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I have this crazy opportunity to raise/lead an entire team - Is this good or bad?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer [SDE 2] at Amazon7 months ago

Through a series of unpredictable events, my team has boiled down to just my manager, myself, and many entry-level engineers (SDE 1s). Some of the SDE 1s have some experience (e.g. a somewhat tenured internal transfer) but many are new grads.

My manager is being more hands-on with this gap (and I like my manager overall), working through technical reviews and whatnot, and has other plans to shore up the seniority of the team. However, it looks like a lot of responsibility will fall on me to upscale this team and help deliver. This is nice as there's a pretty clear path to SDE 3 for me, but I'm also a relatively new SDE 2, so I'm unsure if I have what it takes.

All that being said, is this overall situation good or bad? The growth potential is there, but I'm also afraid of being overwhelmed.

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Discussion

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  • Alex Chiou
    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    7 months ago
    • To be 100% honest: This is indeed a very crazy situation, and there's a substantial chance things go south. I've been on "bottom-heavy" teams before (i.e. teams that are far more junior than senior), and they tend to not end well due to a lack of senior guidance + leadership. I have never seen a team so bottom-heavy before.
    • However, there are positive signs here. I'm glad you like your manager, and it seems like they understand that in the meantime, they will have to revert back to a tech lead role to hold down the fort. That shields you to some extent. Also, there's opportunity to bridge the gap for some of these SDE 1s and get them to mid-level.
    • In a nutshell, I think you should give this situation a chance, at least for 2-3 months. Having a fire underneath you can be a great way to learn, and I've seen many engineers (myself included to some extent) be "forged in a crucible" like this. There is definitely an ocean of opportunity here and if leveraged correctly, a lightning fast path to senior.
      • On a side note, I've seen the opposite problem where there isn't enough scope, due to do many mid-level/senior engineers fighting for scope. I think this is worse in a way as it's very hard (near impossible) to find a positive outcome there. At least in your situation, there's a clear path forward: You just need to overcome to odds.
    • The failure mode is that you get too sucked in and overwhelmed, working crazy hours trying to teach everyone while not moving that fast. Take the time every month or so at least to sit back and reflect. Ask yourself:
      • If you are making meaningful headway efficiently shipping on your team's goals and growing the SDE 1s
      • Whether you're happy on the job
      • How appreciative people are of the work you're doing, especially your manager
    • If the answer to these questions isn't so great, you can consider leaving. But until then, I would see this as a golden opportunity, go into it with your best self, and strive to do amazing work!
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