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Performance Review Q&A and Videos

About Performance Review

This is an absolutely vital process for any employee in tech to understand, especially in a world of stack-ranking and layoffs.

Feedback that I'm underperforming for my level. Is this PIP? What now?

Mid-Level Software Engineer [L4] at Taro Community profile pic
Mid-Level Software Engineer [L4] at Taro Community

I was hired as a mid-level engineer, but I'm performing at the level below it. I had about a year and a half of experience coming into my company but didn't get much from it due to multiple re-orgs. In hindsight, I was a poor hire for my role and have felt this way the entire time. I am not interested in the niche and motivation is a struggle at times. I stayed because the team was really strong and I thought I could focus on the coding and grow technically. That was a mistake.

Fast forward a year and a half later (now), my manager tells me informally that my delivery is ok, but the way I go about my work needs improvement and I'm not growing, so I am performing at a level below. I need a lot of help from other engineers. And that I need fewer comments on my diffs and to do more research on problems because I'm not problem-solving well enough to be at my level. He's completely right. The team is full of high-performers and I know that I'm doing poorly by comparison. But I'm already consistently overworking into the evening and weekends.

I'm also hitting the limit with my mental health. I am putting in effort, but am being told it's not enough. For example, I spend some time understanding X and think I understand it, but teammate questions me in a way that makes me apply that knowledge and I realize my understanding is not so good or I did not think about it that way, so I am ashamed because I have spent a lot of time working on the task, but have failed to deep dive into this part. Or my teammate asks me for my thoughts on how to make something better, but nothing really comes to mind. How do I work on this behavior?

Some other questions:

  • Is this a sign to leave my team or company? And the profession? Despite my best efforts, I'm disappointing my team and it's taking a toll.
  • I haven't been served a PIP yet, but is this a sign that it's coming?
  • Naive take, but is it a bad idea/even possible to ask for a downlevel? The reasoning was that I'd rather keep my job than lose it.
  • Any advice?
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Should I mention offers I turned down to my boss?

Data Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Data Engineer at Taro Community

It's performance review time, and I want a nice raise and bonus just as much as anyone else.

Standard procedure for getting a raise seems to be making the case for yourself: keep track of all your accomplishments during the year so you can present them to your boss when asking for a raise/bonus. Simple enough. I'm prepping that list of things right now.

It's also been the case that this past year I turned down 3 offers that each would have paid me more than my current gig - between 20% and 40%. Now, even though I'm underpaid at my current gig, it's also the case that I'm compensated for that by it being super chill - no deadlines, lots of latitude on what to work on, a nice WFH arrangement (1 day in office a week), and pleasant coworkers.

My question is, do I mention that I got the offers in addition to mentioning the things I'd accomplished over the year? There's an element of "hardball" in that, but maybe it's not a bad move. I guess the phrasing of it is the key. So instead of saying "I've got other offers, give me more money or I leave", it's "I really like working here and with you. So much so that I turned down other companies that were offering decently more. Can you see what can be done to raise my compensation?"

Finally, I'm aware that the best way to ask for a raise is :
"I really enjoy working on this team. I want to do more to increase my impact and empower my teammates - What are the steps I need to take to get to that next level?"

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3 Comments

Feeling stuck because of the unwanted office politics.

Staff Software Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Staff Software Engineer at Taro Community

tldr; I am a Tech Lead working in of the big tech giants, getting burnt out due to office politics and ignorant managers.

I am one of the few people (~20) who accidentally was made remote, this was the result of one of the irresponsible move from one of the tech giant.

Anyways, I was part of a team for almost more than a year and the company culture was a bit shocking to me as my manager refused to do 1:1, lack of quality work and ignorance because of me being the remote was evident.

Six months before I, including my team, was transferred to another team with a greenfield project (with little or no prior info), we worked really hard but after 3-4months, another reshuffling happened and most of the team was moved to other projects/team. After couple of months the team was finally dismantled, I thought we will go back to our original team but to my surprise, instead of retaining me, they hired two new lead engineers in their location. In between all of this I was surprised to know that my manager (previous) didn't fill my annual review, when I tried to contact him I didn't get any response. I also scheduled a meeting with him but he didn't show up.

