A friend who recently was promoted to a Staff Engineer, and wanted to learn a bit more about the role asked me if I had any good resources. I put together a small set of resources that could be helpful when aspiring or transitioning into Principal or Staff level engineering roles. I figured it would be good to share out with others who might be interested. I broke up the resources into a few different categories, so folks can dig in where relevant. It is worth noting that higher-level technical roles have a lot of variance between companies. Folks will find that they can often shape the role or find a company that defines the role in a way that will be interesting to them. Don’t feel like you need to fit into a tightly defined box, long as you are providing high-level value, there is a place for you to grow and apply your technical experience. You will hear of staff engineers who never code, while others with the same title still consider software development a core part of their job responsibilities. Whatever way you want to grow and increase the value of your work there is always more to learn as you expand your technical software career and look to have a broader impact on software development.
A few things actually focus on this narrow niche of technology roles. Overall, these are all excellent resources that I highly recommended. This list includes sources that continually create and add new content.
There are many good articles as well, but obviously these are more of one offs.
As you are shaping technology decisions that can have impacts for years, plan to try to keep up on some of what is happening with the industry in general. Find sources that relate to your field, attend conferences, read newsletters, or listen to podcasts. Figure out the best way for you to low effort keep your ear to the ground. A few resources, I have enjoyed.
My friend and I both work on remote-first teams. A few resources around remote work, and how to lead tech outside of centralized teams.
Although there are lots of great posts, talks, and threads about technology leadership, sometimes nothing can give the big picture and the depth of a book. The shortlist of books below, stand out in my mind as worth the time.
I am mostly operating in the Ruby world, and my friend is also at a Ruby-based company, so some Ruby-specific resources. As you grow as a tech leader in some sense you will care less about a specific technology, but there are reasons to keep an ear to the ground for the technologies your business has invested so much in. As I have grown my career, I have found it valuable to stay up to date with things going on in the community. If your company is invested in Ruby it means your hiring, training, operations, and infrastructure costs are all related to Ruby, ensure you are using it at its best.
Good luck with the new role and growth. As always there are lots to learn, but there is a growing community out there to find friends and mentors and talk about what you want out of your career. The highly defined ladder is changing and roles are more malleable as we move to more hybrid and distributed ways of working. Feel free to explore and help shape the ways folks can lead in technology, it doesn’t have to be a path to being a manager, director, or VP in all cases anymore. It is an exciting time to be a technical learner and leader.
If you have any good articles, sites, or books please share them with me, as I am always looking to learn more about what others in this area are doing.