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Laid off. Should I apply for SDE2 or SDE1?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer [SDE 1] at Amazon10 months ago

I was recently laid off from AWS. I see few open roles for SDE-1s but descent number for SDE-2 roles.

Should I study system design and apply for SDE-2 roles or focus on SDE-1 roles?

I have not studied for system design interviews. I estimate that I will need 2-3 months of studying before I can pass the interviews. My YOE is low for SDE2 and I might be wasting my time applying for SDE2.

Here is a breakdown of my experience:

  • SDE-1 at AWS: 1 year 9 months (not including 2 months for WARN)
  • SDE intern at NASA JPL: 1 year
  • Undergraduate Researcher: 3 years. Co-author on 3 papers. First-author on 1 paper. All reputable journals.

My manager at AWS was telling me that I should apply for promo in the next few months (after finishing a project). I got laid off before I could apply.

Is there anything I can do now to make me stand out as an SDE2? For example, contributing to open source. I want to try being an entreprenuer but I know few ventures make more money than working at FAANG so maybe it's not a good idea.



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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    10 months ago

    I don't think you should make a decision on SDE 1 or 2 at this stage -- let the company decide that after they've interviewed you.

    Keep in mind that your compensation (especially your equity) will be higher if you enter the company at a higher level, compared to getting promoted to that level after 1-2 years in the company. All else being equal, there is a huge benefit to aiming for the higher level -- and you have the Taro community and Q&A to ensure you succeed 😃

    When you talk to recruiters, my recommendation is to be vague about what level you were leaving Amazon, and also be vague about what level you're applying for. Most Big Tech cos I know will have a general SWE interview loop, and then the calibration committee will opine on your level.

    Also remember that you only need one company to give you the higher level, and then all of a sudden, you have become the higher level. So if you get 5 offers, and 1 of them gives you SDE 2, then you can simply take that role. You have leverage during the job search process that you don't have within the company.

    Some other resources on this:

  • 1
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    10 months ago

    On the topic of entrepreneurship, I'd encourage you to create a plan before you venture into the unknown, lonely world of building something on your own. (speaking from experience

    ) You're 100% correct that the median outcome in working in FAANG is much better than a startup, but you don't have the possibility of an outlier outcome.

    • What are the success criteria after 1 year of pursuing entrepreneurship? (ideally, a revenue or user target)
    • Are you trying to build some VC-backed or just an indie business?
    • Do you have a cofounder you like and trust?

    One way to dabble in entrepreneurship is to build side projects. It's not that hard to build projects which get 10K+ users, as we talked about in this masterclass.