Dropbox Engineering Career Framework

IC5 Staff Machine Learning Engineer

I set the multi-year, multi-team technical strategy and deliver it through direct implementation or broad technical leadership

Scope Area of ownership and level of autonomy / ambiguity

  • I deliver multi-year, multi-team product or platform goals
  • I exhibit a very high standard of technical judgement, innovation and execution to tackle open-ended problems that require difficult prioritization, defining both the what and how of things to be done

Collaborative Reach Organizational reach and extent of influence

  • I am increasingly influencing the roadmaps of other Dropbox teams to achieve business impacting goals.
  • I exercise judgement that favors the priorities of the wider engineering org rather than favoring locally optimal outcomes

Impact Levers Technical levers typically exercised to achieve business impact

  • Domain Expertise - I demonstrate a high level of depth in a particular platform or product category that brings unique business value.
  • Technical Strategy - I excel at defining the vision for and delivering large business-impacting projects with multiple constraints
  • Product Expertise - I increasingly influence or make product decisions/scope and determine the right technical tradeoffs to deliver customer value quickly.
  • Mentorship - I serve as a role model for other Dropbox engineers

🏆 Results


  • I identify and execute on opportunities that have area/group-wide impact
  • I execute large projects to a very high standard — e.g. against a tight deadline with significant consequences of failure, or in a manner that allows rapid learning to clarify significant ambiguity, or to a standard of quality well exceeding that of the current system (though not all simultaneously)
  • I know which levers to pull to drive meaningful results and understand the wider, cross-functional implications of my work. I proactively account for risks and monitor their likelihood. My project planning accounts for new capabilities necessary to deliver large-scale business impact and I work closely with partner teams to prioritize the development of these capabilities.
  • I proactively identify and help to refocus my team's efforts when projects are off-course or not technically feasible and results aren’t moving the needle for our business/team goals or customers in a meaningful way
  • I deliver net-new ways for our team/org to measure and communicate customer impact


  • I have a sense of responsibility and obligation to act on opportunities and create alignment across the engineering org/company to improve outcomes for our customers
  • I own my decisions and mistakes and take action to prevent similar mistakes in the future, sharing the learnings with others
  • When I or my team encounter barriers, I unblock us by assessing and eliminating the root cause, including recommending process and scale improvements

Decision Making

  • I have a holistic view of the engineering org, customer insights and Dropbox’s goals and use my experience and judgment to make decisions optimized for the wider org, rather than my local project alone
  • I act thoughtfully and decisively in critical situations. Instead of trying to build consensus, I seek diverse perspectives, encourage productive debate with the right stakeholders and lead decision-making in critical situations even when making unpopular decisions
  • I'm able to reach the right decision despite conflicting perspectives, disagreeing and committing when necessary

🌟 Direction


  • I remain resilient through change by staying calm under pressure and taking care of my well-being
  • I navigate ambiguity by focusing on the greater purpose, goals, and desired impact to move forward one step at a time


  • I push boundaries to leveraging industry best practices and customer feedback to generate and implement breakthrough ideas that aim to create new products or advance existing products and drive our tools forward
  • I create psychological safety and encourage a growth mindset with colleagues, supporting experimentation and iteration towards audacious goals

Strategy and Change Management

  • When necessary, I am able to help my manager introduce change into the organization, help others understand the business case for change, and create excitement to drive adoption of the change
  • I define a long-term strategy for my team that factors in company-wide priorities, customer needs as well as the technical limitations and possibilities of Dropbox’s software and systems. I inspire my team and cross-discipline stakeholders to work toward that strategy
  • I anticipate challenges and am able to influence the technical direction of the team or org to execute on that vision even in the face of potential significant misalignment
  • I find new and creative ways of leveraging customer insights and including customer voices to influence strategy

🌳 Talent

Personal Growth

  • I proactively ask for feedback from those I work with and identify ways to act upon it
  • I have self-awareness about my strengths and take actions on my development areas
  • I connect with others with empathy and understanding
  • I drive discussions with my manager about aspirational goals and seek out opportunities to learn and grow (e.g., PGP, Dropbox-offered training, leveraging perks allowance etc.)

Team Development

  • I am a role model for other Dropboxers and model a standard of excellence that supports a culture of high performance on my team
  • I invest time to coach and mentor my teammates (particularly ones looking to grow into L4/L5). I take into account their skills, backgrounds, working styles and solicit and provide thoughtful, constructive feedback to them.
  • I devote time to spreading my knowledge widely via talks, blog posts or written documentation
  • If requested, I participate in SPRiTEs calibration sessions by providing meaningful feedback to ensure fair and consistent decisions
  • I am an active participant in the hiring process for senior candidates, and managers (for example, by participating in hiring committee, debriefs, etc.)
  • I gain the trust of candidates and can represent Dropbox's mission, strategy, and culture throughout the interview process
  • I am an effective partner to my manager and am able to represent my team’s technical challenges to candidates in an exciting way (e.g. 1:1 sell chats, blog posts, public speaking)

