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What can I do if my projects are blocked?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer [E3] at Meta2 years ago

I work on the privacy side, so our core projects are often held up by XFN. This leads to me having to find something to do in the meantime, which often means smaller, ad-hoc efforts. However, I've been told that working on larger projects across a lengthier time horizon is better for promotion. What can I do during these blocked times that also shows good execution signal for promotion?

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  • 7
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    Eng VP at Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, ex-Meta, ex-Yahoo
    2 years ago

    Here are a few things that I would recommend you do:

    • Communicate to your team/leadership (TL or EM) - It is important that they know that you are blocked and are waiting on things to get unblocked.
    • If you can, drive the XFN conversation by yourself or with the help of a PM/TPM. This might get tricky, but I would first bring this up with your manager and see if they think it's something they support.
    • With the smaller, ad-hoc work, try to string things together. At the end of the day, you'll need to show the impact of your work. You doing 10 smaller things that are hard to measure on their own vs. 10 smaller things that you can loosely measure, the latter is always better. They could be things like - "I'm going to optimize X code path", paying off tech debt to help the team move faster in the future, getting rid of dead code, etc - but, come up with a theme that'll help you demonstrate impact.
  • 15
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    So one option is to "go into the fray" and try to resolve the XFN issues yourself. However, that will generally be pretty hard for an E3, and that responsibility falls more on the tech lead.

    My advice is to take on Better Engineering (BE) efforts. At Meta, there's jank everywhere, so I would be very surprised if there wasn't a mountain of meaty BE tasks to take on within your team. Back when I was at Instagram, there were always opportunities to:

    • Refactor code
    • Add more automated tests
    • Improve internal tools

    All of these can be turned into a longer-tail workstream if there's enough scope of work. I also recommend this discussion around how to evaluate BE projects: "What are the heuristics to plan the projects for the better engineering work stream?"

    However, I've been told that working on larger projects across a lengthier time horizon is better for promotion.

    This is generally true, but I don't think it's nearly as important for the E3 -> E4 promotion. There's a good thread about this here (also from a Meta E3): "Breadth vs Depth as a junior engineer?"

    Zooming out here, the best software engineers are those who are able to continue shipping impact and moving their team forward no matter what obstacles are in their way. This is why being able to create scope is such a vital engineering behavior. This is a skill and mentality that is generally developed when progressing from mid-level to senior, but there's no reason you can't develop it early. 😊

Meta Platforms, Inc. is an American multinational technology conglomerate based in Menlo Park, California. The company owns 3 of top 4 social networks in the world: Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. More than 3.5 billion people use at least one of the company's core products every month.
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