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Grow Your Tech Career at Startups

A startup or start-up is a company or project undertaken by an entrepreneur to seek, develop, and validate a scalable business model.

How to make yourself layoff proof as a non SWE focused engineer

Machine Learning Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Machine Learning Engineer at Taro Community

Hey everyone, I've been working at a seed stage startup in London for 5 months now. I am the sole contributor to an ML product the company is launching and I'm taking care of the entire ML life cycle (training/testing/deploying/monitoring/integrating)

But the startup is trying to scale vertically (creating a suite of products/ecosystem of tools for its niche). This is the company's second product and is the bigger product compared to the first product they launched and has more revenue opportunities

I haven't had much exposure to the software side of the product as there is currently so much scope for ML opportunities

I am also a junior. I have about .75 YoE before I started working here and I am terrified that the company is going to lay me off once they get enough of this AI product done and its time to move on to the next. I worry they're gonna want some SWE with 10 YoE and I'm not that. I don't want to have to job search in this market as well

About me: my expertise is 70% ML and 30% SWE. I also have a bs in cs so I'm not a noob at SWE. MLE is also 80% SWE and 20% ML realistically

Questions

  1. How to ensure that if the company decides to start another product that they won't just ditch me
  2. How to figure out the long term plans? I've tried asking to figure out but with such early stage startups it's hard to know what their plans are

I am totally okay and happy to contribute to the software efforts as well should they decide to move on. just don't want to get laid off!

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How to deal with disrespect as a woman in tech?

Mid-Level Software Engineer at Pre-series Startup profile pic
Mid-Level Software Engineer at Pre-series Startup

I have been working as a backend engineer for almost 3 years now as a self-taught engineer, and I've enjoyed this field a lot as I go deeper into system design and strengthening my CS fundamentals as I don't have any CS background in university. In my previous 2 companies, I've got good reviews from my peers and managers, and currently I'm in a team where I'm the only woman and also the youngest.

From networking and discussions, I understand that I am super fortunate to have the current position that I have and I have a lot to be grateful for because I manage to be entrusted with a really big end-to-end project and be equivalent to my peers who are much more senior than me.

However, I'm just tired because every time I need help for brainstorming and pairing, my peers will help me, but not without bragging themselves in the end ("how come you don't know this?", "I managed to be able to do this for the 1st time", etc). Also, I sense some hesitation from my peers to ask me questions (at least publicly in group chats), even for projects that I've done in the past and for which only I have the contexts. I sense this because my peers would only ask me through private chats and sometimes they would even go to the length of asking their other peer who would then ask me because he doesn't know the answer

I really hope that it's an issue with my performance, because then I can fix it, but sometimes I can't help but wonder if it's because of my gender and age and they just don't wanna look more "incompetent" than a "woman" and a "junior". Everytime I do something good outside of work such as becoming a tech speaker or teaching a bootcamp and I share it, I feel like I'm being shot down with words such as "I've done better than that", "Why did you even take up that speaker gig? Are you pretending to be a senior?". I mean, what's with the bragging? The insecurities? If you're more senior than me and you have more experience than me, of course they all look simple to you. There is no need to bring people down when they're trying to grow.

Adding more salt to that, they often joke with stuff such as "I still have slots for 3 more wives" "Why are you not married yet? The rest of us are married already, you don't wanna be an old spinster" and sometimes they would talk in detail about what they do with their wives that morning. All of these are wearing me down and make it hard for me to focus on my job and my passion, which is the tech stuff. I'm scared and uncomfortable of bringing this up with my manager and my HR because I'm scared of being labelled "sensitive" and "weak" for being offended by things like this because of the culture that I'm from. The minority of my coworkers (who are males) have actually noticed this problem and have shared their concerns too with me, but it seems that my manager doesn't want to acknowledge this problem at all and he thinks that it's all perfectly normal and just a banal banter. How should I proceed with this? Any advice? (preferably from females who have gone through this and succeeded in thriving through this). I would like to switch companies as soon as possible, but given the current market and I only joined this company for less than 7 months, I don't think quitting now is an option

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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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What do you think is a fair amount of equity for a first developer of the team?

Medior Software Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Medior Software Engineer at Taro Community

Right now I am helping out at a startup with 0 revenue. It's a fun group to work with, hence I am helping them out.

