Resources for Staff-plus engineers.

March 7, 2020. Filed under staff-plus 3

When I was working on Your first 90 days as CTO or VP Engineering, one of the most valuable things I did was build a list of resources for folks (especially me) to continue their learning and exploration.

Recently, I’ve been focused on the question of “What does it mean to be a Staff or Staff-plus engineer, and how do you get there?”, and have gathered this collection of resources for folks who are looking to grow as or into such roles.

Your Network

Almost unanimously Staff-plus engineers’ most valuable learning resource weren’t a book, blog, talk or paper, but instead their network of peers and mentors. If you only have one hour to develop yourself as an engineer, your best bet would be meeting people in similar roles.

What do Staff-plus Engineers do?

Folks’ descriptions of their roles:

Becoming a Staff-plus Engineer

Folks sharing their stories of becoming a Staff-plus engineer:

Operating as a Staff-plus engineer

Engineering Strategy

Articles on engineering strategy in general:

Examples of engineering strategies:

There are also many great resources on other facets of strategy as well, for example Marty Cagan’s series on Product Strategy.

Books

Although I’ve found that many folks don’t read too many books, when I asked Staff engineers for their most valuable resources, they inevitably mentioned a personal mentor or a book. They had blog posts and tech talks they might mention related to a more specific problem, but they were most changed by this larger, more papery format.

Some books which were recommended:

If you’re looking for even more, recommended book lists abound, including my own at Irrational Exuberance’s Best Book.

Talks

The Staff-plus engineers I’ve chatted with have generally mentioned giving talks as valuable to them more than listening to talks, but there certainly are some excellent talks out there. Cindy Sridharan (twitter) is the best source of amazing talks, in particular her write ups of Best of 2019 in Tech Talks, Best of 2018 in Tech Talks, and Best of 2017 in Tech Talks.

Papers

Relatively few Staff-plus Engineers are avid readers of Computer Science papers. However, most are familiar with a handful of foundational papers, and the small subset who do spend time reading papers tend to get quite a bit out of it.

If you aspire to join the category of frequent paper readers, there’s no better place than Adrian Colyer’s the morning paper, which will send you a summary of a computer science paper every weekday. If you’re more interested in getting some foundational exposure to some well-known papers, first read one of How to Read an Academic Article by Peter Klein or How to Read a Paper by S. Keshav, and then jump into this list of recommended papers:

Probably the best place to find high-quality papers to read is Papers We Love, who also run meetups to discuss papers. A few other resources are the ACM SIGOPS Hall of Fame Award list and Irrational Exuberance’s paper collection.

Other nice things

As I did research for these resources, I found some other pieces that didn’t quite fit anywhere above, but which I think are good and worth looking at nonetheless:

If you find more, please send them my way!