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Joining Google as an L4 (GCP) - How to get to L5 quick?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer [L4] at Google2 months ago

I have joined Google as L4 Full stack engineer - Frontend heavy (70% Frontend, 30% Backend). I have joined the GCP Org. I have 6+ Years of Experience and I have worked in Uber for 3.5 years as SDE 2 Frontend Engineer in past.

I am working on google primarily on Angularjs, typescript, Graphql on frontend side and java, sql on backend side. I want to make sure that i perform well and able to reach L5 within next 1-1.5 years. i.e next December cycle.

I have a fair idea from Uber point of view.

But someone who has deeper insights about what to do right and how things work at google it will be great.

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(5 comments)
  • 9
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    Senior Leadership @ Meta | Mentor | Coach | Tech Advisor
    2 months ago

    Congratulations on securing an L4 role at Google. Compared to Meta, where IC4 / L4 is at the transient level, i.e. we expect people to get promoted within a certain period, in Google, L4 is a terminal/long-term level where you can stay without needing to progress to the next level, i.e. no clock.

    Engineering Levels Overview

    • L4 - 1-5 years of industry experience, sometimes awarded to high-potential new grads and PhDs.
    • L5 - Senior Software Engineer: 6-9 years of industry experience. This is the level most engineers are at internally within Google. You're expected to be able to operate with little direction and handle complex tasks on your own.
    • L6 - Staff Software Engineer: 9+ years of experience and an expectation that you have solid interpersonal skills. Many engineers will start managing more extensive projects and teams at this point. A promotion from L5 to L6 is more exponential in nature, and candidates rarely get hired for this role externally.

    Growth Strategies

    Focusing on several key areas will be crucial to accelerate your promotion from L4 to L5 at Google within the next 1-1.5 years. Here are some strategies tailored to your situation:

    1. Get a Mentor

    • Find a Suitable Mentor: Look for a mentor who has successfully navigated the path from L4 to L5 or beyond. A mentor can provide insights, advice, and guidance specific to Google's culture and expectations.
    • Leverage Google's Culture: Google's culture is conducive to mentoring. Take advantage of this by seeking mentors within and outside your immediate team.

    2. Treat Your Manager as a Mentor

    • Build a Strong Relationship: Develop a positive, collaborative relationship with your manager. View them as a partner in your career growth.
    • Regular Feedback: Actively seek and be open to feedback from your manager. Demonstrating that you can accept and act on feedback positively is crucial for your growth.
    • Set Expectations: Communicate your career aspirations to your manager and work together to create a plan for achieving them.
    • Set Clear Goals: Work with your manager to set clear and achievable goals that align with the L5 expectations. Use these goals to guide your development and track your progress.

    3. Demonstrate Leadership

    • Active Participation: Speak up in meetings, contribute ideas, and participate in decision-making processes. Show confidence and back your suggestions with data and logical reasoning.
    • Lead Projects: Take ownership of complex projects that involve cross-team collaboration. Show that you can manage and drive these projects to successful completion.
    • Influence and Persuasion: Develop your skills in influencing and persuading others. This can involve presenting compelling arguments, negotiating, and building consensus.

    4. Enhance Technical Skills

    • Deepen Expertise: Continue to develop deep expertise in your core technologies and stay updated with the latest advancements.
    • Innovate: Propose and implement solutions that address complex problems or improve existing systems. Contribute to the technical vision of your team.

    5. Deliver High-Impact Results

    • Strategic Projects: Focus on projects that have a significant impact and align with organizational goals. Choose visible projects and demonstrate your ability to handle complexity.
    • Quantify Impact: Measure and effectively communicate the impact of your work. Use metrics and data to highlight your contributions and successes.

    6. Mentor and Guide Others

    • Mentorship: Actively mentor junior engineers, providing guidance on their projects, conducting code reviews, and helping them navigate challenges.
    • Knowledge Sharing: Share your expertise through tech talks, documentation, and informal training sessions. Foster a culture of continuous learning within your team.

    7. Build a Strong Network

    • Internal Networking: Develop strong relationships within your team and across the organization. Networking can provide support, opportunities, and visibility for your work.
    • Seek Sponsorship: Identify a senior leader/engineer who can advocate for your promotion. A sponsor can provide valuable guidance and support during the promotion process.

    8. Seek Continuous Feedback and Improve

    • Regular Feedback: Consistently seek feedback from your manager, peers, and mentor. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments.
    • Self-Assessment: Regularly assess your performance against the L5 expectations. Identify gaps and work proactively to address them.

    Best of luck in your journey to next level!

  • 1
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    2 months ago

    Meta's promotion culture is very different from Google's (i.e. it's way faster and L4 isn't terminal as Alexander mentioned), but I have found that the engineering bar is very similar as I've mentored 10+ Meta E4s to E5 promotions in 1 to 1.5 years (exactly the timeline you're mentioning).

