Riding the Roachermobile: Cockroach Labs’ internal mobility program

Last edited on August 24, 2020

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    As a startup, our policies and processes constantly evolve. All content in this post is true at the time of publication. For the most up-to-date information, please visit our careers page or reach out to

    At Cockroach Labs, we like to embrace our namesake and dub programs after our favorite insect. So far, the dictionary consists of Roacher (a Cockroach Labs employee), Roachmate (your onboarding partner), and Remoacher (remote employees). We even MOLT, which is our onboarding process— going from a nymph to an adult Cockroach. It was only natural that when we decided to launch an internal mobility program, we incorporated cockroaches into the mix. Cue the Roachermobile - where Roachers have the opportunity to scurry on over to a new role at the company.

    Before getting into the why, let's step back and first discuss the what.

    What’s an internal mobility program? Copy Icon

    An internal mobility program is a system that provides opportunities for current employees to grow their career within the company, but outside of their current team. This is distinct from a promotion, the mobility most folks first think of, which is the basis for the “career ladder” that’s so often referenced.

    Where a promotion can be thought of simply as moving up a rung on the ladder, internal mobility would be more akin to hopping onto another ladder and traversing a unique path. A promotion will generally mean increased responsibilities in the same discipline whereas internal mobility might mean the same level of responsibility in a new focus area. It’s a less linear style of career growth and development.

    Why We Developed an Internal Mobility ProgramCopy Icon

    Successful, high-growth companies attract high-caliber, ambitious employees who are generally on the fast track to advancing their careers. However, two key blockers can cause a hiccup in that upward momentum.

    First, as you get higher up on the path, there tend to be fewer available opportunities to fill. This isn’t a universal rule, but searches for senior candidates are often highly specialized, especially in leadership. Second, employees might realize that they want to go in a different direction or that they’d like to learn something new. Perhaps they were exposed to a project outside of their standard responsibilities, or they’d like to build upon existing experience by developing complementary skills. For example, a Software Engineer might become a Sales Engineer to leverage their technical background while developing client-facing skills and business acumen (you can hear Bram's story here).

    Every company wants (or should want!) to retain top-performing employees. Still, if those people don’t see opportunities for growth, they might move on. Internal mobility provides an alternative avenue for them.

    Internal mobility isn’t just about retention. It can also be an effective resource for companies that are looking to diversify their workforce. Diversity in the workforce can mean a variety of things, from gender, to racial, to educational / experiential diversity.

    Beyond creating a more inclusive, welcoming, and representative company, countless studies have shown that diverse workforces outperform those that are more homogenous. This isn’t a post purely focused on diversity, so I won’t go too deep into the research, but the McKinsey article “Why Diversity Matters” provides a solid high-level overview of this topic and a more in-depth insight into the subject. Building a more diverse workforce has challenges if you view it from the traditional recruiting lens.

    For example, women and BIPOC are underrepresented in computer science programs and in the industry. Merely trying to recruit via traditional pipeline building may not be sufficient, particularly for smaller companies without FAANG-esque companies’ resources. As a result, creating an environment centered around development, career growth, and opportunity can help companies like ours drive inclusion and belonging in the workplace.

    How Our Internal Mobility Program WorksCopy Icon

    At Cockroach Labs, we pride ourselves on supporting the intellectual curiosity and career development of our Roachers. We offer some fantastic perks in this regard, including a Learning and Development budget of $2500 per year for each employee, free Udemy memberships, flexible work, and we encourage informal mentorship and shadowing colleagues.

    The next logical step was to create a path for Roachers who have developed new skills and interests and want to branch out. In the past, we did not have a structure or set of expectations in place for Roachers to transfer internally. We realized that this works for some individuals who are more vocal about their desire to make a move, but doesn’t support our entire team or create enough awareness around our support for this kind of movement. It became obvious that we needed something formal in place.

    In partnership with our People Operations team, we crafted our internal mobility policy with a key principle in mind: our goal is always to hire the best candidate for every role. Though we are often looking externally to fill roles, it’s important to recognize that people on our team could be well-equipped for them. Staff who perform well and meet expectations in their current roles for at least one year qualify for transfer, though the role change is not guaranteed.

    This is where the Roachermobile comes in— it’s also the name for the internal job board our employees can use to apply for open roles. Roachers must then complete a full interview process assessing the same experience and skill requirements as external candidates to ensure a fair hiring process and meet the goal of hiring the best candidate for all open roles.

    As a company of roughly 150 people, we don’t anticipate a massive uptick in transfer requests to start. However, we believe that it’s essential to have policies like internal mobility in place to let our team know that we care about their growth and support it, too. As we continue to grow, I’m excited to see us better retain brilliant Roachers looking for something new by hitching a ride on the Roachermobile to another stage on their career journey.

    Want to take the next step in your career with us? Visit our careers page for opportunities!

    internal mobility