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Steve Huynh Q&A and Videos

About Steve Huynh

Steve Huynh (popularly known from his YouTube channel "A Life Engineered") is a Principal Engineer at Amazon. Steve has 16 years of experience, working his way to principal engineer (top 1%). He's conducted over 850 technical interviews and has become an expert on the promotion/growth track for high-level, non-managerial tech leadership. Connect with Steve: - https://www.youtube.com/c/ALifeEngineered - https://twitter.com/ALEngineered - https://www.linkedin.com/in/a-life-engineered/

Is there a way to "grind" system design or soft skills?

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

I'm not sure exactly how to phrase this, but to give an analogy, I love card games (ex: Legends of Runeterra, Race for the Galaxy, Hearthstone, etc). There are a fixed set of rules and a fixed set of cards. I can "grind" games and get better by noticing patterns, picking up new strategies or tactics by playing against a diverse set of players. The outcome of an interaction is usually idempotent (i.e. card 1 interaction with card 2).

In real life, things are quite complicated. Asking a certain question in a certain way to person 1 and person 2 may give wildly different responses, and may even depend on your mood, their mood, your tone, time of day, etc. It's super messy and unpredictable.

I also feel a similar way about system design. The nearly infinite possibility of inputs, outputs, TPS, throughput, scenarios make it difficult to reapply the same set of rules to different scenarios. This is just talking about one component, when we bring in N components, the interaction gets very complicated and the "rules" change" case by case. I'm sure it gets better with practice, but I also feel I have a limited opportunity to learn or practice these on the job.

Has anyone found a way to structure these learnings in terms of a repeated "grind", because oftentimes I feel overwhelmed and don't know where to start. This is a complicated question, so answers regarding either a) soft skills or b) system design separately I will treat as valid answers.

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How to remove yourself from being a bottleneck?

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Anonymous User at Taro Community

Due to unforeseen circumstances from past 6 - 8 months, I've been the Senior most engineer in my team, (I have a total of just ~2.7 YOE). My team consists of ~12 SDE 1s (New Hires) and 2 SDE2s (The other SDE2 being promoted very recently). My manager does a great job filling the role of Senior Engineer which reduces bit of pressure off of me.

However, due to necessity in the team I've ended up being SME in all the services owned by our team. This leads to everyone reaching out to me to help them with their queries, I try to document some of these and add in the Wikis so that it can be easily accessible for others next time. However, when it comes to certain tickets and issues, I end up having to pick that task up myself (Manager does not ask me to, but at same time i know that for someone else the ramp up time required to fix the issue would be too high).

I recently tried to reduce this (2~ months ago), this led to our overall ticket health getting worse and I had to again start looking into them myself and guiding each on-call cycle with right action items for the tickets etc.

This involves me helping them to do the following :-

  • Prioritize correct tickets to look into for the on-call cycle.
  • A potential fix for the ticket so that they know where to look into.

Due to which it ends up taking 6+ hours weekly to keep this running. I don't really mind doing this; however, I don't feel like this is a scalable solution and would eventually want to slowly scale down from doing this and have my team being able to be self-sufficient.

What's the best way to go about this without affecting my team's ticket health?

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