What Is Impactful Engineer?

Stories Of Software Engineering Leaders

We are attempting to capture the stories and journeys of men and women who are making significant impact in the software industry. The purpose is to inspire young software engineers to see that are many paths for their careers and how they might move forward and eventually grow their impact wherever they work.

Our goal is to publish the same number of interviews with women and men because we care about diversity and inclusion in technology.

Principal, Sr. Director, VP & Higher

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

If you are a leader, please consider being interviewed. Here is a list of questions asked which you can email back to tony@impactfulengineer.org

If you know of someone making significant impact, consider making an introduction to Tony Tam on LinkedIn @tonytamsf

Gender Diversity & Inclusion In Technology

The inspiration of this website was largely due to Tony Tam’s participation as a mentor in Women In Tech (WIT) and being a member of the mentoring working group for WIT.

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

  1. We are holding all interviews until we finish our first interview with a woman.
  2. We will attempt to alternate publishing 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 People To Interview!
  4. Let tony@impactfulengineer.org know if we should do more!

How Did Impactful Engineer Start?

During one of Tony’s mentoring sessions with a female software engineer ( Rebecca Z. ), he was explaining how large corporations evaluated engineers, what engineers could learn about preparing for meetings and how their impact could increase through taking on extra stretch assignments.

He realized that there was so much more wisdom than he’d first thought that wasn’t being shared by the hundreds of high-impact engineers in his professional network. He decided to capture their stories to try and inspire many more young software engineers than he could have managed alone.

Mentoring a young engineer as part of Women In Tech gave him the idea to embark on creating Impactful Engineer! Mentoring has obvious benefits for the person being mentored, and it often brings surprising benefits to the mentor as well.

He still believes that mentoring has the ability to help an individual in their specific journey to gain higher impact. However, capturing the stories of high impact engineers could inspire an entire generation of junior 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

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 material that clearly defines software career paths. (You maybe able to find it on Quora) Meanwhile, we will be using the following terms to define levels of seniority instead.

Career Paths For Individual Contributors

Software Eng 1 – Junior Software Engineer
Software Eng 2 – Junior Software Engineer
Software Eng 3 – Software Engineer
Software Eng 4 – Senior Engineer
Software Eng 5 – Principal Engineer
Software Eng 6 – Senior Principal Engineer
Software Eng 7 – Distinguished Architect
Software Eng 8 – 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 the engineer is promoted. The term “scope of influence” and “scope of impact” is often used interchangeably.

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

For someone who is a Software Eng 8, or Architect Fellow, they are at the highest level any individual can achieve in a large organization. Their scope of impact in each of the dimension for that person is 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. (Search on LinkedIn for ‘Fellow Architect’ for examples of someone who is a fellow)

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.

See Also

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