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The concept of a “principal engineer” is one that I’ve always been fascinated by. These devs are recognized for their deep expertise and experience, without the pressure of transitioning into management roles to reflect their seniority.
In marketing, however, the general consensus is that taking a bump in seniority, salary, and expertise is only tied to moving down a leadership path at some point. Managers and Senior Managers are common, but in most cases the next step is Lead, Head, Director, VP, and then CMO. That’s a lot of leadership steps on the commercial track.
The problem with this is that not all the great marketers want to lead teams. They just want to get their stuff done and be recognized for the expertise they bring in.
Just like in engineering, there’s immense value in allowing experienced marketers to thrive as individual contributors without the mandatory shift to leadership to reflect their “value” to the company.
And while Principal Marketers aren’t completely unheard of (like in the Asana job posting), they’re not as common as they could be.
Imagine a scenario where marketers who have level’d up their skills through years of hands-on experience could continue contributing to the success of campaigns and strategy as domain experts without having to take on the responsibility of “leading” a team directly if they don’t want it. By replicating the concept of a principal marketer, marketing seniority is rewarded with respect and the applicable compensation, without enforcing a leadership trajectory.