    Of course, a lot more goes into this promotion than I can write within a single Taro forum response (I'll be making an L4 -> L5 course as well), so keep in mind that this is all high-level. Here are the steps:

    1. Onboard effectively and establish yourself as a friendly, helpful presence in the team - Everyone treats the newbie super nicely (unless they're evil in which case you have chosen the wrong team), so this is the prime time to get people to like you
    2. Develop a reputation as a rockstar coder - In particular, submit some of the cleanest pull requests in your entire team. When you're starting off, expectations for velocity are low. Take advantage of this by spending the extra 15-30 minutes per commit to make it extremely polished
    3. Use the reputation cultivated from #2 to take on leadership opportunities - Once people respect your technical skills, you will be able to influence others on the team as expected by an L5. If you do this enough, you will get promoted to L5. This step is the biggest, longest, and hardest and it cuts across many avenues:
      1. Speaking up more in meetings and leading them
      2. Owning and driving system design decisions
      3. Crafting the timelines for projects
      4. Creating scope and getting buy-in
      5. Mentoring other engineers like interns, L3s, and less experienced L4s

    The overall playbook for mid-level to senior promotion is to build a stellar technical foundation and then branch off of that to flesh out all the soft/fundamental skills (leadership, communication, project management, etc).

    The timeline is roughly as follows:

    • Step 1 (onboarding): Months 0 - 3
    • Step 2 (technical strength): Months 3 - 6 (though you should be striving to write great code from Day 1)
    • Step 3 (leadership): Months 6 - 18

    Converting the timeline into action, take these courses in the following order:

    1. [Course] The Complete Onboarding Guide For Software Engineers: Succeeding When You're New
    2. [Course] Level Up Your Code Quality As A Software Engineer
    3. [Course] Nail Your Promotion As A Software Engineer
    4. [Course] Frontend System Design Masterclass - Building Playlists
  • 0
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    2 months ago

    Now let's talk about GCP. I didn't work on something like AWS, but I did work on ads back at Meta. There's an important commonality here in that across both cloud services and ads, your core customer is businesses, not everyday consumers. This leads to a lot of vital distinctions you should be aware of to have more impact:

    1. Measure as much as possible in $$$ - You are directly connected to revenue, and you should use that to make your promotion case. If a respected L5 on your team drove a $10M revenue project the past half, and you drove a $9M revenue project across the same half, that's a good sign you are catching up to L5 impact. Fix a bug? Figure out how much revenue was lost because of it. Optimize an existing GCP product? Figure out how much revenue was brought in before the change and how much revenue is coming in after the change. Get extremely good at running A/B tests and understanding their results.
    2. Polish is more important - If people's Instagram selfies have a 10% saturation imbalance or something, that's bad, but there's no real damage. You fix the bug, apologize to the users, and call it a day. Now if a business's $50M Instagram ad campaign is showing their media creative with 10% incorrect saturation, they can request a multi-million dollar refund. It's the same for you: If your GCP product isn't working properly, there are massive consequences. Pay attention to detail and become a champion of quality. Here's a case study of mine for inspiration: [Case Study] Solving A Multi-Million $$ Instagram Bug
    3. Oncall is critical - Both web and back-end are "deploy everywhere instantly" tech stacks unlike mobile. On top of that, you are working with money directly as mentioned before, often from big spenders. This means that if something's on fire, your team needs to have the tools to put it out ASAP and correctly. Get good at oncall and try to make systematic improvements to your team's oncall rotation. I did a case study on this too: [Case Study] Revamping Oncall For 20 Instagram Engineers - Senior to Staff Project

    Here's another video for inspiration coming from an engineer at a similar organization/company: Rockstar Software Engineer Story: SW2 -> Principal In Just 4 Years

    • 0
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      Founding ML Engineer @ Lancey (YC S22)
      2 months ago

      Alex, how do you measure impact of your work when working in a large FAANG company where any impact is almost always a result of collaborating with others? If you optimized one part and then your coworkers refactored/advised you and your team lead helped you debug how do you isolate it? This is also related to resume/interviews when taking credit.

    • 1
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      Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
      2 months ago

      It's impossible to isolate it. The best you can do is share the overall impact of the project and describe your contribution. From there, whatever "overlord" you have will make the corresponding fuzzy calculation in their head (e.g. a hiring manager reading your resume or your VP of Eng reading your promotion packet).

      I talk about the "formula" for credit received in my promotion course here (I get it as close to math as possible, but in the end, you can't create hard numbers for something as complicated as software): https://www.jointaro.com/course/nail-your-promotion-as-a-software-engineer/its-not-just-about-impact/

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