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What to do when you don't believe in a new product you're assigned to?

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Senior Software Engineer [5A] at Ubera year ago

This half I've been assigned to a new greenfield project and I'm having a tough time believing in the product idea and I think the product team is being overly optimistic.

I'm concerned the problem the product solves isn't important enough, that the solution won't be adopted and that the business value isn't clear. They're also pushing for rushed timelines even before we've decided on what will be delivered.

I'm worried if this thing doesn't get traction and we end up having layoffs that it would make our team a target.

How should I think about this situation? Try to make the best out of it? Try to get out of it?

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(3 comments)
  • 19
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    Staff SWE at Google, ex-Meta, ex-Amazon
    a year ago

    Why are you working on this project? Did your previous project get canceled? Did you “finish” something (does that happen?)?

    It feels odd, for sure. Are you the seniormost engineer on the project? Have you had a frank conversation with your own leadership and the product owners and their leadership about your feelings? Why do they believe so strongly in this that it is funded?

    From there, how do you hedge if this isn’t successful or a good market fit? Can a small-scale market test be conducted with a fake or prototype to see if people actually want it? Is there UX research to back up the need?

    If you are willing to “bet your badge” against it, and you can’t make the arguments to convince others to abandon this project, you need to leave. You may be right, but if a decision is made and you will not commit to it, your presence is poison. I’m not saying you’re in the wrong but it is sounding like nothing can be done to convince you this is a good way to spend time.

    The last thing I will bring up is how much tech debt could you possibly insinuate into the scope of this project (we must break this dependency to support this feature, we need a more extensible plugin system, we have to make this event-based instead of blocking) such that even if the feature fails, you’re leaving the code in an unquestionably better condition than when you started, which is still a win? It may not be possible with aggressive timelines, but it is another hedge to make lemonade.

  • 6
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    Senior Software Engineer [5A] [OP]
    Uber
    a year ago

    Put on this project after completing another and have related domain knowledge.

    I have had some discussions about the potential risk and asked for more clarity on how we can reduce it. UXR is being done which led to the funding for the MVP this half.

    Perhaps I'm being too pessimistic, just stressed about the economic environment. Maybe I should trust leadership more.

    I'll think on ways to make lemonade to hedge.

    Thank you Lee!

  • 12
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    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    Lee offered some great questions to get to the bottom of the gap in how important you think the project is vs how important the company thinks it is.

    A few other practice considerations based on your personal situation:

    • How close are you to a promotion?
    • How many existing relationships can you leverage in this product?
    • Even if this project fails, is there enough opportunity to ship stuff/build credibility that you could still advance your career? This is common at junior/mid-level, but harder as you get more senior. As a 5A at Uber, I think it's still possible if you ship something large enough.
    • What are the likely next steps if you decide to leave the product after 6 months, or if the product gets canned?

    The above questions are the more "selfish" perspective -- important to consider these along with impact to the company.

Uber is an American mobility as a service provider, allowing users to book a car and driver to transport them in a way similar to a taxi. It is based in San Francisco with operations in approximately 72 countries and 10,500 cities in 2021. Its services include ride-hailing, food delivery (Uber Eats and Postmates), package delivery, couriers, freight transportation,[2] electric bicycle and motorized scooter rental.
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