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The Rise of the Staff+ Engineer
Discover how to effectively market to this highly influential role
A trend the QCon San Francisco Program Committee is focusing on this year is the rise of the Staff+Engineer. In many large organizations, as technical team leads and other senior engineering staff move into management roles, they often find that this comes at the cost of losing their ‘technical chops’ as their new roles often require them to take on more traditional business and management functions.
However, organizations are now paving the way for technical team leads to grow into a new kind of leadership role: the Staff+ Engineer. While there are many variations of the role, the Staff+ Engineer typically remains very close to the technology, drives the technical direction of the product, and empowers other software engineers - and teams - to collaborate and grow within the company.
It’s also a very influential role when it comes to adopting new technologies and influencing software purchasing decisions within the organization.
“Usually, Staff+ Engineers are responsible for providing the technical perspective on many organization decisions, including software purchasing,” says Fabiane Nardon, QCon San Francisco 2022 Track Host, Data Scientist, Java Champion & CTO @tail_oficial. “Before acquiring new software, a Staff+ Engineer will be called to evaluate it.”
It’s uncommon for an organization to acquire a new solution if the technical team has advised against it, says Nardon.
Marketing your product to Staff+ Engineers
Staff+ engineers are focused on unblocking their teams, facilitating collaboration, and driving product innovation. In order to empower them to do their jobs, marketers need to be direct and transparent about their products’ features and limitations.
“Staff+ Engineers care for things that work and solve their problems and they will reject products if they feel there is more marketing than real functionality,” says Nardon.
Ensuring that your software has good documentation, a vibrant community around it, and real world use cases that you can point to, are all key things that Staff+ Engineers look for when researching new solutions for their teams and organization, adds Nardon.
Fostering technical leadership
In order to continue driving innovation within the industry, it’s important that top technical talent within the company isn’t simply ‘poached’ into managerial positions, where better compensation and decision making power usually reside, says Nardon.
More than a traditional manager, the Staff+ engineer may in fact have greater influence and impact on fellow software engineers through a combination of technical skills, deep understanding of the product, and career mentorship.