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Should I consider switching teams?

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Senior Software Engineer [L5] at Pinteresta year ago

I work as an ML Engineer at a company, and I have been part of my team for two years. Unfortunately, the product I was solely responsible for got canceled due to external reasons, even though it was showing good growth. Throughout my career, I have specialized in creating recommendation systems for online content platforms.

Currently, I am involved in less impactful tasks related to migrating our systems. We hope to find more meaningful work in the future, but I'm unsure if our team can achieve significant growth. While my manager sees value in me, I am not considered the best player on the team.

Recently, I learned that the Ads department is actively seeking to hire experienced ML engineers, possibly even seniors. They have ambitious goals and are eager to develop new solutions to reach them. I attended their hiring meeting, and the ML director spoke passionately about the work, which felt risky but exciting.

Part of me believes I should join this team. The expectations would be higher, and the company genuinely values their work. It would provide a greater challenge, and I believe such situations are crucial for personal growth and improvement. Additionally, working in a different department would expose me to different organizational dynamics. In my current team, I'm increasingly feeling complacent and lack inspiration.

On the other hand, part of me thinks I should remain with my current team. I don't dislike my manager, which is not always the case in every job. My current team is also important, and I have respect for my colleagues. If I stick it out, there's a chance I might come across something interesting eventually. However, switching teams would mean losing the relationships I've built and potentially delaying promotion opportunities. Moreover, there are concerns about possible layoffs, so it might be safer to be conservative.

Do you have any thoughts on this matter?



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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    I think it depends on your prioritization system when it comes to risk vs. consistency:

    • If you're more comfortable with risk and growing to L6 is very important to you, the ads team seems like a good place to be.
    • If you're fine staying as a well-performing L5 and just want a place where you're treated well and have a supportive manager/team, that's the case for staying.

    Migration work can be of large scope as well, and it's generally hard for a team to not have enough L5 scope (L6 is a different story). There's a good discussion on measuring migration project impact here: "How can I demonstrate the impact of migration projects in a platform team?"

    Something I will say though is that working on an ads team in a social media company is stressful. I worked on ads at Instagram for 3 years, and maintaining good work-life balance was hard (I also had an unfair advantage as a mobile developer). Folks on back-end and ML ranking had extremely crazy oncalls as you're working very directly with $$$.

    I share a lot of my experience working on ads here: "What is it like working on ads teams?"

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    Head of Engineering at Capgemini
    a year ago

    I think the opportunity in front of you presents a lot of upside and you'll probably learn new things by taking it on. That being said, I would think through how your mitigate risk and protect your downside. Here's some tips on how to think through this.

    • Reversibility: assuming the worst case scenario happens if you take the Ads role (e.g. underperform and laid off), how difficult is it for you personally to get back to where you are currently career wise, financially, etc. I personally think through the following to assess reversibility before making a "risky" career move.
      • Strength of my existing network: are there people within and outside the company that will outright hire me if there is a position, put in a strong referral for me, broker an intro, etc.
      • Ability to expand network as needed: hypothetically, for every 100 cold outreach you do, how does your conversion rate look like for responses back, etc. Test this out to observe what results look like and also check how comfortable you are doing this
      • Marketability of your existing skills: you can somewhat gauge this with the cold outreach and talking to some recruiters and hiring managers (start with ones you know). Can also "eyeball" it based on desired skillsets on JDs (works better for more junior roles) vs. skills and experience you have to demonstrate them
      • How good you are at interviewing: for better or worse, everyone's interviewing abilities will add a +/- to what your actual competency baseline is. Only way to validate for sure is to go do a bunch of interviews, settle for mock-interviews if it's hard to get real ones
    • Mitigations: for each risk, make a plan on how you can mitigate it that's completely within your span of control. For example, there's something you can do for each of the points I mentioned under "Reversibility". Hit up your network before you need them, practice making new connections, deliberately seek out and practice interviews. Additionally, it's a good idea to maintain a great relationship with you current team and manager. I've seen many cases where they will take you back if the role on the new team doesn't work out or vouch for you to navigate your way into other parts of the org.
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