October 1, 2020.
My father was a professor of economics. After he completed his PhD in his late twenties, he started teaching at one university, got tenure at that university, and walked out forty-some years later into retirement. Working in technology, that sounds like a fairytale. There are very few software companies with a forty-year track record, and even fewer folks whose forty-year career consisted of one employer. There used to be a meme that many engineers spent either one or four years at each company to maximize their equity grants and then bounced on to the next. If that ever happened, it certainly isn’t common behavior for folks who aspire towards or reach Staff-plus roles.
September 24, 2020.
Bert Fan’s best advice for those trying to reach a Staff-plus role was, "often reaching Staff is a combination of luck, timing, and work."
September 17, 2020.
A popular recurring idea around reaching a Staff-plus role is that first you need to successfully complete a 'Staff project.' A project that is considered complex and important enough that the person who completes it has proven themselves as a Staff engineer. However popular this idea is, if you’re pursuing a Staff-plus role it’s important to pierce the mythology of these projects and focus on the experiences of folks who’ve walked the path before you.
September 10, 2020.
We all have a finite amount of time to live, and within that mortal countdown we devote some fraction towards our work. Even for the most career-focused, your life will be filled by many things beyond work: supporting your family, children, exercise, being a mentor and a mentee, hobbies, and so the list goes on. This is the sign of a rich life, but one side-effect is that time to do your work will become increasingly scarce as you get deeper into your career.
September 4, 2020.
As I talk to more and more Staff-plus engineers about career advice, the most consistent recommendation was to develop a personal network of peers doing similar work. Not every person emphasized this approach, but more than half mentioned it and for those who did it tended to be their first and strongest recommendation.
August 8, 2020.
Some folks think of their promotion packet as the capstone of reaching a Staff-pus role, but I’ve seen many folks succeed by taking an opposite approach: starting to write their first Staff promotion packet long before they think they’re likely to be promoted to Staff, much the way they might use a [brag document](https://jvns.ca/blog/brag-documents/). Used this way, your packet becomes the map to accomplishing your goal.
July 26, 2020.
One of the best measures of your long-term success as a Staff-plus engineer is that the organization around you increasingly benefits from, **but doesn’t rely upon**, your contributions. Because many folks reach their first Staff-plus role by being the “go to” person for the organization, it can be a difficult transition from essential to adjacent.
July 12, 2020.
When we talk about designing a Staff-plus engineer interview loop, the first thing to talk about is that absolutely no one is confident their Staff-plus interview loop works well. Many loops end up looking for a senior engineer who’s _really_ fast at solving problems, which doesn’t reflect the actual role. Others focus on communication skills, which _are_ a key part of the role but certainly not the entirety of it. A few companies even construct their process to assess whether the candidate _feels_ like a member of their existing senior engineering team, conflating excellence with familiarity.
June 28, 2020.
If you’re safely nestled within the comfortable clutches of the Senior Engineer career level, you might wonder if you ought to pursue the Staff title. It’s a considerable investment of time and energy, along with requiring a good amount of luck, is that investment worth your time?
June 28, 2020.
When I work on the organization design of an engineering organization, I think a lot about "organizational mathematics", the guideline that each team should have one manager and six to eight engineers, and each manager of managers should support four to six managers. From those numbers you can rapidly determine an appropriate structure for your organization that’ll work fairly well. It might not be perfect, but it’ll work.