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What's the Difference Between A Senior And Staff Engineer?

The mark of someone who is NOT ready to be a staff engineer: Asking what needs to happen to get to staff.

A staff engineer should identify problems worth solving, and then get buy-in across the org to solve the problem.

  • Despite each staff engineer's journey being different, there's still an opportunity to learn from the examples of other promotion cases. Here's an example from Rachel's days at Yelp with a talented staff engineer:
    • Google announced an algorithm change for SEO ranking, which would favor websites with better mobile friendliness.
    • An engineer on a feature team recognized that this would hurt Yelp and brought it up very proactively.
    • They drove a proposal and broke down the problem with several domain experts in the organization.
    • It took a while, but they were able to ship a quality, long-term solution.
  • Instead of just looking at "what" new problem to solve, there's also opportunity for very senior engineers to breakdown the "how" to accomplish a large, ambiguous problem and get to staff.

If you enjoyed this video, use this link to see the rest of Rachel's awesome career advice on Taro.

For more resources on getting to staff: