The MOIA Ice Cream Model of Growth and Career

by Finn Lorbeer, Waqas Ahmed and Yannick Block

The Difference Between “Career” and “Growth”

People often discuss how to advance their careers. This is often associated with climbing the corporate ladder and is commonly either achieved by getting promoted or switching employers. Here at MOIA, we have established a different way to pursue your growth.

A higher position comes with different responsibilities and higher pay check. There is nothing wrong with that, but often the focus lies purely on achieving the next rung of the career ladder level and not so much on skill development.

Moving up the corporate ladder is the result of a strategy. Often, to move up you will need to develop a plan and follow predefined steps. For example, a traditional senior software engineer role might require a minimum of three years of experience and a good grasp of technical skills. Some people might choose to do their daily job, which improves their skills enough to get a promotion after three years of experience. However, limiting your own growth is not an excellent choice.

A different approach would be to continuously focus on learning new things and improving yourself. You should rather put in the effort to grow in areas you are passionate about than only trying to reach a specific position. Positions will/can just be a byproduct of what you choose to focus on.

The Ice Cream Model

Inside MOIA’s tech department we recognized the difference between career and growth, and explicitly gave it two different names: “Growth” and “Roles”. That helps in avoiding the ambiguity between an individuals’ growth and their career ladder progression. We completely removed the industry prevalent notion of career progression in terms of ladder, e.g., check some boxes on a predefined list and if you can convince enough people, you get the next title. That kind of thinking focuses much more on titles instead of what one really wants to do in their daily work. Some may end up doing stuff just to check boxes instead of what they really want to do. We really want to avoid that, and you can clearly see that manifested in our guiding principles. At MOIA, you can focus on your passions and figure out how to create a wider and deeper impact without someone giving you a prescription to follow. We call this the Ice Cream Model of contribution and impact.

Guiding principels

From an organizational perspective, we want people to contribute in the best way they can — at their full individual potential. To achieve this, we derived some guiding principles as for what’s important to us. We value:

  • People who follow their passion over individual growth on a checklist
  • Specialization as much as lateral development over a 1-dimensional career ladder
  • Individual paths over one-size-fits-all careers

Obviously, personal growth is very individual, so we prefer to provide orientation rather than checklists.

Roles at MOIA Tech

That’s all well and good, but what actual paths and roles are we talking about? Let us provide some examples, while keeping in mind that these roles add to your daily contribution to your team (e.g. being a software developer).

Technical Designer

Technical designers advocate for technical excellence, collaboration and knowledge sharing. They inspire the team, create a safe environment, and contribute to the team happiness. They help facilitate the collaboration with other teams and product owners, and act as a communication interface. They drive the product discovery and software delivery together with the agile coaches and product owners within the individual teams.

Chapter Lead

Chapter leads have a high level of empathy and help talents grow by mentoring, coaching, regular 1:1s, peer counseling, continuous feedback and conflict resolution. They also contribute to shaping the tech org culture and hire new talents.

Hiring Manager

While we have great colleagues in our People & Relations team. However, the ones who know the team, product and tech stack best are those who are part of the team themselves. That is why the Hiring Managers should also be part of the team that is looking a hire a new member. They are the point of contact for said People & Relations team, do interviews with candidates, facilitate “try days” and try to give candidates the best possible experience in the application process.

Subject Matter Expert

Subject matter experts drive technical excellence in their field of expertise. They advocate for excellence, drive sustainable implementations of concepts, and ensure the quality of design and consistency of solution approaches. But even more importantly, they help to grow their colleagues’ expertise.

Examples

For us it is important that there is no career automation. Changing into a management position is not the single way to pursue a “career”. If you go down that road, you might push people into positions they don’t actually want to be in. We definitely want to avoid this, as it neither helps the unhappy manager nor the organziation in general. So, what could a custom career path at MOIA look like? Here are some examples:

  • You start as an Android developer, you learn more and more about backend and become a full-stack developer
  • You start as a data engineer, learn a lot in the area of machine learning and become a true subject matter expert in ML
  • You start as a frontend developer, do a lot of workshops around communication, feedback and people management, help in hiring and become a Hiring Manager or Chapter Lead
  • You start as a recruiter in P&R, specialize in active sourcing, learn how to become a quality specialist and through the combination of your people management skills and quality specialist knowledge eventually become a Chapter Lead for quality specialists

Salary Raises

You might wonder how salary raises work within this framework, as we do not want people to follow career checklists. We appreciate the contributions people bring to MOIA in various ways and want to reward them accordingly. So how do we accomplish this?

Our people leadership structure follows the chapter model: each Chapter Lead is not just responsible for the individual growth of each individual chaptee, but also responsible for a fair salary distribution within the chapter. With the help of the ice cream model (as explained above), Chapter Leads are assessing fair salaries based on the contributions of each individual chaptee. We then combine all raises in a three-staged review process. This allowed us to reduce the gender pay gap and other biases that existed before (past tense!), which makes us very proud of our process. Also unusual is that we do not do salary negotiations. As known in literature, people who are good at negotiating, will receive higher raises than others. We do not want to pay the better negotiator, but the better contributor.

Of course, as in other salary processes, mistakes may happen here as well, or an individual assessment may not have been entirely correct, or many other things of the real world may collide with our simple model. Thus, we are open for people to challenge the outcomes and adjust where necessary.

Social Networks

When we get rid of industry’s standard titles within MOIA, how does that synchronize with the outside world? How do you communicate your skill level, if the outside expects you to define it in terms of vague titles like “Team Lead” “Senior Engineer” or “Staff Engineer”, where all those titles can mean the same work in practice or different work depending on the respective company and their expectations out of the title? For that we opted to let people use whatever title they think makes sense and works best for them. For example, if someone working at MOIA fancies putting their title as the “Tech lead” or “Architect” on LinkedIn, they are free to do that — it is a private social network after all. However, this doesn’t necessarily reflect how we work internally at MOIA.

Final thoughts

What we are achieving here is to build true growth opportunities for all kinds of people. Everyone can follow their passion and what they are most interested in. This is truly awesome for everyone. However, it is also great for the company, since it allows MOIA to have people work in positions they are most effective in (usually an area of passion and skill yields good outcomes). Another benefit is, that one does not have to follow a line of “management” to make “career” or to grow at MOIA.

With our model that supports various directions, we hope to find a path for every employee. One that they feel comfortable on and that helps them grow.

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