Chapter 2. Three Maps

As a staff engineer, you need a broad view. Every time you react to an incident, run a meeting, or give advice to a mentee, you’ll need context about the people you’re working with and what the stakes are. When you propose a strategy or move a project along, you’ll want to understand how your organization works and the difficulties you might run into along the way. And you won’t make good choices about what to work on unless you can step outside your day to day and see where you’re all supposed to be going.

In Chapter 1, we zoomed out and took a big-picture view of what staff engineers are and why organizations need them. We defined some axioms that are helpful in understanding staff roles, and then I invited you to do a fact-finding mission to unpack some aspects of your own role: your reporting chain, your scope, your work preference, and your current primary focus. If you didn’t already have a big picture of what your job is, I hope you now do. But if you’ve ever been hiking or navigated through a new city, you’ll have seen that knowing where you stand is just the beginning. Getting oriented means knowing about your surroundings, too.

Uh, Did Anyone Bring a Map?

In this chapter, we’re going to describe the big picture of your work and your organization by drawing some maps. Maps take different forms depending on their purpose: you wouldn’t try to include elevation, voting districts, and subway navigation on a single map, for example. So rather than overlaying ...

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