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Work-life Balance Q&A and Videos

About Work-life Balance

Work-life balance (WLB) is the state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritizes the demands of one's career and the demands of one's personal life. Having too many responsibilities at work is the primary cause of poor WLB.

What is the expected behavior of an SDE 2 & SDE 3 when given a feature request?

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

I work in a high-growth, scaled startup where my organization builds revenue-generating platforms and forms small teams to create new verticals. However, we face challenges such as fast-tracked, inexperienced engineering managers (EMs) who disrupt work-life balance and often expect overtime or weekend work.

Feature requests are typically communicated via Slack messages or one-liners, with frequent status updates focused on completion. There is significant bias and favoritism, yet I can operate in such an environment. Although I know the best long-term solution might be to move to big tech or a more stable team, I’m seeking advice on how to behave in this current setting.

I avoid responding to negative remarks within the team because the EM’s typical reaction to any request is dismissive, suggesting that bugs shouldn't happen or that tasks should be managed independently. I was down-leveled upon joining this team from a similar toxic environment but have since been promoted to SDE 2. My senior, an SDE 3, also struggles emotionally, which makes me question whether this is common in leadership across companies of similar scale and situation.

How do you handle working in such an environment? I am currently taking a course on managing up, which seems relevant. I focus solely on my tasks and avoid reacting to negativity, which is appreciated, but I’ve stopped working weekends due to shifting priorities and deliverables. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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How to maintain mental health while working towards very ambitious goals?

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

I became really ambitious at a young age and was always pushing my boundaries, from high school, through university and now in a professional environment. Ambition is not a bad thing, but I think I picked up an unhealthy maximalism and “grind mindset” which makes the journey really stressful. I’m working on understanding myself & why my personality turned out this way with a psychologist and honestly it’s great (and I recommend this to everyone in tech if you can afford it).

Reflecting back on my journey, this mentality got me pretty far so far (I’m 26), I got promoted pretty much every year (I’m just below staff-level, 5 YoE in ML/AI), I published papers as side projects and finished my Masters degree, most of this in parallel.

Throughout the years I was given several signs that this is not a maintainable pace (relationship ending because of only spending time on professional stuff, health complications like high blood pressure, etc.) and as stupid as it sounds, I just powered through these and carried on.

Exercise is one thing that helped the situation as it turns my mind off for a bit. I’ve been working our 3-4 times a week, but honestly I think the problem is with my attitude, so working out will not help the stress completely.

Recently I think I hit a wall in terms of stress and I had a few panic attacks, which was really scary. It was a wake up call and I decided that nothing is worth experiencing these conditions. After experiencing these I became more stressed and worried about my health which makes day-to-day work pretty tough. I’m also switching jobs soon, which I think added an extra bit of stress to the whole thing, maybe that was the trigger.

Since I think Taro is a collective of people with great ambitions, I’d be really curious to hear if you faced a similar situations and how you managed it.

So I have two main questions to you:

  • Short term: If you ever got to this point, what are some strategies to recover? I will be taking 2.5 weeks of vacation between the jobs and I will try to completely switch-off, but I’m curious if you have any other ideas.
  • Long term: How do you balance your thoughts and ambitions about “reaching the stars” (whether it’s becoming a staff engineer, building a company, etc.) with maintaining a healthy life?
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Feeling lost in the software engineering domain

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

I've been a software engineer in India for 8 years, working with reputed companies. My previous company (A) was an Indian startup that grew significantly during my 5-year tenure there. I learned quickly as a junior and mid-level engineer, often handling urgent issues. Despite frequent deployment failures, it never hindered our release pace. However, after 5 years, I felt burned out due to poor work-life balance, especially after getting married, and the pay wasn't competitive.

I moved to my current company (B) about 2.5 years ago, drawn by a 100% salary hike, better work-life balance, and excellent perks. But I soon noticed a strong cultural shift. The engineering quality at B is not on par with A, and their systems are less mature despite being in the same domain. I saw this as a chance to improve B's systems using my experience, but progress was slow. The company seemed more focused on appearing as tech leaders rather than actual tech innovation.

Initially, I had a supportive manager, but my feedback on engineering practices and processes led to tension. Over time, my manager avoided interactions with me. Now, the team dynamics are strained. Juniors respect me, but peers and seniors, even recent joiners, view me negatively, questioning my teamwork. Bureaucratic politics from new tech leads and senior managers, who came from the same previous team, add to the problem. My manager, caught in this new dynamic, no longer supports me and avoids our 1:1s due to their negative nature, although she now wants to rebuild our relationship as she claims that she has reflected over it after she got a break from everything after few weeks' of leaves.

The toxic environment has pushed me to prepare for other opportunities, though it's made me wary of company cultures. I don't want to join startups due to their poor work-life balance, but I seek a role where I can spend 60% of my day learning valuable tech skills without unnecessary politics. The office environment has turned very hostile for me where anything I try to say gets taken in negative light. This is affecting my mental health, but I'm trying to stay here until July for my stock vesting.

