Unlocking Success at the Staff Engineer Level: Shifting Mindset and Building New Skills

Aug 22, 2023 by manish

Many Sr. Software Engineers want to get to Staff/L6 level, but once they get promoted, they often lack a clear understanding of what it truly entails. 🤔

In most cases, managers provide support to help Sr. Software Engineers advance, but that support structure disappears once you start operating as a Staff Engineer.

Instead of just focusing on checkboxes for promotion, observe some of the best staff+ engineers around you and learn how they operate.

Many newly promoted staff engineers don’t realize this – as an individual contributor, the higher you go you’ll be writing less and less code and more and more focusing on collaboration, mentoring, and reading code.

You will be spending more time thinking about how to make your team successful and not just your own project. It’s a shift in mindset, but it’s where the real game begins!

Go in with a mindset of learning new skills not with a mindset that I am already there. Becoming a seasoned, well-respected staff engineer in the org takes time.

Here are a few lesser-known skills you need to develop to thrive as a Staff Engineer:

🤝 Learn to collaborate effectively with colleagues who have different priorities. Building alignment is a key skill at this level.

💼 Figure out how to work on projects and initiatives that truly matter for the business. Understand the larger strategic goals and align your work accordingly.

🔄 Stay in close sync with your manager, their peers, and the broader organization’s priorities. Regular communication ensures you’re aligned and focused on the right areas.

🎯 Focus on onboarding, mentoring, and coaching junior engineers. Your experience and guidance can have a tremendous impact on their professional growth.

Share your experiences and thoughts on operating at the Staff+ level in the comments. What challenges have you faced? What advice would you give to others aspiring to reach this role?