There's a CEO and CTO. CEO has been working on it for 1.5 years, CTO for like half a year. I have just started out for about a month. The company has 0 revenue and 0 investors yet. CEO is just giving a projection of equity sharing. There might be a CMO joining soon.

CEO is suggesting following equity share:

  • Founder 1: Himself 57%
  • Founder 2: CTO 16%
  • Soon to be Founder 3: CMO 8%
  • Investors Seed / Series A: 13 %
  • Options Pool: 5%

I am like the first developer, and he's suggesting like 0.5% of the option pool. They claim it to be a fair amount since he and CTO have made way more sacrifice so far. Right now I make sacrifices too. I am spending my nights and time in my weekend on it without any pay. And I don't have the knowledge of CMO.

I don't know much about reasonable percentage for this kind of stuff it's new to me.

But right now we're not getting any profit and I am sacrificing nights and time in the weekend on the project so I think it would be fair for founder 1 and 2 to give me some of their percentage and give me like approximately 10% or something.

So far it's been fun: Thinking if things go well, we can all become millionaires. But this 0.5% percentage doesn't fit in with that. It's a rather demotivating percentage.

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How to write resume and apply to jobs after being a failed startup founder?

Entry-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Entry-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community

I'm in my early 20s and started a startup with my friend from college shortly after we graduated. We got into Y Combinator and worked on the company for about 2 years in total before shutting it down recently. I didn't go to a name-brand school, and didn't work full-time anywhere after graduating, but I did a few prestigious internships, one of which being in Deep Learning.

I've heard larger companies and recruiters in general don't like former founders, and I mostly did sales/product for our startup. We built a few web-based products and a few AI infra/AI apps, but nothing crazy and nothing with massive traction. We spent most of our time pivoting and doing user interviews/sales.

I want to get an engineering job rather than PM, because I have internalized the value of being technical when being a founder and don't want to give entrepreneurship up yet. There aren't too many entry-level positions open, and I was hoping to not have to go into an entry-level role, but simultaneously I'm not sure I have enough experience to feel confident in being self-sufficient as an engineer.

Before starting the company, I had a return offer at one FAANG company, and a New Grad SWE offer at Facebook that I let expire. I emailed my recruiter to try to reinstate it, and she implied that I would not be eligible for New Grad since I was too far from my graduation date.

Ideally, I'd like to work in AI at a larger company since that's where all my experiences in college were and where I see the most opportunity (ideally OpenAI or FB). Otherwise, probably back-end/infra at a post-IPO startup/FAANG or worst-case post-PMF startup. I have a few questions:

  1. Should I only apply to entry-level engineering jobs, and am I even eligible for them? If not, what level of experience should I apply to and how do I convince them I'm qualified?
  2. How should I write my resume/describe my experience+title (especially for larger, more bureaucratic companies which are less open to former entrepreneurs)? Should I even include that I was a co-founder?
  3. How custom should I make my resume for each different kind of job I'm applying to (new grad swe, new grad mle, ai eng, at faang+ vs. growth stage startup)?
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6 Comments

How is the market right now for junior engineers?

Entry-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Entry-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community

Hey, I just posted a question related to me considering to quit my job here:

TLDR: I am seriously considering quitting my job due to the commute, I live in SF, have 1+ years of experience and am looking to work in the city/remote. I have 6+ months of savings and am a U.S. citizen. Effectively, I'd say there's a 95% chance I'll quit my job in Jan 2024.

Considering this, I'm evaluating the current tech job market.

Generally, my impressions are that while the overall economy is doing quite well, the tech market is in a bit of a lull w/ potential layoffs in 2024-2025. We had the major overhiring of 2021-2022, then the layoffs in early 2023 and now are in a period of stasis relative to the bull market of the past 10 years+. I believe this is also due to the end of zero interest loans making capital expensive. This then leads to profits being more emphasized, then cost-cutting in large corporations (employees being a major cost, so layoffs occuring) and then difficulty for startups to raise money.

Additionally, I recently read The Pragmatic Engineer's take on .

"Unfortunately, I suspect Spotify is early in having a realization which other tech companies will also have, next year. With the zero interest rate period (ZIRP) over, it’s expensive to borrow cash. Spotify making a loss meant it was effectively borrowing money in order to operate. Turning a profit is more urgent than when capital was cheap. But how do you turn a profit if you cannot significantly increase revenue? You cut costs, and the biggest costs for most tech companies are employees, sadly.

