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QCon SF 2022: The Secret to Finding Impactful Projects to Land a Staff-Plus Engineer Role

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QCon SF 2022: The Secret to Finding Impactful Projects to Land a Staff-Plus Engineer Role

https://qconsf.com/presentation/oct2022/secret-finding-impactful-projects-land-staff-plus-engineer-role

So, you want to be a Staff-Plus Engineer at your organization. Are you one of a hundred engineers vying for that big new shiny project to get you there?

Let me tell you a little secret: Listen to what your peers and managers are complaining about. Are they drowned in production issues on an old unreliable system that no one wants to touch? Are they stuck waiting for approvals from design committees? Are they struggling to make large-scale interactive applications work across data centers? Or is the business losing money on over-provisioned hardware in the cloud?

These tedious unattractive problems could be your biggest opportunities to solve hard technical issues while having a massive impact on your entire organization.

In this talk, we will use some real-world examples to unpack how to recognize such problems, broaden your scope, and embrace the soft skills needed to tackle them at scale to land a Staff-Plus Engineer role.

https://qconsf.com/presentation/oct2022/secret-finding-impactful-projects-land-staff-plus-engineer-role

So, you want to be a Staff-Plus Engineer at your organization. Are you one of a hundred engineers vying for that big new shiny project to get you there?

Let me tell you a little secret: Listen to what your peers and managers are complaining about. Are they drowned in production issues on an old unreliable system that no one wants to touch? Are they stuck waiting for approvals from design committees? Are they struggling to make large-scale interactive applications work across data centers? Or is the business losing money on over-provisioned hardware in the cloud?

These tedious unattractive problems could be your biggest opportunities to solve hard technical issues while having a massive impact on your entire organization.

In this talk, we will use some real-world examples to unpack how to recognize such problems, broaden your scope, and embrace the soft skills needed to tackle them at scale to land a Staff-Plus Engineer role.

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QCon SF 2022: The Secret to Finding Impactful Projects to Land a Staff-Plus Engineer Role

