Salary Snapshot - VP Engineering
Updated: Sep 28
Let’s talk about money!
This month we’re sharing salary insights based on several recent searches for Software Engineering leadership. VPs of Software Engineering are typically responsible for hiring, growing and leading teams of developers. Sometimes these teams are local and sometimes distributed around the globe. Often the VP reports into a local CEO or CTO, but sometimes they also serve as the Canadian site leader for a tech company with HQ in the US or overseas. Regardless of scope or structure, the engineering leader plays a critical role in bringing product vision to reality, delivering high-quality software products that meet customer needs.
As a recruitment partner to Canadian tech companies, we’ve talked to hundreds of start-ups and scale-up leaders about their experiences, their aspirations, their motivations … and their compensation packages.
We're often asked, “What do you see as the market rate for this role?”. And since we know the answers - we thought we’d share our insights with you!
This is valuable (and often unavailable) information that can help your budgeting and can help you create a competitive compensation model. And if you’re on the hunt for your next challenge, we hope you’ll find this useful in the negotiation process.
At the VP level, the Software Engineering leader is typically responsible for all product development staff and their output. Occasionally this scope will also include development operations (DevOps), technical product management and/or technical support. The individuals in our sample reflect a range of skills and experience, but all are currently working at the VP level within technology-based businesses - mostly Saas.
We’ve analyzed a spectrum of compensation packages to share both the high-level summary and some of the related insights around how your peers are crafting plans with a mix of base and variable pay.
What are you looking at?
This data represents volunteered current compensation summaries from VP Engineering/CTO’s in SaaS start-up or scale-up software companies in Toronto. Each individual has between 1 - 20 direct reports.
Total cash compensation plans ranged from $165-350K with a median of $225K.
More than half of the sample fell in the range of $165k - 200k, with about 20% at $200K.
While many of the leaders we spoke to had a bonus as part of their cash compensation, where a bonus was in place it was typically tied to overall company performance rather than the success of the team. This is not surprising, as we've seen that few scale-up companies have reliable metrics for the performance of their engineering organization.
What about Start-ups and Equity?
Individuals who are part of earlier stage companies were on the lower end of the range but receive a larger share of equity to compensate for a lower base salary. This is typical for all roles, not just VP Software Engineering. Leveraging equity as a key component of compensation not only enables companies to conserve cash but also ensures that your team is aligned around the success of the business as a whole. The downside of highly leveraged compensation plans is the exclusion of great candidates who have financial commitments that preclude them from roles with lower than market salaries.
Our snapshots are not typical salary surveys - as they represent only the data we’ve collected from a handful of recent searches. We think it’s pretty useful though, as it represents current information from a sample of individuals who we’ve carefully selected as having credible and validated experience, with successful local companies.
What’s behind the data?
Each Salary Snapshot represents between 20 – 50 sources.
Each source is an individual who we deemed a promising candidate for a role within a high growth tech company. Most are gainfully employed and many were recommended as exceptionally talented. As a result, our salary numbers might be skewed towards the top of the range.
We elected not to show compensation figures related to equity or options. Though this was a significant aspect of the comp package for many execs, it’s often tough to put an annual $ value on equity.
Specific details that would identify an individual or their employer will not be shared for obvious reasons.