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Determining WLB before applying and interviewing?

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Mid-Level Data Engineer [L4] at Google24 days ago

WLB also means something different to people and therefore I'm curious what the best way is to discover the "truth" of the team you are interviewing into before both applying and joining a company.

For example, when I worked at Amazon, I did not work beyond 40 hours in either of my teams, but the occasional weekend because I was oncall, and this was fine for me personally. At Google Cloud, I was working longer during the weekdays (self-imposed because this was during COVID and I never worked weekends), but other teams at Google have been more relaxed in general.

I've been told Meta, Amazon and a few others have a poor WLB balance, but then I've also spoken to managers (and experienced it myself in the case of Amazon) that this is team dependant and manager dependant. I also assume it varies by your level.

That said, I'm a DE, so likely the stress level overall is also different to a SWE, hence this post.

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(3 comments)
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    23 days ago

    When you're interviewing for a new company, it is very difficult to get signal on this as you have limited visibility. You can use online resources like Glassdoor, Reddit, and Blind, but the veracity of those is quite dubious. You can try asking them directly, but the better option is often times to ask a more roundabout question (like about deadline culture). You can see the exact question I personally use here: "How possible is it to spot red flags about toxic culture during the interview?"

    I am also not a fan of trying to pin an entire company to a certain level of WLB, because as you mentioned, different teams/orgs have different cultures. This is especially true at massive company like FAANG which have thousands of teams. A ton of engineers at Amazon have horrible WLB, but I know many who have very solid WLB there. Most engineers at Meta are stretched too thin, but I was personally able to be a high-performing tech lead there working 35-40 hour weeks.

    When you're switching teams internally though, it is incredibly easy to figure this out. Look at the team members' pull requests and see when people are submitting them and leaving comments. If they happen late at night or over the weekend (make sure to factor the timezone they're in), the team obviously has poor WLB.

    That being said, WLB is also largely determined by your own ability to maintain rapport with your manager, prioritize aggressively, set boundaries, be productive in general, and of course, have a healthy mentality around all of this (and more). More advice on how to do all that here: [Taro Top 10] Work-Life Balance

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      Mid-Level Data Engineer [L4] [OP]
      Google
      23 days ago

      Super useful! I will check out the articles you linked.

      Any tips on assessing your own 'threshold' and determining things accordingly? WLB can be subjective e.g. I have a friend who works 50 hours a week and thinks they have a normal WLB, and I have another who works 30 hours a week and says its still too much. Hence reviews etc can be misleading because context is missing when people provide a 'metric'.

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      Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
      23 days ago

      Stuff like this is why I tell everyone to prioritize the quality of the team above all else:

      • If your team is toxic, working 30 hour weeks or even 20 hour weeks feels like too much as work sucks.
      • If you find a team you genuinely love, the natural 40 hour boundary will go away and you can work 50 or 60 hour weeks without feeling tired (I did this at Course Hero + Instagram and I occasionally do this working on Taro too).

      WLB threshold is never a static number, so my strategy is just to not think about it and optimize for having incredible teammates. When you find an awesome group of people who fight for you and make you want to fight for them, everything falls into place.

Google is an American multinational technology company that focuses on search engine technology, online advertising, cloud computing, and much more. It is considered one of the Big Five technology companies.
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