Kitchen Soap – On Being A Senior Engineer


116 bookmarks. First posted by brandonweiss july 2017.


I think that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in our field, especially about what makes for a productive engineer. via Pocket
pocket-article 
9 weeks ago by ghiden
soft skills. empathy.
Development  software  engineering 
9 weeks ago by dmartinez
Having said that, what does it actually mean to be ‘senior’ in this discipline? I certainly have an opinion of what it means, given that I’m charged with hiring, supporting, and retaining engineers whom are deemed to be senior. This notion that there is a bar to be passed in terms of career development is a good one, but I’d also add that these criteria exist on a spectrum, as opposed to a simple list of check-boxes. You don’t wake up one day and you are “senior” just because your title reflects that upon a promotion. Senior engineers don’t know everything. They’re not perfect in their technical knowledge, and they’re OK with that. In order not to confuse titles with expectations that are fuzzy, sometimes I’ll refer to engineering maturity. Meaning: I expect a “senior” engineer to be a mature engineer.
software  engineering  career 
9 weeks ago by dlkinney
I think that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in our field, especially about what makes for a productive engineer. But while there are a good deal of…
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10 weeks ago by tonyandrewmeyer
I think that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in our field, especially about what makes for a productive engineer. But while there are a good deal of…
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10 weeks ago by indirect
As I struggle to find my identity in this field, this piece was helpful in clarifying that my attitudes and approaches are in the right place, even if my technical skills are a mashup.
2018-reading  tumblr 
10 weeks ago by pixelpaperyarn
I think that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in our field, especially about what makes for a productive engineer. But while there are a good deal of books in the management field about “expert” roles and responsibilities of non-technical individual contributors, I don’t see too many modern books or posts that might shed light…
engineering  engineering-growth 
12 weeks ago by jiffyclub
I think that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in our field, especially about what makes for a productive engineer. But while there are a good deal of books in the management field about “expert” roles and responsibilities of non-technical individual contributors, I don’t see too many modern books or posts that might shed light…
career  advice  engineering  management  programming 
august 2018 by brianyang
I expect a “senior” engineer to be a mature engineer.

I’m going to gloss over the part where one could simply list the technical areas in which a mature engineer should have some level of mastery or understanding (such as “Networking”, “Filesystems”, “Algorithms”, etc.) and instead highlight the personal characteristics that in my mind give me indication that someone can influence an organization or a business positively in the domain of engineering.
senior  engineering  culture  management  leadership 
august 2018 by spaceninja
Nuanced and comprehensive take on what it means to be senior in any role.

... the degree to which other people want to work with you is a direct indication on how successful you’ll be in your career as an engineer. Be the engineer that everyone wants to work with.

On estimation and planning.

Avoiding responsibility for estimates is another way of saying, “I’m not ready to be relied upon for building critical pieces of infrastructure.” All businesses rely on estimates, and all engineers working on a project are involved in Joint Activity, which means that they have a responsibility to others to make themselves interpredictable. In general, mature engineers are comfortable with working within some nonzero amount of uncertainty and risk.

On how systems evolve over time. Sometimes the original design was good enough to get us this far. This might be my favorite section.

They know that they work within a spectrum of ideal and non-ideal, and are OK with that. They are comfortable with it because they strive to make the ideal and non-ideal in a design explicit. Later on in the lifecycle of a design, when the original design is not scaling anymore or needs to be replaced or rewritten, they can look back not with a perspective of how short-sighted those earlier decisions were, but instead say “yep, we made it this far with it and knew we’d have to extend or change it at some point. Looks like that time is now, let’s get to work!” instead of responding with a cranky-pants, passive-aggressive Hindsight Bias-filled remark with counterfactuals (e.g.. “those idiots didn’t do it right the first time!”, “they cut corners!”, “I TOLD them this wouldn’t work!”)
programming  management  career  engineering  BestOf2018 
july 2018 by jefframnani
cultural sides of engineering
engineering  seniority  management 
may 2018 by trustfundbaby
I think that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in our field, especially about what makes for a productive engineer. But while there are a good deal of books in the management field about “expert” roles and responsibilities of non-technical individual contributors, I don’t see too many modern books or posts that might shed light…
may 2018 by danielmetz
I think that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in our field, especially about what makes for a productive engineer.
may 2018 by davidmatas
I think that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in our field, especially about what makes for a productive engineer. But while there are a good deal of…
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may 2018 by michaelfox
Mature engineers have an innate sense of anticipation, even if they don’t know they do.

This code looks good, I’m proud of myself. I’ve asked other people to review it, and I’ve taken their feedback. Now: how long will it last before it’s rewritten? Once it’s in production, how will its execution affect resource usage? How much so I expect CPU/memory/disk/network to increase or decrease? Will others be able to understand this code? Am I making it as easy as I can for others to extend or introspect this work?



Mature engineers lift the skills and expertise of those around them.

They recognize that at some point, their individual contribution and potential cannot be exercised singularly. They recognize that there is only so much that can be produced by a single person, and the world’s best engineering feats are executed by teams, not singularly brilliant and lone engineers. Tom Limoncelli makes this point quite well in his post.

At Etsy we call this a “generosity of spirit.” Generosity of spirit is one of our core engineering values, but also a primary responsibility of our Staff Engineer position, a career-level position. These engineers spend the time to make sure that more junior or new engineers unfamiliar with the tech or processes we have not only understand what they are doing, but also why they are doing it. “Teaching to fish” is a mandatory skill at this level, and that requires having both patience and a perspective of investment in the rest of the organization.



They know that they work within a spectrum of ideal and non-ideal, and are OK with that. They are comfortable with it because they strive to make the ideal and non-ideal in a design explicit. Later on in the lifecycle of a design, when the original design is not scaling anymore or needs to be replaced or rewritten, they can look back not with a perspective of how short-sighted those earlier decisions were, but instead say “yep, we made it this far with it and knew we’d have to extend or change it at some point. Looks like that time is now, let’s get to work!” instead of responding with a cranky-pants, passive-aggressive Hindsight Bias-filled remark with counterfactuals
career 
april 2018 by celine
On Being A Senior Engineer

This is a really good takedown on what it means to be a senior/…
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april 2018 by paulhhowells
On Being A Senior Engineer

This is a really good takedown on what it means to be a senior/…
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april 2018 by miha
On Being A Senior Engineer

This is a really good takedown on what it means to be a senior/…
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april 2018 by rwbaker
On Being A Senior Engineer

This is a really good takedown on what it means to be a senior/…
from twitter_favs
april 2018 by mawif
John Allspaw's _On Being A Senior Engineer_ () is a classic, to the point tha…
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february 2018 by justinlilly
I think that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in our field, especially about what makes for a productive engineer. But while there are a good
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january 2018 by cfzlp
I think that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in our field, especially about what makes for a productive engineer.
Archive 
january 2018 by ronert
I think that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in our field, especially about what makes for a productive engineer.
Archive 
january 2018 by rboulton
I think that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in our field, especially about what makes for a productive engineer. But while there are a good deal of…
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december 2017 by theory
I think that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in our field, especially about what makes for a productive engineer. But while there are a good deal of…
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december 2017 by tobym
I think that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge in our field, especially about what makes for a productive engineer. But while there are a good deal of…
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november 2017 by stevekinney
[John Allspaw](https://www.kitchensoap.com/about-me/) with a very thoughtful look at the key aspects of being a **mature** engineer. I would apply this to the senior level of nearly all positions in tech.
november 2017 by thingles