There’s a ton of interview prep differences, salary, etc. But not a lot of discussion about after you land the job. Since I’m coming from startups and companies that aren’t focused on software, so my evaluation of staff engineers vs senior engineers is probably quite a bit different than that at a place like FAANG.
At google, or FB, etc. What specifically (or examples) are some of the differences of what an L6 needs to do that an L5 doesn’t. Day to day, what will make an L6 succeed or fail.
I know the general, must lead a team, get others to buy in to your designs, communicate across teams, etc. But to me this doesn’t really convey what’s really needed day to day to prevent getting PIPed out of work. Do most L5’s think “I could do the job of the L6 guy”? Would an L6 say their job is difficult or just like any job, it’s difficult until you have the experience.
Imo, the simplest way to look at this is that an L5 can still be just an individual working independently on a system, whereas an L6 needs to have team scope.
A L6 is required to lead a team of 7~10 eng in technical direction, planning, goal setting, alignment with other teams and XFN, etc. if they’re not leading a team, they need to be working on large projects equivalent to a small team’s scope.
They’re accountable for team performance. Take the team’s scope and goals, outline how to achieve them,prioritize, and breaking down in smaller parts for the other engineers on the team. If their planning estimates are completely off, they’ll suffer, and vice-versa. If they’re not able to get things done with their team or in collaboration with other teams, they’re screwed. If the project is much harder than anticipated and they don’t recognize this+reset expectations for others, they’re doing a bad job. If they want to be left alone building a feature, they’ll be pip’ed quickly.
A L5 can do fine owning a big project the team needs, e.g. build the backend for a new project, maintaining a system alone (a L6 would be pip’ed if they just do this). A L5 can be a tech lead of a small team, but they’ll usually have a lot of guidance from a L6+ (if they don’t need it, they’ll become L6 quickly).
A L6 needs to look ahead and set direction for the next 6~12m, working with managers, and xfn. This is quite different from pure eng skill that will take you to L5. A L5 can do fine waiting for the team direction, and picking projects that help accomplish that direction.
Good performing L5s might be able to do some of L6 work in their current team but would likely fail if they switch teams (because they’re depending on their acquired context). A lot of L5s don’t want to get promoted because of this concern. Promotion is a one way road and if they stop delivering L6 work, they’re fired.
PS: I’m E5