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What to do when hired as a SWE2 with 15 years of experience?

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Senior Software Engineer at Taro Communitya month ago

I am a 15 year experienced software professional holding H1B. In my last 3 companies, I was a Senior Software Engineer. In my penultimate company, I was due for Staff promotion. Fast Forwarding, I was impacted by layoffs in Jan this year. I had 3 months to find a job in this market. I was applying and passing on my resume through all my network. Most of my applications got rejected quoting they picked another candidate. Some of my applications materialized into interviews , but I ended up not clearing (was in bad form and stress and also didn't get ample time to prepare thoroughly).

Finally, I got my application picked at a company through a referral, but they only considered me for SWE2. I explained them my experience and requested to consider me for SSE level, they said the panel will be open to it. But in the end, they ended up offering me SWE2. I took the offer as I had no choice. I was running out of time and did'nt want to risk rejecting this offer and waiting for a better offer. I took up the offer and joined, but I don't feel happy. I wish I had more time to really choose what I wanted.

I would like your thoughts on how "wise" is it to be SWE2 with 15 years experience. Would my age become a factor for further career progressions as they would prefer younger people? I am confused if I should stick to this, be patient, work smart and work my way up inside, or would it make more sense to keep interviewing and find something that I feel happy about. Look forward to helpful replies or referrals for SSE :)

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(2 comments)
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a month ago

    Sorry to hear about this: SWE2 for 15 YOE is nothing short of highway robbery, and I've talked to other engineers who are in a very similar position to you. The current market is terrible, so many engineers are getting down-leveled now (especially at Big Tech). And as always, it's worse for immigrants as companies know that they can take advantage of them.

    When it comes to your options, there are 2 big ones which you have already identified:

    1. Speed run promotion - Usually I recommend waiting 3-6 months before seriously talking to your manager about this, but given your situation, I would talk about this with them literally in your next 1 on 1 if you haven't started the conversation already. One of Taro's earliest community members was in the exact same situation and was able to get their mid-level -> senior promotion in ~1 year. Watch this video to learn how to approach this conversation: Asking For A Promotion: The Wrong Way vs. The Right Way
    2. Look for another job - If #1 has no traction, I hope meeting expectations as a SWE2 with 15 YOE is easy so you can put a lot of time into job searching. However, this might be tricky as employers will be curious why you're trying to leave your current job so soon (this will be a yellow to red flag for recruiters/hiring managers). Regardless, I still think this is worth trying, at least passively. For this, I recommend our job searching course, particularly the lesson about down-leveling: https://www.jointaro.com/course/ace-your-tech-interview-and-get-a-job-as-a-software-engineer/dont-get-downleveled/

    For referrals, Taro Networking can help with that: https://www.jointaro.com/networking/?selectedServices=Referrals

    For age discrimination, being "old" actually helps with seniority as many companies have strict YOE requirements for certain levels. From my experience, age discrimination is more about the types of companies that will even let you in to begin with. More incredibly detailed thoughts here: "Should I worry about age discrimination in tech?"

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    Eng @ Taro
    12 days ago

    I would like your thoughts on how "wise" is it to be SWE2 with 15 years experience.

    Given your situation, it is probably the best option given the other available options. This will give you an opportunity to continue interviewing at different companies while in the country and while earning a paycheck.

    But, I wouldn't stay at this company long-term because you could be looking at 1-2 years before you get back to your previous position, then another 2 years to reach staff engineer. It could be 4 years before you get back to the position that you were almost at before.

    In the ideal case, your interview prep goes well, and you will be able to find another job within 3-6 months, ideally as a senior or staff SWE. You won't need to put your current role on your resume. This would be ideal because this position would peg you as a SWE2 when you are interviewing at other companies. It would lead to a lot of confusion.

    Would my age become a factor for further career progressions as they would prefer younger people?

    In the interview panels I've been involved in, I don't ever remember a time where we've had a preference for younger people, and I'm not even sure that's legal. If anything, age and industry experience can be seen as a positive.