(by Will Larson)


Staff Engineer Archetypes

Tech Lead
Right Hand
Which is right for you?

What do Staff engineers actually do?

Setting technical direction
Mentorship and sponsorship
Providing engineering perspective
Being glue
But will you still write software?
Slow but rewarding

Does the title even matter?

Informal gauges of seniority
Being in the room
Access to interesting work
Different rather than better
Material but not magic

Operating at Staff

Work on what matters

Avoiding snacking
Stop preening
Stop chasing ghosts
Existential issues
Work where there's room and attention
Foster growth
Finish things
What only you can
Why it matters

Writing engineering strategy

When and why
Write five design docs
Synthesize those five design docs into a strategy
Extrapolate five strategies into a vision

Managing technical quality

The problem
Ascending the staircase
Hot spots
Best practices
Leverage points
Technical vectors
Measure technical quality
Technical quality team
Technical quality program
Start small and add slowly

Stay aligned with authority

Beyond the safety net
Serving at the pleasure of the President
Influencing without too much friction

To lead, you have to follow

Learn to never be wrong

Listen, clarify and read the room
How it helps

Create space for others

What if you don't?

Build a network of peers

Be visible
Internal networks, too
Quality over quantity

Present to executives

Why this is hard
How to communicate effectively
Mistakes to avoid

Getting the title where you are

Opportunity is unevenly distributed
Should you try management?
A semi-permeable boundary

Promotion packets

Find your sponsor

Finding your sponsor
Activating your sponsor
What if it doesn't work?

Staff projects

Staff project required
Why you should do a staff project
Getting access to Staff projects
Should you pursue a Staff project?

Get in the room, and stay there

Getting in the room
Staying in the room
Exiting the room

Being visible

Why visibility matters
Internal visibility
Executive visibility
External visibility
Should you focus on visibility?

Tags: reading   management  

Last modified 02 June 2023