Dropbox Engineering Career Framework

IC7 Sr. Principal Software Engineer

I deliver results against either a portfolio of strategic company level business objectives (or keys component of the EPD mission) or a single strategic objective with significant complexity

Scope Area of ownership and level of autonomy / ambiguity

  • I own and deliver company-wide product or platform goals with multi-year, multi-team effect
  • I take a multi-year, industry-leading perspective when building products and systems, ensuring they adapt to scale, usage and/or business needs well beyond Dropbox’s current scope.

Collaborative Reach Organizational reach and extent of influence

  • I typically influence EPD and company-wide strategy to achieve business-impacting goals.
  • I transcend organizational boundaries and proactively identify the best way to leverage myself

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 align the technical strategy for several projects in the engineering org to broader initiatives across EPD
  • Product Expertise - I consistently influence product decisions/scope and determine the right technical tradeoffs to deliver customer value quickly with high quality.
  • Innovation - I partner with cross-functional stakeholders to identify major new business opportunities unlocked by technical capabilities.

Core Responsibilities

🏆 Results


  • I identify and execute on significant engineering/company-wide opportunities by understanding how technical capabilities meet customer needs. I proactively work with business owners to help them understand these new capabilities and work with them to build the right roadmap for the business
  • 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 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 serving the needs of customers in a meaningful way
  • I know which levers to pull to drive meaningful results and understand the wider, cross-functional implications of my work
  • 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
  • I transcend organizational boundaries by taking a holistic view of the company’s goals and taking responsibility across EPD, not just within my immediate scope of ownership.

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


  • When necessary, I am able to introduce change into the organization, help others understand the business case for change, and create excitement to drive adoption of the change
  • I remain resilient through change by staying calm under pressure and taking care of my well-being


  • I push boundaries to generate and implement breakthrough ideas that aim to drive our products and tools forward
  • I demonstrate creativity, e.g. by finding simple, generalizable solutions that open up or unblock new technical or business opportunities in unexpected ways
  • I create psychological safety and encourage a growth mindset with colleagues, supporting experimentation and iteration towards audacious goals


  • I partner with Directors and other members of senior EPD leadership to define a long-term vision for my team or org that factors in both a deep understanding of what is happening in the business and in the market as well as the technical limitations and possibilities of Dropbox’s software and systems
  • I anticipate challenges and am able to influence the technical direction of team 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
  • I seek out opportunities to learn and grow (e.g., external thought leadership & influencing, Dropbox-offered training, leveraging perks allowance etc.)

Team Development

  • I model a standard of excellence that supports a culture of high performance on my team. I drive EPD-wide processes and define the bar for engineering-wide quality and best practices.
  • I invest time to coach and mentor my teammates (particularly ones looking to grow into L6/L7). 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 attract talent for a variety of roles with diversity of background, and location in mind
  • 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 group’s technical challenges to candidates in an exciting way (e.g. 1:1 selling, 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
  • 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 senior EPD leadership 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 develop compelling, clear and focused messages, and effectively present them at the executive level
  • If asked, I write 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 managers in setting the cultural tone for the engineering org. 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 teams across Dropbox network and build relationships, creating connection and inclusion across the orgs
  • 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

Like Staff Engineers and Principal Engineers, I have a well-rounded set of technical skills and development methodologies, and apply them with a sophisticated approach that is best suited for each project. The primary craft difference between Principal Engineers and Senior Principal Engineers is the scope at which their work applies.

Code Fluency

  • The expectations for code fluency do not go up beyond L3 (though some specialist engineers may go deep in this area).

Software Design

  • The expectations for software design do not go up beyond L5.

Architecture Design

  • The expectations for architecture design do not go up beyond L6.

Technical Strategy

  • The expectations for technical strategy do not currently go up beyond L6 but we expect this to change over time as we have more examples of principal engineers working in this area.

Business Acumen

  • I leverage my fluency in Dropbox’s business, products, customers, and strategy to identify opportunities where my team can help Dropbox meet its business objectives
  • I can effectively communicate Dropbox's company-wide vision, strategy, and objectives and connect my/my team's work to them