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Google is an American multinational technology company that focuses on search engine technology, online advertising, cloud computing, and much more. It is considered one of the Big Five technology companies.

How to thrive in a new role that's much bigger than what I'm used to?

Senior Software Engineer [L5] at Google profile pic
Senior Software Engineer [L5] at Google

What should I think about and focus my efforts on when I get a project and a role that's of (1) bigger scope and (2) tighter deadlines than I'm used to?

Context

A reorg has suddenly thrust me into the TL role for a very high-profile project on a new team. This project is part of OKRs 4 levels up the chain and has the eyes of several director level people across different functions. From what I've heard, this project already suffered from "too many cooks in the kitchen" syndrome, and on top of that, this project has delivery date set in Q3, which is quite aggressive from our org's standards.

I've landed in this position because I was transitioning to this team prior to the reorg, AND the EM/TL/PM/2 L5s has been reorg'ed out, and they needed someone who had previously TL experience and was willing to do it.

I've previously TL'ed a team of 4 people, with important but "normal" priority projects. This is clearly a great opportunity for me, but I am afraid I'm not ready to handle it and I'm at a bit of loss as to what I should be focusing most of my effort on. With the tight deadlines I have, I feel like every day will be a battle so any advice on how to approach this will be appreciated.

I have one other L5 supporting me who I trust very much and a new EM who's rumored to be very good. We currently have 4 SWE including me and we'll be getting more at least 4 more engineers, with lots of adjacent teams helping out. I do also have good standing and connection in the org overall and I know how to get a "normal" project in our org over the line (I did an in-org transfer).

What I'm thinking about right now

  1. Knowledge Transition: since a lot of critical members of the team are leaving and I am taking over, I feel the biggest priority in the near term is to absorb as much knowledge from them as possible. So far, they have some prototypes, and I wanted to get my hands dirty, so maybe I should focus on is to understand the work that's been done really well, and the design choices that's been made already?
  2. Gather support: I feel like biggest personal risk is that I don't know how to show up in higher-stake meetings with directors. Is it any different? Where do you all see the risk is?
  3. Enable the team: I know the biggest responsibility I have, more than anything, is to make sure the team is able to work on the project and help us deliver this. Aside from the L5, I don't know a lot about the people. I feel I should putting my focus on ensuring they are as successful as possible, not focusing on my own technical knowledge as much, for us to succeed. Is that a good way to think about it?
  4. Self-management: I anticipate I'll be very stressed and pulled in many directions. I already feel this way. What are some tools I can leverage in "crunch time"?
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What should I do in a situation where my manager is well-meaning but incompetent?

Senior Software Engineer [L5] at Google profile pic
Senior Software Engineer [L5] at Google

Apologies in advance for a long question. Not sure how to ask this question without providing deeper context.


I’ve been working with my current manager for the last 1.5 years. While they have recently helped me get promoted to Senior, it’s been a constant struggle. I dread our 1:1 almost every single week because it always run overtime and we are often still not on the same page. 

I see two major issues that haven’t notably improved in the times I’ve reported to them.

(1) My manager isn’t able to coach me, or any of the SWEs on the team. My manager doesn’t seem confident when we have career discussions - I recently asked them what they thought was the difference between good TL and a great one, and they struggled to coherently answer this. Instead, they said they would know better after the next performance calibration.  Additionally, none of my teammate has gotten proper coaching either.  For example, a teammate struggled to submit code due to their poor code quality and thus had low CL velocity, so my Manager simply told them to submit more CLs, which only made them more stressed without a legitimate way to improve. 

(2) My manager lacks technical understanding of our projects and constantly pushes for speed. My manager was externally hired, and to this day, they don’t really understand the complexity of the work our team does. I understand EMs don’t need to contribute code directly, but my manager almost always underestimate how complicated the projects our team takes on are. As engineers, we frequently have to defend our timelines, which is not only frustrating but also pressures some teammates to favor suboptimal design or hastily done CLs that just causes even more churn. 

The weird part is, my manager often seem unaware of their own actions, and when I talk to them about these issues, they are always receptive to feedback and seem willing to improve. However, I simply haven’t seen enough improvement in the last 1.5 years. 

