Ten Questions About Staff Plus Engineers When It Comes to Technical Career Development
You can stay technical and strategic for the company at the same time. Know more about Staff Plus and the top ten questions about the topic.
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What Is the Difference Between Contributor Individual, Staff Engineer, and Leadership Technical?
Individual Contributors, ICs, are professionals who work with a team or an organization but do not work in management. That is it; they influence a group and an organization; however, they do not have “official responsibility for this.
This contributor performs a great integration and cross-time communication activity and is not isolated, as the name suggests.
The term “technical leadership” has been used to reduce this misunderstanding. The idea is to clarify that this contributor does not work alone; this person has strategic responsibilities, and communication is part of his role.
Staff Engineer is the term created to deal with technical leadership in the software engineering career. Staff Plus refers to all positions after Staff; however, the meaning does not change. In addition to the specialized knowledge, the engineer will also work with communication and influence, impacting teams and organizations.
I Want To Know More About the Topic; Where Is the Get Started?
A good start is to read the two books published so far on the subject:
Staff Engineer: Leadership beyond the management track: The first is the most famous. Will Larson held several conversations on his podcast and, based on that, consolidated a fascinating book. This would be an excellent first book to understand the why of Staff beyond its initial concepts.
The Staff Engineer’s Path: The most recent book in the field written by Tanya Reilly and endorsed by Camille Fournier, author of The Manager’s Path, and Will Larson, previously mentioned. It brings a greater focus on how to act in this new position.
Technical Leadership: Does This Mean I Have a Team?
Generally, a technical leader works in a team but is not responsible. This means that defining a salary increase, dismissal, or some structural change is not within your responsibility's scope.
However, it has the role of influencing people with such decisions.
What Is the Importance of Mentoring Other People Within My Team?
As a leader, it is essential to always think about succession. For example, if I take on the role of Principal, who would replace me as a Staff Engineer?
Another point is the multiplication of knowledge beyond the technical level of the team.
Holding 1:1 meetings to help technical evolution, points to improve, literature tips and points to be improved based on a code review, among others, makes the mentored person evolve much faster than if had alone.
A tip is to hold such conversations with the team on a fortnightly or monthly basis for thirty minutes. Bringing previous notes with points in addition to hints asynchronously tends to make these encounters even more impactful.
What Is the Importance of English for Staff Plus Engineers?
In technology, English has become the official communication for news and trends in the area. It may even be possible to live without it for a while; however, this language becomes increasingly necessary for more significant flights in your career.
English is not just a reading tool but an interaction tool. It is natural for your networking to grow and for you to meet and deal with people from other countries/cultures, and English will also help you in this regard.
Lots of news pops up on Twitter, LinkedIn, and GitHub. And these will be the most common places to ask questions, contribute to open-source projects, and share experiences.
As a bonus, we just talked about the importance of social networks in the workplace. Learning and taking advantage of them for your professional growth is possible.
Which Literature Is Indicated To Learn More About the Topic?
At this point, I will break it down into two categories:
In addition to your area of expertise, it's natural that you need to communicate with peers, so focusing on software architecture and basic concepts will help you speak "engineeringsh" Good books to start with are, for example:
- Fundamentals of Software Architecture: An Engineering Approach
- Software Architecture: The Hard Parts: Modern Trade-Off Analyzes for Distributed Architectures
- Building Evolutionary Architectures: Support Constant Change
- The Philosophy of Software Design
- The C4 model for visualizing software architecture
Trying to limit myself to just five, these would be good reading recommendations in addition to the classics you've probably already read and are familiar with, like Domain-Driven Design (DDD), Clean Code, Clean Architecture, San Newman's microservices books, plus Martin Fowler's Refectory.
It is worth mentioning that this does not eliminate the need to use blogs and portals to keep up with news in the area.
As mentioned, the technical part is one of many expected points and/or skills. Knowledge to carry out storytelling and good communication are also expected. Good books to start with are, for example:
- Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
- Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs
- Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow
The art of knowing how to communicate, structure ideas and plans, and even a little bit of management and how a team works are significant.
Will I Walk Away From the Code?
The answer is no; you won't need to step away from the code, but, as you progress in technical leadership, it is also essential to look at the team as a whole, focusing on mentoring, improving code quality, and technology strategies.
Sometimes, it will be necessary to code less to guide more. Give space and multiply.
In other words, study and constant technical evolution are necessary; nonetheless, you will only be coding part of the time. It will take time to do other activities.
How Do I Keep Up to Date?
As mentioned earlier, Staff Plus Engineer coding activities tend to decrease. However, technical activities are critical and staying close and in constant evolution is crucial.
An excellent way to be close is to perform code reviews, PoC, or even participate in open-source projects. However, something that does not impact the team.
What Is the Enormous Difference Between Staff, Principal, and Distinguished?
- Staff: Focuses on tactics; however, understands and seeks a more robust strategic understanding of the company. His focus is to impact some teams around him.
- Principal: It is the link between the tactical and strategic. Its impact targets an area or a product; generally, its visibility goes to the entire company.
- Distinguished: Your focus is on the strategy and impacting the company/organization. It is usually known by an entire community and the company for its technical notoriety.
Who Is Responsible for Making Decisions Where Technical Opinions Do Not Converge? Technical Leadership or Management?
In the ideal world, there is a consensus between technical leadership and management. However, this joint agreement only sometimes happens.
It is always essential to make clear the difference between “I don't understand”, and “I disagree”. When the two sides try their best to converge without success, the final word rests with management.
Remembering that this resource should be an exception; after all, having an expert and not listening to him is a management failure as much as the expert not understanding the business context. That is, synchronization between the areas is crucial.
As this is a very new area, it is natural that several doubts arise. Therefore, this article aimed to answer the most common questions about Staff Plus Engineer.
In addition to technical knowledge, this type of professional needs to understand that software is from person to person and has people throughout the process. Thus, communication skills are also required.
So, do you have any other questions? So comment here with your questions about Staff Plus Engineer!
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