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How do I deal with the pressure of being hired as a Senior SWE and manage my time with family?

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Senior Software Engineer at Canva2 months ago

I used to be a mid-level Business Engineer at a FAANG company and recently joined this company as a SWE 4 months ago. Although it was a pleasant surprise to be uplevelled during the interview, I feel like I am not performing at my level now. There are backend engineering conversations where I lose context pretty fast. In fact the mid level engineers in my team are much more knowledgeable and faster than me. I don't want to bother them to explain too much because it feels like everyone else (even those who are relatively new) "gets it" except for me.

I have a young toddler who only goes to daycare twice a week (due to affordability). The rest of the days I have to cook and get him to eat and attend to him during work hours occasionally. As a result, I stretch my day but it feels like I am going to burn out soon. I work from 5am to 11pm daily and work weekends because I feel I am lagging behind too much, but new things always pile up.

I feel really mentally drained out doing work continuously over the past few months. At the same time, I don't want the company to think they made a wrong decision to hire me at this level.

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(3 comments)
  • 5
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    2 months ago

    Sorry to hear this - The world in general doesn't give nearly enough support for parents (probably why people are having less and less children across the developed world). 😢

    First thing's first: Have that transparent conversation with your manager about your performance. 4 months is definitely enough time to give some sort of "trending" rating from my experience. It's scary, but you need to figure out right now if you're in danger of PIP or if you're doing okay. Here's a video we made on this topic: How To Work With Your Manager To Get The Performance Review Rating You Want

    It's tricky to figure out a battle plan until you have that conversation:

    • If it turns out that you are falling behind, you need to figure out how to amp up your productivity with less time spent.
    • If you're doing okay, this takes some of the weight off, but you still need to figure out how to become more streamlined as your current life isn't sustainable for your long-term health.
    • And if you're lucky and it turns out that you're actually doing great (i.e. better than the average rating), then you can even pull back a bit.

    There are backend engineering conversations where I lose context pretty fast. In fact the mid level engineers in my team are much more knowledgeable and faster than me. I don't want to bother them to explain too much because it feels like everyone else (even those who are relatively new) "gets it" except for me.

    If you joined a good team (which is hopefully true, especially as you left FAANG to go to Canva), then I would expect a senior engineer to be bold and unafraid of asking lots of questions to ramp up fast. Trying to figure out everything on your own is probably the root cause behind you being unable to keep up in those conversations. Here's some good resources there:

    Lastly, here's a great thread on dealing with pressure as a senior engineer when you're also a parent: "How to keep my mental health while working in a competitive team and having kids?"

    If you have time, I'm happy to talk through this more 1 on 1 - Just DM me in Slack.

  • 9
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    2 months ago

    When we struggle, a natural tendency is to close down and work harder (in isolation) to dig yourself out of the hole. I imagine most of the time you spend working from 5am - 11pm is on your own.

    I recommend doing the opposite: embed yourself in the team even more. Spending more time with your teammates will allow you to learn more and build relationships to increase your longevity in the company. Here are a few ways of doing this:

    • Schedule at least a few pair programming sessions with various teammates each week.
    • Schedule 1:1s so you have extreme clarity for the next step of various projects.

    Sorry that you're feeling stressed out. Having more interaction with your colleagues may sound like it'll be more stressful, but I'm confident it'll be more productive for you in the long-term.

  • 7
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    Mid-Level Software Engineer [L4] at Google
    2 months ago

    Thanks for sharing and sorry to see you struggling with this. +💯 on both what Alex and Rahul noted.

    One thing my manager asked me to do last year was to strictly restrict my work time to <= 40 hours/week and increase my product by > 2x. Now, this, as you might guess is very challenging when I was already spending 50 hours a week. I felt only thing I had in my control was putting in more hours, what else can I do. But, gradually I learnt how to break down, prioritize and parallelize my tasks in a way that overall I may get more work done in same time. So, it's still possible that task 1 took 3 days for completion, but now I could do 3 tasks in 3 days instead of just 1.

    Another thing I learnt was that I was spending too much time figuring out things on my own without bothering anyone else. And I agree that it feels being useless, imposter syndrome, being a pain in butt when asking questions, but trust me you are doing yourself and your team a favor by asking those questions in first 6-7 months of your ramping up. Imagine asking the noob question 1.5 year down the line or not asking them at all and staying stuck.

    Third thing which has really been super beneficial for me is making a note of 2-3 goals everyday and finishing those tasks by end of day. And doing a retro at end of day on what could have done so that tomorrow if same goals come in I could complete them in half the time.

    1. You think you are working 6 am to 11 pm, but you are doing a lot more than what you are thinking you are doing. You are doing:
    • office work
    • managing kid
    • grocery shopping
    • some TV/YT
    • a lot of worrying and over thinking, etc etc...

    i. How about you start tracking all these activities and time spent on them. ii. And start following promodoro technique for all of office work, house work and rest time.

    1. Don't feel guilty of taking rest. Consider that as part of something your body needs and plan that in your day. Per CA law one should take 0.5 hr break after every 3.5 hours of work. Your body and might need more. No point slogging and skipping that break if you aren't being efficient.