Tech Leader Chats: How to build a fulfilling career path for your engineers with Rahul Pandey

Title of talk with photo of speaker

We’ve all been there – you want to be there for your team, but you end up pushing back 1:1 meetings because there’s a lot on your plate. Or your team member wants to practice a particular framework but you don’t have any upcoming work that would let them do that. Or you’re heading into a career development conversation and trying to figure out how to share some tough feedback.

At the same time, a regular piece of feedback from individual contributors is that they’d like their managers to provide more support for their career development..

So what’s an engineering manager to do? How can we help our teams build fulfilling careers while juggling their asks with all the other work on our plate? And how do we balance their development areas with completing the work that needs to be done? Doing this well will not only help our team’s satisfaction and morale, but also support our own progress in our organization – but it’s easier said than done.

This talk will provide concrete tips to help you do better in supporting your team on their career development journey. We’ll talk about strategies to:

  • Make time for 1:1s – even when things get busy!
  • Focus 1:1’s on growth & development (not work)
  • Balance between improving weaknesses versus cultivating strengths
  • Design a roadmap for growth and allocate work across the team so everyone gets the right opportunities per their development goals
  • See and nurture potential in tricky situations, e.g., if the individual lacks self-confidence, when you need to give hard feedback, or if the upcoming work isn’t aligned to someone’s desired development areas

About the speaker
Rahul Pandey is on a mission to help software engineers learn and succeed. He is the Co-founder & CEO of Taro, a platform for engineers to get expert advice from industry leaders and part of the Y Combinator Summer 2022 class. Previously, Rahul worked at Meta and Pinterest, and he developed curriculum and taught at Stanford, CodePath, and via his popular YouTube channel.

How to build a fulfilling career path for your engineers

See below for:

  • Key takeaways from the talk
  • The recording and slides
  • Resources noted in the talk
  • A transcript of the talk
Key takeaways
3 ways effective managers put their engineers on a great career path

Expand & change perspectives

Ensure 1:1s are awkward

Help find the "zone of genius"

Recording and slides

You can view the slides from the talk here - and see below for the full recording



Transcribed by software, please forgive minor errors.

James Dong  0:04  
Okay, everyone heard the mechanical recording in progress. Right?

Great. Okay, so

let me share back my screen again. Okay, can everyone see my screen? Okay again.

Unknown Speaker  0:19  
Awesome. Great. Well, welcome.

James Dong  0:21  
Welcome so much to another tech leader chat. My name is James, I'm with multitudes. We are a startup based in New Zealand. And we provide ethical analytics and automated recommendations to help engineering teams improve both their performance and their well being. This series that we are hosting is called tech leader chats. And basically, it's a community of engineering leaders who care not only about performance, but really deeply about people and about how people are working together. And so as part of this, we invite leaders in the tech community to teach us so that we can all learn from one another. Today, we're really excited to have Rahul Pandey come and talk to us about building a fulfilling career path for your engineers. If you don't know Rahul is very prolific on the internet, and I first found him through hundreds of his YouTube videos. And they're all about the same theme of how to you upscale as an engineer. And he's also the co founder and CEO of Taro, which is a startup that helps engineers level up by connecting them with industry experts. So it's really clear that he has an abundance of knowledge and information to share about this topic. So really excited to have you here. Rahul, thank you so much for coming. I'm gonna go over just really quickly, the plan for today, we're going to do the first half is going to be the presentation, and the q&a from Roku, feel free to drop any questions as we're going into the chat. And then for the second half, we're going to do breakouts into small groups. This is something if you're if you're not new to our tech group chats, you know, it's always really fruitful for folks to share with each other what they've learned, and then really get some ideas for something they can start implementing next week. So with that, Rahul, I'm gonna let you take it away.

