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Success story after PIP?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer at Series E Startupa year ago

I transitioned into a backend engineering role 1 year ago after working as a data analyst for 3 years. The jump was definitely big to me, as I had to learn a lot of new concepts (OOP, clean code, architecture, devops etc). The transition was done through internal hiring where they did a live coding interview (2 easy leetcodes), a live system design interview, and motivational interview. I passed all of those and ended up in a high-paced team.

The team was severely understaffed. The manager was managing 3 teams that decreased from 20+ people to <10 people and there was hiring freeze. There was no proper onboarding and all the seniors were too busy with tasks to help me properly. I did my best to read the documentations and set up 1-1s with more senior engineers from other teams that could help me. I finished several projects although carried over some to the next half.

My 1st performance review was "meet expectations". However, before my 2nd performance review, there was a manager change and this manager gave me "partially meet expectations" and then said that I would be put on PIP program. When I asked the manager what the program would be like and how many people completed this successfully, he/she couldn't give a definitive answer and said that HR would be in touch me.

I decided to quit and spend time to learn more fundamental concepts and take up a freelance project. It's been 2 months since then. Right now I feel like I'm learning a lot in these 2 months compared to my 1 year in that company, but I can't help but feeling very anxious with all these layoffs and the incoming tech winter. I don't have any self-confidence within myself that I would get any decent job, especially after getting an incoming a PIP, I'm just worried that when I'm interviewing at my next job, the career gap in my resume and the past potential PIP would deter me from getting any jobs. I'm also at loss on how to avoid potential PIPs in the future. Any advice to help me? Thank you very much.

Edit: For more context, I didn't come from a CS background (I studied Mathematics). My team was not a revenue generator. The company was especially hit really hard during covid and had 2 big layoffs. When I left, there are many products that are being shut down and a couple of senior-level product managers left as well without being replaced due to hiring freeze. During the talk of my PIP, the manager brought up his/her expectations on me that was 1 level (mid-level) above my current level (junior-level).



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    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    I know a PIP is stressful, sorry you went through that. My best advice for someone who went through a PIP is actually to not to put much weight on it.

    A PIP is an indication of a bad fit between the employee and employer. It doesn't necessarily mean the employee is a poor performer. Your #1 priority now should be to regain your self confidence and leverage your network to find another job.

    It sounds like you've learned a huge amount in the past 2 months, which is awesome. You also have a great year of experience. Remember, you don't have to reveal that you were on a PIP, and in fact, you shouldn't.

    Don't spend too much of your mental energy right now thinking about how you'll avoid a PIP in the future. Instead, focus on landing the job. And then we'll be here to support you in the new role!

  • Profile picture
    Comstock Software, Inc
    a year ago

    I have been fired more than once. It's not the worst thing in the world. As Rahul Pandey says, you don't have to disclose a PIP. Employers won't say anything when they check references. When the interviewer asks why you left, tell them you weren't a good match and decided to pursue opportunities that stretched you in ways you couldn't have imagined working at your previous job.

    Watch videos by Alan Weiss if you're freelancing. I've been doing some version of that for years. You learn a ton that way. If you do go back to the FAANGs, you'll be 10x the person you were before.

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    Entry-Level Software Engineer [OP]
    Series E Startup
    a year ago

    Hi Rahul,

    Thank you very much for your kind response! You're right, I probably should focus my energy on landing a new job instead of stressing out about a bad past. However, I'm curious on why you say that I shouldn't reveal my PIP? I'm just worried that if my future employer found out about my past "almost" PIP, it's going to give a bad impression and might damage the future relationship more. Also, my past company was known as a high-performance company. If I'm a bad fit, does that mean that I might not be suitable in a high-performance company? I just recently realized that my past company was known for its "sink or swim" culture, which explains why there was lack of proper onboarding. Does all high-performance companies have "sink or swim culture"? And if I'm not a fit in companies that have such culture, what should I do so I can prepare myself to survive and thrive better in such companies? Thank you.

