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How A Staff Engineer Can Grow Their Career

Staff engineers are extremely vital to any engineering team, viewing the landscape from the overall team charter level instead of individual projects.

PIP & Disability leave

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

Hello

TLDR: I started a new job in September last year, and within three months, I was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) with impossible tasks to be completed within four weeks, essentially setting me up for dismissal. Two months prior, I had been seeing a doctor for health issues, and they advised that the PIP would likely worsen my condition. The doctor recommended taking Short Term Disability leave to focus on my health. The tasks I was assigned for the PIP were eventually completed by two engineers (1 staff and 1 Sr) over four months. My Short Term Disability leave ends soon, and I'm unsure whether to return to my old job.

Question for this community:

  1. Is it a good idea to return to the same job after being put on a PIP and taking medical leave? (HR informed me that the old PIP would not be in effect upon my return from Short Term Disability leave. However, I'm unclear on how this process works).
  2. I want to change teams upon my return; is this something I can negotiate with HR before trying to go back?
  3. I like the company and its culture but ended up in the wrong team with the wrong manager. Is there a way I can remain employed at this company but join a different team and manager?

More Context: My manager was present during the hiring interview, where I clearly expressed my desire to move away from a particular tech stack. I was highly rated in the interview and received a generous offer, which I accepted. However, once hired, the manager assigned me to a project in the same area I wanted to avoid. Given it was a high-priority project and my first assignment, I reluctantly accepted. 1 month into the job, I faced a personal emergency requiring a few days off. I shared the reason with my manager, who seemed understanding at first. After that, the manager's behavior changed drastically. They began assigning more work, constantly switching me between multiple issues and projects, and bullying me in meetings. Despite working overtime (12-14 hours/day) to meet expectations, their attitude worsened. This was the worst manager I've encountered in my 14-year career who had unreasonable expectations as far as ramping up on the projects is concerned and it almost seems like I was hired to be fired in this situation. Note: This is not at Amazon.

Any other pointers would be appreciated. Please help.

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Negotiating an offer for a Staff role at a Series B -- the recruiter said they were making an offer but only gave me a range

Principal Software Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Principal Software Engineer at Taro Community

Hello! I'm in the final stages of my interview process at a few companies. I heard two days ago that I'd be getting an offer from a public company and just today a Series B company said they were going to extend an offer. (I have 30 minute chat with a Series A CEO tomorrow and an offer seems likely) The Series B company today gave me their comp range for Staff, but did not make a specific offer. The recruiter asked me to come up with what I wanted my comp to be now that I know the band for Staff. It felt odd not getting a specific number.. but I suppose I can consider for the purpose of negotiation that they are offering the top of the range and I can negotiate from there? The recruiter did say I was their best interview (!) so I feel like I have a fair bit of leverage here to potentially get an offer well above the stated band.

This is a bit further complicated however by the fact that I disagree with the methodology the recruiter used to value their options & tokens. I.e. if I agreed with their valuation the TC at the top of their range is what I am targeting, but according to my calculations the TC at the top of the range is 35% too low. So I'd probably need them to double the equity/token package to make this worthwhile. The top of the range for base is also below my base target, but not that dramatically. . . more like 5%.

Am I better off asking for a Sr Staff leveling or just ask for comp that's above the band for the Staff title? I imagine bands are more strict at public companies than they are at a Series B.

Finally, I'm wondering what people think about adding acceleration & severance upon termination w/o cause as a negotiation lever. Given the volatility of the cryptocurrency market I am concerned about job security in this role, so some security that would be provided by an acceleration upon termination clause in my contract would help me swallow the somewhat low base & illiquid equity that they are offering. Do Series B companies ever provide that to non-VP/C-level hires?

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How to make it count for putting out fire before it started?

Senior Software Engineer [E5] at Meta profile pic
Senior Software Engineer [E5] at Meta

Background:

Our team inherited a set of products which are full of spaghetti code and bad design. We are currently building a high visibility and high impact project based on the backend of this system.

Although the main project UI goes on-track, some critical backend design flaws will hinder product performance and reliability within a couple of months - maybe close to or right after official product launch, which will turn our whole effort into a joke since we have executives' eyes on it.

My progress this year so far: (besides my roadmap item commitment)

  • 1. Identified a system hotspot, finished analysis & design, and convinced our EM to rewrite this module (currently 95% finished by a junior engineer.)
  • 2. Rewrote 1 foundation module to eliminate legacy design flaw (ended up with less code, less complexity, same performance, more system reliability.)
  • 3. Design and rewrite another foundation backend module to address legacy design flaw & unblock development of the next milestone
  • 4. Leading on technical design and discussion of a re-architecture for the overall backend end to end flow. (simplify design, improve performance)

NOTE:
- I tried to delegate 2 & 3, but no other engineers can do them after a few try since it's too tightly coupled with the rest of the system.
- our team lead is championing for all these work, which is how we are able to make room for them

Benefit of these work:

  • accelerate other engineers' work in the system
  • cut clean with the legacy system design flaw, improve product reliability and performance
  • ensure our team's win on the high visibility project that built on top of this backend
  • easier oncall for the short run or long run

My questions:

  • In terms of performance review, my manager thinks this is better engineering work, while I think is closely tied to the success of our main project. What kind of evidence do I need to convince him? (My EM is not very technical)
  • From his tone, I sense he thinks better engineering work in considered "lower priority contribution". Is this true? How do I communicate the importance of code/design quality with him?
  • I'm trying to reach the staff level promo, does this initiative demonstrate any trait for the next level? (I'm not doing it for promo, but my EM's neglect on this makes me pretty frustrated because refactoring and rewrite is such tedious and painful work... I want to make it count)

Thank you!

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