Finding Your Identity in a Role that Doesn't Quite Fit (while everyone else seems to be growing faster than you)

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Entry-Level Software Engineer [SDE 1] at Amazon16 days ago

Hey everyone,

I've been abit lost in my job recently and feel disappointed by own performance. I'm part of an infrastructure team, and while the primary force pushing me forward is my personal engineering growth, I can't shake the feeling that the domain itself doesn't resonate with me. That said, being an average l4 I'm not in a position to switch teams.

What's keeping me going is the goal of self-improvement, which is helped from being surrounded by my incredibly talented colleagues, each bringing their unique strengths to the table. For instance, our senior engineer is an incredible communicator, teacher of concepts and general problem solver, another engineer is a coding machine and works extremely hard, and an L4 who joined at the same time as me is very customer-centric. In particular, it was through observing the L4 leveraging his strengths, while almost neglecting his weaknesses (he doesn't care as much about code quality and is quite argumentative) that I felt uncomfortable with my own trajectory. I've been so busy with trying to improve all my weaknesses that I'm now reflecting on whether I should focus on my strengths.

All of that said, I've been here for a year, and I'm struggling to pinpoint where my strengths lie. I'm willing to put more hours than others but for obvious reasons that should in no way be considered a strength (my manager described me as a hardworker, which i don't want to be known as haha). I'm also a very enthusiastic person and very open to feedback, but it leads me to being pulled in different directions. I don't think I can be an engineer that does it all and I think Amazon wants you to focus on your strengths through their conflicting leadership principles (e.g. bias for action versus insist on the highest standards, deep dive versus thinks big). I've been reading this book called Atomic Habits recently and it really focuses on the idea of identity and how that shapes your habits. It seems like everyone in my team has built an identity based on what they're good at, how can I find mine? And are there certain skills that provide higher ROI over others that I can perhaps focus on, given that I don't really have any strengths right now?

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    Mid-Level Software Engineer at Ex-Google
    13 days ago

    First thing, there's a fair chance you could be selling yourself short. You're always your own harshest critic after all. Do you have any recent performance reviews, 1:1 notes, or any other outside perspectives that may be able to provide a bit of clarity? These can help just by giving another angle, or you can try and have conversations with colleagues that you trust. Other avenues can be network connections and people you've worked with in the past.

    Granted, I have had struggles with this myself in my job search, but sometimes it does just take a fresh set of eyes to give you a new perspective.

    As for focusing on strengths, it sounds like your drive for self-improvement can be a strength that you should be able to sell. Perhaps this can segue into being very agile and adaptable. Focusing on strengths is usually more positive thinking, and it also will help you when seeking more winning situations.

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    Senior Software Engineer [SDE 3] at Amazon
    8 days ago

    I agree with Nicholas that you could be selling yourself short. Some of the things you can do to identify your strengths:

    • Look at your past projects and achievements and reflect what qualities helped you achieve them. I am sure you will find atleast a few

    • Talk to your coworkers to gather feedback. Look at your forte review.

    • Think about what motivates you, what you are passionate about it. This could be code quality or customer experienece or something else. This might already be your strength or can become one if you focus on it. Strengths can be developed over time.

    • While the leadership principles sound conflicting, think of them as guidelines and apply them based on the situation. You need not be demonstrating all of them but it's good to keep them in mind in your day to day work.

    Overall, as long as you are working on improving yourself, you will do great.

    Hope this helps.

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