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Choosing between 2 projects

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Mid-Level Software Engineer [L4] at Taro Community2 months ago

I switched jobs ~4 months ago and switched teams (not voluntarily) after ~1 month. My eventual goal is to (voluntarily) internally transfer into the AI org once I'm eligible.

During a 1:1 with my skip manager, I mentioned that my current team didn’t have much opportunity for impact. He floated a meaty project in a different org and asked if I was interested. Previous question here. Let’s call this option 1. Afterward, I spoke to my direct manager, who presented opportunities in the other team that he directly manages. Let’s call this option 2.

Now I'm trying to decide between these options.

Pros of option 1:

  • More technically interesting
  • Platform/infra play that will eventually integrate with every single product => project has large scope

Cons of option 1:

  • Not sure whom I'll work with
  • Not sure how much support I'd get. (Good thing if lots of scope; bad thing if I'm flailing alone)
  • Org structure tbd: although my skip asked if I want to work on this, he’s loaning engineers to another org to fund the initiative.
  • Uncertainty re: how well defined the work is

Pros of option 2:

  • I know there are things that I can start working on tomorrow that are time-sensitive and needed for an upcoming product launch.
  • My EM manages this team and is responsible for the overall delivery. He seems to care more about this new project/team than my current team.
    • It sounds like my EM would rather that I work on option 2 than option 1
  • Product surface is high-visibility and therefore affords opportunity for impact

Cons of option 2:

  • I'm less interested in product / user-facing work, even though it's high-visibility

With all this in mind, does anyone have advice on which option I should pick or things to keep in mind?

Thanks for reading this far!

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Discussion

(4 comments)
  • 0
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    2 months ago

    One consideration is that you joined this job 4 months ago. Since you're mid-level, your next promo will be to Senior Engineer, which requires showcasing your ability to lead a project and land meaningful impact.

    This is unlikely to happen within a year of you joining the company, so (assuming promo is one of your goals) I would discount one of your listed benefits of option 2: "things that I can start working on tomorrow that are time-sensitive."

    It's ok if you don't have immediate impact since you don't gain much with that immediate impact anway...

    With that said, I do really like the fact that the manager cares about option 2 and there's more opportunity for impact. One follow-up for you would be to dive into your manager's background: do they have a track record of promoting people? What has been their upward evaluation in past perf cycles? How long have they been at the company?

    As Amazon VP Ethan Evans talks about here, if your manager is growing quickly and accruing more scope, it's likely that will flow down to you.

  • 1
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    2 months ago

    I would go with Option 2. Here's why:

    • It's much better to have the support of your direct EM instead of your skip given that they're far closer to you.
    • As a new mid-level engineer, your goal is more around stabilization, not ingesting massive amounts of scope and actively thinking about promotion. Of course, you don't want to work on something that's boring, but you also don't want to go to the other extreme and work on a space where both the org structure and overall technical strategy are undefined. From my experience mentoring many L4s, there is an interstitial state called "L4.5" I get them to first - You are currently in this stage, and I'll talk about this in-depth in my upcoming L4 -> L5 (mid-level to senior) course.
    • I'm generally a fan of L3 and L4 engineers working on product as the work is more straightforward with clearer impact. So unless you fundamentally hate product work, then Option 2 has the edge here. More thoughts here: "Between platform (serving developers) and product teams (serving end customers), what should be one's preference based on level?"
  • 1
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    Mid-Level Software Engineer [L4] [OP]
    Taro Community
    2 months ago

    Thank you all for the advice. Your points are well taken about aligning with my manager and focusing on execution as a new L4. I really appreciate your time in reading & replying to these posts!

  • 1
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    Ex-Google Senior SWE • FE/Mobile -> BE/Distributed/AI
    2 months ago

    Agreed that as an L4, clear defined scope is a better choice to prove your value to the company first unless your confident you can lead well in ambiguity. I'm assuming option 2 wouldn't take more than three quarters to ship.

    Some of the strengths of the platform/infra option sounds great for L5 or even L6 scope. Since you're interested in the tech, I'd keep an eye on how that team grows and reach out to connect with the engineers that do end up working there. I'd also learn the tech on the side. Assuming option 2 won't take long, by the time you finish option 2, you'd have gained trust, gained some confidence, and will have a better feel for whether option 1 is good investment or not.