You have 0 further articles remaining this month. Join for free to read unlimited articles.


Staff engineers can make for an excellent advance party, someone you give a problem like “build a new product” and know they’ll turn that ask into an actionable plan, eventually releasing something great.

Sounds exciting, right? But if you’re the person given this massive – and often extremely important – ask, you’ve got some hard work ahead of you. 

You may be the first to scope out the project, but you’ll need to build a team to help you deliver on it. Once you have a team you’ll need a vision that can excite and inspire them, as it’s unlikely you’ll deliver the quality of outcome within the timelines needed without one. Complicating things, it’s probably a poor choice for you to take an ‘official’ leadership position within a team: you’ll need to steer, support and drive the team all from within. 

I’ve been this person many times over, and I know how big a challenge it can be. But if you’re the type of staff engineer who has deep technical expertise, is unafraid of big problems and knows the business well, the impact you can have doing this type of work can be company-altering. 

In this talk, I’ll share what I’ve learned from my experiences bootstrapping teams. I’ll draw from my experience at GoCardless as a Principal Engineer when leading efforts to build a new Open-Banking payment scheme, and more recently as the engineer who helped go from zero-to-release of the []( Status Pages and Catalog products. 

I’ll cover what worked and what – sometimes painfully – didn’t, and ask whether the most important outcome of this work is the product or the team you end up building around it.