What does a Principal Engineer do?

What is a Principal Engineer?

Principal engineer is one of the highest levels that software engineers can attain. They develop teams and, at the same time, oversee technical parts of the company’s software development projects. Learn more about what a principal software engineer is all about.

The demand for software engineers remains high. However, businesses are having a hard time filling in these positions. The talent deficit is a cause for alarm for many companies, as not having enough software engineers in their ranks delays their projects. This will affect their competitiveness.

To remedy this concern, companies turn to offshoring their software development needs. Offshore companies provide businesses with top-notch personnel to cater to their needs. This is especially true for in-demand high-level personnel such as principal engineers.

There are many reasons why businesses hire offshore companies. One reason is to ensure that they have the finest talent to provide their clients with the best services. One example of a great offshore development company is Full Scale. The company’s recruitment and training ensure that clients’ projects are handled by the best experts.

But what is a principal engineer? Why are they vital in software development?

Below, we will discuss what being a principal software engineer is about. Also, we will tackle their responsibilities and qualifications. Here’s a quick rundown:

What is a Principal Engineer?

Many people think that the only difference between software engineers, architects, and principal engineers is semantics. A single person may wear these hats for smaller companies with tight budgets. However, for bigger companies, there are distinctions between these engineers.

The levels are as follow:

  • Level 1: Software Engineer
  • Level 2: Senior Engineer
  • Level 3: Staff Engineer
  • Level 4: Principal Engineer
  • Level 5: Distinguish Engineer or Fellow

As you can see, principal developers are at a higher level than senior engineers. They focus more on the company as a whole. Senior engineers and other tech specialists direct their efforts on providing solutions to an existing problem.

On the other hand, principal engineers focus on developing solutions to help the company. They are responsible for growing teams and the technical aspects of software engineering projects. In short, their duties are more on managing teams and deciding the company’s technical direction.

Principal Engineer: Roles and Responsibilities

Here are some of the duties that they perform daily:

  • Develop and provide technical standards and guidance in all software design and development activities
  • Support and facilitate in maintenance and upgrades of existing software applications
  • Provide design reviews and give technical recommendations
  • Support the whole software development life cycle (SDLC)
  • Ensure that all projects are of high-quality
  • Mentor and train software engineers
  • Assist in analyzing and troubleshooting application issues
  • Create effective and applicable technical solutions that fit business needs and requirements
  • Recommend new technologies to help improve productivity
  • Work with teams to plan, prioritize, and complete project assignments
  • Participate in risk assessments and mitigating activities
  • Regularly attend meetings to discuss projects, issues, and ideas
  • Participate in technical audits and ensure the implementation of the recommendations
  • Perform business presentations to the management
  • Coordinate with the QA to develop test cases, procedures, and plans

Based on the list, these software engineers handle vital duties. They need to have the right skills and capabilities to perform the said duties.

Principal Engineer: Skills and Requirements

When hiring principal software engineers, these are the skills and requirements that companies look for:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering/Science or related fields
  • High-level skills in programming languages (Java, JavaScript, etc.)
  • Experienced in different software development methods
  • Experienced in developing and maintaining complex web systems
  • High understanding of both backend and frontend side of software development
  • In-depth knowledge of various software development technologies and tools
  • Outstanding analytical skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Strong organization and planning skills
  • Exceptional leadership and mentorship skills

Additionally, they should have strong leadership and organization skills as they will be spending more time doing managerial duties than technical ones.

How to Hire Principal Engineers?

Finding and hiring the right principal software engineer for your company is a very tedious process. There are many challenges to finding one with excellent skills. The first challenge is that these high-level software engineers don’t often visit job posting sites to find their subsequent work. They are often off-market and found through referrals.

The next challenge is the shortage of software development talent. With fewer available candidates, companies compete hard to hire the best talent. As a result of the stiff hiring competition, salary rates rose. Below are a few pieces of advice on how to attract the most suitable candidates for your business:

Related Video: Building a Software Team Quickly and Affordably

Define and Analyze Your Every Step

Before interviewing or considering any candidates, analyze your recruitment process first. Check for bottlenecks in your process. As it may not be prudent to let principal developer candidates undergo test assignments. They already have a proven track record. 

Businesses should always keep themselves up-to-date with the market trends. At the same time, recruiters should always know how much the competitor companies offer for certain positions. Hence, you will be sure that your job offers are competitive.

Pay Attention to Soft Skills

Most of the time, recruiters will focus more on technical skills when hiring developers and engineers. However, it is also equally important to check on their soft skills when recruiting higher-level engineers.

It would be best to look for candidates who exhibit exemplary leadership, communication, problem-solving, and organization skills.

Use the Right Hiring Channels

As mentioned earlier, principal engineers and most high-level software engineers don’t click on job sites. LinkedIn and Telegram would be an excellent choice to get in touch with suitable candidates. You can also get referrals from other senior software engineers. Tech expo and conventions are another way of scouting high-level tech professionals.

After finding the right candidates, here are some questions to ask candidates:

  1. What types of software have you developed before?
  2. In your opinion, which principles are good for software development?
  3. Explain the architecture used in your previous work. What are the reasons for these choices?
  4. How do you go about designing scalable applications? Can you walk us through your process?
  5. What programming languages would you consider your top two? Why?
  6. Do you like training and mentoring other software engineers?
  7. When reviewing the code of your team members, what do you usually look at or check?
  8. What was the most complex work experience you had? How did you deal with the situation?
  9. What qualities should good principle engineers have?
  10. How can you help improve our software development team?

With these, you have a good guide on hiring the best person that fits your company’s culture and business needs.

Related Video: Building a Successful Software Team

Why Hire Principal Software Engineers from Full Scale?

Recruiting principal engineers is not only challenging but also a time-consuming task. Such recruitment ventures can be too resource-consuming for startups and small to mid-sized companies.

That is why offshoring your software development needs can be the best solution to your problem. Of course, there are pros and cons of offshoring, but many companies have found great success by going this route.

Offshoring companies like Full Scale continue to provide software development services and talent to their partners. 

At Full Scale, we will help you form your dream team of software engineers. Let us know what you need, and we will take care of recruitment. Our recruitment process ensures that our engineers have the right skills and experience to tackle your project on time and within budget.

Contact us today! Let us discuss how our principal engineer can help you!

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