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I would like to get more clarity on what a Staff-level project and execution look like.

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Senior Software Engineer at LinkedIn2 years ago

My goal is to level up to Staff someday, and I feel like I've gotten a lot of very high-level advice and examples that are hard to directly apply. What are some detailed examples of Staff level projects, and what about the execution/behaviors made them Staff?



  • 56
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago

    The best example we have on Taro (and we're looking to make more!) is this case study where Rahul created an internal tool to help debug Android issues at Portal (Portal was forked off AOSP, so this accounts for a ton of bugs). Here's why it was Staff level behavior:

    • Self-driven - Rahul identified the opportunity on his own and transformed it from just a rough idea to a fully-fledged product (lots of disambiguation). Staff engineers shouldn't need to be constantly told what to do - They're able to identify large problems and solve them on their own. This mentality shift starts as engineers level up to senior but really goes into overdrive as they start progressing to Staff.
    • Large scope - Initially, it helped dozens of engineers and from there, it grew to hundreds. If I were to put a number on it, Staff-level projects should have a scope of at least 25+ engineers.
    • Crystal clear impact - Many engineering working hours saved * hundreds of engineers = Lots of $$$ saved for the company as it frees up these cycles to work on more feature development. This impact also cut across several teams, which is a requirement for Staff-level contributions.
    • Long time horizon - The tool started off in a really janky state, and Rahul iterated on it many times across several months. Staff projects are generally 1 year+, at least greater than just 1 half. As a side note, this is why the Staff promotion is very "laggy" - You generally need to be functioning at this level for 9-12 months before you get it. Staff engineers inherently should be thinking very long-term.
    • Great depth - A lot of engineers will just ship basic working solutions and be on their way, but Rahul added a thorough analytics layer to understand his tool's usage and impact. This worked out especially well in Meta, which is an extremely metrics-driven company. Staff engineers must have a deep understanding of their company's culture (e.g. is it metrics-driven, design-driven, etc) and incorporate it into how they present their work.

    Here's another Q&A I did around Staff Engineer patterns: "What are the common themes behind how engineers at Big Tech reach Staff+ levels when it comes to their project execution?"

  • 11
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    Here's a great response from Rachel Zhao: https://www.jointaro.com/lesson/FzvHLUprcYonudsxnJc2/whats-the-difference-between-a-senior-and-staff-engineer/

    She mentions that Staff Engineers should have enough influence and context that they're able to describe what to work on in addition to how.

  • 14
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    President at Comstock Software, Inc
    a year ago

    Staff engineers at LinkedIn could focus on identifying and addressing aspects that will improve the overall business. Their responsibilities might include:

    • Identify key constraints for the team. Then design/build or select/implement tools that reduce bottlenecks.
    • Champion and lead the adoption of new technologies within the company (e.g., select and implement a product like Glean) to minimize disruptions to team resources.
    • Foster a culture of knowledge sharing to empower other engineers to unlock value for the business.
    • Participate in cross-functional teams to understand and address potential threats to LinkedIn's market leadership.
    • Identify opportunities to reduce operational costs.
    • Enhance the team's ability to respond effectively to market challenges and threats.
  • 13
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    It's a been a long time since I originally answered this question, and a lot has changed with Taro since then. Most importantly, we now have more Staff Engineer case studies:

    Here's some other great discussions around senior -> staff as well:

LinkedIn is an employment-oriented online service, and since 2017, a subsidiary of Microsoft. It's primarily used for professional networking and career development, and allows job seekers to post their CVs and employers to post jobs. LinkedIn has 800M+ registered members from over 200 countries.
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