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How to initiate Senior Engineer's round table in the org?

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Senior Software Engineer [63] at Microsofta month ago

I have been hearing from my friends about senior engineer's round table meetings happening in their company. I am wondering what is exactly Senior Engineer's round table. (Senior Engineers from the same team and peer teams working for same skip-level manager)
What kind of topics can be discussed at this round table session?

How to initiate such discussions?



  • Lee McKeeman
    Staff Eng @ Google, Ex-Meta SWE, Ex-Amazon SDM/SDE
    a month ago

    This is tricky territory. Someone is going to feel excluded. You say senior engineers, but if a L62 is leading a team, do they get to come or not?

    From there, direction can be challenging. Is this social? Is it scrum of scrums to share what major progress is being made and any overall blockers to see if anyone can help? Is it to talk about cross org initiatives and how to coordinate (separate from kick offs and XFN meetings)? Is it to drive things like engineering productivity, engineer satisfaction surveys, cross-org hack days? Maybe process things like mentor matching across teams or full-org design reviews or senior-eng casual coffee chats?

    If you actually feel like one or many of these things would be useful and truly the engineers at L63+ are the right folk to drive this (versus TPMs, involving eng managers, etc), then maybe this is a good plan. Ideally, though, anything you discuss and decide should be actionable by members of this group, otherwise it is just an exclusive club that generates work for other people and that feels bad.

    I think discussing challenges that may be hard to talk about with managers in the room (prioritization issues, difficulty with randomization, etc) could be helpful.

    From there, like anything that is expensive (this meeting is expensive once, very expensive if reoccurring more than 2x per year), you should drive consensus that it is valuable to the org and to the individual attendees with a doc. Write up goals and non-goals, what would be addressed in a one-off, or that needs to be addressed on a reoccurring basis (but i would honestly defer the decision to have it repeat), why this forum would be the best way to address those things, what some alternatives are if this isn’t adopted, etc. Have one or two peers review first, refine from their feedback, and if they buy-in ask the group to review it with a one week or so lead time. If they buy in (like any doc), then proceed with scheduling a single occurrence. Have a clear agenda, drive clear action items, and afterwards you can write up a postmortem and get input with a survey (maybe two questions, did it have value, would reoccurring instances have value) and decide how to proceed.

    This could be revelatory and very impactful for the org. It could also be a huge waste of time. Try to work out if there is at least strong potential for the prior before you prove the latter.

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  • Alex Chiou
    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a month ago

    What kind of topics can be discussed at this round table session?

    I imagine that the main discussion point for senior engineers will be the senior to staff transition. Here are some topics you can talk about:

    How to initiate such discussions?

    I don't think you need to overthink this - You can gather a group of senior engineers every 1-2 weeks to discuss some complex engineering topic like the ones above. If you really want to make it formal, you can talk to your manager as well and they can help pull in senior engineers.

    In general, I see value in these discussions, because when it comes to solidarity in the workplace, the biggest thing is level. There are very common themes that engineers run into when growing from mid-level to senior, senior to staff, etc. Having a peer group to discuss those themes and help one another is very valuable.

  • Kuan Peng
    Senior Software Engineer [L5] at Google
    18 days ago

    There's actually one similar thing getting kicked off where I am, where it's being called "TL Cooperative." It's not so much a forum for people to talk about work issues, but rather a place for people to discuss and learn what the Tech Lead role is like, how it is different from a standard IC, and what skills are needed and so forth. This is particularly interesting since at Google you could be a IC senior engineer or a Tech Lead senior engineer (neither has management responsibilities), and they are different roles with different expectations.

    I think if the goal of your round table is for learning and helping each other get better, then it doesn't need to be heavy weight, since people only come if they want to learn. If it's more of a work/project alignment related meeting, then maybe reconsider whether it's necessary?