Technical career development after senior

Just like engineering, the experience and impact of software manufacturing is changing. The technical career also had its impact and is changing with the times. That’s what we’re going to talk about in this article: Staff-Plus Engineers.

In fact, this change will continue; Software engineering is constantly evolving, so the terms need to evolve as well.

It is always important to point out that technical careers vary by country, companies and times. In general, we can think of the technical career movement in three important trends:

From Engineering Professional to Manager

A broad step in the beginning of the field was to define that a management career was a mandatory step for all! That is, an engineer, after the senior position, would have to migrate to functions such as manager, chief and director, among others, to further impact the organization.

From Career Separation: The Birth of Career in Y

Over time, companies understood that it was necessary to innovate to remain competitive. That’s when he realized that few people stand out in a field, always searching deeply, seeking knowledge, and offering solutions to core demands.

However, most of the time, they did not occupy a position equivalent to their work, as traditional careers usually only value leadership positions.

The advantage of this movement is likely to allow the individual to remain in the technical field rather than suddenly going into management. Thus, with Career Y, the position of specialist arises, where it is possible to focus on specialization.

Most relevant to the assessment are the time of professional experience, the low speed of solving problems, and the risks posed by the loss of that person.

From experts without strategic involvement

However, on the one hand, the management position is responsible for all strategic and technical loads; On the other hand, the specialist person, broadly speaking, becomes merely an expensive or luxurious senior.

Short term is good as one does not need to go into management and prefers to delve into their respective expertise; In the long run, the challenge is to justify their existence.

We can also say that it fostered a belief, a paradigm, that the people who choose not to be in management are the ones who do not like to behave and live with each other. And this taboo encourages and encourages the development of so many soft skills in professionals who follow this “natural” movement without criticism.

Meanwhile, some people and companies began to see a new wave, both because of the need for the careers of specialist people who wanted to know and influence more, and for companies that had an imminent need for their business. were also affected by it. A complementary view of technicality.

Today, there are many discussions about whether it makes sense to use the term career in the Y. Mainly because both are important areas. Still, it will compare bananas with apples with different knowledge and expertise. This is one reason why it is often not related to Y Career or its 2.0 version.

Going deeper into these profiles and their differences, we can use the framework for a professional engineering career and compare the two sizes: management and technical leadership or staff-plus.

Management and Technical Leadership or Staff-Plus

For example, we can visualize the final stages of the careers of management and employees using the engineering ladder framework. Overall, they manage to fill the entire strategic quadrant of an organization together.

The great challenge is that in addition to realizing this complementarity and highlighting corporate careers, in practice it is necessary to open spaces for exchange and engage audiences in small and large meetings of discussion and decision.

What is the most important difference between a senior and a staff-plus engineer?

A recurring thought about tech careers is that learning new skills or dealing with people is unnecessary as you develop as employees.

It is an idea that many organizations consider to be a mistake of the past. Software is made for the people and by the people. Thus, the human factor becomes important.

Staffing will continue without the responsibility of managing a team; I.e., they will not deal with increments, salaries, team coordination, etc. However, he is responsible for providing career mentorship to engineering associates, enhancing the quality of software, and thinking about the implications of architecture, primarily strategically.

Based on this, technical leadership will have to develop technologically, but not only that, it will require better communication skills and more significant concern for their teams. This process plays a vital role in influencing this career through reasoning, persuasion and negotiation.

What do I need to know to understand better?

The term is broad, and the first step to learning more about this career is by Will Larson’s book: Staff Engineer: Leadership Beyond Management.

You can find cases of big companies like Netflix, Microsoft, Elastic, Github, 1Password, Gitlab, etc… The author worked on them to know their behavior. There is no clear and unambiguous standard between companies, but there are some similarities, and this book addresses a lot.

There are levels of technological development within the workforce and what is expected at each level.

Knowing Staff-Plus Engineer Levels

Generally speaking, as individual contributors we have the following levels:

sub engineer

An engineer who will assist the team with mentoring, design and architecture decisions, in addition to code.

Principal Engineer

  • Professionals who will start working on an organizational edge and with a strong tendency to run cross-team;
  • It aims to influence the board or product through study and strategic decisions;
  • There is an alignment with the board;
  • They usually have a qualification that permeates the company and has an organizational impact.

eminent engineer

  • Professionals of excellence whose main objective is to impact the entire organization;
  • Their alignment is usually with the VPS (Vice Presidents) of the company;
  • The designation also serves as a recognition for technical and scientific excellence in the IT sector;
  • Overall, someone has already influenced/influenced everyone by creating some pattern, language, framework etc.

There are some great references to people in this position, for example:

With this situation, the question of programming frequency always remains. Yes, the engineering person needs to be close to the code and with the trends; However, as the career develops, the coding time will decrease.


The technical career of an engineer is changing over time, especially as technology has become a strategic resource for organizations.

Professionals with excellent technical knowledge who can implement it efficiently, impacting the entire organization, are increasingly needed; Therefore, communication skills are also essential.

Thus was born Staff-Plus Engineer, focusing on people capable of striking a good balance of soft and hard skills. This first article talks a bit about the motivations and needs of professionals in this position. In the second part, we’ll look at some of the most frequently asked questions on this topic.

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