What is a Senior Engineer, Even?


February 8, 2019

Hey, so the other day I retweeted this post about what it means to be a senior engineer:

The tweet does describe a senior engineer, but it isn’t a definition of what a senior engineer does (as much as it is a cluster of some behaviours that senior engineers should exhibit). It’s not that it’s wrong, it’s just incomplete.

I still agree with it and I stand by it 100% – programming is the easy part, being a decent human being is harder. But I also think that it focused too heavily on critique, and critique is not enough.

Critique is so limiting and emotionally draining

Critique is so limiting. It’s not enough to just denounce toxic culture; a senior engineer’s job is to create a nourishing culture instead. It’s not enough to just criticize decisions that hurt others; a senior engineer’s job is to be involved in the decision-making process and represent the interests of the affected people.

And so on.

This is just a few examples of what a senior engineer can/should be. As I continue to leverage my impact as a senior engineer at Artsy, I’m exploring what it means to even be a “senior” engineer. The tweet was a great reminder for me about the responsibilities of leadership, and it’s gotten the wheels of my brain turning to figure out what more I can bring to the role.


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