(Adapted from my original Twitter thread)
I get this question a lot: “What exactly does a Principal Engineer do at AWS?”
Every principal engineer I know plays a mix of roles unique to them, so I put together this rough estimate of how I personally spent my time in 2019, broken down into a few buckets:
When I put the data into a quarterly view, I found the results to be pretty interesting. The data turned out to be very aligned to the annual AWS calendar. Q1 and Q3 is when we do org-level career discussions and talent reviews, so it makes sense that I spent a lot of time during those quarters on the “Team” category. Annual roadmap planning/brainstorming is mostly done in Q2, and so I spent a lot of time during that quarter on the “Product” category. The AWS reInvent conference in Q4 means I spent a lot of time on the “Project” and “External” categories in that quarter, trying to get things shipped and working on my reInvent talks.
I took a “low tech” approach to collecting this data at the end of the year: I spent about an hour crawling through the past year’s meetings on my calendar, categorized them, and guess-timated how I spent my time during the empty time blocks in my calendar. I then used one of my favorite tools Infogram to visualize the data. You can see the full infographic here: https://infogram.com/2019-year-in-review-1hmr6gxgr5g34nl.
Below is how I defined the set of activities that fall into each bucket. Again, every PE is unique; these are the activities that I personally spent most of my time on in 2019: