We hold these truths to be self-evident: “Climbing the career ladder” is about expanding leadership, influence, and scope. We aim to answer the question “How should engineers think about the skills to sustain the expansion?”
First, the distinction between “leadership” and “management” can be blurry. Even worse, it’s rarely explained explicitly, and engineers enter management on “You never know until you try 😉”.
We aim to clarify things by making things less clear and breaking “leadership” into three kinds of management, which has helped senior ICs at Two Sigma:
* Team management - Organizations function better when they are happy and socially coherent? Managers are accountable, but Staff+ contribute.
* Project management - Completing multi-quarter or multi-year projects requires a certain skillset. So does feedback.
* People management - How do you manage and direct individuals, especially those who are junior and need more hands-on attention. The “tech track” expects mentorship, and effective Staff+ engineers do not rely on managers “making people do things” to scale projects beyond their own capabilities.
Second, Staff+ involves more than leadership. For that, we present five abstract skills helpfully organized with an R theme: risk, reliability, reputation, relationships, and reducing complexity. In contrast to concrete skills, which explain the how tos (how to write a better document, how to balance meetings with coding, etc.), abstract skills explain the hows and should permeate planning, execution, and communication.
* Risk - Many Staff+ role descriptions include phrases like “sets own priorities.” You’re an expensive asset! How do you get the organization to trust you to invest your time?
* Reliability - What does delivery look like when objectives become more abstract?
* Reputation - How are you representing yourself and your team?
* Relationships - How are you building and maintaining trust?
* Reducing complexity - Are you able to effectively communicate complex information? Are you comfortable with summaries from others?