Bandmates vs. session musicians

A bandmate plays in the same band for a long time. A session musician hops from band to band, helping out as needed.

Most software engineers working at a company are bandmates; they have their team and that’s that.

But “session musician” is a valuable role too. We sometimes call them floaters in engineering orgs. They pop into a team to fill a need, and then move on when it’s filled. Sometimes it takes an hour, and sometimes it takes a month.

It’s trickier, organizationally. Who manages the floater? How do we evaluate their impact? How do we keep them from getting lonely? Who can they learn from? But those are worth solving, because a good floater can change everything for the better.

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