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Principal Engineer in most organizations is the most senior, technical, individual contributor role you can hold. You get involved in supporting product teams, drive tech initiatives across clusters, act as a glue across different teams and clusters and are part of leadership teams. This gives an opportunity to have a very wide impact on the organization.

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That said, your role is to influence without exerting authority. This means people across the organizations from junior engineers in a team to Engineering Directors, VP of Engineering and CTO will need to trust you to actually have an impact.

An analogy I picked up in my early days of being a principal engineer that I have often followed is the one about how if you put sand in a jar first, you do not have room for rocks, where rocks represent life’s big priorities and sand the little things, whereas if you put the rocks in first you’ll still have room for some sand. (Here is a link to a version which includes beer).

In this talk I will be sharing some tips and tricks to identify rocks, pebbles and sand you can fill your jar with, ways they enable you to create impact and build trust across the organization and some common challenges you will face when you prioritize your work using this technique and ways to overcome those.