Few weeks before, I was moved to another team, which I found was in the mid of big release. The Principal engineer who was responsible for the design and architecture of the system was moved out before I joined so there was no knowledge sharing per se. I tried to contact him but he is too busy to entertain me now. During the first couple of days, my new manager briefed me that I am the owner of this new project and I have to look after each and everything. The project in itself is very huge: It was in design phase since last 1 year, and it depends on 2-3 teams. Everyday I am pulled into random meetings where there is a lot of alignment going on with some crucial decision making as the project is going to be live in new few months. In the daily sprint the manager wants to make sure I have enough work assigned to me as well. In two weeks I am almost burnt out as I have little or no time left after hours of meeting and going through the random documents.

Recently I came to know that there will a week long in-person workshop to get an alignment on the various decisions on the current project and I am not invited, I pinged my manager for the same but there is a long silence.

As of now, I have little or no breathing space to prepare for the interviews and almost on the verge of burnout.

Few important points:

  • To my surprise my official manager is still the same manager (first team) and he has still not filled up my performance review.
  • I moved countries because of personal issues so leaving the company may not be easy as of now. I have a lot of financial responsibilities, plus the current market and immigration condition has made the condition worse.
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4 Comments

Is an abrupt team change by management a bad indicator of performance?

Associate Member of Technical Staff at Taro Community profile pic
Associate Member of Technical Staff at Taro Community

I had recently joined as an entry-level engineer 6 months ago, and I have been told now that I will be basically working as part of two teams, with half of my time devoted to each one. So I will essentially continue to deliver some work to my current team, while learning a new tech under the same org and delivering to them as well.

The new team I will be working with is still unsure, I have been given two options and have been told about the scope of each of them, I have to revert back with an answer in a few days. I have been told that priorities might change, and adjustments will be made accordingly. So everything is a bit dicey at the moment.

My concern relating to this is:

  • Is this an indication of my current team not having sufficient work for an entry-level software engineer like me? It is a database-ops team, already having 2 senior-level developers. Furthermore, is it an indication that I am not delivering at the level they expected and hence my abilities are not of use in the current scenario?
  • I haven't explicitly received any negative feedback from my manager or my peers so far, and have been overworking sometimes. However the current change is a bit overwhelming given it is still not sure where I would be used as a resource, or if my work is actually making an impact. Also even though there is no negative feedback, there has also not been a lot of positive encouragement, it is like a neutral situation where I have been told I am meeting expectations, but it feels like I might not be exceeding them, or might just be an average performer.

Just wanted to know if anyone here has faced this before, or have any insights on this. Also since the market is bad, I am a bit concerned that this change might not be an excuse for a future layoff or something like that.

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2 Comments

Advice for Feeling recognized in the team, while switching domain (e.g. C++ to python)

Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community

Hi Everyone,

I am a senior software engineer in my company. We are an R&D company who work for the retail industry. I work in the Computer Vision and systems area.

I joined this company as a senior software engineer. Initially, the project that I was hired for had C++ work but that project was scrapped and we worked on a new product where everything was Python and lots of DevOps tools.

Now the problem that I am facing is all my colleagues who are software engineers know a lot about Python and these tools. I have never used them so far. For me, it was exciting that I was using these new tools which were very necessary in the current industry but I was anyways slow and my code quality and the way I designed things never matched the team's ways of things. I know everybody says that the fundamental principles are the same but I found there are some pythonic ways which are way better than a person who is learning it. Additionally, I was a Senior Engineer, so the manager and lead always came to me and said that they expected more from me. I was not contributing enough.

I feel it is normal to expect things from me as I am a senior. The main problem that I face is I don't feel myself important to the team. Most of the development or coding is done by the rest of the team. I even see they are given more design and senior role work too. I am given very small things. Honestly, even I don't know if I will be able to work on designing systems using these technologies. It affects my confidence and so I am never confident in my work, I have a constant fear that I can lose my job anytime. I don't feel proud of my work anymore now. I have learnt the new tools from last 1 year but I am unable to lead the team in any direction. There are some new concepts in Computer Vision world now like Embeddings which is completely new to me I am struggling to catch up on anything.

