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How does one effectively handle pressure especially when the stakes are high?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer [E4] at Metaa year ago

One thing I'd love to ask about is effective pressure management. Coming from small cos to a big company like Meta; despite startups having a reputation for chaos, I personally find there's a larger number of failure modes at big companies - a review taking too long, lack of good logging, misalignment, which can lead to either a project being derailed or just flat out failing. I've personally gotten better myself at pressure management (trial by fire); but would love to have thoughts from folks on how they work on this skill!

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  • 64
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    This question hits home for me as this was my experience growing amidst the Meta chaos as well.

    My main piece of advice here is do everything you can to only focus on 1 thing at a time. The primary failure mode is that your mind is constantly thinking about all the things on your plate. This heavy cognitive load is extremely taxing and leads to so much anxiety and ultimately poor performance when untreated.

    Here are some of the core ideas I needed to make this work:

    • You don't need to do every task - When I started at Meta, I felt pressured to do every single task on my plate. Over time, I matured and became okay with having 25+ deprioritized open tasks currently assigned to me at any given time. I also learned how to properly push back when others tried to get me to do tasks that didn't match my own priority.
    • Have a clear picture of your current goal - Generally, you can boil each day down to focusing on a singular thing, as described in our video here: How To Accomplish Something Every Single Day. But given that Meta is Meta, sometimes it was too much and I had to do multiple important things in a single day, up to 10 sometimes. In those cases, I wrote everything down on a local note on my Mac and just went through them one by one. The goal is to tell your brain, "For the next X amount of time, I will focus on Y and only think about Y until it is done." Once you're able to do that, you just go through all your tasks.
    • Run towards the fire, not away from it - This is a key mindset-change that most E4s need to make to get to E5, and if they don't, it's effectively required to get to E6. The underlying idea is that these complicated, high-pressure situations are actually an opportunity. Meta generally rewards engineers who are able to thrive in these scenarios, and being the champion of your team who "leads the charge into battle" for these types of projects has the more noble cause of shielding your more junior teammates from this pressure. Once I realized that handling the pressure was good for my growth and taking care of the team, I had much more enthusiasm and clarity dealing with it.

    Related resources:

  • 49
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    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    You don't need to bear the burden of every potential issue. Like you said, there are many reasons a project could get canceled or delayed. Many are completely outside your control (e.g. privacy review, priority shift, company scandal

    ), so it doesn't make sense to worry about all of them.

    My advice is:

    • Make sure you over-communicate the project status and what risks you see. It's ok if a project gets delayed. It's bad if that comes as a surprise.
    • Invite feedback around risks. If you anticipate a potential issue, broadcast it and involve others (e.g. your tech lead + manager). "If the privacy review goes according to plan, we're all set. If we are unable to launch due to the logging of X, the workarounds are either Y or Z. My proposal is to pick Y since it gives us a similar level of visibility and is easier to implement than Z. What do you think?"