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How to handle delusional PMs and Engineers?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer at Taro Communitya month ago

At times, we face tight deadlines which I believe are challenging to meet. Despite my reservations about the feasibility of such timelines, my fellow engineer peers often express confidence in meeting them, though history has shown they're frequently mistaken. When I voice my concerns, the project managers claim that delivery is non-negotiable, and everyone in the room goes silent. I've suggested prioritizing essential features for the immediate deadline and planning for a subsequent delivery for the rest, but my ideas are usually ignored. Despite not being in a lead role, it's disheartening to later hear about our inconsistent delivery timelines from my manager when I receive performance feedback. How should I navigate these situations? It's frustrating to be the only one on my team who ever expresses these thoughts as I always appear as the "pessimistic" engineer. I just try to voice concerns to make more reliable deliveries. What should I do in these situations?

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    Tech Leadership Coach • Former Head of Engineering
    a month ago

    I'll attempt to probe a bit deeper with a few questions.

    1. What happens after those timelines are missed? Does the team have a retro or sweep it under the rug as a "one-off" and move on? This is a very good indicator of the culture, especially how they act on the learnings.
    2. If there isn't a robust process for #1, I would do a lightweight version of this exercise for yourself. Observe and document the characteristics and false assumptions made that led to the project not being delivered on time. Equipped with this information, you'll be in a better position to push back on unreasonable timelines. For example, "this project has characteristics XYZ similar to this other past project that took longer than we anticipated. Let's recalibrate accordingly, so we don't overpromise and underdeliver. What do you think?"
    3. What did the dialogue look like during performance feedback with your manager? Was more of the conversation around how you operate or how the project was run at a macro level?

    Even if you don't have the answers, it will give you a productive path to go down.

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    Engineer @ Robinhood
    a month ago

    As an entry level SWE, you unfortunately have no influence: your skills and compensation are not at the point where ignoring you will clearly turn out to be a costly mistake. In this scenario, there's 2 ways I'd look to proceed:

    • You need to find someone who has leverage (either by role, seniority, and tenure) and have them consistently support your concerns. While you don't have influence, you can leverage theirs. If people trust your opinions when this more influential IC backs them up, that trust will trickle back to you.
    • You need to align with your manager on your concerns on the project and the risks of not addressing them. If you aren't able to consistently document your concerns with your manager, call out the risks, and document the final result of the team not addressing those concerns, your manager's view will be that your delivery is terrible.
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