🌈 Culture


  • I promote and role model Dropbox core values, leading by example
  • I help break down silos within and across functions and influence others to reach the best outcome for Dropbox regardless of my level/title
  • I build deep cross-functional relationships, facilitate the right conversations, and settle disagreements by managing different viewpoints
  • I engage in productive conflict with thoughtful questioning and have the courage to state my point of view
  • I balance multiple perspectives and disagree and commit when necessary to move key company decisions, and critical priorities forward

Organizational Health

  • I leverage the unique strengths & skills of the members of my team, and help identify talent gaps required for team success
  • I champion community building efforts and inclusion initiatives. I work in close partnership with the management team to ensure a healthy engineering org
  • I practice the Dropbox Diversity Commitments on a regular basis
  • I build relationships and connections, and use meeting practices inclusive meeting practices to support an inclusive environment for all Dropboxers


  • I tailor my message to my audience, presenting it clearly and concisely at the right altitude
  • If asked, I write to crisp narratives to create understanding, influence others, and enable effective decision-making
  • I fine tune my approach to getting buy-in and influencing stakeholders across a variety of audiences
  • I lead by example by holding crucial conversations even when they feel uncomfortable
  • I seek to listen and understand others

Culture Leader

  • I act as a partner to my manager in setting the cultural tone for the team. I help create an inclusive environment of psychological safety to support connection, empathy, and productive conflict where dissenting, and diverse opinions are valued and addressed.
  • I lead by example. I am aware of my public presence and actions and my influence on the people around me and Dropbox’s culture
  • I help my team network and build relationships across Dropbox, creating connection and inclusion across my team and with other teams
  • I personify Dropbox core's values and support our community
  • I point out when actions or decisions contradict Dropbox core's values and suggest alternatives more aligned with our values

🦉 Craft

I ensure the quality of ML systems for my team and ensure the validity of experimentation strategy and offline and online metrics for my team. I am an expert in ML modeling, techniques and toolkits and adapt my team’s work based on latest developments in these fields. I propose new business initiatives powered by ML for Dropbox.

I have a well-rounded set of system design and architecture skills that allow me to design ML systems that interface effectively with infra and frontend systems that are adjacent.

ML Fluency

  • I am an expert in a range of ML technique (e.g., deep learning, optimization, regression, ensembles, tree based methods, dimensionality reduction, Bayesian modeling, etc.), area (CV, NLP, RL, etc.), or tool (sklearn, pytorch, tensorflow, etc.) and I select such solutions that work long-term for my team.
  • I track the state of art ML developments in areas related to my team’s work and when beneficial, I incorporate those results into my team’s work.
  • I am capable of owning the overall strategy for ensuring the quality of ML systems my team builds. My analysis goes beyond standard metrics, incorporating concerns such as privacy, bias, security and maintainability.
  • My modeling strategy correctly balances theoretical soundness against engineering practicality; off-the-shelf solutions against in-house solutions; and timely delivery of capabilities against extensibility.

ML Design

  • I propose new business objectives that can be powered via ML systems adjacent to existing ones at Dropbox.
  • I reduce complex designs and concepts to simple foundational components through correct choices of modeling approach, applications of algorithms, or other deep insight into the problem space.
  • I am responsible for soundness and validity of the design and strategy of experimentations for my team.
  • I am familiar with infra and frontend components that go together with ML systems and can design robust and effective interfaces between these systems.

Code Fluency

  • The expectations for code fluency do not go up beyond L4.

Software Design

  • I design software components that are difficult to misuse and flexible in the face of an increase in the number of adjacent use cases as appropriate to the direction of the business (neither under nor over-designed)
  • I reduce complex designs and concepts to simple foundational components through correct choices of data structures, applications of algorithms, or other deep insight into the problem space (ex: 3 tree model in sync engine) and create simple interfaces to complex underlying systems
  • I’m able to review designs in related areas with high quality and ensure quality for cross-team cross-module design/API issues
  • I may have deep expertise in implementation or principles behind some of the libraries, platforms and systems relevant to my team's work

Architecture Design

  • I make correct technology choices for components needed as part of a larger architecture, including making build vs buy choices for specific components, and choosing frameworks
  • I’m capable of owning the overall health and engineering quality of a system or collection of features - e.g. driving regular health reviews, curating test strategy, etc - and ensuring that the health and maintenance of my systems do not depend on the maintainers having my expertise
  • I’m capable of driving overall testing strategy of a significant system with high reliability or quality requirements (e.g. building validation systems or new test frameworks to do so)
  • I’m capable of designing systems with significant ambiguity and/or lots of systems that depend on it

Technical Strategy

  • I’m accountable for alignment of the software and systems in my area to overall technical strategy, making tradeoffs where appropriate in consultation with principal engineers