IC5 roles at Sourcegraph

This page is a list of profiles for IC5 roles at Sourcegraph. The IC5 level is defined through these profiles, acknowledging that impact at IC5 and beyond varies between individuals. As they form the level definition, these profiles can be used in career growth conversations between ICs and EMs, and in calibration discussions between EMs and directors.

We recommend our company’s copy of “Staff Engineer” by Will Larson as reading material. Caveat: While many of the traits of various Staff Engineers in Will Larson’s book align with how we are thinking of IC5s at Sourcegraph, we do not currently have titles within Engineering at Sourcegraph and do not call IC5s Staff Engineers.

Common traits of IC5 profiles

While the realization of the IC5 roles in practice will vary, a common starting point is always a business need for the role: in some cases the business may need an IC to tackle broad, cross-cutting technical problems at the org or company level. In others, it may need a deep technical expert for a specific area, capable of devising solutions to highly complex and specialized technical problems.

The business need may evolve over time, and IC5s are expected to adjust their focus accordingly: the expectation to proactively and continuously identify and advocate for work that will bring strategic value is another common trait of all IC5 positions.

As our list of IC5 profiles grows, more common traits between these profiles may emerge, and we will update this section accordingly.

Adding an IC5 profile

An IC5 profile should be created when an org or team sees the need to open a new IC5 position, which may be filled through promotion of an existing teammate, or through external hiring. The profile documents the specific business need and expectations for the role.

IC5 profiles should be created as private Google Documents based on this template.

Prior to adding an IC5 profile to this page, the profile should be reviewed an approved by all engineering directors, who may gather input from EMs in their respective orgs in the process. This ensures that new IC5 profiles are fairly calibrated against existing ones. The EM or director adding the profile is responsible for gathering and integrating feedback.

Once approved, the profile should be added to the handbook following the structure of the profile template page, and listed under the “Profiles” section below.

If the new IC5 profile represents the promotion of an existing teammate, the EM managing the teammate in question should concurrently prepare a promotion request. Conversely, if the new profile represents a new position, the EM or director adding the profile may move forward with opening a new job posting following the addition of the new profile to the handbook.


Reporting structure

The nature of some IC5 roles may impact their reporting structure. For instance, an IC5 dedicated to problem-solving at the org level, who frequently navigates between teams, may report to the org’s Director rather than to an Engineering Manager. Conversely, IC5s focused on a deeply technical problem area will still report to the Engineering Manager of the owning team for the problem area.