Staff Engineer: Leadership beyond the management track

12 ratings


At most technology companies, you'll reach Senior software engineer, the career level for software engineers, in five to eight years. At the career level, your company's career ladder won't require that you work towards the next promotion; being promoted further is an exception rather than expected. This is also when many engineers are first given an opportunity to move into engineering management.

Over the past few years, we've seen a flurry of books unlocking the engineering management career path, like Camille Fournier's , Julie Zhuo's , Lara Hogan's , and even my own . The engineering management career isn't an easy one, but there are maps available to help navigate it.

What if you want to advance your career without becoming an engineering manager? The technical leadership path remains relatively undocumented, hard to navigate, and inconsistent across companies. is your guide to building your career towards a Staff engineering role, receiving the title, and succeeding within the role.

About the project

was created by Will Larson, author of , with over 30,000 copies sold. Foreword is written by Tanya Reilly, Principal Engineer at Squarespace. Book includes stories from 13 engineerings operating in Staff-plus roles.

What you'll get

Your purchase includes:

  • Digital PDF for reading on any device
  • EPUB for reading on non-Kindle readers
  • MOBI for reading on mobile Kindle readers
  • Handout-optimized PDF for printing out sections, with links in an appendix with QR codes

What about a print version? Audiobook?

Paperback version is available on Amazon. Audiobook is planned but doesn't have a release date yet.


"Becoming a Staff engineer is both a promotion and a job change; many immensely talented engineers pursue the first and arrive unprepared for the latter. Will Larson's Staff Engineer is a wide ranging and thought provoking overview of the many dimensions of the role. As a software engineer at any level, this book will challenge you to become better and should be required reading if you're pursuing a Staff engineer role." 

Amy Unger, Staff Engineer @ Github


"It is not easy to find many resources on the staff engineer role which is still massively misunderstood due to wildly varying definitions and assumptions. This book lays out some of the differing role definitions and then brings them to life with real case studies making it easy to map the archetypes to your own circumstances, passions and ambitions. This should be a go to resource for anyone thinking of pursuing the IC path or that has already moved into a senior IC role." 

Nicky Wrightson, Principal Engineer @ Skyscanner and formerly Principal Engineer @ The Financial Times


"In Staff Engineer, Will Larson does more than demystify the staff engineer role: he explains the whys and hows of long-term technical strategy, the power of sponsorship, and the responsibility that comes with having influence. Throughout the book, he references inclusive studies, addresses realistic scenarios, and offers practical advice. Staff Engineer leaves me feeling more equipped for success as an engineering leader, but more than that, it leaves me feeling affirmed — it’s the first engineering leadership book I’ve read with over half its quotations from women."

Padmini Pyapali, formerly Engineering Manager @ Uber, Sonder


"Will Larson's "An Elegant Puzzle" has earned its spot on my recommended reading list and is the manual I wish I had during my early years as an engineering manager. "Staff Engineer" is poised to join it and is the manual I need NOW to support my engineers in their continued growth. From the various staff engineer profiles to the analysis of staff engineer archetypes and the focus on working on things that matter "Staff Engineer" is a must-read for engineers and engineering leaders alike." 

Kevin Stewart, VP Engineering @ Harvest


"‘Staff Engineer’ explores a completely new space that is under-resourced for both senior or staff engineers as well as the managers that support them. I have already pointed people to many sections in the book as I support staff engineers and those aspiring to grow into the role. I expect ‘Staff Engineer’ to be a frequently referenced guide for me and many other engineering leaders and the perfect companion to An Elegant Puzzle." 

Uma Chingunde, VP Engineering @ Render


"While more companies are introducing senior-plus levels that usually run parallel to the management track, breaking into your first staff/principal role can feel like going against the glass ceiling. How do you get there? Once you’ve made it, how do you perform at that level? Staff Engineer is the missing resource that helps you understand the landscape, how others have gotten to this level, and how they keep thriving here." 

Gergely Orosz, author of and

"Staff Engineer not only answered the many questions I had about becoming and operating at a staff-plus position, it also made me re-evaluate what I thought I knew. I’m a data scientist, not an engineer, but the comprehensive guidance in this book - from laying out the technical and leadership skills needed to operate at a staff-level to the practicalities of how organizations actually work - has already changed how I’m thinking about advancing my career. If you’re looking to grow as an individual contributor in any kind of technical field, this book will be a critical resource for you."

Emily Robinson, author of

"Every company is realizing the need to create an Individual Contributor career track, but there is no playbook and there are a load of misconceptions and myths about what architects, team leads and other staff-plus roles actually do. Staff Engineer is the most comprehensive effort ever to survey the field and answer the core question at the back of every Senior Engineer's mind: 'Now what?'"

Shawn Swyx Wang, author of

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Staff Engineer: Leadership beyond the management track

12 ratings
I want this!