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Old 10-14-2014, 12:13 AM
 
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Is the "Lead engineer" below or above the "Principal engineer" title?
I got promoted to be a Principal not long ago, and now another company contacted me for a job called lead engineer. Would it be a step back or a step forward, for my career?
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Old 10-14-2014, 03:47 AM
 
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To me, it goes like this:

Entry > Associate > Engineer or whatever base title > Senior/Lead > Principal > Senior Principal.

I wouldn't mind a lower title if it means more money and similar or less responsibility.
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Old 10-14-2014, 05:34 AM
 
Location: Cumming, Georgia
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It depends on the company. I'm a Principal Engineer reporting to a Director. Who will you report to? I do not have direct reports under me.

I have taken a lesser job title for more money and responsibilities. A job title is just a label. Don't let it deter you from taking it. It's the role of the job that you need to look closely.
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Old 10-14-2014, 01:19 PM
 
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lateral
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Old 10-15-2014, 11:01 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geekocaster View Post
lateral
Lead is not lateral to Principal.

A Lead is a bull**** designation which means that you are accountable for leading but you aren't compensated for it, you have zero HR powers (no hiring, firing, evals, giving out raises), but you will get reamed out when the team doesn't perform.

My recommendation is to stay the hell away from jobs that have "Lead" in the designation. It's a cheap way for a company to hire a quasi-supervisor without having to pay supervisor rates.

Principal is likely not a supervisory position, but it certainly is above Lead both in compensation as well as in hierarchy.
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Old 10-15-2014, 11:28 AM
 
285 posts, read 268,531 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buenos View Post
Is the "Lead engineer" below or above the "Principal engineer" title?
I got promoted to be a Principal not long ago, and now another company contacted me for a job called lead engineer. Would it be a step back or a step forward, for my career?

Interesting question; this prompted me to join the forum. In the EE world at least (can't speak to other types of engineering), I have always observed that "Principal Engineer" referrers to a very high up, strictly technical position (one of the higher non-management positions in the company), usually reporting to a director. Lead engineer usually refers to the lead on a given project or program, which can be an engineer of any given level.

While were on this topic, does anyone work for a company that uses the title "Project Engineer"? Anyone have an explanation of what purpose (if any) they serve?
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Old 10-15-2014, 01:49 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RarelyRelocating View Post
Lead is not lateral to Principal.

A Lead is a bull**** designation which means that you are accountable for leading but you aren't compensated for it, you have zero HR powers (no hiring, firing, evals, giving out raises), but you will get reamed out when the team doesn't perform.

My recommendation is to stay the hell away from jobs that have "Lead" in the designation. It's a cheap way for a company to hire a quasi-supervisor without having to pay supervisor rates.

Principal is likely not a supervisory position, but it certainly is above Lead both in compensation as well as in hierarchy.
Yeah, perhaps. But a Principal is also an engineer who is typically accountable/responsible for a team.

In my experience titles matter less than the actual compensation and the type of position you want. Agreed that Lead is not a very attractive title.

The OP should look at everything in deciding if something is a step forward or not and know his total comp to the penny (401k matching, total PTO days, total holidays, bonus structure, health insurance costs, merit increase policy etc). Some places trump up titles and some water them down.

Last edited by geekocaster; 10-15-2014 at 02:09 PM..
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Old 10-15-2014, 02:15 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geekocaster View Post
But a Principal is also an engineer who is typically accountable/responsible for a team.
That hasn't been my experience, though my experience is limited to the IT industry.

Principal Engineers are like Solution Architects. They are responsible for designs, but someone else implements those designs. It's usually not a team management position. They may indirectly supervise the implementation team for the duration of the implementation, but they don't directly supervise anyone (no hiring, firing, performance evals), and they usually don't have budget authority. They are simply a very high level technical resource whose time isn't wasted on mundane management issues.
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Old 10-15-2014, 06:01 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RarelyRelocating View Post
That hasn't been my experience, though my experience is limited to the IT industry.

Principal Engineers are like Solution Architects. They are responsible for designs, but someone else implements those designs. It's usually not a team management position. They may indirectly supervise the implementation team for the duration of the implementation, but they don't directly supervise anyone (no hiring, firing, performance evals), and they usually don't have budget authority. They are simply a very high level technical resource whose time isn't wasted on mundane management issues.
That is what I do now as a Principal Engineer.
The question is whether the job in the offer that they called lead engineer will be up or down from that.
There is another aspect to that. In a technical department, expertise/consulting/mentoring/solution requests go to 1-2 people in the team. Now I am that guy, and I don't want to downgrade from it at a new company.
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Old 10-15-2014, 06:32 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buenos View Post
That is what I do now as a Principal Engineer.
The question is whether the job in the offer that they called lead engineer will be up or down from that.
There is another aspect to that. In a technical department, expertise/consulting/mentoring/solution requests go to 1-2 people in the team. Now I am that guy, and I don't want to downgrade from it at a new company.
Without more details I think that it's a downgrade. Ultimately you have to get the details and figure out whether it's up or down given the specifics.

If you want to progress into management then you will need supervisory experience (hiring, firing, performance evals, assigning workloads, managing the schedules, budget authority). You should find out whether the Lead Engineer at the new company has direct reports and how many.

If there are no direct reports then I'd definitely not take the job, unless you hate your current job. If there are direct reports then you have to consider what the next step after Lead Engineer would be in 3-5 years. Most places who hire into middle management require at least 3 years of management experience.
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