I am nearing the end of my 6 months probation. My manager feels that I'm going towards an Approaching rating (like Meets Most) rather than a Thriving rating (Meets All). He feels that I lack in contribution to group level engineering discussions and being technically strong enough to mentor other engineers, which he expects from a senior engineer like me.
He keeps going through the growth and development framework and highlights he is concerned I don't meet B3 senior expectations. He increased the frequency of 1:1s to twice a week.
He didn't mention the word PIP but gave me to do a project with a very tight deadline to assess my coding and implementation skills. Now that I'm making good progress in it after a lot of effort, he brought up weaknesses in the engineering direction and discussion points.
My other team members think I am doing ok and my performance isn't too bad, though there are things I can work on.
It sometimes feels like my manager already made up his mind to make me fail probation and is finding weaknesses even if I complete this stressful project.
He even talked about downlevelling if that's a possibility and being asked to leave. He said extension of probation is not possible due to legal reasons.
What do you recommend I do?
I would take the downlevel.
Fighting a PIP is stressful and finding another job in this current job climate will be equally stressful at best. Taking a downlevel will lower your compensation and you will have to fight to get promoted back to a senior engineer, but you don't have to worry about the company actively trying to get rid of you. Lower expectations will mean that it's easier (in terms of impact and time needed to create it) to meet the "do not fire" bar. Especially if you have responsibilities outside of work, you won't have the time to simply "grind" until your baseline is at the expectations for senior level. Use the extra time and mental space from the downlevel on your personal life, without the stresses of impending doom at work.
If you want to stretch yourself to see if you can meet senior level: feel free to put up to an hour on my calendar & we can look to dig into nuances of the feedback.
Since it seems like this pseudo-PIP isn't going so well, I would take the down-level if it's on the table as Jonathan mentioned. Canva is one of the hottest and best tech companies in the world right now so retaining that brand is quite valuable. I'm optimistic about the market in 2024, but it's still going to be bad and we literally just went through another massive wave of layoffs. It will be a while until the market is considered good again.
When it comes to improvement, it seems like your manager is mostly concerned with technical excellence. There are 2 components for this as a senior engineer:
With a PIP-like project, sacrifices are going to be have to be made, primarily with any free/fun/procrastination time you currently have. However, I do not recommend sacrificing the following if you're able to preserve them:
Happy to talk through this as well - Just DM me in the Taro Slack.
Sorry you're going through this. Can you switch teams? That would be my top recommendation, especially if you can provide an argument that you have a lot more familiarity with another tech stack, problem area, or there's a business need elsewhere.
It doesn't feel like your manager is very supportive, but you have supportive colleagues. So the window of opportunity to switch teams may still exist, where you can have a clean start. (It's almost impossible to switch teams on a PIP.)
I'm so sorry for everything happening. Taking a down-level might be the easiest approach. My last job I knew I wanted switched out in 2 months and even though I explicitly told the manager, they never really made time for me and no one particularly cared.
If you like the organization enough, this can be a good time to center and re-balance on what you need to be successful.
I'll also provide a sense of counterbalance of how in-depth to go. Don't go into a business and tell them their processes need redone from scratch. I hit this time and time again and it's just a matter of not coming off harshly.
There'll be appropriate folks to discuss tech debt or also do business ventures with, but just make sure to really know the audience and adjust your messaging.