What strategies are there to recover from an unproductive week?

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Senior Software Engineer at Twitter10 months ago

I recently joined my team, and I've been sort of overwhelmed picking up this new tech stack which may be leading to some procrastination. I literally have to Google for everything I want to write. Twitter also has certain in-house technologies, which are pretty challenging to learn. I also started working on a critical project recently with strict deadlines due to headcount shortage.

I saw this as an opportunity to make an impact and am trying my best, but I wish I had more time to get acquainted with the stack. I feel like I lost a few days last week unraveling through the ambiguity and getting context, so I didn't make progress with implementation as much as I wanted to.

I am kinda anxious that I will miss my delivery in the first project which is not setting a right impression. In my experience, there is no excuse for missed delivery and it will treated as a red flag. It's a newer company for me and my org is revenue-generating. Given the phase Twitter is going through, this project is critical and hence I am hesitant to push back on the timelines too.

I also see mid-level and junior engineers on the project moving way faster than me right now, because of their tenure and familiarity with codebase and that can be disheartening.

Lastly, should I be transparent and discuss with my manager if I feel a few days haven't been productive? I don't see any way that will help.



  • Alex Chiou
    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    10 months ago
    • If it’s just a few days productivity loss, you don’t need to bring it up yet, but if it stretches into a recurring theme across weeks, definitely talk to your manager about this (assuming you still think they’re a kind/good manager from the last time we talked). Of course, it’s very possible they won’t be helpful, but might as well try. You’ll be surprised at how helpful/supportive people can be sometimes!
    • Make it concrete if you’re falling behind or not. Ask your manager if your current pace is okay - If not, then figure out how to course correct. If it is, then no need to worry. Regardless, it’s better to figure this out very clearly vs. creating scenarios/anxiety in your head and having them stay as hypotheticals there.
    • I would still ask around to see if the project timeline is negotiable, but if it truly isn't, there are other ways to save time. The main other angle of "attack" here is to reduce scope: Are there some pieces of the project that can be a fast follow instead of being required for launch?
    • Tactically: Request people’s time more aggressively. I don’t know if you saw the Taro Premium Session on my onboarding at Robinhood, but there was something I didn’t talk about there as I was considering it for another session: My onboarding with Robinhood Android specifically. Overall I did okay, but I got feedback around poor velocity in the beginning and this was because I spent too much time trying to figure stuff out on my own and Googling instead of requesting people’s time. I ended up requesting time from some of the most senior RH Android engineers in the company, and they helped me out a lot with pair programming! You can request time from these rockstar junior/mid-level engineers.
    • Don’t worry about mid-level/junior engineers being faster than you - I assume they’ve been at the company longer and/or have done more work in that stack. A lot of coding is effectively muscle memory, so it will take time for you to catch up: I'm sure you'll be at their level sooner rather than later!
    1 Like
  • Rahul Pandey
    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    10 months ago

    I like Alex's suggestion about requesting people's time more. Especially if you're new, I'd schedule a 1:1 with at least 2 people: a tech lead and someone who is more hands-on in the code. Make these recurring, at least for a 2 month period!

    The benefit of these onboarding sessions is:

    1. You can rely on these sessions each week to ask questions and even pair program. Especially while remote, pair programming is really underrated. I'm not sure why more people don't use it for onboarding.
    2. I've found that having these meetings on your calendar is really effective as a motivational tactic.