What Is Impactful Engineer?


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Every month, we will email you one interview with a high-impact engineering leader.

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Stories of Software Engineering Leaders

Impactful Engineer shares the stories and journeys of women and men who are making significant impact in the software industry. The purpose of Impactful Engineer is to inspire young software engineers to see that are many paths they can take to move forward in their careers and grow their impact wherever they work.

Our goal is to publish an equal number of interviews with women and men because we believe gender diversity and inclusion in technology is important.  (ref)

Interviews With Principal, Sr. Director, VP

We will interview individual contributors (Principal, Distinguished, Fellow) and engineering management (Sr. Director, VP) using a list of predetermined questions that are primarily focused on career advice.

If you know of someone in the software industry who is making significant impact, consider recommending them for an interview or make an introduction to Tony Tam on LinkedIn.

Gender Diversity and Inclusion in Technology

Gender diversity in tech leadership is important and a moral imperative for the software industry. We are choosing to make conscious choices to highlight women in leadership roles.

  1. We will publish our first interview of a woman, withholding already finished interviews with men.
  2. We will publish equal number of interviews with women and men.
  3. While our goal is to get to an equal number of interviews with women and men, we know the demographics of the industry make this a challenge. We welcome help in identifying interview candidates, particularly women. Recommend someone we should interview.
  4. Email tony@impactfulengineer.org to provide feedback on what else we can do.

How Did Impactful Engineer Start?

Tony created this website because of his experience as a mentor in Women In Tech (WIT) and being a member of the mentoring working group for the WIT program at his company.

During one of his mentoring sessions with a female software engineer, Tony explained how large corporations evaluated engineers, what engineers could learn about preparing for meetings, and how they could increase their impact by taking on extra stretch assignments.

He realized that there is an immense amount of knowledge and wisdom that isn’t being shared with junior engineers, and that he has hundreds of high-impact engineers in his professional network with the potential to share even more. He decided to capture their stories to try to inspire many more young software engineers than he could have managed alone.

Tony strongly believes that mentoring is key to helping software engineers in their specific journey to gain higher impact. Mentoring has obvious benefits for the person being mentored, and it often brings surprising benefits to the mentor as well. However, not everyone has equal access to mentors. Thus, by capturing the stories of high-impact engineers, Impactful Engineer can inspire an entire generation of young engineers.


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Tony Tam – Founder
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Cate T. – Editor At Large, Artist In Residence
Robin Pille – Founding Editor
Hunter Shen – Founding Editor

Sharon Xie – Interviewer
Kristal Curtis – Interviewer

What Does “Impactful” Mean?

The word impactful is used to define the scope of influence a software engineer has in a large organization. We will attempt to define individual contributor (IC) career paths and the dimension of skills they are expected to have as they move up in their careers.

There is not a single, definitive public standard that clearly defines software career paths. Meanwhile, we will be using the following terms to define levels of seniority.

Career Paths For Individual Contributors

Software Eng 1 – Junior Software Engineer
Software Eng 2 – Software Engineer
Software Eng 3 – Senior Engineer
Software Eng 4 – Principal Engineer
Software Eng 5 – Senior Principal Engineer
Software Eng 6 – Distinguished Architect
Software Eng 7 – Architect Fellow


Software engineers in large organizations are promoted based on several dimensions. The larger the scope of each of these dimensions (on a scale of 1 to 10, individual to industry-wide), the higher up the ladder engineers are promoted. The terms “scope of influence” and “scope of impact” are often used interchangeably.

  1. Responsibilities and Skills
  2. Knowledge
  3. Complexity
  4. Supervision
  5. Experience

Someone who is a Software Eng 8, or Architect Fellow, is at the highest level any individual contributor can achieve in a large organization. The scope of impact in the dimensions for that person is 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. Search on LinkedIn for ‘Architect Fellow’ for examples of people who hold this role.

An Architect Fellow should have software industry-wide impact.

A Distinguished Architect should have company-wide impact as well as software industry segment-wide impact.

A Senior Principal should have division-wide impact.

A Principal should have impact on multiple teams.

A Senior Engineer should have impact on one to two teams.

A Software Engineer should be self-directed and independent.


Every month, we will email you one interview with a high-impact engineer, the first interview with Lyn Campbell in April 2018!

Your Email Address

See Also

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