👋 this is an experiment – shorter, punchier, less essay-y emails. A valuable insight that comes to mind but isn't yet a full dissertation. Lemme know if you like it.
From a conversation on HackerNews about what it means to be a Staff Engineer and how's it possible that you can have both managers and staff engineers. Don't their roles overlap? Are managers just shirking responsibilities?
As a staff in practice, but not in title, here's how it works for me:
My manager and I are at the same level. We work as peers. They handle the people stuff of the team, I handle the technical stuff of the team. They help with routing people/HR/management questions, I help with routing technical questions.
If you think "Gosh, that person (on another team) sure was rude", that's a question for my manager.
If you think "Gosh, I sure have no idea why that API (from another team) sucks", that's a question for me.
In terms of reporting to my manager it feels more like having a corner-man in the boxing ring than a boss. I fight the fight, they say "Hey you're dropping that right hand on your left hook, stop that or you'll get rekt. Here's some ice".
And the manager spends more time thinking about and navigating politics-like issues in the org than I do, which means I can lean on their expertise when "org stuff" is needed.
By "org stuff" I mean treating the org itself as an organism that needs help and healing. Like when different teams have different cultures and that causes problems. Or when there's misalignment between VPs and you don't know whose direction to follow.
In terms of experience, both my engineering manager and I started working around the same time. The person we both report to happens to be a true greybeard. One level up, you again get a younger person with less experience than that manager.
Point is: We focus on different things. It's not about who reports to whom.
Continue reading about Your manager can be a peer
Semantically similar articles hand-picked by GPT-4
- What I learned from Staff Engineer by Will Larson
- Hug your manager
- On becoming tech lead
- How to go from Senior to Lead
- Why senior engineers get nothing done
Get promoted, earn a bigger salary, work for top companies
Getting that senior title is easy. Just stick around. Being a true senior takes a new way of thinking. Do you have it?
Get a free chapter from the Senior Engineer Mindset book and a sample audiobook chapter, followed by a Senior Mindset 101 email course.
You'll get insights to apply at your work right away.
Senior Mindset Book
Get promoted, earn a bigger salary, work for top companiesLearn more
Have a burning question that you think I can answer? Hit me up on twitter and I'll do my best.
Who am I and who do I help? I'm Swizec Teller and I turn coders into engineers with "Raw and honest from the heart!" writing. No bullshit. Real insights into the career and skills of a modern software engineer.
Want to become a true senior engineer? Take ownership, have autonomy, and be a force multiplier on your team. The Senior Engineer Mindset ebook can help 👉 swizec.com/senior-mindset. These are the shifts in mindset that unlocked my career.
Curious about Serverless and the modern backend? Check out Serverless Handbook, for frontend engineers 👉 ServerlessHandbook.dev
Want to Stop copy pasting D3 examples and create data visualizations of your own? Learn how to build scalable dataviz React components your whole team can understand with React for Data Visualization
Did someone amazing share this letter with you? Wonderful! You can sign up for my weekly letters for software engineers on their path to greatness, here: swizec.com/blog
By the way, just in case no one has told you it yet today: I love and appreciate you for who you are ❤️