How CodeCombat aligned hiring, values and performance in one move

How CodeCombat aligned hiring, values and performance in one move


Nick Winter

Team Size



SF & Beijing

Nick, CEO at YC alumnus CodeCombat, needed to clarify roles and responsibilities for his 45+ team sitting across San Francisco, Beijing and the world.

CodeCombat create computer science programs for students to learn Python and JavaScript while playing a real game. Over the last five years, over 12 million people have learned to write Python and JavaScript using CodeCombat, making it one of the most popular coding games in history. They're now launching their second title, Ozaria.

The reasons for needing this now were myriad.

"We wanted a levelling framework to clarify roles and responsibilities for more efficient collaboration and create an environment of growth where people are rewarded with meaningful career progress."

There was also a need to perform due diligence about where job candidates fit within the company, and provide guardrails for just hiring practices and equitable salaries regardless of a candidate or employee’s demographics and negotiation skills as well as giving the team an opportunity to reflect on the company values and ensure they were reflected in behaviours and expectations used in the team.

Nick and his team looked at dozens of examples from various startups to inform their approach, attempting to balance keeping things standard and reflecting how they operate at CodeCombat. Without tooling beyond a spreadsheet, it was taking a long time, and when they finally had a levelling framework in place, doing levelling evaluations with a billion spreadsheet copies had a lot of overhead.

They wanted to ensure they were making fair career development and compensation decisions, and without detailed standards, they felt there was a risk of management misalignment.

With Progression

Nick onboarded the team onto Progression in mid 2019. The visibility over career development for everyone from Nick down was immediately useful.

Progression took care of operationalising levelling evaluations with its check-ins functionality, which was not only a big step up in efficiency over CodeCombat's spreadsheet-based processes, but made it a lot easier for team members and their managers to focus in on impact and growth areas during quarterly reviews.

The CodeCombat team loved the enhanced, equitable focus on career development. Previous cases where it was hard to see someone's true performance or for a team member and their manager to align on target behaviours and skills have cleared up, and now it's much easier to keep everyone aligned with fair roles, compensation, and growth targets.

"Without Progression, we would have taken much longer to realise a few much-deserved promotions for team members who had quietly been doing amazing work."

That visibility helped them shine a light into blind spots and to head off any potential politicking, as team members could easily see how to increase their impact with a standard, detailed framework of competencies.

Levelling is an essential part of career development for startups. Integrating Progression's streamlined levelling processes into quarterly reviews led to the CodeCombat team having more impact while ensuring equitable compensation.

They plan to keep working on their frameworks until every level of every position, whether people manager or individual contributor, has detailed, thoughtful levels to help guide career development.

We've also really enjoyed chatting with Nick over features and improvements, he's been instrumental in developing a couple of our features through regular feedback. Thanks Nick, Claire and team! JB


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