Lessons From a Staff Engineer at Dropbox

Lessons from Ritu Vincent, a Staff Engineer at Dropbox:

  • Staff Engineers often try out different ideas that don’t go into production, so don’t measure your impact by the number of things that get shipped out but by your potential influence to the company.
  • There are two types of Staff Engineers at Dropbox, specialists and tech-leads. Tech-leads are the most common.
  • Tech-leads often do design work, coordination and drive the project ahead.
  • When leading a complex project, don’t make the mistake of giving the easy parts to the team and taking the difficult ones. Try to delegate the complex tasks to stretch and grow the team.
  • You should spend a lot of time advocating for things and being visible.
  • Everyone is struggling with impostor syndrome, so don’t be afraid of asking to work on difficult projects. We often tend to only ask to work on projects that we are sure that we will succeed, and this is due to impostor syndrome. Working on difficult ambiguous projects is what will grow and stretch you.
  • It’s all about showing a balance of cultural & technical impact across the company.
  • Having a social circle composed of smart, experienced & impactful people is a great way to learn, e.g. going often with them to lunches … etc.

These are key takeaways, highlights or “learnings” that I captured while reading the book Staff Engineer by Will Larson. You can read the full article here. The above takeaways are by far not a complete summary, but rather my personal highlights or understanding (which can be wrong) and thus do not capture all the wisdom in the original article, so you should read the full article to form your own view & understanding.

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