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Senior Engineer Career Development Videos, Forum, and Q&A

How A Senior Engineer Can Grow Their Career

Senior engineers have proven themselves to be extremely capable at shipping high-quality, complex software efficiently. This collection breaks down how they operate and how you can get to this level too.

How to Deal with Stress Joining FAANG for the First Time?

Senior Software Engineer [ICT4] at Apple profile pic
Senior Software Engineer [ICT4] at Apple

Background Context

About 7.5-8 YOE, worked at a F500 before and a med tech startup before that. I'm an iOS Developer to be more specific.

I recently joined Apple as an ICT4/Senior SWE, and this is my first time joining FAANG. So far I’ve been assigned a couple of basic tickets which I landed ahead of schedule, and my manager is unsure of what I’ll be focusing on as Apple is wrapping up its last week of feature dev for the year.

I am extremely stressed. And honestly, for no reason other than I’m placing this stress on myself. I feel like I need to prove to my team and manager that I am in fact a senior level engineer, but since I am already at the level I guess there’s no need to? My colleagues who are mostly all a level below have been on this team for years and obviously can code circles around me. What I’m failing to find is what Rahul and Alex call “the engineer who everyone gravitates towards” on my team. I don’t think we have a dedicated Staff Eng, but rather a few senior SWEs (and even that I’m not sure of since everyone’s title is hidden), and honestly I have no idea what the expectations are of me, and I think that also attributes to my stress levels.

My manager says to just sit tight and has given me a few tickets that are supposed to help my designated Apple buddy - who has been amazing btw - and these tickets are fine and all, but I guess I’m just not sure if I can actually perform at the senior level at FAANG. From all the videos on Taro it seems like at the senior levels there’s a lot of leadership and design going on (which held true at my last company), but frankly in the past couple weeks I’ve been here, I’ve only seen engineers across all levels chugging out code as fast as they can (maybe that’s something specific to Apple).

Not sure if Apple just values "solver" archetype or if this is normal and that it's going to just take me a few months to ramp up and get used to everything. I think there's also quite a bit of imposter syndrome going on - I know I deserve to be here, I just need time to deliver more work and for my manager to give me some feedback.

I know I'm very fortunate to be in the position that I am, but I just want to take care of my mental health while doing the past I can to make sure I'm taking care of my career.

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Transitioning into the compiler engineering field (or any other domain) if you are unemployed and don't have prior experience in the field

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

I am currently seeking to transition into a career as a compiler engineer, a field I find deeply fascinating. The interdisciplinary nature of compiler engineering, bridging areas such as computer architecture and graph theory, intrigues me greatly. Additionally, the sector offers promising financial rewards, especially with companies like Meta, Nvidia, and AMD that are at the forefront of hardware accelerators experiencing significant growth. I am convinced this growth trajectory will continue, making this career path an ideal blend of intellectual fulfillment, professional growth, and competitive compensation.

Due to recent layoffs, I find myself unemployed, and I am seizing this moment to pivot towards compiler engineering. However, I acknowledge that there is a steep learning curve to becoming an ideal candidate for such positions. The required skill set typically includes:

  • Proficiency in C++
  • Experience with GPUs
  • Knowledge of an Intermediate Representation Language (e.g., LLVM)
  • Understanding of computer architecture

Previously, I worked as a senior backend engineer, specializing in tool development using functional programming languages such as Scala and Ocaml. My experience spans across FAANG companies and two startups.

To bridge the gap in my skill set, I have been actively contributing to open-source projects similar to LLVM and honing my C++ skills through consistent practice on Leetcode. Despite securing a few interviews for compiler engineering positions, I have not been successful, primarily due to difficulties with compiler-specific questions.

I seek advice on the following:

  1. How can I enhance my chances of entering the compiler engineering field, especially without being part of a compiler project community or holding a position of authority within such a project?
  2. What strategies can I employ to prepare for and succeed in domain-specific interviews, considering my lack of prior experience in this area?

Any guidance or insights from those who have navigated a similar path would be immensely appreciated.

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I'm Sanjay, Senior Director at a Series B Startup. AMA!

Sanjay Siddhanti (Senior Director of Engineering at AKASA) profile pic
Sanjay Siddhanti (Senior Director of Engineering at AKASA)

I'm doing a soon: I'll use this thread to collect questions and will follow up to answer anything we don't cover within the hour.

I'm Sanjay ( / ) -- I'm a Stanford grad (same as Rahul), where I got a BS in Computer Science and MS in Biomedical Informatics. I've built my entire career in the Bay Area, with the past 5 years at AKASA, an AI healthcare company to help revenue cycle teams.

I'm the Senior Director of Engineering at AKASA. I joined AKASA in 2019 as one of the first employees when we were a seed-stage startup. I originally joined AKASA as an individual contributor, and quickly switched over to management. I built much of the company's early technology as an IC and later as a tech lead / manager. I also started and managed multiple engineering teams at the company, including Platform Engineering, now an org with 20 engineers.

Happy to answer questions about:

  • How engineering leaders think about the role of Senior, Staff, and Principal ICs
  • How and why to transition from IC to management
  • The differences between an Engineering Manager vs Engineering Director
  • How to hire and retain great talent
  • How to succeed in a startup environment

I can also discuss how to introduce effective development processes (code reviews, agile development, postmortems, planning, etc) in early-stage companies and how to evolve these practices as a company grows.

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Should I join an important project with difficult team mates or a not so important project with great team mates?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community

I was lucky to join a very competent and lovely platform team when I joined my current company. I have been working in the same team for 18 months but due to re-orgs people have moved out and we are currently 3 people and we were 9 people when we started out.

We have been doing mostly maintenance work for the past 3 months after re-orgs and recently we were given a choice to work on two projects.

There is one project, lets call it Project Hero which my skip level manager wants me to join. I would be the main PIC for this project and it will involve a lot of integration work and system design. This project is with new team mates and a new manager with whom I have not worked but they don't have the best reputation. However, going by FAANG level, they should be good enough to get the job done. Only downside is work-life balance might be skewed if I join here. However, if the project is a success, it sets me up for Senior level promotion.

There is another project, lets call it Project Nero. This will be with my existing team but from a company perspective, it's not a very important project. But I will be working with my existing team mates who are both capable of delivering a solid project and a joy to work with. However, my work here will be overshadowed by other Senior engineers on the project.

Which project should I join? I personally want to do Project Hero but not with the people present there. Also it will be challenging.
Project Nero will be challenging also but more up my comfort zone.
Given the current economic climate, I feel being in more important teams will help keep my job.

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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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Apply for jobs without a job or take a guaranteed job?

Senior Software Engineer at Unemployed profile pic
Senior Software Engineer at Unemployed

I was unfortunately let go from my previous company in mid November of last year. Took Nov/Dec of last year off to rest and fully cope. Now that the new year is here, I'm starting the job hunt.

Recently, I found out that a previous employer - not the most recent one - has an opening right now. I left that company on very good terms so I can easily get the job, but I'm not interested at all in that role for the long term as I'd like to work at a US company (preferably big tech, but even startups / midsize would be fine to start). All my experience has been at small companies.

I am extremely confident of my interviewing ability especially with the ability to prep full time. But will I have any difficulty in getting interviews if I don't have a job currently? Should I take the job at the old employer, wait it out 6 months, then start applying to better companies then? Or should I ignore the old employer, take a month to prep, and then start applying to the roles I want now?

Some other potentially relevant info:

  • Currently based in Canada. Visa won't be an issue
  • 6 YOE, have been Senior for the last 2 years
  • Will be applying to L5 roles at the bigtechs, with the expectation of getting downleveled
  • Money isn't a huge issue, I have savings to last me through the summer and can borrow more from family if needed (although I would like to have things wrapped up by May 1st)
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