Early Learnings as a Staff Engineer

After acting as a staff engineer over the last six months, I wanted to take a moment to share some of my learnings and observations so far. I hope this list is insightful not just to aspiring staff engineers but to engineers of all levels.

  • I have more frequent conversations with key stakeholders across the business to get alignment on vision and strategy.
  • I spend more time aligning my team on vision and strategy.
  • Having 1-on-1s is not only helpful as a manager but as a staff engineer as well. It helps to sync closely with each team member, provide and receive feedback, and all of it in a personal and safe space.
  • My actions set a standard for other engineers. Both my good and bad behaviors can have a profound and lasting impact.
  • Writing documentation and giving talks are some of the most effective ways to educate and spread knowledge across the organization.
  • Removing blockers for my team can happen in both technical and non-technical settings.
  • Giving non-blocking feedback is powerful. It provides the opportunity to educate while empowering my peers to explore the input and decide for themselves.
  • I have organizational trust when I sponsor individuals and ideas.

While this list will undoubtedly change and grow, it’s helped me reflect on how I can have a significant impact as a staff engineer.

If you’re looking for more resources to be an effective staff engineer, I recommend Will Larson’s book, Staff Engineer, and stories from other staff engineers on staffeng.com.