you come to Google as an L4 / L5 individual contributor, then after a few years want to leave to go to another company you will typically get passed over for management positions because you haven't had official people management experience. Ask me how I know. OTOH if you get the people management experience elsewhere you will usually come into Google at a higher level because it's easy for us to hire in more experienced people managers than it is for us to promote them internally.

TL;DR: get into a leadership position outside Google, then come in more senior.

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As for which level to join at - there is a misconception that if you want you will somehow come in at a higher level.

While there are stories of this happening it's rare at higher levels.

Assuming you are joining Cloud (one of our fastest growing areas) and are joining as a consultant - the question that dictates what level you come in at is determined by your experience delivering complex technical projects in the engineer or architect capacity. Once you get past that question - then I start looking at your softer skills areas (presentation skills, communications etc).

The difference between a level 5 and 6 comes down to a few items.
- do you have a PhD or equivalent knowledge on technical area
- do you know Google cloud at the expert level
- can you bring structure to complex or ambiguous areas
- can you handle the most complect crazy situations
All of this is measured against other googlers.

Your YOE determines which level recruiters target you for but it's your interview experience that determines your level.

It's not like you can walk in as a level 6 because you have 15+ yoe or where a lead / senior / partner elsewhere.

My advice is to take whatever offer you can get (as long as it meets your life goals)

like

Good for your friends that joined as a level 6 with less than 15 yoe

It all depends on the group you are joining

Different groups pay very different levels ...even across the same pay band

Let's talk about leadership.

Every role at google will allow you to lead. I work with people from level 4-7 that lead in some instances and follow on other instances.

Who is leading a discussion or design discussion depends on who has the most experience in that area. That rotates all the time

If you are looking for a traditional consulting leadership role where you set the direction, give orders, people report to you and you give them their rating at the rating at the end of the project. Well those roles don't exist here.

We have people mgrs that manage a team but their role is mostly focused on helping scope complex projects, make sure utilization is solid, deal with escalations and ask their people what they want to to do work wise in order to be happy.

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Who is leading rotates depending on who has the most relevant exp. Spot on!!!

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Depends what your definition of “leading people” is. Do you mean actual people manager role?

I found that even as an L4 PgM, I led work and my opinion was well respected. I may not have been the highest level lead, but collaboration is important at Google

like

Was at Google for a long time. Had a conversation with my directors who candidly recommended that I leave for two years and come back at a lead level since it would be a faster move to become a people manager.

That being said, if I wasn’t SO focused on being a people manager, I would have stayed since the level of leadership experience I got at Google was unparalleled and the pay was more than adequate.


At the end of the day it just depends on what you value. Google is a fantastic place to work, and either will or will not meet your career expectations depending on what is important to you. I can tell you I will for sure go back some day, but definitely not soon either.

likehelpful

Depends on role and part of the business. If you are a hard worker and on a rocket ship product I probably won’t matter much. The comp bands are close and being over-slotted isn’t great.

like

Depends on the ladder. L5 to L6 can be a very tough promotion. Google loves bringing people in from the outside for L7+ roles, so keep that in mind. As another commenter noted, if you want a higher level leadership role at Google then do it somewhere else first.. Fighting to get promoted to director+ feels like a losing battle.

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Spot on! I came in at L5 a couple of years ago from consulting. My peers are now joining at L7 and my juniors at L6. And I am fighting for a promo to L6 :)

If by leadership opportunity you mean people manager, yes I agree. It is brutally hard to go from a L5 IC to a L6 people manager at Google. Most teams have a logjam of ICs at L4 and L5 for a couple reasons:
1. Google only promotes after you demonstrate ability at the next level, but for a lot of teams, L6 ability can only be demonstrated if you are a people manager (Google claims ICs can demonstrate L6 ability, but in reality in most non-SWE teams this isn't the case).
2. When a manger position opens, because there is a logjam of L5s on most teams, the manager position is for L6+ only, since it'd be weird if L5s were managing other L5s.
3. Google only promotes by level, not by role. So even if there is an opening above you that you'd be great for (e.g. entry L6 people manager), if you're not the right level (e.g. you're stuck in the L5 IC logjam), you won't be considered.

The conditions of #1, 2, and 3 devolve into Google hiring a ton of L6 and L7 externally. Which sadly only reinforces this pattern, because it creates an even bigger logjam of L5 ICs that aren't getting promoted, which reinforces #2.

How to fix this? Allow on-the-spot promotions for L5s to L6 if they pass the interview series that would otherwise be given to external candidates.

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If you get paid more and have a better WLB, do you really care if you have a person under you or not?

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I only care in the sense of how future employers will perceive my capabilities and worthiness of hiring. While remote work is possible, I prefer building relationships with coworkers in person. Knowing my family situation, I may not always live in a city with Google. I could see myself moving to Philadelphia to be closer to family and support networks there. Google does not have a presence there, so I would likely need to change jobs. Will jobs with a comparable salary to support my family in Philadelphia demand formal management experience? That’s my concern. I don’t *need* to be dictating/managing people for my own ego or self satisfaction. I fear I will need it in subsequent roles that are available to me locally in a different place than where I live now.

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Coming in earlier at L4 is better. Very easy promo if you spend enough time in role.

It depends where you are in your career. If you’ve been leading teams and managing others for a significant time, it could feel odd to go back to an individual contributor role and also lower level.

My understanding is that L6 is most difficult to get, but L5 can have a good pay range that makes it worth it. Plus some people may want to take a break from managing/leading others.

What is L4 L5 L6? What does it mean?

I agree. Can take up to 8 years between L5 and L6. And as an L6 IC hard to win in interviews against other L6s with people management experience.

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