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How to deal with more responsibility in the team and grow as a leader?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer [SDE 2] at Amazon20 days ago

I joined Amazon for my first tech job as an SDE I and was able to promote to SDE II after 1 year. Fast forward to 9 months after promotion, My onboarding buddy who has been here ever since the team was founded is leaving. I ended up being the SME for one of the team's projects that makes a lot of $$$, which means a lot of eyes are on it. Although we do have a couple SDE IIIs on the team, they've been more focused on other equally important projects and don't have too much knowledge on this one. I'm starting to feel the weight of the extra responsibility as I often get pinged for escalations, have a lot more say in meetings, and invited to meetings for the roadmap of this project. There was also a recent reshuffle in the Product side and I've become their go-to guy for anything related to this project.

Having joined the industry less than 2 years ago, I kind of feel like things are really moving fast and I'm a bit overwhelmed to be honest. I was still thinking on how to increase my technical depth after promotion, and I'm not even sure if this is a good situation to be in or not. But at the same time, I do want to overcome this and perhaps turn this situation into a growth opportunity.

In my forte review, there were many comments on the expectation of me evolving into a mature leader for the team and this feels like an opportunity to work on that. I'm kind of confused on what direction to take at the moment. What would be some things I can do to make the most of this opportunity and grow my leadership skills? I feel like before all this happened, I was focusing on growing my technical skills and didn't really pay atttention much to the leadership side.

This might be a vague question, so I just wanted to see if anyone has been in this situation and have any advice on how to best navigate this or share similar experiences

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(2 comments)
  • 7
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    Ex-Google SWE • FE/Mobile -> BE/Distributed/AI
    18 days ago

    I'm assuming you've been asked to step up to lead a small team. Let me know if this is not the case and I'll reframe my answer! I do think some of these thoughts also apply to tech leadership in general.

    The overwhelming feeling you feel means that you're in a great spot for growth. Just make sure that overwhelming feeling doesn't actually overwhelm you. Keep your basics in check (sleep, eating, exercise) and learn to prioritize the big problems first (I would limit them to three) and leave the small problems for later. Some thoughts on how you can really take advantage of this opportunity:

    • Find a mentor and, if you can, a sponsor. You'll need someone that's done this before on your side when you need the support, ideally someone that also has an existing network in your realm that they can help you tap into. Reach out to someone in your org that you respect. Make sure to also have someone that is outside of your org's walls so you can get third party support that is unbiased by your org's specific goals. If you can't find someone internally, I would suggest paying for it. It can be expensive, but I personally consider this type of investment worthwhile. Having mentors and sponsors makes a big difference when it comes to growth.
    • Take complete ownership and develop your own opinion. Treat this like your problem and think about how you want to shape the entire project. Talk to peers and leadership to get a feel for what is important to them but also form a personal opinion on the matter.
    • Delegate tasks so you can dive deep technically. If you don't have your technical ducks in a row, the team your leading will suffer so this is one of the more important things you can do. It is actually totally okay if you need to spin this up now - good leaders are able to tackle new spaces without prior knowledge but can spin up on topics quickly. It sounds like this might be your first time doing this but if you invest consistently in this, you'd be surprised at how fast you can come up to speed.
    • It's okay to say "I don't know". But always follow up soon after with a newly formed understanding of the problem and some opinions.
    • Find the key players for each part of the system own. Big problems rely on a collaborative group of individuals. Identifying these key people for yours will be important, whether it be for their knowledge, execution, leadership, or support.
    • Understand your team better by understanding their motivations. My answer here talks about how this is important since it'll help you make the most of your team.

    To wrap it up, one person I've enjoyed learning about the topic of leadership and management is Shreyas Doshi. He's an experienced product manager, but he talks a lot about leadership and I've gleaned quite a few practical things from his content. Here's a video about delegation that I felt clarified for me how to delegate effectively.

  • 8
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    16 days ago

    To start off: You are in a great position. Most engineers at Amazon would love to be in your shoes!

    Going from SDE 1 -> SDE 2 in 1 year is already quite impressive, so congrats! Even at Meta, that's a good pace and Meta is known for way faster promotion speeds than Amazon.

    On top of that, it seems like you have more scope than you know how to handle. This is way, way better than the opposite problem of not having enough scope (this is the case for most FAANG engineers).

    Anyways, my main advice here is to scale yourself. There was actually another Amazon SDE 2 that was in a very similar position to you, and I gave them the same advice to great success. I recommend going through this thread they started: "How can I teach and onboard other engineers faster?"

    Drinking from a firehose is scary, but it's the fastest way to grow. Embrace it, take things in 1 gulp at a time, and you'll do just fine 😊

Amazon.com, Inc. is an American multinational technology company which focuses on e-commerce, cloud computing, and much more. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, it has been referred to as "one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world".
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