April 19, 2020.
Someone recently send me a note asking about whether their internal process for interviewing Staff engineers was a good one. They were particularly concerned that they were encountering a number of Staff-plus engineers who were struggling to write code for finding palindromes or reversing an array.
April 9, 2020.
Most career ladders define a single, uniform set of expectations for Staff Engineers. These career ladders attempt to identify the commonalities across many folks performing similar roles in their organization, but in the end these ladders are a tool that apply better against populations than people. In the case of Staff-plus engineers, career ladders paper over a number of distinct roles clustered under a single moniker.
April 2, 2020.
It’s a common misconception that authority makes you powerful. Many folks aspiring towards more senior roles assume they’ll finally get to do things their way. They believe that the title inherently creates flexibility and autonomy. They believe that the friction holding them back will burst into a whirl of butterflies that scatter into the wind. The reality is a bit more nuanced.
March 28, 2020.
One of the most common frustrations I’ve heard from engineers is that they’re not in the room where important decisions are being made. They don’t understand the company decisions, and have important context that seems to be missing or ignored. Staff-plus engineers frequently cite access to “the room” as a major benefit of their level, and titles do increase the likelihood that you’ll be involved in decisions that impact you.
March 21, 2020.
Most folks have worked with someone who thinks they’re never wrong. In each discussion, they lean in, broaden their shoulders and breach their way into the role of the decider. They’ll continue debating until their perspective wins the day or time runs out. They are often right, but right in a way that sucks the oxygen out of the room. As their tenure at a company increases, they may fancy that they’ve become very persuasive, but frequently it’s a form of persuasion characterized by the resignation of their peers.
March 7, 2020.
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.