Taro Logo
2

Switching teams after joining for 6 months - How to go about it?

Profile picture
Entry-Level Software Engineer at Flatiron Health3 months ago

Hey all, I'm a new grad Data Scientist and I've been working for my current employer for about 6 months now. It's a mid-sized company so I didn't get the chance to pick the team when I first joined. I realized not that long into the job that I don't want to stay on this team for the long term, and today I just heard the news about another team actively hiring for Data Scientists. But I'm not sure if I should pursue this opportunity for a few reasons:

  1. I've only been at this company for 6 months and haven't gone through a formal perf cycle yet. This means that I would be evaluated on a "case-by-case basis" and would need approval from the HRBP and my manager.
  2. They are hiring for one level above my current role, although someone on that team told me it's flexible.
  3. My current team is understaffed and is currently hiring as well, so there is a risk of my manager not approving this transfer. This also means I won't have enough time to prepare for the interview.
  4. This is not currently listed on the internal job board (although supposedly this position was only released externally today so the internal job board might have been updated yet)

Here are a few reasons why I want to transfer to the new team:

  1. Due to the scope of the work on my current team, I feel that I'm not learning as much as I'd like to. It's not very technical and relies heavily on specific business contexts. I'm more interested in improving my technical ability in writing code and building products over learning business contexts, at least for now.
  2. A lot of my current work involves writing ad-hoc SQL queries to support other functions. I don't find a lot of value in this kind of work and want to invest my time in building stuff from which I can learn new skills.
  3. I interned on the team I want to transfer to and really enjoyed it. I keep good relationships with many of the team members and am familiar with their work. Also, I genuinely think the work they are doing on that team is very interesting.
  4. I don't see a clear way of progression on my current team. My current team was only established two months before I joined due to a reorg. Every IC on my team is brand new and my manager is brand new to being a manager as well. There are no senior engineers to learn from and I can't see what senior engineer scope looks like on our team.
  5. Our team supports the sales team in client communications, which means we have very unpredictable workloads and deadlines. Sometimes I have to work very long hours and take on-call requests which can be very stressful.

I really want to switch to a new environment but I feel like my chances aren't great. It would be great if folks could share their thoughts on:

  1. Should I reach out to the prospective team's manager to express my interest in this role right now?
  2. Since manager approval is required before starting the interview process, it's possible that I would have to stay on my current team with my manager knowing I want to transfer out. I think it is a situation I want to avoid but also don't want to miss the opportunity because of this.
  3. In general, what would be a good approach to this? And is there any specific advice?

Thanks in advance!

99
2

Discussion

(2 comments)
  • 3
    Profile picture
    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    3 months ago

    Your reasons for switching are well thought-out and reasonable.

    A common failure mode here (especially for early-in-career folks) is the "grass is greener" phenomenon, where every team looks better compared to the team they're on now. This is not true, of course, since every job will have some minutiae or annoyances that you don't realize from the outside. But since you interned on the team you want to join, this should be less risky.

    One variable here is around your performance in the first 6 months. You'll find that team switches (or other requests) become easier if you have a track record of success and people like to work with you. That's hard to do in 6 months, but it would help.

    My recommendation:

    • Do a vibe check with the potential new manager first. Send them a message and schedule a 1:1 to talk about your interests and how there's a ton of overlap with their team.
    • If this conversation is positive, and the manager is open to having you on the team, then ask about the timeline. You may find that they're ok waiting a few months, which could help, or that they are hiring for multiple roles, so you can circle back once you hit the 1 year mark.
    • Ask the prospective manager about the interview and what you can expect. You want to avoid the situation where you are about the make the switch but it's blocked because of your interview performance.

    If all the signals are positive (and I'd also do a quick coffee chat with folks on the team you're targeting), then I'd bring this up with your manager. Phrase it like less of a question and more of "I really enjoyed working with you, but I've made this decision. How can I best help with the transition?"

    I'm bullish on the idea of going to a team that best suits you! Some relevant discussion:

  • 0
    Profile picture
    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    3 months ago

    You should 100% try to transfer to this other team. From the struggles of your current team to the fact that you have existing relationships on the other team from your internship, this is a very obvious decision to me.

    That being said, there is always a risk when switching teams, primarily with the awkwardness and potential manager retaliation. I can expand on this by answering your questions:

    Should I reach out to the prospective team's manager to express my interest in this role right now?

    Yes. It's clear to me here that the sooner the better. 6 months is a decent chunk of time for a first team, and this problem can be fixed if you stay on this other team for a while.

    Since manager approval is required before starting the interview process, it's possible that I would have to stay on my current team with my manager knowing I want to transfer out. I think it is a situation I want to avoid but also don't want to miss the opportunity because of this.

    Yep, this will be awkward, but it's hard to avoid.

    In general, what would be a good approach to this? And is there any specific advice?

    At a very high-level:

    1. If you don't like your manager - Coordinate the move in secret. Your ideal goal is to switch when the deal is already done, and it's just a clean cut-over with no opportunity for retaliation.
    2. If you like your manager - Give them a heads up and communicate in a respectful/gentle/empathetic way. Thank them for what they've done for you so far and spin it in a way where your goal is to add more impact for the org/company overall by finding a space you're more passionate about. It's the classic "It's not you, it's me" framing.

    The situations in the following resources are a bit different, but I still think they would be valuable to you to learn more about how to approach the communication angle:

    If you have more time, I recommend just going through my entire Effective Communication series as well for general tips (which will also help you long-term): Alex's Guide To Effective Communication