Unknown Speaker  2:11  
All right, thank

Rahul Pandey  2:13  
you, James. And Thanks so much everyone for for joining today. Like James mentioned, the goal is I want to provide a brief presentation, which I hope will be really value packed. And then as you have questions, we can either interrupt me or we can take them at the end and excited to talk more directly with many of you in those breakout rooms. So I shared my screen, I'm realising now that I'm in California, and so it's July 12, over here. But I believe that's actually July 13, in New Zealand. So for those of you over there, I apologise. I have very California centric view of the world. Sorry about that. But what I want to talk about is, many people here are going to be on the NS Leadership track, right? You're managing a team, you're leading a team, somewhere between three and 30 people, or more. And so what I want to talk about is based on my experience, having been a tech lead manager, and now also running thairo, talking to so many engineers, what does it look like to provide a fulfilling career path for the people who you interact with? So James already gave a great intro, let me quickly just provide some context on why I feel like I have some meaningful opinions to talk about in this domain. I started out graduating college, I went to a tiny startup, I was a founding engineer, employee number three at a startup, which got acquired by Pinterest, it was Aqua hire. And then from Pinterest, I went to Facebook or now called meta right? And so I kind of had the small company experience. Pinterest, when I joined was our 400 people, medium company, and then huge company. When I joined Facebook in 2017. I've been both an IC got a staff engineer. And I also transitioned into energy manager. So I feel I can empathise with both of those very different career paths. And like the intervention, I also care very deeply about teaching and how can I take my experience and also the experience of other people. There's so many smart people in the world. And I certainly don't claim to have a monopoly over all the wisdom of how you can grow in your career, but really taking that knowledge from my network and what I've experienced and sharing that with whoever can benefit. And so that largely manifests through YouTube and other platforms like LinkedIn. And eventually Chara, which we'll talk about in just a minute. Also, for about two and a half years, I've been teaching at Stanford, a course about mobile development, because I primarily do Android, like mobile dev in a lot of my past life as a engineer at Pinterest and Facebook. So if you have questions about that, I'm not really gonna talk about like content creation or like the specifics. of what I've worked on. But I'm always happy to share. If any of you are interested in that, just feel free to DM me anytime. And I can talk more about that. But I talked about this passion for teaching. And that's really what led to starting tomorrow, a year and a half ago. And the whole premise, like James mentioned, is really how can we accelerate the growth of software engineers?

Unknown Speaker  5:21  
And so, through

Rahul Pandey  5:24  
joining the company, I've had the privilege of talking to literally 1000s of engineers, through our free community and our paid community that we have in Tarot about how they think about career growth. How do they think about having a fulfilling career path now and also two, three years from now as they continue to develop their career, and I'm going to share some of those insights with all of you today. And I can kind of think about my work and tomorrow in a couple different buckets. One is how can I deliver feedback to these engineers on different situations they're encountering and deliver really tactical? How to so like, I have this specific situation in evaluating project A and project B, what are the different frameworks that you can evaluate them, right? Like very tactical advice, that way, we have masterclasses from very talented people in tech, talking about what they've learned. And then I think another big part of it, and I'll talk about this in a bit more detail in just a minute, is, I feel like a lot of the value of a coach, or a mentor or a manager really ends up being not so much. Okay, let me answer the question you have, but also opening your eyes to what are the types of questions that you should even be asking.

