When I joined the startup, I was the most experienced engineer and I had two junior engineers working with me. At that point, I had the choice to make architecture decisions and the CTO would work with me to design new systems. The systems I created have worked well, it has been 1 year now and there are no issues with them.
The company has grown and we have hired a lot of seniors now. I have not been included in any new discussions like hiring, the product roadmap. Even on a project where I had taken the lead on it from a very long time (I was not assigned to it, I just assumed the ownership) now the CTO wants the opinion of another senior engineer.
I'm good at infra work and have setup infra when the senior engineers are not able to do it. I'm not sure about my level either as during the 1:1s I was level as an upper mid level while my colleagues believe I'm senior. It shouldn't really matter as I want to just write code and help others, but with a proper title, I think people might take me more seriously.
When speaking to the CTO about my performance, they believe that I'm doing good and probably I'm being too hard on myself. I do know I have dropped the ball at times as I have too much on my plate at times.
I'm just scared that I'm becoming becoming less relevant in the company & really want to increase my influence.
I had a similar challenging experience from being employee 18 at a now 250 person company. What I found is that I had to give up scope when the company hired 10x. At first I fought this and tried to stay involved everywhere but that wasn’t what was best for the company. What worked well is to just focus in the areas that I am still being assigned and consulted for, and crush those with 200% quality and impact. After taking that approach then my scope steadily increased.
Actually the opposite of steadily. Not at all as soon as I thought but then all at once. Have to keep up quality and impact and be patient and communicate your impact, foster relationships, keep strong doing what’s right through difficult times and reorgs, and eventually will be recognized.
It's interesting to me that your company has levels this early on, being a seed-stage company.
My advice is to get everything in the open. You mentioned you dropped the ball at times, so I'd proactively bring those up, and share what you're doing to prevent it from happening again. Then talk about the level expectations and how you're trending.
Two things to note here:
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I've been there as well: There's a sense of competition between your personal tenure and others' broader experience. Since you're one of the "OGs" of the company, it's natural to feel like you should continue having scope across everything, but over time, the company will mature and hire folks who are overall more senior and will receive some of your scope.
Unless all of your scope is taken, I would embrace this process. This is a good thing for many reasons:
As Ryan mentioned, look at the scope you still have and try to absolutely crush it. Earn the respect of those new senior engineers and get that promotion when your company introduces formal levels.
Here's some good resources on showing technical depth/senior engineer behavior: