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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.

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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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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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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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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How does Stack Ranking work (at FAANG) and how can I be proactive at a base level?

Senior Software Engineer at Self profile pic
Senior Software Engineer at Self

Hi Taro - just wanted to say thank you for the .  I was wondering if you could share with the Taro community your thoughts on how managers evaluate their employees in detail (you mentioned some things like internal tools that one could go and see how many PRs, discussions, comments someone had in Github/JIRA and who all were at the top of that baseline followed by the bottom rankers; so I would like more specifics if possible).

Although no one likes it, it would be good to understand how "stack ranking" works at FAANG - and how some managers evaluate on this criteria, despite it being a practice that sucks. In this way I can just be more sure I'm hitting a baseline - even if it's invisible because I can take daily steps to work on my own visibility and perceived performance.

I feel like the biggest challenge right now is getting critical feedback from a manager / org (and it sounds like some companies in the FAANG space are pretty awful about it).  E.g. I read about a Redditor who got let go without much notice because they weren't up to par (decided by a skip level manager) in terms of their code and daily output (while the direct manager and everyone else had been communicating often that this employee's performance was great). But this goes back to the idea that 'great' is 'average' lately, and it's way harder to hit exceeds and greatly exceeds on performance.

Thank you in advance!

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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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