I'm struggling to stay hopeful about the software industry and would appreciate any encouragement. Thanks!

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Got a Meta E5 offer, but unsure if I’m ready for it - Should I accept?

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

Hello! I would appreciate some career guidance tips in transitioning to a new role. To give some context about me, I am currently L62 at Microsoft with 7 YOE and have recently received an offer for E5 at Meta. It is a level+1 for me. From what I have gathered, the expectations for E5 are going to be high involving scope/ambiguity resolution, delivering under tight deadline, etc. Also given the stack-ranking nature of evaluation, might need to compete with my new colleagues, who are currently working at senior level.

I feel I'm an average+ engineer and doing WFH for the last 3 years made me working in silos. My current team does not punish teammates without active participation. Being introvert by nature and someone who is afraid of public-speaking, I got used to the comfort zone of inactive participation. My misconception about focusing solely on technical skills to grow in career has made my career progress slower and I am painfully realizing it lately. To add to that, job security is important for me as I'm a visa holder.

Given this context, I am considering whether to take E5 Meta offer. On one end, I can take this as a growth opportunity and improve my technical and soft-skills. I am definitely looking forward for ways to increase participation, influence team and being a strong engineer. I wonder if I should improve my current soft-skills in my current-role and then move or if I could simultaneously improve them on my new job.

On the other end, I wonder if I could survive in an environment like Meta and deal with stress/burnouts and whether the lack of improved soft-skills would make me unsuccessful in my new role.

Appreciate your thoughts!!

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What matters in the long term career marathon?

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Anonymous User at Taro Community

I am a senior software engineer at FAANG (not Meta), and have found myself in a difficult career dilemma.

I joined the company as a junior and made progress to senior in the same team (say A). The nature of the work was very unique. It was heavily focused on technical analysis of software as opposed to writing one yourself. A significant portion of it was cross functional collaboration across different orgs, probably the reason why I was able to get promoted fairly quickly. The coding part was maybe 30% (you were welcome to pursue more if you have the time). The culture overall was nice with good work life balance. Manager mostly supported things I wanted to pursue. Later, I switched teams (say B) and moved to the one with more focus on development of the software. I loved the technology, projects. However, the expectations were crazy high. I ended up getting a low performer rating, a year after I was promoted to senior in my previous team. The side effects were no bonus, refreshers, salary hike.

I have been working hard since then to manage the expectations. However, I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to exceed them and thereby pursue a career growth and the next title without throwing your life at work. I can get “meets expectation” for foreseeable future. We are also thinking of expanding our family next year.

I discussed with my previous manager who is willing to take me back. The work there has a high visibility, impact for the next year. I could build strong soft skills - leadership, driving things through others, collaboration there; but, not so much as to actually writing software.

My options -

  1. Stick through in my current team for few years because it lets me stay closer to software development and open up opportunities in the future for development roles. But that means financial stress, an impact on family goals. Added anxiety.
  2. Go back to previous team. Get that job stability, pursue family goals; but, might get rusted on software development skills. Maybe if I find some ways to keep honing them (also software design skills) then maybe there is that.
  3. Looking externally. This is my last resort; but, given the market conditions it does not look pretty. I also like my company in general and would hate to leave. Also not sure of the dynamics of going through pregnancy shortly after joining a new company.

What is the correct mindset I should have? How should I navigate this situation in short and long run.

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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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How to communicate about a lack of productivity due to personal issues?

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

Hello Community,

I hope you're all doing well. I'm reaching out to this community because I value the diverse experiences and perspectives we share, and I find myself in need of some advice.

Recently, I've been going through a challenging period due to some personal and family issues. Without going into too much detail, these challenges have started to impact my work performance and my ability to communicate effectively with my team, especially during on-call responsibilities. While I strive to maintain professionalism, I've noticed that my current situation has made it more difficult to manage my work communications as effectively as I would like.

I understand many of you have likely navigated similar waters and may have valuable insights or strategies that could help me improve my communication during this time. Specifically, I'm looking for advice on:

  • Balancing Transparency and Professionalism: How much should I share about my personal situation with colleagues or management to explain my current performance without overstepping professional boundaries?
  • Requesting Support or Adjustments at Work: What's the best way to ask for flexibility or support from my team or management, ensuring I can manage my responsibilities without compromising the team's objectives?
  • Maintaining Productivity and Focus: Any tips for staying productive and maintaining focus on work tasks during personal turmoil?
  • Self-Care Strategies: How can I ensure I'm taking care of my mental and emotional health, so I'm in the best position to perform my work and communicate effectively?

I'm committed to overcoming these challenges and continuing to contribute positively to my team. I would greatly appreciate any advice, tips, or resources you could share based on your own experiences or knowledge in this area.

Thank you so much for your time and for any guidance you can provide. This community has always been a source of inspiration and support, and I'm grateful to be a part of it.

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