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    Entry-Level Software Engineer [OP]
    Series E Startup
    a year ago

    Hi President,

    Thank you very much for your solution! I think you're right, I could still frame my failure in the past in a more positive light while also showcase the growth and improvement in my skills to the future employers. I've checked Alan Weiss' videos and seems that he has a lot of good content on company consultation, I'll try to go through them. I guess I was stressed out because I feel that there is a stigma associated with someone who goes through PIP or almost goes through PIP, it's almost like a contagious disease, and it's difficult to find stories of people who went through/almost went through PIP who eventually thrived in their career later.

    1 Like
  • You’re really overthinking this. PIPs suck, but they happen. Many factors could lead to them. It wasn’t a fit at that time, with that company, with that team, with you. It doesn’t say anything about you or your performance. You got PIP’ed once, so I wouldn’t worry that you’re not a fit for that type of company or anything else. I’d focus on getting that next role, then you could lean on the Taro community for optimizing how you navigate it.

    Also, don’t reveal that you were PIP’ed. It’s irrelevant. Your previous company won’t reveal it due to fear of lawsuit. They’ll just confirm your employment. Don’t overthink this.

  • However, I'm curious on why you say that I shouldn't reveal my PIP?

    I like all the answers people have said - that being PIP'ed say less about your ability but more about the fit between you and the specific team. Employers care less about your past performance but more about your current ability and motivation. It's more important to them you have had one year of software experience under your belt than the fact you got PIP'ed in this team. It's extremely unlikely that anyone with decent amount of experience will have performed well in every team they have been part of - it's been 50/50 for my own career thus far - so it's just about finding the right fit most of the time, and moving on when it's not.

    At the same time, it also sounds like this weighs heavily on your mind, and as someone who's been through some rough patches in their life, I can empathize if you are having a hard time not focusing on it. If this is true, then the key here in my experience is to start learning and build goals, principles, and metrics you can use to evaluate yourself such that you can be certain that you are far better than when you were. After all - we all started somewhere - it's not that important where we were, but how we moved forward from there to go where we wanted go. If you continue to struggle with this, please don't hesitate to seek additional help via therapy or otherwise. I know it can really eat at people from their inside.

    Also, my past company was known as a high-performance company. If I'm a bad fit, does that mean that I might not be suitable in a high-performance company? I just recently realized that my past company was known for its "sink or swim" culture, which explains why there was lack of proper onboarding. Does all high-performance companies have "sink or swim culture"?

    First, it's probably best not to label it by company, but rather by team. High functioning teams (including those at Google and Meta) rarely have a sink or swim culture, because they realize no one can succeed on their own and the best teams have strong performers all around. Mentorship is often a huge part of senior engineers' job in those companies (watch Alex's talk on relationships), and your last team seemed clearly understaffed and over stressed. I think making "finding a supportive team" your priority during your job search is an often overlooked criteria that you might want to emphasize as you continue your search!

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    Entry-Level Software Engineer [OP]
    Series E Startup
    6 months ago

    Hi all, I just want to say thank you and give an update on work life so far. I just passed my probation at a stealth startup and so far it's been very enjoyable! They matched my previous salary and they didn't mind my months of career gap. I feel appreciated and motivated here, and I learn a lot about infrastructure and devops here in a way that I never got to do in my previous company. And yes, I think I now finally understand what people mean about "fit". I think it's about if what I need from the company is aligned with what the company needs from me, and so far with this new company, they're both aligned.

    In my past company, it was already very mature, and there weren't many opportunities for a junior like me to contribute because the system is very fragile and complex. There were so many steps I had to complete before even deploying my first code and the tech stacks were outdated, making it difficult for me to understand what's actually going on without a senior giving me the big picture.

    Also, few weeks after my PIP, an official layoff happened, and there were many stories similar to me that surged. I think this confirmed that the company was not doing too well after all and they used PIP to do silent layoff. After talking to other engineers, I also realized that PIP is actually pretty common, and yes it's not the nail in the coffin ahaha. There are so many factors that contribute to it that mostly don't have to do with performance and what matters most is if we keep on moving forward.

    Thank you all for the support during my job search phase! I hope that this will motivate other engineers who got their first PIP or layoff