I could leave, since this is having an impact on my emotional well-being. But I do have good standing w/ my own team and the overall org, and I want to use this situation to learn as much as I could. I know that I myself have a lot to learn as a tech lead (Thanks for , it’s really helpful), and I know I can probably get a bit ahead of our projects and start estimating/de-risking earlier, so my Manager doesn’t get overly aggressive with timelines. I know I can also take this chance to more closely mentor my teammates and help them succeed, since they aren’t really getting it from our manager. 

I want to stay, but is it the wrong decision because I have little career support from my manager? If I do stay, what should I focus on so I can really help my team and at the same time learn something valuable for my career?

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Seeking career advice from Senior SWE’s & SRE’s to get to Google (1st choice) or Airbnb

Anonymous User at Taro Community profile pic
Anonymous User at Taro Community

YOE: 10 months remote at an AWS Partner (DevOps/AWS account remediation stuff)
TC: $136k

Hello, I’m in my early career and in need of some career advice. I would like to get into a SRE-SWE role at Google, preferably in Zurich (I’m a US citizen) for better career growth and new life experience. 

My background: I switched into this field a bit late... 30 years old and now 10 months on the job. I decided I really wanted to learn to code after working in product and I made the switch. I took up a Javascript course online, within 7 months studying full time  I had completed a couple portfolio projects including a full stack project. At that point I decided I didn’t like front-end and I got into learning AWS cloud architecture. My coding background + achieving an AWS Associate Architect certification quickly found me a high paying role at an AWS consulting Partner in the devopsy space.

Currently I work remotely at a tiny AWS Partner where Terraform and AWS Cloud remediation is my main work. Though I had no intention of giving up coding, the job I got into pays well but is not exactly what I was expecting...  


After the first couple months of trial-by-fire with terraform - my job stopped being challenging and I have tons of free time (which I used to get 4 AWS certs so far.) Terraform hasn’t been difficult once I got the hang of it, and most of it I don’t consider actual brain-exercising coding work like I had done when learning to code (i.e codewars). Lately, I feel my only growth has come from the knowledge I’ve gained from self-studying for my AWS certs.  Though I have enjoyed studying for my AWS certs and gaining depth about cloud services (I really enjoy research and distributed cloud architecture to make things work on a mass scale is amazing)  and I just cleared the AWS Certified DevOps Pro exam which was a significant milestone for me. BUT…

  1. My coding skills are getting rusty and I never had proper programming mentoring on a professional team to begin with. I joined this company as a junior and have only really grown in Cloud Architecture (does that count as Systems Design?), AWS/Iaac Terraform, but not as a SWE.  I have never done leetcode, I don’t know DS and Algos. My interview was about a 3 tier app architecture. My company runs Terraform like a code-cowboy environment and my code almost never gets reviewed properly. And as I said, I’m not doing much here these days, which although is great if you I want to earn money and coast (or self-learn picking up the difficult cloud certs) I am definitely underutilized and not in a collaborative “team” environment. Work is siloed by customer with one senior engineer being the guy assigned to handle all the cool stuff for a customer and I receive undesirable work like dealing with logs or fixing pain in the arse security stuff that no one else wants to be bothered with. (I.E and maybe a bad example, but no one wants to be bothered with accidentally taking down production to remediate ssh ports being open to 0.0.0.0/0, so let the jr take the fall or do nothing since the customer doesn't care about it and won't pay for it)
  2. Here’s what I’m thinking - I could use my copious free time to get GCP Pro certs, maybe learn Kubernetes and then decide on another programming language to main and grind 6 months of leetcode to prepare to get into a Google SRE-SWE role or maybe Airbnb as a 2nd choice. Is this plan sound? Please advise. I don’t even know if I’ll like/need to learn Kubernetes, but I’m prepared to do what it takes to team match in my current cloud specialization. Do I need to learn Kube administration for Google SRE work?  I’m ready to get back to coding and I can nose to the grindstone leetcode for as long as it takes. The AWS Pro cert was a grueling grind as well, so I know I have the discipline to do it.
  3. I’m deciding upon a new programming language to main since I am not enamored with JS at all. I’m thinking either Golang or Python ( I’m already learning Godot and GDscript in my spare time as a hobby) and whichever language I go with will preferably be my main for leet code DS and Algos interviews and my career in tech. What I heard about Golang that I like is that there is typically a correct way to do something rather than a million ways to do one thing. I find that very appealing. Please advise on the language I should go with if you can as well.. My current job has been a good place to excel in self-study while being paid and now is the time to take aim for new goals  and steer the wheel on the ship of my career.

