A year back I joined a Big Tech company as a mid-level software engineer. I had 5 years of work experience mostly in not-so-famous startups and I joined a large tech company after doing my masters.
It's been a year since I joined but I regularly feel like I don't belong here. I go through alternating waves of confidence and self-doubt. When I am not able to debug simple issues in a new microservice, I feel dumb. I feel like the senior devs on my team are just able to solve everything and I am still struggling after a year. I have been through a round of layoffs and re-org and am not sure about the kind of work I will be doing in the future.
I want to be promoted to senior engineer level but constantly get feedback that I am not assertive, opinionated, and take more time than usual to complete ambiguous tasks. I see everyone getting promoted around me and I don't understand why I can't seem to be improving. I am very motivated and willing to slog hard, but it seems like I simply don't get it or am not smart enough. Everyone around me just feels smarter and more experienced.
I feel like moving to a smaller company with not-so-high coding standards and ditching big tech because it will be more up my forte. I am aware that I won't grow there. It just feels frustrating to be stuck at a junior-mid level, 7 years after my bachelor's. But I also know I am not at that level yet.
Any advice on how to go through this problem to the other side will be lovely.
First, watch this video about imposter syndrome. It's totally normal (and expected!) that for some patches of your career, you feel like not enough. These feelings often come at transition points in your career, e.g. a new job, promotion, or recognition.
One tactic I recommend is to better leverage 1:1s to get the detailed feedback and start to act on it. Here's the masterclass about 1:1s.
I'd encourage you to be more structured in your reflection. When you say you don't feel like you're improving, are you saying that based on lines of code, experiments you've run, general vibes, or something else? When you have a metric or something you're tracking, you can start to actually measure it and focus on improving.
Finally, keep a brag journal to remind yourself of your wins!
―Charles T. Munger
First of all, since you joined only an year ago, don't be demotivated by not getting promoted. If there are others in the team who have been there longer, they have an advantage over you.
Secondly, looks like you already have some high-level feedback (" not assertive, opinionated, and take more time than usual to complete ambiguous tasks") It's time to dive deeper into it and figure out how you could improve on these. Ask specific questions to your manager like what you could have done better in a particular situation. Also, learn by observing other engineers. This could be just an issue of perception as well which is critical for promotion.
Some tips that might help you:
Hope this helps.