And I think a lot of the value, when you're leading a team is, how can I

provide the opportunity for you to learn? Right, not just me giving you all the answers, right. And so I think a lot of what I view my role in tarot, and I think what a lot of us here should be thinking about is, how can I build that muscle among the people I work with? I want them to be curious and excited and figure out what questions to ask on their own. Okay, so three buckets to what I want. What I want to talk about in the next 15 or 20 minutes. First, I want to talk about this idea of awareness. And how do you I think that's a critical ingredient of actually having a fulfilled team or fulfilled career track is just knowing what does a future look like in this job I have. The second part is one on one, which I think are the fundamental underpinning of really having an effective relationship with any report. And then third, is managing a team, right? I mean, of course, we want to help every single person on the team at the same time as the engineering manager or injury leader at a company, you are responsible for delivering impact. And that means that you have to not only take into account each individual relationship, but how does the team work together? And I have a couple of comments about how to distribute your time and how to think about the allocation there appropriately. Okay. So starting off with this idea of awareness, I think that the prerequisite for a fulfilling career fulfilling job is understanding what is available to me. Right, this idea of awareness of where what could my job look like, six months from now, or two years from now or even longer, right. And I think a lot of people, when, especially if they're early in career, they just graduated with their computer science degree or, you know, their, whatever degree they they had in university, they come out, and they kind of just say, Okay, I'm gonna do what's told, Do what is given to me, it's going to, for lack of better term, be the code monkey, and it's going to put my head down code and do that blindly. And it's no surprise, if that is your attitude that within a few years, you kind of burn out or you get sick of that career or job, because you don't can't see beyond that. And so I think a lot of our job as an effective leader, effective manager is showing people that, hey, your job will evolve and change. And it should change actually, if you're doing it right. And I think, not just talking about it, of course, it's important to talk about, like, what that might look like and have a slide about that. But I think it's also critical to offer examples of that. So if you're in a big company, there'll be no shortage of examples of people you can point to and say, Hey, this is a person who has climbed a ladder and is at a very senior IC position. Here's an example of a person who's a director of engineering, or whatever the path may look like. But I think it's really important to have real life examples that people can more clearly connect to, right people connect to people, they don't connect you. Matrix of here's my responsibility at different levels, right. Okay, so this is a screenshot I grabbed from a blog. I'll leave a link for it. It's not original. But I think this is a really good mental model that many of us have in the tech industry about how does career growth work. And one thing I want to comment on is that when we talk about a career path, there's many ways to interpret that. Right? It could be doing front end work back end work doing machine learning work, right? That's like the domain of work. It could be the industry, like, I want to be a career expert in health tech or clean tech or, you know, social, right? You can also think about it, who is the actual user of the product and building right? So there's a lot of ways you could conceive of, what does my career look like? The reason this typically works is it's agnostic of all that, right. So it's applicable to everyone, when you talk about seniority levels, and it's a pretty good way of documenting okay, what are the options available to, to people, regardless of you know, where they work, or how many years of experience they have. So typically, you come in as a junior, you have a fairly methodical path to getting to a terminal level. And typically that terminal level is senior. That means that there's not really an expectation to go beyond that you're independent, people trust you and you're getting worked on. And that is where it really starts become a bit more interesting. On Do you want to go down the tech focus track or the individual contributor track, I see track, or the other option is, you want to go down the people focus track, right, the management track, and you have different titles that are typically called on the IC letter staff principal distinguished, and on the people ladder, you have manager director VP, and some companies have like, SVP, senior vice president. And so one thing to comment on is that many employees will actually toggle between those two paths. So it's not like you pick one, and you're stuck on that. And that's important to comment on or to call out, because I think some people have this fear of decision making of if I choose to become a manager, I'm gonna lose all my technical skill. And it is true that if you're a manager, you likely won't be coding as much day to day. I'm sure all of us can empathise with that feeling. But I think it's also worth calling out that it's a two way door, right? When you think about decisions, there's one way door. One way doors and two way doors one way is like you made that decision, you can't really easily come back, like if you want to marry someone, you should be pretty sure that it is the person who I want to spend my life with. But if you choose to become a manager, keep in mind that you have the ability, it might be a little bit challenging, but you have the ability to go back to a different career path, to go back to the tech ladder. And, in fact, I would argue that the people who go into management and then go back to becoming a staff engineer, for example, or they're a principal engineer, they go back to, they go into like the management track as a director and they come back, they often have the most empathy on what does the parallel track do, and they can then become more effective at their job. So it's not a failure mode to go between the two. In fact, I would encourage people if they have that doubt on which one they want to end up with, to do both. So how does that manifest for you tactically, as a leader in your company, what I'd recommend is that when you talk to someone on your team, who's curious about how should their career change? What I would want you to do is present the different options of what does it look like to be a staff engineer at this company? What does it look like to be a manager at your company, and that, of course, will change depending on how big your company is? What are the needs of that company. So for example, at a startup, you likely don't even have a notion of a levelling system, right. But if you're at Mehta or Facebook, there's a very, very clear descriptor of, hey, here are four different axes of engineering progression, we call them impact direction, people and engineering excellence, like the you know that that'll depend on the company. But at Facebook, there are four ways of evaluating engineer. And you can actually have an example of, hey, here's what it looks like to be a staff, Principal, etc. And I think it really is incumbent upon the management team, so many of you here to have those concrete examples of what that looks like. And then once you have that, then it becomes much more, you can actually ground to the conversation with your reports in a much more tactical way. Rather than just talking in theory about okay, here are the pros and cons of being a manager or being a

Unknown Speaker  14:15  
staff engineer.

