What do Staff engineers actually do?

December 3, 2020. Filed under staff-plus 24

Anyone who has been cornered by relatives at a party and asked to explain what software engineers _actually do_ knows that explaining the work can be a challenge. Over time you may have created a compelling answer for your relatives, but many folks’ minds go blank when their coworker leans over and asks, “What’s a Staff engineer do?”

Managing Staff-plus engineers.

November 27, 2020. Filed under management 123staff-plus 24

While getting feedback on StaffEng,one request was for more content on managing Staff-plus engineers. It doesn’t quite fit the theme--that effort is focused on the Staff Engineer themselves rather the company or the manager--but it’s an interesting topic and a worthy appendix.

Write five, then synthesize: good engineering strategy is boring.

November 26, 2020. Filed under staff-plus 24strategy 7

Few companies understand their engineering strategy and vision. One consequence of this uncertainty is the industry belief that these documents are difficult to write. In some conversations it can feel like you’re talking about something mystical, but these are just mundane documents. The reality is that good engineering strategy is boring, and that it’s _easier_ to write an effective strategy than a bad one.

Interviewing for Staff-plus roles.

November 20, 2020. Filed under staff-plus 24

When you decide to interview for a Senior engineer role, you roughly know what to expect. You’ll refresh your resume, work through Cracking the Coding Interview, and do some research on the company to prepare questions. When you go into the interview, you know it’s going to be five-ish interviews composed of a few programming exercises, something about technical architecture, and some cultural, behavioral, or career questions.

Finding your Staff sponsor.

November 19, 2020. Filed under management 123staff-plus 24

As I’ve spoken with more folks trying to reach their first Staff-plus role, most folks run into similar challenges. Many have miscalibrated their own impact, and simply haven’t done the work yet to operate at that level: a Staff Engiener isn’t just a faster Senior Engineer. However, there’s a large cohort who have done the work--they’re visible across their organization and have pulled together a strong promotion packet--but are still struggling to have that work recognized.