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Switch jobs or stay to eventually join big tech?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer at Startup Company2 years ago

I graduated with a master's in CS 1.5 years ago and since then I have been working at a no-name brand company as a full-stack engineer. I would love to join Spotify but I lack prestigious grades and side projects. The tech stack I work in is somewhat old (Angular 2, .NET, no cloud, in-house solution for CI/CD, etc). The company is nevertheless alright and my colleagues are all very friendly, including my boss and manager.

If I would want to join Spotify, should I double down at my current job and try to get those side projects started, or should I consider another position in-between my current position and Spotify in order to increase my chances to join Spotify? The reason why I’m not a big fan of this idea is that I don’t like to join a company with the intent to leave within 1-2 years. The reason why I'm considering changing company is because I worry that my current growth could potentially be a lot higher than what it currently is.

Will my lack of experience in newer frameworks/tools be a large disadvantage to me when I’m looking for a junior/midlevel role at a tech company where being efficient in languages/tools is a must? Is it better to stay since I can make more of an impact now since I’m familiar with my company’s tech stack compared to having to go through an onboarding process at a new company which may result in decreased impact for that period? I would prefer to join big tech in 1 year as a junior engineer, rather than in 10 years as a mid-level engineer.

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(2 comments)
  • 6
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    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    2 years ago

    First off, I like (and agree) with your urgency to get into Big Tech now, as a junior engineer. This is almost always the correct career move since your brand/future opportunities improve a lot once you get into a well-regarded tech company earlier in your career. It effectively acts as a floor to where your career will go in the future.

    For your lack of experience with frameworks and tools, I would not worry about this. Once you get the interview, it will mostly focus on your data structure + algorithm questions, perhaps with some questions about your past experience. As long as you express a willingness and ability to learn, a tier 1 company will not dock you for not knowing a specific framework or tool.

    In terms of whether to go directly to Spotify or going to another, intermediate company, the best thing to do is simply to try. I'd encourage you not to think about the Spotify interview as some sacred process -- just apply right now. Few possible outcomes.

    • If you don't get a callback, the decision is made for you.
    • If you have a referral, or you think you can cultivate a referral within 6 months, you can consider staying at your current job and then applying.
    • If you get an interview request and you don't feel ready, you can then delay the interview by a few weeks/months to properly prepare.

    Finally, I wanted to comment on the desire to join Spotify. It's not clear where you live from the post, but is there a reason you're focused on Spotify? (Perhaps in your area, it is the only available big tech company.) I generally tell people to treat Big Tech interviews similar to college applications:

    • "It's a numbers game and you should apply to several colleges. If you only apply to 1 college, you are setting yourself up for disappointment."

    In your case, can you apply to some of Spotify's peer companies? You're already doing all the work to prep for the interview, so you may as well double dip and use that preparation for other companies.

  • 4
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago

    I feel like you may be overthinking this. For example:

    should I consider another position in-between my current position and Spotify in order to increase my chances to join Spotify?

    Switching jobs is a huge lift, so this feels way too "orchestrated" and like far too much effort for unclear gains. I'm glad you recognized this option as probably not the best.

    Something I see a lot of software engineers do is that they create problems that don't exist yet and overly optimize for these non-existent problems. It's unclear what gaps Spotify would perceive with your background - Maybe they don't care about a lack of good grades at all and there's something else. Maybe you're already good enough to get a phone screen with Spotify!

    Short circuit all of this by cleaning up your resume and applying to Spotify right now. If you can get a referral, even better. If there's a job posting that's a good fit for you (i.e. you meet >70% of the requirements), even better. Just apply there and see what happens. If they ghost you, apply again in a month. If they reject you, try to figure out why.

    Is it better to stay since I can make more of an impact now since I’m familiar with my company’s tech stack compared to having to go through an onboarding process at a new company which may result in decreased impact for that period?

    This depends on your priorities. In a vacuum, going to a Big Tech job early in career like at Spotify is a fantastic move, but it varies from person to person. What I will say is that people often undervalue supportive teams and managers, especially if they're growing in that environment. If you feel like you're growing as a software engineer at your current company, the team is great, and the pay is at least somewhat in the same ballpark as a Big Tech company, it might be worth staying there.

Spotify is a Swedish audio streaming and media services provider founded in 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon. It is one of the largest music streaming service providers, with over 433 million monthly active users, including 188 million paying subscribers, as of June 2022.
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