Our product is going live very soon, so the issues and pressure have started to grow. I am not even able to build any relationships with the real stakeholders in the team. They all love my other teammates and thus keep giving them work. Whenever I try to talk to them about any issues I do not get any encouraging reply, it feels like I am giving very basic suggestions.

Can anyone advise me on how to handle and perform well in the team and above all feel recognized in the team and organization? I am pretty sure many people here would have changed technology and should have faced similar situations , many would have recovered from this situation.

I always have very high standards for myself and have always been recognized as so in my previous companies. Lately, I feel I am not feeling very proud about my work, and I feel that is the main issue. I need some advice to improve in my field and in a consistent way.

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162 Views
2 Comments

Should I have worked on weekends to ramp up faster / deliver more?

Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community

Hi all,

I joined my current company (known in our industry for not-so-good WLB) 6 months ago as a Senior Software Engineer and have been doing side hustle in the evening and weekends over past 6 months beside my main job. This means I still completed the 9am to 6pm work schedule before doing my side hustle.

Now my manager is saying I have low bug fix count and my team consists of some weekends workaholics which I suspect I’m being benchmarked against. My upcoming performance review is due end of December 2023 (1 month away). The expectation for my level is ramping up in 3 months which means the last 3 months are no longer considered ramp-up period.

What should I do in this last 1 month leading to the performance review? Should I go all in on the weekends too or should I keep the pace I’m working (I’ve started working in the evening from 7PM to 10PM since receiving this feedback 2-3 weeks ago but on weekends I still hustle). Was I wrong in doing side gigs / projects while ramping up for my full time job and should have instead pushed weekends to ramp up? What could have I done better in the past 6 months and moving forward in 1 month ahead?

I know Rahul talked about doing side contract gigs and Alex talked about doing side projects while both are still at Meta (a very demanding big tech company). How did you guys handle the pressure and what are your schedules like? (Wake up @ 4AM, work on side hustle till 6-7AM, then go to sleep at night around 12AM LOL)? I'm curious about how people organize their side gigs schedule.

Thank you for your advices. I really appreciate it.

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2 Comments

Improvements based on performance review - MLE

Mid-Level Software Engineer at TikTok profile pic
Mid-Level Software Engineer at TikTok

Feedback

I got feedback on the last two quarters since I joined the company on three things:

Impact - E; Teamwork - M+; Technical Skills - M

Except for that, something that I was lacking was leadership & ownership.

Current Level: Mid-level.

Question Focus

  • I wanted here to discuss my struggles in improving my technical skills & leadership. And what mindsets & behaviors I need adopt.

  • My focus is more about getting a good rating & having a good bonus. And less about promotion at the moment.

Discussion

  1. At the moment, I rely a lot of my lead to make decisions about things I work on & focus on. This is due to following aspects:
    1. I feel part of it is me not having confidence in myself to know what's right. Since my lead has much more experience in this area & I'm very new to it.
    2. The uneasiness of not knowing what's the right approach. It's easy to have another person look at it than dive deep into something you don't look of.
    3. Sometimes documentation is not in English at my company & that is a burden into looking at things deeply.
      1. It breaks my confidence at times & slows me compared to other people who know that language.
  2. New tools & languages
    1. C++: I haven't spent much time learning it since I focussed on moving fast & creating impact so far. So that hampered me in setting aside time to learn this language that's used a lot in backend code.
      1. And at times I ask people in help for navigating code than I should do myself.
    2. I'm also haven't worked much in the backend part before being a MLE but now we all have at my current company but I don't feel any new concepts here I need to know.
    3. Design patterns
      1. I see these patterns in the code-base. Like how they use configs & classes. I see some other people in my team figuring it out very seamlessly. But I don't know which pattern they are using.
      2. And I don't know how time I should spend on this. Since reading a whole book on design patterns would be a lot of time. But knowing them would be useful.
  3. Algorithms & ML
    1. A big part of my job or my main-job is improving the algorithms & ML models to make more revenue.
    2. A lot of times, I see my teammates reading similar approaches in the company & adopting them to our use-case. Sometimes doing so I find it hard. Since the docs of these approaches are not in english at times.
      1. So I have ask around some folks to translate things. This severely slows me down.
      2. The better way could be to read outside papers/approaches but that takes more time. And may not know if they fit so good to our use-case.