Rahul Pandey  14:21  
So one thing I want to comment on is that when you

Unknown Speaker  14:24  
are coaching a team, it's also

Rahul Pandey  14:27  
important to realise that the needs your job as a manager will also change depending on the seniority of the person. So this is a generality, but I think it is mostly true that the path to becoming a senior engineer is more methodical in the sense that for most companies, the definition of a senior engineer, is that okay, I can trust you to do high quality work on time. And you're gonna get it done. Right. And so, if you are working in the industry for somewhere between five and 10 years, you usually will over Time gets to the point of seniority. I think where things start to become other I talked about this earlier, senior engineer is referred to often as terminal level, but there's no real expectation to go beyond that. If you don't have a desire to, which is also totally fine, there's no need to get promoted every two years. If if you don't want to, once you get to senior, that's where I think it becomes a lot more varied. How to think about where which direction you want to go in. And this is where you have to really start to think about what does the individual want? And what are they good at? And you can work with them to figure out what does it mean to still be happy and fulfilled a year from now, I think the reason this is important is that if you're coming in as a junior engineer, and they want to be a manager, it's worth kind of setting the expectation that being a manager requires a deep level of trust, and also some technical competency, right? It's hard to prove a technical competency unless you've gotten promoted once or twice on the IC ladder. That's how most companies operate. And so if the junior engineer wants to become a manager, the way they're going to be set up for disappointment, unless you have that conversation with them, say, hey, right now, you're six months into the job, the best thing you can do is do good work on time, high quality, build up that reputation, and then a year or two from now, we can actually have that conversation on what does it look like to become a manager, if that's what you want? And the other thing, too, is, I think what I have found talking to people on tarot, and otherwise, is that oftentimes people don't know, what does the job entail. And I was in that camp, like when I was 22, when I graduated from university, if you asked me, What does your manager do all day, I honestly wouldn't have been able to tell you, right? And so some people have this notion of like, I want to be the manager, I want to be the director, and they don't really know, what does that job even involve. And as they become more senior, they start to understand that a bit more. And they can either choose, okay, actually, I do want that more, or maybe my priorities have changed. Okay, one tactical thing I want to comment on is that when you think about the quantum, the timeline of career planning, I kind of put it in three buckets. It's very granular, what does my career or my job look like in six months, in two years, in five years? So my opinion is that it is most helpful to talk about things at the six month time horizon and a two year time horizon. And I'm not saying you shouldn't talk about what does life look like? What does the job look like five years from now. But what I have found after again, having done so many of these calls, is that it's really not that helpful. It really doesn't. When you talk about the most effective managers, what they have a really unique skill at doing is changing behaviour or changing, changing the perspective of people. And if you spend most of your time talking about here's what you should do five years from now, here's where you you want to end up five years from now, that very rarely becomes actionable. Right? I think that in five years, so much of the world will change, like who the person I am, and what I want in life might change, the company will certainly change, right? Especially, you know, the tech industry is largely about high growth, rapid evolution, expand, expand, expand. And so the needs of the company will change in five years. So for you to think that you can forecast ahead and have this role nailed down. And this is where you're gunning toward. It's not realistic. And the whole world might change, right COVID will happen. You know, there might be some world event that triggers a different need in the company or the software or you know, something that happens. And so I really feel like as a manager, you should focus most of your conversation on okay, what are you planning to do in six months and two years, and even if the person who you're talking to wants to talk about here's I want to be, you know, the next Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg 10 years from now, I really don't think those conversations are that helpful. Okay, second part is about one on ones. So I think one on ones are super, super important to really ensure that the people who you are working with have a fulfilling career. And one way to think about this is that meanings are really the purest usage of the most valuable resource for all of us, which is time, like, literally, when I have a one on one with someone, it's like a 30 minute calendar block for both of us, like you're literally taking up time for both people. Right. So I think it's important to realise that there's a lot of value in that. And my argument is that the vast majority of people are under utilising

Unknown Speaker  19:31  
their one on one with their reports.