Also I really love working remotely but I would go to the office if it meant Google and a new life experience in Switzerland.

And I would really love any insight you can give about such SRE-SWE roles and if that sounds like the best fit for my current cloud specialization and interests. Thank you

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Performance Review

Evaluation

See relevant discussions involving Google engineers on Taro.

Compared to the previous PERF system, the manager's role in collecting feedback is elevated in GRAD.

Managers typically have personal plans setup with each report about the requirements to get an S rating. This plan is inputted into a tool called Better Work. This plan is then re-evaluated on a quarterly basis, adding and subtracting from it as needed.

Software engineers are evaluated based on scope and impact, which is broken into the following criteria:

Contribution

The business results you drove. This is measured through delivered impact, scaled per level (L3: individual, L4: project, L5: team, L6: org)

Challenge

Solving ambiguous, technical problems, anticipating future issues, and showing design judgment.

Influence

Leadership for project delivery, team health, architecture, or other initiatives with measurable impact.

Expertise

Being a trusted authority on something is an important criteria for growth.


In addition, every role has teamwork attributes. This is designed to capture leadership and community contributions such as helping with ERGs or internal groups. This helps but doesn't contribute to promo on its own merit.

Feedback

Self Review

Self reviews document the work you did through the performance review cycle. Your self-review should cover the following:

  • Googleyness – Demonstrated adherence to Google’s values
  • Execution - The ability to deliver high quality work in a timely manner
  • Thought leadership - Leadership for project delivery, team health, architecture, or other initiatives with measurable impact
  • Problem-solving skill – Using past experience and analytical ability to solve problems
Peer Feedback

Your manager plays a critical role in collecting and summarizing peer feedback. Make sure you're on the same page with them about who can speak to your work.

Reviews are 360, meaning you'll get feedback across multiple dimensions, from people at various levels and roles in the company.

After discussing your work and collaboration with others, your manager will send peer requests for you. Since your manager requests feedback on your behalf, it’s critical to let them know who can give you good feedback.

Keep in mind:

  • You don’t see the peer feedback by default. Your manager must choose to share it with you.
  • Your manager has to summarize the peer feedback for the calibration committee (the committee doesn’t see the raw feedback).

Calibration

One unique aspect of Google is that the promotion process is deliberately disconnected from performance review ratings.

Each level of engineer has a separate calibration (so L3s get calibrated together, L4s together, and so on). The goal of calibration is to (1) assign performance buckets for each engineer and (2) decide who should get promoted.

Unlike the previous system when your manager did not take part in the calibration committee, your manager is now part of the committee and discusses your packet. Your manager has to summarize the peer feedback to take to the committee (the committee doesn’t see the raw feedback).

Performance Improvement Plan

There is a high risk of receiving a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) if you get an MI (Moderate Impact) or NI (Not Enough Impact) rating. A PIP results in a formal meeting with your manager and the HR who will outline the milestones you need to hit in order to "graduate" from the PIP. Generally the timeline for this is 3-6 months.

A support check-in is the phrase used by management to indicate poor performance and a likely PIP.

Promotion

Promotion Guide

In general, Google is more conservative with promotion compared to peer companies (especially Meta). With the recent introduction of GRAD, the manager plays a much larger role in promotion than before.

You can self-nominate for promotion, but since your manager has to write your packet, your manager must be onboard.

In order to be considered for a promotion, your manager writes "next-level assessment" in your packet for discussion in the committee.

The opportunities for promotion are in March and September. The March promo cycle begins shortly after the GRAD process, which starts in December and concludes in March. September is considered "off cycle".

If you're going for promotion, ensure you have clear artifacts backing up your work and overall merits.

Some examples of artifact generation are:

Creating thorough, high-quality technical design diagrams for your projects Cleaning up old design docs Resolving open comments with thoughtful responses The quality of your designs and your evidence of solving challenging problems are key promotion criteria.