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How to work more independently?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer [SDE 1] at Amazon2 months ago

My manager told me in my 1:1 that he would like to see me working more independently. He had few points for me like utilize other engineers to unblock and have more discussions on team channel. I feel like I already work quite independently. I drive discussions on my own and involve stakeholders as needed. I speak out whenever I see any issue or I've something to contribute.

I'm trying to understand what can I do more here and show my manager I'm already doing what he's suggesting.

I'm in process for L5 promotion and I feel this feedback can negatively impact my chances.

TIA.

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Discussion

(3 comments)
  • Principal Software Engineer
    2 months ago

    Different people could mean different things by working independently. I would ask your manager for examples of working independently and cases where you could have been more independent.

    Without context it is hard to give a precise answer. It might be a number of things, here are some examples that might apply or not: to your situation

    • You might be waiting too long to seek help to get unblocked. Or it might be the perception that you're waiting too long. This could happen for example if you work on multiple tasks at the same time but your manager doesn't know about all of them so he might think you've waited too long to seek help on the one task he's aware of.
    • The quality of code might not be as good as your colleagues. Or it could be that your code looks very different from that of your team mates.
    • You're asking questions that already have an answer in internal documentation

    Also try to put yourself in your manager's shoes and try to come up with reasons to why he might be seeing you as less independent. Also try to get some feedback from some of your more senior colleagues with who you work frequently. You might get a different perspective.

    Hope this helps!

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  • Senior Software Engineer [L5]
    2 months ago

    CrowdStrike Principal's answer is great. Adding links to a few other similar questions in case you want more things to chew on:

    And regarding working with managers on promotion

    I'll add one more thing:

    I'm in process for L5 promotion and I feel this feedback can negatively impact my chances.

    This sentence indicates to me that you think this feedback itself will hurt your promotion chances. That's incorrect. Your manager telling you this is actually a gift (and in general, feedbacks of most kinds are gifts), because whether they tell you or not, this is what they already think about you. This likely means they don't think you are ready for promotion.

    One thing to keep in mind, is that independence is more than just doing certain things, but more of a mindset, that translates into a set of behaviors that people look for. If it's not clear to you what those things are yet, you might want to chat up your slightly more senior folks you are on friendlier terms with. They may be help you more candidly, since they are just trying to help. For my own L5 Amazon promotion some years ago, this is exactly what helped - my colleagues helped me understand what the gaps in my mindset and behaviors were, and I worked to improve them. My manager's opinion changed accordingly as I did better work and promotion by then was a formality. Best of luck!

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  • Alex Chiou
    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 months ago

    Others have left very good points, so I'll try not to overlap them too much, hehe. Instead, I'm going to focus on this good feedback your manager gave:

    ...and have more discussions on team channel

    This is a very concrete feedback to work with, and I gave this feedback all the time to E3s at Meta (equivalent of Amazon SDE 1). Look back at your activity and ask yourself these questions:

    1. How often am I posting to the team channel? Once a week? Once a month?
    2. How often am I pinging people 1 on 1 for help? How does that match up against the discussions I start in the team channel in terms of comparative volume?
    3. Can I shift more of my 1 on 1 interactions into the more public team channel?

    Adding on to this angle of visibility, it's possible that you are independent, but it doesn't seem like it to your manager. This leads to them worrying about whether you'll be able to ship your project, and they breathe a sigh of relief when you turn things in at the last minute. The culprit here is a lack of visibility into your work, which you can remedy with clear, crisp project updates into your team channel. Here's my in-depth advice on how to do that.

    It's important to remember that reality and perception are different and are often not aligned. It sucks getting a piece of feedback that you don't fully agree with (this is the vibe I'm getting from this post, at least a little bit), but it seems like your manager here is well-meaning. I would introspect more to see if either of these 2 scenarios are true (it could be a mix of both!):

    1. There's actually far more things you can do to be more independent
    2. You are quite independent already (as much so as SDE 2s), but there's more you can be doing to confidently signal this to your manager
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