Rahul Pandey  19:36  
And so even though you should consider the one on one is extremely valuable, it's also important to realise that one on ones are the cheapest type of meeting in the sense that you know, the worst meetings are where you have 30 people and someone is droning on about some topic, which no one really cares about and you're wasting everyone's time. Those are super expensive. So on the that's one end of the spectrum, the other end of spectrum is what we're talking about here one on ones we shows that they are quite cheap and that there's only two people. And that allows you to do things that are a bit more personal, a bit more intimate, that really unlock more growth. But I think it's important to have it have the realisation that there's a responsibility here, because you are using up this really valuable resource, which is a time for you and the report. So, what I'd recommend is that with a one on one you really want to be focused on what do you want to get out of this conversation? And that comes from both your goals as the manager, like what do you want to have? What do you wanna communicate and who the feedback or what you want to communicate in terms of what they should be working on, along with, it's a two way street, right? If your employee is not talking to you in the one on one, you're doing it wrong, right.

And what you want to

achieve is that after you've had a recurring set of these one on ones, you want to have a real conversation. And I'll define that in a bit more detail. But you want to actually have this more intimate relationship with,

with each of your reports that leads to growth and vulnerability. So

the thrust of the argument I want to make here, which is why I think people are really doing one on ones incorrectly is they're not having awkward one on one. And just I can't claim credit for this. This is a guy named Mark Rob gent, who was a very senior leader at Facebook, who wrote this article. I mean, it's basically regurgitating what he talked about. But it really resonated with me in the sense that the one on one is such a valuable meeting, because it's the two of you talking about how things are going. And the argument that he's making is that your one on ones should be awkward, you should be talking about things that you're uncomfortable talking about, for example, feedback to improve, how are you feeling I'm feeling afraid of this project, or I feel like I'm not being challenged enough. And I want more, or I feel like you're not giving me the type of work that I really want. That's the kind of thing that it's hard to say, but you actively should be spending your time in one on ones talking about that.

And here's an extreme way of phrasing that.

If you have a 30 minute one on one with someone, and everything you say and one on one you could have had in the cafeteria with your team sitting around you, and no one would have

Speaker 3  22:20  
cringed, then my argument is that you're not doing it correctly. Like you should be having

Rahul Pandey  22:26  
some conversation, some portion of that conversation should be something where if someone overheard you, they would be kind of squirming that, okay, that was a little bit awkward, or you're talking about the performance of someone else, you're talking about how this person felt uncomfortable. That is exactly what you shouldn't be talking about in a one on one. That's really where the growth happens, and you have harder conversation. So what does that mean? I think that in terms of the one on one, you should be meeting regularly, having that recurring cadence is super important to make sure people are engaged and you can understand their needs as they evolve over time. One of the most common frustrations that I hear from people on the other side of the table, like the junior engineer, and mid level engineer who's talking to their manager, is that they'll say, my manager, messaged me 20 minutes before my one on one, I said, Hey, I have nothing to talk about this week, I'll go ahead and cancel the one on one, you have nothing on the agenda. And I can't tell you how frustrating that is. For people who really want that interaction, even if they don't really have anything concrete to talk about, it's so critical to actually show up and have the meeting. And of course, if there's a fire to put out, maybe delay that meeting. But I think there's very rarely a good thing to completely cancel a one on one, you should have that as a commitment to your entire team, that you are available and you'll meet with them on a regular basis. One thing that I tell people is that when if your manager is cancelling on you a lot, then it's incumbent upon you to have an agenda. And that agenda should talk about what is the on your mind for that meeting. And it should be written down somewhere. And so that way, if I know that, okay, James and I are having a one on one, and he wrote down, here are the three things I want to talk about. It's much harder for me now to cancel, right? Because there's like something that's actually talked about. And so that's a protection mechanism that I tell people to use. But really, I think that as a manager, you should be the one having the agenda, and making sure that people are coming in with some idea of how this conversation will go. And I think having it written down is super important, because it will number one act as a artefact of what you talked about. And actually, you can follow up on and number two. As a manager, you're going to be going back and reviewing what people did every six months or a year. And so having that written down, running Doc is going to be super valuable for you just to track. You know, what were the different growth areas. What happened, what were the incidents that you can comment on. So one other tactic I want to share here which was effective for me when I was at face Work is teaming the one on one, right? I feel like sometimes it can feel daunting, okay, I have another 30 minute one on one, which is supposed to be awkward, I'm gonna come in, I'm going to be prepared for something a little bit uncomfortable. So it might help desk team. And what I mean by that is you could have, okay, every sport one on one, ie every month, we're going to have a conversation about one of the four different axes of growth. So at Facebook, you get four different dimensions on how engineers were were evaluated, you could say this, this upcoming one on one is going to be a competition only about this particular dimension. And that way, you can kind of vary it and still have these awkward conversations, but they're more kind of thematic. Ly designed. Another example is having one which is okay, we have performance review coming up in two months, let's have a dedicated one on one just for talking about how that

