This year I took a new title at Smallstep: Offroad Engineer. I think every tech company needs Offroad Engineering, and in the post I’ll talk about what this role is and why I’m excited about it.
An Offroad Engineer takes on projects that add value for the company, but don’t yet have a home on our roadmap. They make gestures from what is, toward what could be. Working off the beaten path, the OE scouts for future development and explores beyond the boundaries of the map.
Every startup needs people on the frontier, regardless of the title. Trying new things. Breaking new things. Doing weird projects (well, weird within our wheelhouse) that help us understand what we’re building and how it fits with the landscape.
This is especially true at a company like Smallstep, which makes building blocks for cybersecurity. There are so many different use cases for our product, across DevOps and infrastructure security, and we need to be exploring those, trying them out, understanding how they fit together, and demonstrating potential in a way that gets people excited, both internally and externally. Offroad Engineering is about new ideas, new integrations, and new possibilities.
Every startup company does Offroad Engineering, even if no one has that title. This role is sometimes covered by:
- some of the archetypes of Staff Engineering
- an engineer who works for a CTO in a special projects role
- a developer advocate
- or any engineer, when they are in side project time
In practice, my day-to-day work includes a mix of technical writing, content creation, engineering research, user feedback, and internal coaching. But I think what’s really at the heart of this role is a way of working and being. My time in Montessori school as a 5-year-old feels just as important to this role as my engineering background. I wrote more about the creative side of this work in the Smallstep blog post Cheating My Way to Success.
How does your company get its Offroad Engineering work done?
Are you an Offroad Engineer at heart?
And where does a roadmap come from, anyway?