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Is excessive help from senior engineers good?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer [E4] at Meta6 months ago

I'm a mid-level engineer who's struggling with some performance issues at work. A staff engineer on my team has taken notice and has been very generous with offering help and advice, to the extent of basically handholding me through my projects. While I truly appreciate the help, I'm wondering if this will be seen as a negative signal during performance evaluation since I'm supposed to be operating 'independently' at this level.

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(2 comments)
  • Rahul Pandey
    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    6 months ago

    It'll be viewed less as a negative sign for you, and more as a positive sign for the staff engineer. They'll be able to take credit for helping a mid-level engineer succeed, which is pretty powerful for their case to transition to management, or benefits on the people axis.

    I don't see how this situation will hurt you, especially if you're hitting all the goals your manager set for you. (i.e. no way you'll get an MM rating) However, I do think this level of involvement will cap your rating. If the perception is that you needed a lot of hand-holding, your promo case to E5 is harder now, and the case for GE is also much harder.

    • If your goal is to stabilize as E4, this is a good situation, since your chance of getting "Meets All" is much higher.
    • If you're in the danger zone and need to get promoted to E5 very soon, this is probably not good. Talk to your manager about how independent you need to be, and what exactly the staff engineer is helping with.
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  • Alex Chiou
    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    6 months ago

    This can be a double-edged sword, but I strongly agree with Rahul that this is a very good thing. The positive edge is much stronger than the negative edge.

    The important thing to realize here is that the best way to become independent is to be extremely dependent for a short period of time, which I talk more about in this Q&A. I'll expand more on this idea with an example and what you can do to properly capitalize on it.

    Example:

    • A "service" I offered my mentees (mainly E3s/E4s) was Workplace post editing.
    • They would submit a draft of their Workplace post to me before posting it, and I would edit it (we did this in Quip).
    • In the beginning of mentees using this "service", I would make so many edits (like 20+) that I was effectively writing the post for them. The thing is that I explained the mentality behind each of my edits, and my mentees understood that they really should burn these new ideas into their brain.
    • So while I was hand-holding my mentees with this critical part of Meta culture in the beginning, they got better at it fast, generally not needing the "service" after 1-2 months. This left them ample enough time to be independent with this axis to get proper credit in PSC.

    What you should do:

    • This engineer is clearly quite motivated to help you, and to honor that motivation, you should leverage them as much as possible. Aggressively learn "how to fish" from them. If how they arrived at doing a certain thing isn't clear, ask them to dive deeper into their mental process behind how they arrived at this line of action - I'm sure they'll be happy to do so. The worst thing you can do is slowly grow from this experience and needing your hand held forever (this is how this relationship can actually hurt you in PSC).
    • Make it so that you never have to learn the same thing twice. Similar to my Workplace post editing example, push to really absorb what this engineer is teaching you. Writing insights down is super helpful here.
    • This seems like a great relationship to build. If you haven't done this already, I would try to set up a bi-weekly or weekly 1:1 with them. This gives you a dedicated time to really help the feedback sink into brain and gives you an organic avenue to write everything down via meeting notes. The "dream scenario" here is that not only are you able to recover as an E4, but you're able to start making progress to E5 and maybe even get that promo quickly. Since an E6 is expected to lead E5s, you can now be a huge part of this E6's PSC people axis 😊

    Related resources:

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