Staff+ engineering archetypes at Spotify

Joel Kemp
Staff+ Engineering Learnings
2 min readJan 13

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I haven’t seen it written about much publicly, but I deeply connect with and often use the Spotify Staff+ engineering archetypes when framing advice. I’ll share my summarized interpretation, since I tend to refer to these archetypes in other posts.

  • Business Partner: (think “product engineer”) an engineer that understands the product and business lenses of the technology they build. They often serve as the technical right hand to product managers. They want their architectural decisions to be heavily informed by the future of the business, since that dictates the product direction, which dictates the technology.
  • Strategist: (think “architect”) you navigate stakeholders, teams, systems, and code like a multi-dimensional game of chess. You’re constantly thinking about multiple approaches to solving problems at numerous layers and partnering with program managers, engineering managers, and senior leaders in your organization: you’re in conversations around incredibly ambiguous problems and try to bring order to the chaos to pave a path for teams.
  • Leader: you’re driving large initiatives within a team or across teams. You’re the go-to for a particular domain of expertise. You speak up when others won’t, but give space to let others shine. You’re a barrel.
  • Teacher: you enjoy sharing your knowledge with others via mentoring, presentations, pairing, or giving detailed code review comments.
  • Technologist: you love to code and want most of your time to be spent doing this activity. You build features for customers and/or build systems that many teams use. You’re the go-to on some tech stack or discipline (backend, frontend, ML, data, mobile).
  • Pioneer: you’re an inventor and intrapraneur. You most enjoy building prototypes of potentially impactful ideas for the business. You wish “hack week” was every week. You pave a path for teams that want to experiment with new technologies. You’re fearless (or can overcome that fear) in the face of many technical unknowns.

How do you reason about which of these archetypes you belong to?

A radar chart is the best representation here.

Radar chart for the various archetypes

Staff+ engineers are a mix of all of the archetypes to varying degrees. Reflect on which of the archetypes you belong to and have that identify your strengths/weaknesses and where your impact comes from (important when writing promotion packets).

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Joel Kemp
Staff+ Engineering Learnings

Senior Staff Software Engineer @Spotify.