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InfoQ Homepage News The Path to a Staff-Plus Engineer Role: from Management Back to Tech

The Path to a Staff-Plus Engineer Role: from Management Back to Tech

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When working in tech, a managerial career may not be for you. Fabiane Bizinella Nardon went from being a manager back to tech, becoming a staff plus engineer and creating a staff plus friendly company. She presented A CTO That Still Codes: My Tortuous Path to the Staff Plus Engineer Role at QCon London 2022.

Nardon mentioned that she took a sabbatical year to experiment with new projects and decide which path she wanted to follow:

There was a lot of soul searching and experimentation until I was sure of what I wanted to do. During that year, I worked on a couple of projects, experimenting with entrepreneurship, living abroad, working with AI, big data, doing courses on several subjects. And especially understanding what I felt better doing.

The sabbatical year was crucial to helping her decide to return to the technical path to become a staff plus engineer.

Being a manager, Nardon got training in leadership. This training helped her to become better in her staff plus role. For instance, she learned to give better feedback, listen to understand what people really want, be patient with people who need to explain their problem, and explain technical stuff to non-technical people.

How can you know if a managerial career is not for you? Nardon mentioned several reasons:

  1. You keep finding excuses to code
  2. You try to automate everything
  3. You secretly hate business meetings

Coding solo doesn’t generate as much impact as making the team code excellent, Nardon said. As a staff plus engineer, you should help the team become better. You also have to set an example by following the processes you created. If you don’t follow them, nobody will, Nardon argued.

Staff plus engineers often have to deal with leader loneliness, as they are often the only ones in their team. Nardon suggested trying to find someone in your organization who you can talk to. Just by talking you might find a solution, she said.

What if we create a company where we could be coders for the rest of our lives? Nardon explained how she created a staff plus friendly company, by keeping the technical team small, limiting management overhead, and hiring people with specific profiles that fitted within the company. The company incentivizes people to stay on the technical path by providing adequate compensation and status. Nardon suggested that companies that have good policies to support staff plus roles should share their experience with the world to increase awareness and raise the status of those who are in this role.

We need to understand what really matters to technical professionals and value that, Nardon said. She suggested aligning the values of the company with the values of engineers.

Nardon concluded by stating that we are living the biggest skills shortage in history, with huge technical challenges ahead. We can’t afford to lose our most experienced engineers, she argued.

Fabiane Bizinella Nardon will be presenting at QCon Plus May 10-20, 2022.

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