How can I better contribute to system design discussions on my new team?

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Senior Software Engineer [L5] at Googlea year ago

My whole team is engaged in a design exercise for the system we will build in subsequent quarters. Since I joined 2 months ago, I don’t feel I’m able to meaningfully contribute. I also feel weak with system design questions during interviews. How can I improve here?

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    Rahul Pandey [OP]
    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    In order to make system design questions less opaque, I like to use this 3 part strategy:

    1. Ask clarifying questions
    2. Create a component diagram
    3. Forecast how things may break or change in the future

    Some additional points:

    • With system design, there’s no “right” answer. It’s about identifying the constraints you have, and what you’re optimizing for.
    • At a big tech co like Google, you have world-class experts in every part of the tech stack. So your job as someone new is to navigate the discussion toward the interesting spots where trade-offs have to be made, and then consult the experts.
    • Dig into previous design docs from your team or adjacent teams and draw analogs to the problem your team is facing here.