Senior engineers reduce risk, in every sense. Often, “risk” is used to describe technical risk, which is that the software doesn’t function properly, or is never completed at all. But there are other issues that can prevent the business atop the software from succeeding — risks around process, or product design, or sales, or the company’s culture. A senior engineer understands these risks, and mitigates them where possible.
.. Most startups die because they build the wrong product. The core risks are rarely technical; if no one wants the product, building it well won’t change the outcome.
.. Once a company finds product-market fit, the risks change. The product has to work, scale, and easily adapt to anything learned by the customer-facing employees.
.. Above all, each new hire dilutes any clarity that existed around what the company values, and what it doesn’t. Left alone, the company will become whatever people were used to at their last job.
.. After a few projects get delayed because of one missing piece, the leadership will start to value predictable results above all else.
.. If a senior engineer identifies a significant risk, they have to be able to concisely explain and prioritize it for a non-expert audience.
.. An engineer who has spent the last five years making small, continuous improvements to the processes in a larger company may not enjoy or even understand the sort of role expected by a three person startup.