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Navigating Initial Tasks Unrelated to Future Project Work

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Mid-Level Software Engineer at Microsoft3 months ago

Hi Taro Community,

I've recently embarked on a new journey where I'm currently the sole team member based outside the US. The team here in India is still in the process of being established. My mentor, recognizing my unique position, has assigned me some smaller, initial tasks to get started. However, I'm aware that the project I'm ultimately supposed to contribute to is still in its nascent stages, with the codebase likely not fully available/developed yet.

This situation leads me to a couple of questions:

  1. How can I proactively learn about and understand the codebase more closely aligned with my future work, especially when it might not be fully available or developed at this stage?
  2. How will working on these initial, potentially unrelated tasks benefit me in the long run, especially if they don't directly tie into the main project I'll be working on?

I'm keen to make the most out of this initial phase and ensure a smooth transition into my core project once it's fully underway. Any insights, experiences, or advice on how to navigate this scenario would be greatly appreciated.

Looking forward to your valuable suggestions.

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Discussion

(4 comments)
  • 1
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    3 months ago

    I personally wouldn't worry about understanding this new project with incomplete infra yet. Being proactive is great of course, but there is such a thing as premature optimization. Since you are new and not a senior+ engineer, diving into a nascent codebase so early is almost certainly going to be a waste of your time. I would go into it when your mentor says it's ready (trust their judgment and keep that dialog open).

    In the meantime, focus on crushing your initial onboarding tasks. Your mentor has the right idea in giving small tasks. The idea is to not overwhelm you while giving you a reasonable avenue to ramp up your skills, build up technical muscle memory, and ship some immediate impact.

    To impress your teammates, a better route is to make sure to follow the clean PR tips in my Code Quality course to impress your teammates with your initial tasks: https://www.jointaro.com/course/level-up-your-code-quality-as-a-software-engineer/one-diff-one-thesis/

  • 0
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    Mid-Level Software Engineer [OP]
    Microsoft
    3 months ago

    @Rahul any thoughts from your side ?

  • 0
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    Mid-Level Software Engineer [OP]
    Microsoft
    3 months ago

    Beyond these initial assignments, I’ve noticed other teams within my organization working on intriguing areas like PyTorch and kernel development, sparking my curiosity to learn more about their work.

    I’m contemplating reaching out to the managers of these teams to inquire if there might be small tickets or bugs I could help with, to gain a broader understanding of the diverse projects within our org. However, I’m unsure if I should first discuss this with my own manager.

    • Would taking such an initiative be seen as proactive, or could it be perceived differently by my manager?
    • Is it common practice to explore tasks outside one’s immediate team for learning purposes, or should one strictly focus on their assigned onboarding tasks initially?
    • For those who have navigated similar situations, how did you approach this, and what was your manager’s response?

    I want to ensure that my eagerness to learn and contribute broadly is seen in a positive light, without stepping over any boundaries.

    Appreciate your insights and advice on this matter.

  • 1
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    3 months ago

    I’m contemplating reaching out to the managers of these teams to inquire if there might be small tickets or bugs I could help with...

    I firmly recommend against this. I understand wanting to ramp up fast, but you should focus more on knocking your existing tasks out of the park. If you need additional scope, try to expand your current tasks (a classic example for Big Tech like Microsoft is to refactor some code along the way) as opposed to find entirely new tasks from separate teams.

    If you are doing so, so well that you finish all your tasks early and have no more room to expand scope, ask your manager for more work directly related to your current team.

Microsoft is an American technology corporation which produces computer software, consumer electronics, and personal computers. It developed the Windows line of operating systems, the Microsoft Office suite, and the Internet Explorer and Edge web browsers. Microsoft is often credited for ushering in the modern PC era.
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