Horizontal vs Vertical Career Growth for Software Engineers | Which One Is Right for You?
So you’ve been a Software Engineer for a while and you’re asking yourself about the next steps in your career path.
Rightly so. The best way to grow in a given job is to know the next steps you should take (and what actions are expected from you). By knowing your options and what is needed from you to achieve them, you’re able to make meaningful progress in your career.
Perhaps you find yourself wondering, “what is the best direction to take when choosing between a vertical or horizontal career path as a software developer?”
On the one hand, you could become a team lead and finally be in a role where one of your primary responsibilities includes managing people. On the other hand, you could choose to become a more specialized Senior Software Engineer, gaining more responsibilities as a result (and most likely an attractive pay raise to illustrate your new position).
Before making a decision, it’s key to know what each direction entails so that you can choose your path wisely.
That’s why today, we will be diving into the key differences between becoming a Software Engineer Team Lead or a Senior Software Engineer, the responsibilities of each role, and the expected pay for each in both Switzerland and Germany.
What Is Horizontal Vs Vertical Career Growth?
Horizontal career growth describes any professional path that takes you into a new department, industry, or functional role. Vertical growth, on the other hand, relates to ascending up traditional corporate ladders.
Software Engineer Career Path
Has the great resignation affected you?
Regardless of whether you’ve been through a drastic career pivot and are new to software engineering, or if you’ve been at it for a while, there are certainly exciting things to look forward to in your career.
As you learn new technical skills to enhance your knowledge base and gain more experience as a software engineer, new doors and opportunities will be bound to open.
But as you progress in your career as a software engineer, you’ll eventually need to make the decision:
- Do you continue working with code?
- Or do you use your software development knowledge to lead teams?
Horizontal vs Vertical Career Growth for Software Engineers
Getting a promotion is primarily considered an instance of vertical career growth.
It’s one of the most common ways that organizations acknowledge a new level of skills or responsibilities of a given employee in a certain job function. It means going up the corporate hierarchy, and gaining more accountability and status within a company.
On the other hand, an example of horizontal career growth would be an internal job switch. Horizontal career growth reflects that a given employee will acquire a completely new set of technical skills. A basic example of horizontal career growth could be shifting from sales to marketing (not the same department, but your skills are transferable regardless).
Usually, vertical career growth is also followed by a salary raise. That’s because the more knowledge and responsibilities that software engineers have, the more valuable they are in the job they perform.
Software Engineer Team Lead (Horizontal Career Growth)
Typically, a software engineer who wishes to grow into a managerial role will need to focus on developing people management and project management skills.
What specifically does it mean to be a tech team lead?
A software engineer team lead manages team responsibilities and efficiency – whether that be for every tech team member within a startup, or a niche department within a larger organization. This role is in charge of analyzing the entire project, identifying errors, and conducting troubleshooting. As team leads, they are also in charge of ensuring that all deadlines are met and that work is conducted efficiently.
Expected pay in Switzerland
An experienced Software Team Leader with 10-19 years of experience earns an average total compensation in Switzerland (includes bonus and overtime pay) of around 130,000 CHF based on 12 salaries.
Expected pay in Germany
In Germany, on the other hand, the national average salary for a Lead Software Engineer is €75,493 per year according to Glassdoor.
What do they do?
Software Engineer Team Leads are those in charge of the team’s execution, the quality of the outcome, and the team’s overall efficiency and culture as a whole. These tech team leaders are problem solvers and the ones who will find technical solutions to settle team bottlenecks.
Senior Software Engineer (Vertical Career Growth)
A software engineer who wishes to become a Senior Engineer will focus primarily on enhancing their technical skills.
Junior software engineers join a company and typically work on a smaller aspect of the project/program/app. As they learn more, they are assigned more important tasks and eventually become senior software engineers.
At this stage of the software developer career path, coding will probably be a smaller part of one’s daily activities. Here, Junior Software Engineers may begin communicating with clients and getting more responsibilities for business growth.
What specifically does it mean to be a senior software engineer?
Different companies have different ways of classifying software developers as seniors based on their years of experience. Typically, a senior software engineer is someone who has 6+ years of experience in a given field within software engineering.
Expected pay in Switzerland
The average senior software engineer salary in Switzerland is around 111'250 CHF per year (or 57.05 CHF per hour). Entry-level positions can start at 97'500 CHF per year, with the most experienced workers making up to 135'000 CHF per year.
Expected pay in Germany
In Germany, on the other hand, the national average salary for a Senior Software Engineer is €73,000 per year.
What do they do?
A Senior Software Engineer will lead a team of developers responsible for building new and supporting existing projects. This role will be in charge of:
- Developing information systems by studying operations;
- Designing, developing, and installing software solutions;
- Supporting and helping develop the software team.
Vertical or Horizontal Career Path?
Depending on your technical skill set and what you want out of a job, a software engineering career can take a variety of different and exciting directions.
As a software engineer, you have the option to stick to software development at different levels. Senior developers typically possess advanced skills related to development, using extensive knowledge to effectively manage the software development process.
Or perhaps you may decide to move into management roles, ensuring team efficiency and finding ways to help individual members develop their professional skills.
Whichever career path you’re interested in pursuing – be it vertical or horizontal – TieTalent connects you with top software engineering jobs in both Switzerland and Germany. Sign up now in just a few minutes.
Ana Palombini is the voice behind AP Copywriting, where she provides content marketing for SaaS, entrepreneurs, and marketing agencies. When she is not typing ‘till her fingers are numb, you'll find Ana watching Friends for the millionth time or having late-night sushi from her couch (or both). Say hi on LinkedIn or check out her website.