As a result, Spotify could well become profitable, assuming it generates similar revenue in future. And this is exactly the plan; to keep doing the same as before, but with fewer people.

In this way, Spotify’s cuts make business sense in the context of business growth slowing, persistent loss-making, and a hiring spree in 2021-2022 which didn’t boost revenue. These cuts may be surprising for many at Spotify, but probably not for the leadership team. The only question is how many other companies are in the same position as Spotify, but with leaderships yet to draw the same conclusion from the economic conditions.

This is probably a good reminder that the tech jobs market remains volatile. If you have a stable job, it could be a good time to put aside some earnings for a nest egg, stay engaged with your network, and to position yourself to work in areas seen as profit centers, not cost centers."

What are your impressions of the tech market right now?
Any recommendations of how to navigate the market or resources to utilize?
Anything advice years-of-experience specific (Junior engineers vs. senior engineers vs tech leads vs. etc)?

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Should I leave my company due to effects of commute?

Entry-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Entry-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community

Hello, I am a software engineer at a hardware startup company in the South Bay Area and live in San Francisco.

I make $124K/year and have been at the company for little more than a year (I joined out of college in mid-late 2022). Work-life balance at the company is pretty great (40 hours/week), the company does make exceptions for working remote from other locations from time-to-time (i.e. when you’re traveling) and is generous with PTO (this may change in 2024 as new processes have been put in place). The company raised quite a bit of money in 2021 and receives funds from government research grants so they’re in a good financial position and are even looking to hire a bit in 2024. The company culture is positive, the software team as a whole gets along quite well and I genuinely like my manager; there’s very little office politics. The company also encourages its engineers to learn.

Admittedly though, strong mentorship is lacking; something that I think I’d be highly receptive to given that I deeply cherish and frequently act upon feedback.

As for the company's future, I think the company has established a solid technology moat and might do well (maybe unicorn?). But I don’t think the company will explode into wealth anytime soon (5+ years to get there) and the equity payoff is OK (I might make an additional $280K/yr if the company 20x in valuation to be a unicorn).

The reason I am seriously considering resigning is the commute. The company has a hybrid model (3 days in-office, 2 days remote) so it’s about 1hr 30 min one-way, (3hr roundtrip) 3 days a week and it’s really getting to me.

To commute, I walk 30 min (or 20 min by bus) and then drive for an hour, sometimes in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 101-South to 280-South. Then I repeat this going back, one hour drive, and a 30 min walk (or 20 min by bus). In multiple ways, this is costing me.

Financially-speaking, I’m paying $545/month ($250 parking and $300 for gas, that’s $12,500 gross, meaning pre-tax), so effectively I make $111,500/year. I could maybe pay more for parking ($350-$500) and skip the 30 min walk, then I’d be making even less.

While I could live near Caltrain in SF, even taking Caltrain would involve taking a bus and then a 8 min walk (still roughly 1 hr 30 min one-way). Additionally, I really enjoy where I live in the city and would strongly oppose any move (as a last, last resort only).

Time-wise, I strongly feel that it’s a waste of my time to sit in traffic! I often put on podcasts + songs to distract myself from staring at the bumpers of vehicles in front of me. Getting back 9 hours of my time per week (effectively a whole day) would be incredibly beneficial. This is time and energy that I want to put towards things that are deeply, deeply important to me, one of which being health (gym, yoga, movement in general).

Health is a really important pillar for me and so having reduced time & energy to go to the gym strikes me as a major red flag for this job. I value my health far, far over compensation and career growth.

Energy-wise, on the days that I commute, I feel incredibly low energy after work. I typically come home, eat junk food, watch some on Youtube and sleep late. It's not the person that I am when I’m not commuting.

While I recognize that the market may not be so great, I am considering quitting my job in the beginning of next year and diverting my efforts to looking for a new job within the city, either startup or Big Tech (generally a company where the profit center is technology) and something with a much shorter commute (a bus or walk to somewhere in the city is perfectly fine). Alternatively, a remote job w/ healthy culture would also be OK.

I also have 6+ months of savings and am not at a risk of being deported (a U.S. citizen).

Additionally, I have multiple friends who live & work in SF, others who commute 1/week to South Bay and even some who work entirely remote. Some also work at SF startups that are actually looking for engineers right now!

So in my head, it’s quite hard to justify driving each day, paying all this money, spending all this time & energy to work at a company so far away for equivalent, or many times, less money than I would be making here in the city or even working remote.

