Breaking the Ceiling: Scaling Your Impact at the Staff-Plus Level

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The transition from Senior to Staff-Plus Engineer marks a pivotal evolution in an engineer's career, requiring not more technical excellence but, more importantly, a fundamental shift in how they influence, lead, and drive outcomes across their organization. When it comes to staff engineering, the old management saying, "What Got You Here Won't Get You There," couldn't be more accurate.

Drawing upon my experience as a Director of Engineering collaborating closely with Staff-Plus Engineers, guiding Senior Engineers through this challenging transition, and participating in promotion committees & performance calibrations, I've observed a distinct pattern in the thought processes, strategies, and behaviors that define top-performing Staff-Plus Engineers.

In this talk, attendees will learn:

  • What defines the Staff-Plus level, common expectations across companies, and the key gaps that often cause Senior Engineers to get stuck.
  • Critical approaches that distinguish high-performing Staff-Plus Engineers from their peers.
  • Practical strategies for scaling personal impact through mentorship, sponsorship, and strategic involvement in projects.
  • Concrete examples of "Staff Projects" that demonstrate the scope and scale of impact expected at the Staff-Plus level, offering a roadmap for engineers aspiring to reach and excel at these levels.

What's the focus of your work these days?

I am focused on scaling my influence and culture beyond my direct organization. Key insights include the effectiveness of platform team topologies, the importance of leading by example, and the value of sharing success stories both privately and publicly. Encouraging high performers to speak up, involving the entire leadership team in brainstorming and discussions around organizational design, committing to a change, and continuously iterating for improvement are crucial strategies, don't try to get everything perfect at once - iterate. It is never going to be perfect.

What technical aspects of your role are most important?

Definitely staying up to day with things that actually move the needle on topics such as Operational Excellence, Productivity & Reliability company-wide. Deeply understanding the biggest productivity bottlenecks codebase-wise & highest leverage investments opportunities in terms of technical debt/migrations, single points of failures (SPOF) in terms of blast-radius, and, most importantly - being able to contribute to the long-term vision & strategy based on those factors showing (instead of telling) the impact of some tech investments to influence stakeholders on those areas.

How does your InfoQ Dev Summit Boston session address current challenges or trends in the industry?

Staff-Plus is a particular new role, still not adopted broadly in the industry. The more people we have talking about Staff-Plus - how it adds value to a business in different ways and how it is usually the promotion process - the more it will help companies retain talent and make their entire engineering org more efficient and productive. More standardization on these levels across the industry means more progress for the industry as a whole. Bringing examples outside Big Tech will definitely help more people to relate.

How do you see the concepts discussed in your InfoQ Dev Summit Boston session shaping the future of the industry?

It will help provide more consistency on the core expectations for staff-plus at an industry level to be able to tell exactly what companies are giving titles for people that don't really have a staff-plus role. 

Being able to tell what companies are not really following the Staff expectations will avoid many distractions, including joining a company or creating a career ladder that really understands how critical staff+ roles are and how much value they add to the day-to-day based on those roles. 


Thiago Ghisi

Director of Engineering @Nubank & Co-Host of @EngAdvicePod, Previously @Apple & @ThoughtWorks

Thiago Ghisi is the Director of Engineering for the Mobile Platform team at Nubank. He has nearly 20 years of experience in the software industry, having worked at companies like Apple, ThoughtWorks, and Amex. Ghisi has worn multiple hats - from Programmer to Project Manager to Quality Engineer, back to Engineering, and finally, Engineering Management, where he has been leading cross-functional teams in the Mobile FinTech space for the past six years. He also hosts a podcast called "Engineering Advice You Didn't Ask For" and writes extensively about Career & Leadership in Tech on LinkedIn & Twitter.

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Tuesday Jun 25 / 11:30AM EDT ( 50 minutes )




Staff Plus Engineering Engineering Management Mobile Platform Career Development Distributed Systems