Levels.fyi helps tech workers get the pay they deserve

In the tech business, a inflexible inside system of job ranges determines how a lot accountability staff have and the way a lot they get paid. However this technique is usually opaque, proprietary to every firm, and onerous to know for workers, who may be left in the darkish as to how their stage is impacting their profession path and their compensation.

That’s why a website known as Levels.fyi makes use of crowdsourced information to create clear leveling charts that observe how ranges at one firm correspond to ranges at one other and the way compensation inside every firm’s stage varies. For its founders, the objective is to supply extra transparency inside the tech business to assist individuals perceive the place they stand presently, assist them negotiate new job gives, and in the end be sure that they’re being paid what they’re due—a historic downside inside tech, notably for girls and other people from underrepresented backgrounds.

“I feel firms deliberately wish to maintain a number of this data hidden and uneven. It’s clearly of their favor if they don’t disclose the full data to candidates,” says Zuhayeer Musa, certainly one of Levels.fyi’s cofounders. “Our website is highly effective as a result of we assist candidates [glean] this data so they can use it to barter and ensure they’re getting paid pretty.”

Levels.fyi received its begin in 2017 when Musa and his cofounder, Zaheer Mohiuddin, had been simply beginning to navigate entry-level tech jobs. Mohiuddin says they observed that lots of people had the same query: How do you translate your stage from one tech large to a different? As an illustration, what does a Google L3 software program engineer translate to inside Microsoft’s leveling system, which makes use of a numerical system beginning at 59?


Levels.fyi was initially designed to indicate how these leveling methods stack up towards one another. However the website has expanded to grow to be a hub for clear leveling and wage information for engineers at massive tech companies, non-tech firms, and startups. It additionally consists of sources on how one can perceive a complete compensation bundle, which at tech firms is normally a mixture of base pay, inventory choices over a vesting schedule, and advantages. And most not too long ago, Musa and Mohiuddin have began providing a negotiation service the place present and former recruiters from firms resembling Google, Amazon, and Salesforce present one-on-one assist for workers throughout the interview and negotiation course of. To date, they say they’ve negotiated $31 million in salaries for tech workers.

Utilizing verified, crowdsourced information to get paid

Past its give attention to leveling, Levels.fyi is completely different from different crowdsourced information initiatives resembling Glassdoor as a result of a rising chunk of its information is verified, primarily via supply letters and W2 kinds that individuals share privately to corroborate their publicly posted, nameless compensation packages.

Mohiuddin says this verified information is “crucial to fixing pay disparity” as a result of it gives authenticated factors of comparability. “If individuals can level to the website and say, ‘That is verified data that I’m not being paid pretty,’ that’s one thing they can use in a dialog with recruiters and hiring managers,” he says.

The rising quantity of verified information has additionally enabled Musa and Mohiuddin to start promoting anonymized bundles of this information again to a few of the greatest tech firms, which have historically purchased anonymized wage information from compensation information aggregators.

“Corporations have been sharing wage information with one another for years,” Mohiuddin says. Nevertheless, that doesn’t imply that Google and Microsoft are huddling collectively to check how a lot they pay software program engineers. As a substitute, tech firms submit all their wage data to a third-party firm resembling Radford, which then anonymizes information from a ream of comparable employers and sells it again to them. “That is how compensation analysts resolve what to pay individuals. They’ve the higher hand as a result of they have verified wage data from these surveyors,” Mohiuddin says. “That doesn’t exist for engineers, for workers at present.”

Levels.fyi has additionally began to research its database of verified wage data. At the finish of 2020, the founders printed a pay report that laid out the 12 months’s top-paying companies by level and by location, in addition to a gender pay gap report.


Though the information set they used for evaluation continues to be small, with simply over 6,000 information factors, and there may be undoubtedly choice bias in who decides to share their wage data, some developments have begun to emerge. Utilizing a standardized leveling chart that they’ve developed to evaluate information throughout firms, the duo discovered that the median pay hole could be very small at the entry stage, when engineers are proper out of school, however dramatically will increase over time in a statistically vital manner.

“As you go into greater ranges the place there’s extra variance in compensation typically, we see the median hole will increase between female and male engineers,” Musa says. “We see male engineers make considerably extra in the workers engineer case—it nearly goes as much as $100,000 in median discrepancy. And what we’ve gotten out of this discovering is that small variations in the starting can ultimately compound into bigger variations later in your profession.”