Would love feedback on

  • how I can work better on these things
  • what mindsets I can adopt here to make more progress.
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2 Comments

Bouncing Back After Termination. What can I do to move forward?

Entry-Level Software Engineer at Unemployed profile pic
Entry-Level Software Engineer at Unemployed

Hello, I just wanted to get some advice last month I was terminated from my job after being placed on PIP/probation. When I first joined the company I had successfully completed training in React but was put on the team that didn’t use it. When the first review cycle came one of my teammates described my learning as flat and my technical skills as inadequate. There was even a time when I was ignored and tasks were passed over and one where I couldn’t come up with a plan. The junior who they assigned it afterward had the same issue couldn’t find and also didn’t need to come up with a plan but was allowed to work on it. Also, I was given noncoding tasks for a time or generic unit test tickets for functions that didn’t need it.

Eventually, I and the other junior got a task that was basic and miscommunication led to a delay and they complained about us both because of how it took. Then the assignment that sealed my fate was I had to implement a microservice and node API with a unit test in 2 weeks. There was a reference code but we couldn’t ask for help from senior developers. When my manager saw my progress he PIP'ed me and then when saw the demo he was underwhelmed and said I couldn't justify the code had a poor understanding of restful API concepts and my test didn’t meet functional requirements he wrote up the paper to basically have me fired.

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2 Comments

How to handle complaints about a direct report?

Senior DevOps Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Senior DevOps Engineer at Taro Community

Hey Taro,

I have a question around how to manage a direct report who I’m receiving performance complaints about.

For context, I’m the team lead for a team that works distributed across vertical teams. We have a new hire who’s been working with us for around 3 months now. He’s working with Team A and has recently been helping them to write App X, a brand new application.

Recently the PM for Team A has reached out to me with some general complaints/concerns about his output. The work this new hire is doing blocks most work for Team A, and the PM feels like they should have finished their work by now, and apparently other members of Team A have raised similar complaints.

Additionally, this new hire has a reputation for working very long hours/late into the night after work. On several occasions he’s posted slack messages at 1am, and the PM is concerned that he’s trying to spend long hours after work to try and make up for his lack of progress.

Myself and my manager have both already had casual conversations with him about his late night work to try and put a stop to this, and myself and other team members have tried to help him with his tasks where we can. We’re in a very small company so while I can try shuffling him around to a different vertical, it’s not like there’s limitless possibilities there.

I’ll be bringing this up with my manager today during our 1:1, but I was also very interested in hearing what the Taro community thinks here.

This is my first time as a manager so I’m very much out of my depth here.

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4 Comments

Learn About Performance Review

A performance review is used by a company gauge an employee’s work performance and contributions during a certain period of time. In the software engineering world, the reviews provide a comprehensive overview of an engineer’s accomplishments and areas of improvement over a specific period.
Performance reviews serve as a platform for acknowledging an engineer’s contributions and achievements. Positive feedback during a performance review can lead to recognition, promotion, and new growth opportunities within a company.
Performance reviews also highlight areas where performance can be improved. Constructive feedback helps engineers identify their strengths and weaknesses, which will pave the way for professional and career growth.
Performance reviews can contribute to fostering a positive team culture. By recognizing and addressing individual contributions, team members can understand what steps they need to take to be rewarded because they have a model to follow.
To maximize performance reviews, software engineers should actively prepare by reflecting on their achievements and goals accomplished during the performance review period. This preparation ensures a comprehensive discussion that you can have with your manager.
You should have also been receiving ongoing feedback throughout the entire performance review cycle from your manager and peers. This creates a continuous improvement cycle and ensures there are no surprises during the formal review.
You should effectively communicate any achievements during this time, which can include improvements made to any software engineering processes or to team culture.
Performance reviews are pivotal in your software engineer carer because they provide opportunities for recognition, growth, and professional development. By addressing feedback throughout the year, you will be able to navigate the performance review cycle with confidence.
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