Would greatly appreciate any thoughts y'all have! Any and all feedback is welcome :)

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Direct manager has opposing views with the rest of upper management. Which one should I follow?

Mid-Level Software Engineer at Pre-series Startup profile pic
Mid-Level Software Engineer at Pre-series Startup

I am working at a 2 year old startup that has just launched its product a few months ago. The launch was considered a failure because the product has so many issues and customer complaints. Some customers even stated that they prefer the competitor product.

After being here for less than 6 months, I observed that the company has a culture of rushing everything with lack of planning and resources/manpower to execute their vision. None of the upper management has business experience in this exact product, they only have experience in tangentially related product. Also, prior to the formation of the current engineering team, the company hired an overseas vendor that overpromised a 6 months project that dragged out into 2 years. That is the main reason the current engineering team I am part of is built: to replace the vendors. The investors are known to be very profit-oriented right from the start, and they are also funding another startup that has the exact same product as my company, although this startup will not be launching anything until next year. The combination of inexperienced upper management and culture of rushing things lead to product failure. Thankfully, I think the atmosphere in the office is still pretty positive and laid-back. People are not pointing fingers and they still do their best to recover from their mistakes and prepare for future initiatives.

My manager has stated from the very first time I join the company that he prioritizes quality over speed, and given our previous product failure by the vendor, I agree that this is the solution. However, the Product Manager doesn't agree with this and he pushes us to prioritize speed over quality, even if that's the exact mindset that leads to our product failure. The rest of the upper management seems to adopt the same mindset of quick fixes and rushing, and the most alarming part is that we don't seem to have identified our core users, so I'm not sure if our previous launch has actually taught us anything. Also, I noticed that the Product Manager is lacking competencies in some key areas. I expect a PM to be someone who can not only have a vision on what the product would grow into, but also someone who can do analytics, business projections, and prioritize the most impactful projects for the team. In our daily interactions, he seems to be someone who just passes words from one person to another without doing any substantial management. This is slowly leading to resentment from my manager towards the PM because the team is slowly being overwhelmed with unimpactful tasks that hinder our future milestones.

My questions are:

  1. Which direction should I follow? My manager's or the PM's (majority)?
  2. Should I consider this a sign for me to look for new company? Or is this still normal and workable? If yes, what kind of role / actions should I take in this situation?
  3. How should I convey this in my 1-1 to my manager?
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Meta / Facebook Team Matching - How to find the best team? (E4)

Mid-Level Software Engineer at Series A Startup profile pic
Mid-Level Software Engineer at Series A Startup

I'm moving forward to team matching at Meta for E4 and wanted to ask the community if they had any suggestions for teams with the strongest potential for growth, especially for the New York office.

The recruiter gave me the following survey. I stated I'd be more of a "Product - Generalist" role. Would also be curious to learn more about "Systems - Generalist" as I did the System Design interview as well.

In general from what I've seen, there's a decent amount of opportunity in Instagram, Whatsapp, and Reality Labs (from product announcements and earnings calls). I've also been told to avoid monetization as it's difficult to make an impact there.

Would appreciate any advice or suggestions! Also would appreciate tips on what questions to ask Hiring Managers to assess how they grow E4s.

What is your role? (select the one that applies)

  • Systems - Generalist
  • Product - Generalist

What type of work motivates you the most? (select all that apply)

  • Infra: Scaling challenges
  • UX: Building user experiences
  • Growth: Top of line impact
  • Integrity: Ensuring platform safety
  • Social Impact: Progressing positive change on key social issues

Who do you want to build products for? (select all that apply)

  • Consumers: External, individual users of the Meta family of apps
  • Businesses: External business account users of Meta family of products
  • Meta Employees: Users of internal tools
  • Developers: Internal and external engineers using Meta developer products and APIs

Please select which Meta Pillar(s) you’d be interested in joining? (select all that apply)

  • Family of Apps: Enable optimized enforcement and support of account integrity to foster safe and meaningful communities.
  • Monetization: Empower people and businesses to succeed in the global economy
  • Gen AI: bring the transformative potential of generative AI to people and businesses
  • Reality Labs: build tools that help people feel connected anytime, anywhere

How would you rank your preference in terms of products? (feel free to use numbers)

  • Facebook App
  • Monetization
  • Privacy
  • Messenger
  • Instagram
  • WhatsApp
  • Reality Labs (AR/VR)
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