by Leon Rosenshein

Scope Of Influence

Perf season is over (for now). Time to think about your career. And not just think about it, but write it down and share it with your manager. What do you want from your career? That's a personal decision and there are lots of things to think about. Manager vs. IC? Technology Driven? Product or infrastructure focus? Customer facing? Data science vs PM vs Engineering (or some combination of the 3)? Only you can make the call on what you want to do, and it's ok to be unsure or change your mind along the way as you learn more.

But even with all those choices, there is one thing that stays pretty consistent as you advance through your career. And that's scope of influence. Whether you're a manager or an IC, as your level goes up, so does your scope of influence.

Generally speaking, an L3 engineer, right out of school, has a small scope of influence. They are expected to be able to manage themselves. Given a framework (either in code or documentation), turn a small set of requirements into business value. They should know to ask questions if they get stuck, and think a little about what they're doing means to the future.

At L4 your scope of influence increases. You might be a mentor, you might own a feature and have to work with other people on your team to get something implemented. You're expected to be able to estimate your work and think about how it will impact people who have to use it.

As a senior engineer (L5A) or EM1 your decisions impact the entire team. You're talking about what gets implemented, not just how. And the how part changes too. You're thinking about how your designs and changes impact the future, not just over the current release cycle, but for the next year or more. And you're not just thinking about technology, you're thinking about process and efficiency and communications.

From there scope just gets bigger. It could be the technology roadmap or the deep owner of a specific technology. It could be as a director thinking about which of the competing business goals get prioritized over the other. All three of those things can impact not just what, but how, hundreds of people are doing their jobs.

And of course, none of this is to say that everyone can't or shouldn't be thinking about these kinds of things. We all should. When it comes to your career it's the consistent demonstration of your scope of influence that drives things.