The past couple weeks I’ve been working on three semi-related articles that I think of as the “High Context Triad.” Those are Layers of context, Navigating ambiguity, and Tradeoffs are multi-dimensional. One of my background projects, probably happening in 2025 or 2026 after I’ve finished my nascent project on engineering strategy, is publishing a second edition of Staff Engineer, and I intended these three articles as supplements.
I’ve really enjoyed writing these pieces, because the first on context layers is really necessary to establish the vocabulary to even talk about the other two effectively. I’ve been trying to write about navigating ambiguity for four or five years now, but really struggled to do so until I was able to write “Layers of context.”
Once I wrote about context layers, then the piece on navigating ambiguity fells together in an hour or two, following years of staring at a blank page.
Similarly, I struggled to write “Layers of context” until I was in a specific set of discussions with an engineer that framed the specific concept clearly enough in my head that I could write it down, which is a good articulation of why I believe so deeply in the unique opportunity of Writers who operate.
In addition to pulling in this triad, Navigators is another likely supplement, perhaps following Where do Staff-plus engineers fit into the org? Altogether, I think that Staff Engineer is holding up well, but there’s a lot of interesting thinking happening in the space–especially Tanya Reilly’s The Staff Engineer’s Path–and a light revision will be worthwhile. Eventually. Until then, I hope folks interested in this topic get something out of this High-Context Triad.