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Feeling stuck at Senior Software Engineer

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Senior Software Engineer [L6] at Taro Community2 months ago

I was an SDE-3 at Amazon until last year. Lack of exciting work and fear of layoff made me switch to a late stage startup as a Sr Software Engineer.

Now I am part of a very small team (3 engineers including me) and have been working on small scale projects which won't look great on my resume. I feel like I am stuck at my level and not sure how to move ahead. If I want to level up at my current company, I might have to spend a few years. My manager just got into her role and doesn't know what growth would be like for me. When I look at staff engineers in my company, I feel I am not at their level. I have thought about making a move again but I am immediately discouraged by the thought of wasting days and months in interview preparation after doing it just last year. Feeling really lost and looking for suggestions.

Sorry if the question is too open ended or vague

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    Engineer @ Robinhood
    2 months ago

    Pulling from my own experiences growing as senior: your growth will learn towards scaling your influence. There's a two ways you can do this:

    • Increase the impact of your team. At a team size of 3, this likely will be a mix of increasing the number of people on the team and increasing the impact per team member.
    • Function at your skip-level. This means that you're supporting your sibling teams, so you'll have a higher number of people dependent on you.

    It's unclear which path you'll end up leaning towards (given how it's dependent in individual, team, and company context), but there's clear starting point: your team has minimal work. You need to dig into this: why is there only small projects? Is it because the team doesn't have enough headcount? Is it because the goal(s) of your team is unclear? If you are the senior most engineer on your team and your manager is new: this is a great opportunity for you to step up and work with your new manager to figure out how to set the team up for success. Provide your insights (and potential suggestions) to your manager on how the team could be set up to deliver more (changing the team direction, suggesting projects, pushing for more headcount, etc.). If you don't have enough context on the bigger picture, try scheduling some recurring 1:1s with your skip manager and get their thoughts on your team's future. If you're able to set your current team up for success, that will open the doors you need to take on the scope/influence to grow as a senior engineer.

    Hope this helps!

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

    Don't focus so much on level - Focus on growth.

    In particular, treat level as a lagging indicator. If you're truly functioning as a Staff Engineer and have all the relevant skills, you will eventually get the title of Staff. It's just a matter of time and hard work. In this market, you and many others will need a lot of time. And that's perfectly okay - Careers are marathons, not sprints.

    Getting to SDE 3 at Amazon is insanely hard. It's literally the hardest senior promotion in the entire tech industry. You're clearly a talented engineer who has a core that's strong enough to grow to Staff.

    Now let's look at your current situation. You're only getting small projects? Fix that. Expand the scope of your projects so they become medium and large sized. If that doesn't work, zoom out and look at the forest, not the trees - Maybe there's a much bigger space your team can take on. Once you find that space it's just a matter of convincing a couple other people.

    Worst case, you can just switch teams within the company instead of interviewing. But I wouldn't think about that too much yet.

    For inspiration on creating scope, check this out: [Taro Top 10] How To Create Scope As An Engineer

    For senior to staff, we have this: [Taro Top 10] Senior Engineer To Staff Engineer (L5 To L6)

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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