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For a Staff engineer at a Big Tech company, what should their first 3-6 months look like?

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Staff Software Engineer [Lead MTS] at Salesforce2 years ago

I'm a relatively new engineer at Salesforce (been here just ~4 months), and I'm having trouble clearly understanding my expectations.

What's the ideal ramp-up/onboarding strategy for a Staff engineer at a Big Tech company like Salesforce; in particular, what should the first 3-6 months look like? Are there any specific artifacts you would expect such an engineer to have produced during this time?

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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago
    • There's really no common onboarding plan or even overall playbook for a staff engineer as this is the level when engineers' paths really diverge. Junior -> senior is more foundational (i.e. there's more commonalities), and staff is when things get really different/crazy.
    • Remember that a staff engineer is equivalent to the standard EM. This means that you are also responsible for the overall success of the team. If a staff engineer struggles, the team struggles. If a staff engineer crushes it, the team is probably doing well.
    • Some commonalities of onboarding staff engineers:
      • Build deep relationships with the other staff engineers as they need to see you as a peer. Also build these relationships with the senior engineers on your team as a staff engineer is expected to lead senior engineers.
      • If you're working on the product side, get to know the PM. Other people to get to know are the designer, data scientist, and product marketing manager (if applicable).
      • You should be linked to a big technical project that spans across your entire team if not more.
    • Artifacts after 3-6 months:
      • If the only recurring 1:1 you have is with your manager, then you have probably failed.
      • If you aren't the core POC on a major tech spec document, then you have also probably failed.
    • Ideas to find staff level scope:
      • Improve the onboarding process for the entire team. Maybe built an interactive code playground to next-level it.
      • Optimize or create internal tools like a linter that help the entire team/org/company.
      • Go deep into the data to find an opportunity (i.e. creating scope) that uplifts the entire team and makes a substantial dent towards OKRs/KPIs.

    Related resources:

  • 1
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    What I've heard as a reasonable onboarding timeline for very senior folks [Staff+]:

    • Your first half, you should operate as a senior engineer [E5]
    • Your 2nd half, you should operate as a staff engineer [E6]
    • Your 3rd half, you should operate as a senior staff engineer [E7]
    • and so on...

    For the very senior levels, it takes months to ramp up on the context / relationships to be effective.