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Staff Engineer Career Development Videos, Forum, and Q&A

How A Staff Engineer Can Grow Their Career

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

Feeling stuck because of the unwanted office politics.

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

tldr; I am a Tech Lead working in of the big tech giants, getting burnt out due to office politics and ignorant managers.

I am one of the few people (~20) who accidentally was made remote, this was the result of one of the irresponsible move from one of the tech giant.

Anyways, I was part of a team for almost more than a year and the company culture was a bit shocking to me as my manager refused to do 1:1, lack of quality work and ignorance because of me being the remote was evident.

Six months before I, including my team, was transferred to another team with a greenfield project (with little or no prior info), we worked really hard but after 3-4months, another reshuffling happened and most of the team was moved to other projects/team. After couple of months the team was finally dismantled, I thought we will go back to our original team but to my surprise, instead of retaining me, they hired two new lead engineers in their location. In between all of this I was surprised to know that my manager (previous) didn't fill my annual review, when I tried to contact him I didn't get any response. I also scheduled a meeting with him but he didn't show up.

Few weeks before, I was moved to another team, which I found was in the mid of big release. The Principal engineer who was responsible for the design and architecture of the system was moved out before I joined so there was no knowledge sharing per se. I tried to contact him but he is too busy to entertain me now. During the first couple of days, my new manager briefed me that I am the owner of this new project and I have to look after each and everything. The project in itself is very huge: It was in design phase since last 1 year, and it depends on 2-3 teams. Everyday I am pulled into random meetings where there is a lot of alignment going on with some crucial decision making as the project is going to be live in new few months. In the daily sprint the manager wants to make sure I have enough work assigned to me as well. In two weeks I am almost burnt out as I have little or no time left after hours of meeting and going through the random documents.

Recently I came to know that there will a week long in-person workshop to get an alignment on the various decisions on the current project and I am not invited, I pinged my manager for the same but there is a long silence.

As of now, I have little or no breathing space to prepare for the interviews and almost on the verge of burnout.

Few important points:

  • To my surprise my official manager is still the same manager (first team) and he has still not filled up my performance review.
  • I moved countries because of personal issues so leaving the company may not be easy as of now. I have a lot of financial responsibilities, plus the current market and immigration condition has made the condition worse.
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Staff IC to EM-1: Should I make the transition?

Staff Software Engineer [E6] at Taro Community profile pic
Staff Software Engineer [E6] at Taro Community

I have 15 years of experience in the tech industry. I joined meta as an E6 engineer in July, following 7 years at Amazon and over 6 years at Microsoft. Afte joining, I quickly initiated and led small projects, progressing to a major project. I utilized my experience to guide and support other engineers, contributing to their professional growth. Our team has another E6 tech lead with deep domain knowledge and currently, he is the face of the team. We maintain a positive and respectful relationship, trusting each other.

However, I observed that our engineering manager (EM) was not effectively providing direction, hindering team productivity. Recognizing this gap, I collaborated with other tech lead to create a project tracking sheet, enabling us to monitor initiatives with timelines and ownership. This significantly improved our team's efficiency and motivation, leading to the successful completion of a major project.

Now, here's the exciting part – my skip reached out and surprised me with an offer for the EM role! While I'm honored, I'm grappling with doubts about whether I have the necessary skills for success. Despite enjoying mentoring others in technical discussions, I'm concerned about potentially losing touch with the hands-on tech work that I love.

On the bright side, my tech lead partner is supportive and believes I should take on the EM role, offering full support. However, I'm contemplating whether I should explore the possibility of a Tech Lead Manager role to strike a balance between leadership and hands-on technical involvement.

I'm at a crossroads and would love to hear your thoughts and advice based on your experiences.  One side me want to try EM path but one side says why take this hassle and stick with what you know better i.e tech. Also, I treat myself as avg communicator. I feel, I am good at empathy, task breakdown and mentoring skills.

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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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