Staff Engineer

Last Edited : Jan 11, 2023

4 Min read

Title: Staff Software Engineer

Scope: Team or Function

Summary: Staff Engineers at Signal AI are highly experienced individual leaders and seasoned technical experts whose influence extends beyond their team. They are recognised by their peers as an authority in a domain or technology and other engineers often seek their opinion when facing highly complex problems. They are likely to be actively involved in one or more guilds.

Staff Engineers will form our senior leadership team within the company and often assume the role of Tech Lead for their team and be highly confident in the role they can personally play in helping Signal AI achieve our business goals. They do this by focusing on high impact, high value work which likely involves our largest and most ambiguous problems, driving discovery work and mobilising their team to deliver.

The journey to Staff Engineer will be extremely challenging and require developing skills that extend well beyond pure engineering and a significant step up from Senior Engineer level. Everyone’s path through this level will be different but will likely take around 5 years or more for our most talented engineers.

Key Takeaway: As a Staff Engineer you’re regularly demonstrating leadership both inside and outside your team. You’re a technical authority and influence towards effective solutions. Your role is as much about being a force-multiplier for your team as it is about being an individual contributor. You recognise that you can have the most impact by helping your team to do their best work, rather than doing it all yourself.

You have a vision and a plan for where you want the team to be a year from now. Importantly, you can articulate that vision clearly and engagingly to a variety of audiences, such as the senior stakeholders you now meet with increasingly often.

Influential Impact

  • Demonstrates high product awareness for areas of the business they are working with. Works closely with product and engineering leadership to ensure we’re making the right decisions affecting architecture and ownership across one or more teams.
  • Can draw up a technical roadmap with their team, showing how they plan to accomplish longer-term goals, with ballpark estimates.
  • Leads large, strategic, complex engineering projects – often crossing team boundaries and sometimes functional boundaries. Demonstrates a clear record of delivering under pressure.
  • Proposes iterative suggestions to the wider engineering group’s culture and ways of working.
  • Takes the lead in establishing cross-team consensus for architectural and systems design problems across multiple teams.
  • Proposes iterative suggestions to the wider engineering group’s culture and ways of working.
  • Proactively sponsors, mentors, and helps to level-up more senior engineers.

Technical Mastery

  • Leads architectural system designs on entirely new complex systems from scratch.
  • Articulates a coherent future vision for the larger system that they share responsibility for.
  • Has a proven track record of implementing significant improvements in quality, performance, stability and scalability to code they work on.
  • Has a deeper understanding of the infrastructure behind services the team builds. Can clearly rationalise choices around deployment technology and scaling requirements.
  • Illustrates a deep understanding of industry best practices and when and where they should be adopted by their peers.
  • Capable of temporarily bolstering a team or business area to pair or write code on problems that are particularly complex, difficult, high impact, or novel.

Behavioural Approach

  • Proactively identifies opportunities that can be led by technology innovation. Effectively communicates these and supports changes to adapt to these challenges.
  • Identifies needs for leadership and steps up to lead when required, even if not explicitly asked of them.
  • Clearly articulate their ideas (e.g. ramifications of proposed changes) to different audiences, using different approaches or styles for each.
  • Are effective at de-escalating technical disagreements within the team, when necessary.
  • Proactively reach out to other parts of the wider organisation, for support or gaining clarity when required.
  • Looks for opportunities to present in larger engineering forums in-order to disseminate knowledge outside of their team.