Staff Engineer

Staff Engineer

Staff engineers are extremely vital to any engineering team, viewing the landscape from the overall team charter level instead of individual projects.

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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5 hours ago

How can I work better with toxic staff engineers and bring this to my manager's attention?

Anonymous User at Taro Community profile pic
Anonymous User at Taro Community


I am 8 months in, and there are only two staff engineers on the team.They are pretty demeaning (I find it almost racial, and sexist) and always try and create a bad perspective of me to management. My manager had no clue what I was working on, and she asked me if I consider myself a senior engineer? (I have been a senior for half my career) Only after I was removed from that toxic person's project, I grew and management trusts me now.

I am not a newbie, I have 11 years of work ex and previously worked at a FAANG, where I got exceptional reviews. I am now in a tier 2 company now, and literally anything I suggest to them is po-pooed.

Something as simple as a suggestion to maintain a on-call log as we are ramping up on releasing a new feature, was vetoed against by these two. Our on-call is dumpster fire, with no one knows what is going on expect these two.

Since these two know the technology well, they can get away with any behavior as managers is under pressure and just want this damn feature to launch. Our team is filled with junior engineers and contractors barring a few Senior engineers and these two.

Every task while planning for JIRA starts with "oh this is verrrryyy easy". But it turns out they don't know sh*t and their estimates and providing context is setting me up for failure. I quickly got hang of it, and figured out how to reach my target in-spite of their mis-doings.

They are rude, degrading (only towards me, I find) and are each other's allies. How do I bring it up to a manager without complaining or sounding emotional (I am a women, so its easy to say, I am overreacting by these two, I DO NOT trust them).

I don't want to run away, but stay strong and prove to them and management my caliber. But this also makes it harder to grow on this team.

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3 months ago

What makes a staff engineer from a technical perspective?

Anonymous User at Taro Community profile pic
Anonymous User at Taro Community

I have about 5 YOE and trying to grow from Senior -> Staff engineer but noticing that the path is taking longer than I'd hope.

This is the case whether I try to speak to other companies and ask about interviewing at that level or try to grow within my own company.

Within my own company: Requirements unclear, seems to be more time based (just keep on shipping). Since we're on the smaller side, we don't have a clearly defined structure like FAANG.

Externally: Due to the YOE, usually discussion of Staff isn't even an option even though I think I'm doing Staff level work. In fact, they usually decline the idea before even having a chance to explain what I'm working on.

The projects I'm working on span the entire org (startup), I have multiple mentees, and org-wide impact. I will be honest and say that I don't think the projects I work on are necessarily insanely technically complex (not going out to millions of users, dealing with hyper concurrency issues, or needing to deal with large scalability issues), but they do have a large amount of scope and senior+ level management required to run them.

I think from the project management perspective, I have things nailed down pretty well.

So I wonder if I'm either missing...

  • YOE - Just some sort of arbitrary minimum that is being placed across the board for certain levels to be achieved
  • Technical expertise - I definitely admit that I'm not necessarily INSANELY technical. For example, I can admit gaps like: I don't know how to design a concurrent document editing system like Google docs, or I wouldn't be able to write a live streaming service without reading up on the proper documentation and understanding better how those systems work. Are things like this a requirement to be a staff engineer? To just be more aware or know right away how various systems like this are designed, without needing to do research beforehand?

I'm essentially trying to understand what my gaps might be, and the technical aspect is one I'm unsure about how relevant it is.

Would appreciate any thoughts, especially from Staff+ engineers, maybe sharing what they feel makes them a Staff vs a Senior and how much technical skills play a role vs other elements.

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2 months ago

Seeking Advice: Advancement from L5 to Staff Role and Leveraging Knowledge for Impact

Senior Software Engineer at Intuit profile pic
Senior Software Engineer at Intuit

Hello Taro community,

I hope you're all doing well. I have a question and would greatly appreciate your insights and guidance.

Background: I joined the company last year (ex-FAANG) as an L5 level and have been actively involved in developing internal tooling for a new product. Recently, while exploring our growth and levels documents, I came across our internal rubrics that outline the expectations at each level.

Situation: After identifying a gap between my current level and the staff level, I expressed my interest to my manager. As a result, I am now leading a team of five individuals in the endeavor of implementing automation tooling from scratch. This effort encompasses setting up everything related to automation.

Additional Information:

While my background is primarily in development, I possess knowledge and experience in quality as well. Given the broad impact automation can have across the company, I am eager to leverage my expertise and make a significant contribution.

However, I am uncertain if my focus on quality within a developer role might put me at a disadvantage when aiming for a staff position as a developer.

I am seeking guidance on how to navigate the path towards a staff role, either by leading projects to completion (quality) within my team (& across) or by continuing to work on internal tooling rather than customer-facing products.

Or should I pivot to product development tasks - How do I navigate this conversation with my manager about this dilemma?

Lastly, how can I show metrics and impact?

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4 months ago

How to fortify questions when asking a hot-tempered E6 for more context?

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Anonymous User at Taro Community

I’m an E5 at a Big Tech company. My team’s E6 does not communicate or delegate effectively. He dives straight into the weeds without providing proper context, then gets frustrated and explodes when people ask questions or do the "wrong thing" because they are lost. I’ve seen him do this to multiple team members, including my EM and another E5 teammate. He always assumes that everyone has the same context that he has and is unable to tailor his communication to the appropriate audience. How can I best work effectively with someone like this? He would delegate tasks to me without providing acceptance criteria or proper context, then explode when I ask questions or do something other than exactly what he had in his mind (but never communicated properly). Is there a way to fortify my questions so he’s less likely to explode on me? My EM thinks that this E6 has a “my way or the highway” approach because he’s not used to people challenging his ideas. The E6’s feedback for me is to drive discussions more. However, I find it challenging because he leaves out critical information, then explodes and shares it only when we pull teeth about it in team discussions. I tried sharing pre-read meeting docs beforehand, but he still waits until the meeting to explode / share his feedback. Unfortunately he's a domain expert in this area, so there's no one else I can extract the context from.

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6 months ago

What kind of organisations should a person join at different points in their career?

Senior Software Engineer at Grab profile pic
Senior Software Engineer at Grab

Part 1: Before Joining an organisation

  1. How can one identify the best kind of organisation to join at different point in one's career? I understand that the advice to this question may not be a prescription for all, but how can one identify places that would help them to maximize their learning and growth. For several other people, different parameters may be important for them as well such as work-life balance. Personally, I feel that WLB is dependent on a person more than that on the organisation. Thoughts?
  2. Quite often we feel that growth may be fast paced at startups, but there can be startups that do and don't promote the growth of a person. Given that there is no list out there to check, how can one make the best suited decisions for their career, not landing at a place they should not be at? What kind of research can a person do before joining an organisation?

Part 2: After joining an organisation

  1. Given that a person has joined an organisation, what are the kind of signals that they can identify to see whether the organisation is supportive of their career growth and is indeed the right place to be, for them?
  2. On several anonymous portals, there are people from the organisation that will talk poorly about an organisation when things are not going good for them. Managers can quite often paint a really rosy picture about the place. How do you identify the honest signal from the noise all around?
  3. If you find an organisation not good for you after you join there, how quick is it too quick to leave? How much time should you spend there before you can make a judgement about the same?
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a year ago