Principal Engineer

Principal Engineer

Principal engineers have massive scope, always greatly transcending the boundaries of their immediate team. They own success at an organization level, and their impact can often be felt across the entire company.

How can I best invest my personal development time as a Staff Engineer who would like to continue progressing as an IC?

Staff Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Staff Engineer at Taro Community

I'm a Staff Engineer in the satellite telecommunications industry where I am responsible for the strategic success of the software products in my department. My organizational responsibilities and weekly calendar align almost perfectly with the . I'm sure that it will come as a surprise to no one that getting to this point in my career was an intense and conscientious journey. I am self-taught, I fell in love with programming as a child, and I have never attended a University. Things are not even close to perfect, but I am happy with my career so far.

My day-to-day work does not involve much programming, but I spend the vast majority of my time communicating with Tech Leads, Scrum Masters, PMs, TPMs, EMs, etc. to coordinate and accomplish different tasks. The rest of my time is split between communicating and aligning with high-level product stakeholders, such as my boss, and mentoring engineers. When I do code, it is because there is some experiment I want to run, i.e., I might create a prototype of a new product or feature that could massively impact a departmental OKR.

Outside of my day-to-day work, I dedicate as much time as I can to learning and practicing new technical (programming, cloud), professional (LinkedIn Learning), and domain-specific (satellites, AI) skills. I also consume a lot of content here on Taro and I often participate in company and community programs that I believe in (change maker programs, diversity and inclusion programs, etc. as a participant or as a coach).

I would love to have input on this aspect of my career as a Staff Engineer who would like to be a Fellow one day. As I make progress in my career, I find that (obviously) the expectations others have of me, in regard to being at the forefront of technology and really knowing what I am talking about in domain-specific (science-heavy, business-heavy) topics, have grown exponentially. I've already adapted my approach to developing domain-specific skills, for instance, instead of relying solely on MOOCs, I also now have regular sessions with domain experts (business folks with advanced industry-relevant university degrees), something my boss encourages and expects me to continue to do. I have now also considered the prospect of going to university myself, something my employer would sponsor.

So the question is, how can I best invest my personal development time so that as I progress in my career I can continue to meet, or even surpass, exponentially growing expectations?

I'm sure someone will have a great idea of how to approach this challenge. Also, there is a quote I appreciate from Alex Chiou that gives me hope that I can do it.

It wasn't due to natural talent or anything - I'm honestly not that smart.

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9 days ago