For years, companies have rewarded their most effective engineers by suggesting they move to a management position. But treating management as the default — or only — path for an engineer with leadership ability doesn't serve the industry well. The staff engineer path allows you to contribute at a high level, with more free time to drive big projects, determine tech strategy, and raise everyone's skills.

With this in-depth book, author Tanya Reilly shows you ways to master strategic thinking, manage difficult projects, and set the standard for technical work. You'll learn how to be a leader without direct authority, how to plan ahead so that you're making the right technical decisions, and how to make everyone around you better, all while still leaving you time to grow as an expert in your domain.

In three parts, you'll explore the three pillars of an engineer's job:

  • Big picture thinking: learn how to take a broad, strategic view when thinking about your work
  • Project execution: dive into tactics and explore the practicalities of making projects succeed
  • Being a positive influence: determine the standards for what "good engineering" means in your organization

Table of Contents

  1. Intro
    1. The tech track
    2. Senior and Beyond
    3. Part 1: Big Picture
    4. Part 2: Execution
    5. Part 3: Positive Influence
  2. 1. What Exactly Would You Say You Do Here?
    1. Takeaways 
    2. What even is a Staff Engineer?
    3. Why are you here?
    4. Why do we need engineers who can see the big picture?
    5. Why do we need engineers who lead projects that cross multiple teams?
    6. Why do we need engineers who are a good influence?
    7. Why do these need to be Staff engineers?
    8. Enough philosophy. What’s my job?
    9. You’re not a manager, but you are a leader
    10. You’re in a “technical” role
    11. You aim to be autonomous
    12. You set technical direction
    13. You communicate often and well
    14. Mapping your own role
    15. Where in the organization do you sit?
    16. What’s your scope?
    17. What do you enjoy doing?
    18. What’s your current mission
    19. Aligning on your scope and mission
    20. “That’s not my job”.