Book review Staff Engineer Leadership Beyond the Management Track

Staff Engineer Leadership Beyond the Management is the first book I read in years that a friend did not recommend. It initially got my attention because of the title in an auto recommendation from amazon. I decided to buy it as soon as I see it included an interview with Damian Schenkelman (I met him some years ago at an event in Brazil, and he seemed to be a great engineer, in the worst case, I would get some updates about his career).

Despite that, to my surprise, this was a great book one of the best I have read regarding a technical career. The book divides into two parts, In the first part, the author shares his compilation of the subject, and in the second part, he shows the raw interviews.

One of the most remarkable contributions from the book is the definition of the archetypes, and I think the author has made great organizing the chaos of the roles in a few definitions. I particularly liked how the author adds a calendar example for each archetype because it gives you an idea of where your time will be spent. I could see myself in several of those positions in different positions of my career, for example, as an Architect and Right Hand in my three years at Teknisa, or as a Solver in my three years at Tenfold, and now at Radical after an initial time as Tech Lead leading project team and later moved to a role that looks a lot like a Solver in the customer I am consulting for.

My main goal with the book was to find out how to have a bigger impact while occupating technical roles. It has delivered on that, mostly because I learned how to make a more significant impact. For most of my career, I worked on SaS companies, where to me is much easier to identify great impactful projects. However, now in a consulting company, things are more challenging since having a significant impact on one customer is still limited to that customer’s economic relevance in your company. So to make a more significant impact, we need to take projects that impact multiple customers. Next, I am posting some of the not organized ideas I got from the book.

## How can we have a more significant impact?
* Glue work (From devops, frontend, cloud, backend, and customers engaging)
* Finishing projects.
* Writing technical strategies 
* Build and run a quality program (across several projects) (debate best practices, leverage points, technical vector, measure technical quality) Document success of tools and practices across all orgs projects
* Create a document and share workflow and tooling
* Technical Training
* Curate technology chain (For new starting projects or for refractories)
* Building in public (new open source projects, live streaming, blogging, creating a company brand among developers )
* Being the engineer at the table for decisions

I found the last part of the book with the interviews even more enriching. It brings excellent information on how Staff plus engineers have a significant impact in several companies and how they got their titles.

Nowadays, I care much less about titles in our field. I am sure Staff plus titles will be used soon for salary differentiation or retaining proposes and will have less and less meaning over time. Still, having them organized in the way they are in the book and manly the archetypes gave a great idea about expectations and possibilities of enormous impact. For me, that is the actual value from the book.


The book became one of the top 5 books in my recommendation for younger engineers looking to grow on their careers after senior level and stay happy with what they are doing. It was also a great surprise since I had few expectations at the beginning of the reading.

Where to find it


Written on August 24, 2021