  1. 1. The secret to finding impactful projects to land a Staff-Plus Engineer role Akhilesh Gupta Principal Software Engineer 1
  2. 2. How do I grow to the next level? Increase your scope and impact 2
  3. 3. How do I have more impact? Work on more impactful projects 3
  4. 4. 4
  5. 5. But impactful projects on my team are already taken 5
  6. 6. My team has limited scope. Not large enough for Staff-plus roles 6
  7. 7. And my manager is unable to find me the right opportunities 7
  8. 8. You can be a Staff-plus engineer despite all these reasons 8
  9. 9. How? 9
  10. 10. 10 Scenario 1
  11. 11. iOS -> Swift Web -> React GraphQL 11
  12. 12. The “Backend” Built 5 years ago 12
  13. 13. C++?? 30K lines of code Deployed once in 2 months I’m scared to touch it The “Backend” 13
  14. 14. Who has been in a situation like this? 14
  15. 15. The “Backend” - Production issues - 24x7 Oncall - Customer impact - Business impact 15
  16. 16. Join in on the complaints Fix the problem 16
  17. 17. Join in on the complaints Fix the problem 17
  18. 18. Solve hard problems Listen to complaints Staff-plus role 18
  19. 19. 1. Recognizing impactful problems - Tedious & challenging - Many complaints - Impact beyond team/org boundaries - Negative impact on customers/business 19
  20. 20. Why? Let’s refactor the backend 20
  21. 21. 21
  22. 22. 2. Business case for solving the problem - Motivation (Why?) - Problem Statement (What?) - Technical solution (How?) - LoE (Level of effort) - RoI (Return on Investment) 22
  23. 23. 3a. What soft skills do I need? - Connect to business impact - Written communication - Executive presentations - Convince non-eng leaders 23
  24. 24. 3b. What technical skills do I need? - Understand the codebase - Redefine models & interfaces - Modularization - Microservices - Migrate clients to new API 24
  25. 25. 4. Should I pursue a solution? - Does it energize me? - Am I ready to see it through roadblocks? 25
  26. 26. 5. Am I willing to learn? - Embrace technical & non- technical skills - Outside my comfort zone 26
  27. 27. Client identification tool Data migration tool Refactoring tool 27
  28. 28. 6. Recognize patterns & build generic solutions - Build for leverage - Solve for the organization - Evangelize your solution 28
  29. 29. Six steps to a Staff-plus role 1. Seek & recognize impactful problems 2. Build a business case 3. Determine tech & soft skills needed 4. Ask yourself: Am I excited to pursue the solution? 5. Embrace skills outside comfort zone 6. Recognize patterns & build generic solutions 29
  30. 30. 30 Scenario 2
  31. 31. Technical Design Design review meeting 31 Scenario 2
  32. 32. Welcome! Next open slot is during the next ice age! 32
  33. 33. C# 33
  34. 34. C# Where is Documentation? I AM DOCUMENTATION! 34
  35. 35. C# Agenda - 50 min ppt - 10 min Q&A by tech lead 35
  36. 36. No feedback I didn’t get it, lol I hate this meeting 36
  37. 37. Recognize impactful problems - Hard to change team review process - No one is satisfied - Impacts all of engineering - Slows development -> slows business 37
  38. 38. Determine skills needed - Inspire others through vulnerability & authenticity 38
  39. 39. C# Could you help clarify the problem being solved? 39
  40. 40. C# I have many questions 40
  41. 41. Determine skills needed - Inspire others - vulnerability & authenticity - Influence peers - simple solutions to complex problems 41
  42. 42. C# Let’s discuss the design using a short doc! 42
  43. 43. Determine skills needed - Inspire others - vulnerability & authenticity - Influence peers - simple solutions to complex problems - Propose a new model - async reviews of design docs 43
  44. 44. Commonly needed skills - Write a proposal - Get it reviewed - Gain consensus - Influence leaders 44
  45. 45. Recognize patterns & build generic solutions - Vet new process in own team - Pilot new process in other teams 45
  46. 46. I’m an engineer…do I really need to do all this non-technical stuff? So weird & uncomfortable! 46
  47. 47. 47 © 2020 dinosandcomics
  48. 48. 48 Scenario 3
  49. 49. 49
  50. 50. 50
  51. 51. 51
  52. 52. 52
  53. 53. 53
  54. 54. Slow replication 54
  55. 55. Slow replication 55
  56. 56. Slow replication Live video events Audio rooms 56
  57. 57. Recognize impactful problems - Hard technical problem - Many teams complaining, no obvious strategy - Wasteful to solve for each product independently - Direct impact to interactive products 57
  58. 58. Determine technical skills needed - Cross-DC request routing - Cross-DC data replication - Atomic commit protocols - Latency-cost tradeoffs - Evaluate in-house vs open-source 58
  59. 59. Determine soft skills needed - Gathering requirements - Estimating business impact across product lines - LoE and RoI tradeoffs - Alignment with storage infra leads - Written technical communication 59
  60. 60. Recognize patterns & build generic solutions - Common remote-DC write APIs - Common libs to route traffic to entities pinned to a DC 60
  61. 61. 61 Scenario 4
  62. 62. 62
  63. 63. 63 Persist Message Operation
  64. 64. 64 Challenge: “Persist” operation can fail. Cannot expect client to retry for server failures. Persist Message Operation
  65. 65. 65
  66. 66. 66
  67. 67. 67 Durable Retry Queue A generic solution for reliable processing
  68. 68. 68 Determine technical skills needed - Evaluate in-house vs open-source - Async operation queue - Job processor - Exponential backoff with retries - Durability across deployments and failures
  69. 69. 69 Recognize patterns & build generic solutions - Reliable notifications delivery - Reliable payment processing - Bulk operations like GDPR data export
  70. 70. 70 What can I do as a leader?
  71. 71. 71 1. Encourage constructive criticism
  72. 72. 72 1. Encourage constructive criticism 2. Create forums for engineers to express non-technical challenges
  73. 73. 73 1. Encourage constructive criticism 2. Create forums for engineers to express non-technical challenges 3. Coach your engineers to sell their ideas and proposals.
  74. 74. 74 We should move to GraphQL!!
  75. 75. 75 We should move to GraphQL!! Why?
  76. 76. 76 Why is it better than REST APIs “for us”? It’s so much better than REST APIs
  77. 77. 77 What is the advantage “for us” Migration strategy? Level of effort? Return on investment?
  78. 78. 78 Let’s write a proposal and drive consensus Hmmm, let me get back to you
  79. 79. 79 1. Encourage constructive criticism 2. Create forums for engineers to express non-technical challenges 3. Coach your engineers to sell their ideas and proposals. 4. Training programs
  80. 80. 80 Design doc workshop 5 things you didn’t know about documentation Persuasive speaking How do we make money as a business? Presenting to executives
  81. 81. 2 BIG TAKEAWAYS 81
  82. 82. Listen to complaints Recognize impactful problems Solve at scale 82
  83. 83. Lose your fear Embrace skills that make you uncomfortable 83
  84. 84. Important Staff-plus skills - Write great proposals: why? what? how? - Influence peers & gain consensus - Understand the business & RoI - Present to executives & cross-functional leaders 84
  85. 85. #*$@!! 85 Our food is inedible! Documentation doesn’t exist! Builds are so slow! My PM doesn’t understand tech limitations Our debugging tools are useless Code reviews take days! Dep management is hard!
  86. 86. #*$@!! 86 Our food is inedible! Documentation doesn’t exist! Builds are so slow! My PM doesn’t understand tech limitations Our debugging tools are useless Code reviews take days! Dep management is hard!
  87. 87. Akhilesh Gupta Principal Software Engineer @agupta03 Panel discussion at 4.10pm (Seacliff ABC) 87

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