When leveling is discriminatory

This discovering highlights one other constant problem in Silicon Valley: Corporations rent girls at a decrease stage than their male counterparts with the similar expertise, which compounds over time and results in decrease lifetime earnings.

The issue is a part of a number of ongoing lawsuits, together with class actions towards Google and Oracle. It was additionally certainly one of the components in play for Pinterest whistleblowers Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, each of whom declare they had been under-leveled for the work they had been doing. Once I spoke to Jim Finberg, the lawyer representing feminine staff in each the Google and Oracle gender discrimination case, in summer time 2020, he succinctly defined the problem with down-leveling: “The issue is you by no means catch up.”

Opaque leveling methods are a part of this, since a job’s stage isn’t all the time one thing that’s shared with you whilst you’re interviewing for a job. However this hidden data can have an outsize influence on the quantity of compensation and inventory choices a brand new rent can obtain. “It’s essential to be sure that the stage you are available in at is right as a result of your pay may be an order of magnitude off if it’s not,” Mohiuddin says.

In line with Toni Locklear, an organizational psychologist who works with firms to create honest HR practices, bias can creep into the leveling throughout the interview course of. She says she sees instances at high-tech firms the place a job is posted with out an related stage, and the firm solely decides a couple of candidate’s future stage towards the finish of the interview course of.

“I take care of this all the time,” she says. “What can occur is that if the firm doesn’t have actually systematic job-related procedures and instruments in palace, it opens the door for bias. It’s unintentional biases individuals have the place they find yourself deciding even unconsciously {that a} girl or particular person of shade must be leveled decrease than the conventional engineering or tech worker.”

Negotiation in apply

Past the function of down-leveling in systemic discrimination, Musa and Mohiuddin say they’ve seen that it tends to be extra prevalent at massive tech firms in comparison with smaller ones and startups—and it’s certainly one of the issues they hope to assist workers negotiate via their new service.

“Since you’re in a position to get away with it as a bigger firm, firms use their model to rent individuals at decrease ranges,” Musa says. “Till not too long ago I really feel like individuals haven’t realized they had been being down-leveled. It’s not one thing you possibly can ID until you might have the information.”

Should you can negotiate the next stage, the bracket of doable compensation will increase considerably.”

Levels.fyi advisers advocate that candidates ought to all the time ask a couple of function’s stage early on in the interview course of. No matter whether or not an organization has decided that stage already or not, a dialogue will assist everybody get on the similar web page about expectations, and should immediate an organization to faucet extra senior interviewers. “Leveling is certainly one of the greatest levers that may be pulled when it comes to a negotiation,” Mohiuddin says. “Corporations set pay by stage. Should you can negotiate the next stage, the bracket of doable compensation will increase considerably.”

That’s not doable for everybody, since some individuals’s abilities and expertise will clearly point out which stage is suitable for them. However for individuals who are borderline, pushing an organization to contemplate the next stage can lead to a lot greater pay.


Levels.fyi’s negotiation service has been rising considerably, and has grow to be the firm’s largest income stream in just some months. For an engineer, one negotiation session prices $249; three prices $537; and 5 periods, which may be finest fitted to individuals juggling a number of gives, prices $845. The costs go up for manager- or leadership-level candidates as a result of compensation will get extra complicated—in tech, these roles normally have much more monetary upside via inventory.

As soon as contracted, Levels.fyi’s negotiators assist with drafting emails and name scripts, and even can present mock negotiations (although they cease wanting doing the negotiation in your behalf). They’ve proven indicators of success thus far—the founders say that some candidates who’ve used their service have elevated their first-year compensation by $80,000 to $130,000.

And for Levels.fyi, seeing a whole lot of pay packages and supply letters helps Musa and Mohiuddin present higher negotiation companies to future tech workers; they’re continuously studying the place the wiggle room for every firm lies and the way that may be leveraged to assist get individuals more cash.

Sadly, it’s nonetheless as much as people to determine if they’re not at the proper stage, each throughout the interview course of and as soon as they’re in a job. However with extra transparency round wage and leveling information, Musa and Mohiuddin hope that extra individuals might be empowered to verify they’re being paid pretty and communicate up if they’re not.