I'm an E5 at a big tech company. I've been on multiple projects where stakeholders waited until the very end of the projects to say, "That's not what I wanted." What can I do to prevent this from happening? I got feedback that I "need to navigate ambiguity". Does "navigating ambiguity" mean somehow predicting that stakeholders want something besides what they sign off on? If so, how do I develop this skill?
This seems to only happen on projects led by E6+ engineers or an M2. I have not had this experience when working with other E5's or more junior engineers.
In the last example, it's clearly documented that the E8 engineer was just flat-out wrong, right? They simply weren't careful enough in the earlier sign-offs.
It's unfortunate that all 3 of the EMs you escalated to ended up resigning, that's just bad luck. But you still have a paper trail of what happened here for whoever does end up advocating for you in calibration.
I have two meta-points:
Thanks for the response, Rahul.
Position yourself to work on projects that don't have as much ambiguity.
I was told that I need to learn to navigate ambiguity to get to E6, so that last EM kept putting me on these types of cross-functional projects. I begged that EM to get off the project because I could tell that the E8 did not know how to run projects, but the EM refused to honor that request. Since these are cross-functional projects, I did not know the DRIs prior to joining their projects. However, I could quickly tell that they struggled to communicate requirements and low-level designs (I suspect it's because it wasn't even clear in their own heads what we were building).
How do I position myself for projects? That last EM just assigned me to projects without discussing with me first.
Can you schedule regular weekly 1:1s with the people who have given you headaches in the past to avoid miscommunications?
The M2 resigned and the E8 got laid off (I suspect it's because the latter couldn't execute and caused severe incidents). The E6 backend is still around, but he's in a different org so I don't need to work with him.
What would I discuss in the regular weekly 1:1s, in case I run into this problem in the future? The relationships were fine until I asked for clarity on the requirements and low-level designs. The other mobile engineer on the project just kept their head down to avoid ruffling feathers, but also built the wrong thing. Should I adopt that strategy going forward? Seems like a no-win situation to me, but I'm hoping I'm missing something?
Fortunately, I have a new EM and skip level and they're both fantastic. I've delivered 2 projects successfully under this new leadership. However, I did not work with E6+ engineers on those projects. Did I just have a streak of bad luck? Or was there something I could have done differently? Or is this a normal experience when working with E6+ engineers?
What would I discuss in the regular weekly 1:1s, in case I run into this problem in the future?
I'd treat these as somewhat similar to your manager 1:1s. You're not looking for approval on your work, or for what to do next. Instead:
I'd keep a running 1:1 doc for each of these -- your purpose is to build a longer-term relationship that is bigger than the project.