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Alembic career progression rubric

Alembic is a Sydney-based software development consultancy. Alembic partners with their clients to create business-focused software, balancing usability and simplicity with business goals. Alembic was growing rapidly and needed to evolve their culture for their new scale. They needed consistency and visibility of skills development and remuneration expectations to drive conversations with team members about career growth.

When the Covid pandemic started we transitioned to remote-only, and our first priority was ensuring our team did not feel isolated from one another. We engaged Blackmill to help as Elle and Lachlan have deep experience with improving engineering culture, being engineers themselves. We entrusted them to come into our business, evaluate, and propose how they could best help us.

Through direct engagement with our team they helped us manage change, and provided us with an approach that worked really well for us. They maintained an independent and fearless focus, and have helped us achieve the results we wanted. Our team is thriving, very deeply connected, and aligned on who we are and how we work. It’s a brilliant outcome.

Suzie Price, Managing Director, Alembic


  1. The team wanted salary band transparency.
  2. The engineering team didn't know where to best focus their attention for professional development.
  3. Everyone wanted competency assessments to have mitigations for unconscious biases.
  4. Mentors wanted a tool to guide career progression discussions with their mentees.
  5. The hiring process was successful but ad hoc and needed to scale. Standardising salary negotiation was difficult.


  1. Discovery included a review of existing career progression frameworks from other companies.
  2. We decided on the rubric dimensions suitable for a consultancy. We included an aspect covering business and consulting services.
  3. We drafted the first version of the framework and shared it with the mentors to review. The mentors provided feedback and raised many questions.
  4. We facilitated sessions with the mentors to address concerns and adjust specifics.
  5. We rolled out the lower levels of the rubric to the wider engineering team. Then finalised the rest of the rubric. We were very conscious of possible impact and concerns from the team. Thus we took care to present the change well.
  6. We discussed competitive compensation considering the current market with the Alembic CFO.
  7. We reviewed the rubric one more time to ensure standardised language across levels.


  1. Delivered a career progression rubric customised for consulting work.
  2. Provided a framework for quality performance discussions and feedback, decreasing unconscious biases.
  3. Defined competencies and aligned expectations on how to show competencies across levels.
  4. Streamlined the hiring process.
  5. Standardised compensation across the team.

The rubric outlines consultant's competencies and responsibilities separated into five dimensions:

  • Technical craft and knowledge
  • Delivery and diligence
  • Business and consulting
  • Leadership and communication
  • Scope and Impact


Rolling out the career progression framework went well. Feedback from the team was that:

  • the rubric was thorough,
  • well laid out,
  • helped address imposter syndrome,
  • was well implemented, and
  • a fresh change.

The career progression rubric helped writing job descriptions. It standardised conversations around performance reviews. It helped align team expectations. It helped simplify salary negotiations and making compensation more fair across the team. The rubric now serves as the basis for professional development conversations. Catch-ups between a consultant and their mentor provide an opportunity for regular feedback.

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