Via David Wragg, a pointer to a great description of the roles and responsibilities of senior technical staff, written by a former colleague, Mark Kampe. Interestingly, that version was drafted 4 weeks after my tenure began (retroactively) as a Senior Staff Engineer at Sun. I’m surprised I hadn’t seen it until now.
The snippet that David quotes is the one that struck a chord with me too;
When the “Emperor has no clothes”, it is the responsibility of the senior technical staff to stand up and say so. Sales people are driven by short term business. Marketing people work with all manner of vague and ambiguous factors. Executives work with the information that other people have given them. Managers work with the directions they have been given. Engineers are the people who responsible for figuring out how this stuff is all going to work … and if it isn’t going to work they have an obligation to say so.