Evolving as a Staff Engineer: Embracing Both Depth and Breadth

Oct 10, 2023 by manish

When I think of the most respected staff+ engineers I’ve worked with, a few specific things stand out as a common factor.

They were both specialists and generalists.

They were experts in a specific layer of the tech stack but also had foundational knowledge in adjacent areas.

Here is what stood out:

1️⃣ They mastered a specific tech or framework
2️⃣ They understood the basics of adjacent fields
3️⃣ They were effective communicators and collaborators

Growing beyond staff level requires you to be a specialist but at the same time good enough generalist so that you can effectively communicate with other teams, build relationships, and make large engineering initiatives successful.

To be a good enough generalist, consider a short stint, a ‘tour of duty’, in an adjacent field. The broader lens you have, the more impactful you become.

In large organizations, striving to be a master of one can limit one’