Unknown Speaker  25:47  
might go. So the conclusion

Rahul Pandey  25:52  
here is I thought one on ones are essential. And I think that so many people screw it up by either cancelling it or having, you know, Hey, how's that project going? And I think that there's so much more that you could do in order to really connect with your reports. And doing that consistently, is, I think the leading indicator for people who are happy in their, in their career in their jobs. And the final few slides I have here are about zooming out a little bit and talking about managing a team.

Speaker 3  26:22  
And what I want

Rahul Pandey  26:25  
to talk about here is this really interesting insight, that impact when you think about a team is not evenly distributed, right? So if you think about bucketing the people on your team as the top third, middle, third and bottom third in terms of performance, then my argument is that your time should be barbell shaped, meaning that the majority of your time should be spent on the top performers and the low performers. Because that is really where the majority of impact negative or positive is coming from. Right. So one thought experiment is when you think about your team, the top third, middle third, bottom third, how much impact are the top 30 people have? And the answer is that it's not likely to be like 40%, it's a little bit more than 33%, I would argue that for the majority of software teams in the world, the top third of people will contribute 80%, the impact, the vast majority of impact will come from that small group. And then if you look at the bottom third, their impact will be zero, or maybe even negative. Okay. And so I think that as a manager, if you want to maximise the impact of your team, that is really where you should be spending the majority of your time the people who will contribute the most and the people who are negative on the team. And I'm not saying that medium and low performers should be neglected, they are able to contribute, but it takes your time and thinking about how you can actually get the medium performers to get to high performing right with the proper coaching or resources or help the low performers not be a drag on

Unknown Speaker  27:53  
the team. Okay, and then the other

Rahul Pandey  27:58  
way of thinking about this is when you are thinking about each of your reports, as a team, as individuals who make up the team, you want to think about strengths and weaknesses, right. And so at Facebook, they had this, like the kind of guideline from the HR team was that, as a manager, you should try and make sure that for your reports, 70% of the job is enjoyable. And that's kind of interesting, right? Because I think a lot of people, they come in and say, Okay, I want I want my whole job to be super fun. But that's a that's not realistic, right? There will always be in every job parts of the you don't enjoy. And so I think having an actual number on it. It's actually really, I mean, it may or may not be correct, it probably isn't correct, but just having that as a benchmark, it's okay, how am I doing this week, in terms of the percentage of my time which I actually enjoyed. Or maybe another way of framing it is the percent of my job that I felt challenged. And I think those two things are often linked, if you're not being challenged, you're gonna be bored, and that's not gonna be fun. And so, if you feel like you're having high impact work, but just so boring for you, then as a manager, you should observe that and then coach your report to delegate that work. And that's, that's quite hard, especially for someone who is comfortable, you need to tell them, hey, I want you to be uncomfortable I want I give you permission to delegate that and it's okay if it doesn't get done as well as how you get it done, because you're delegating it. But your job should be more challenging, you should be going on to larger and larger scope, that is how you get long term fulfilment. So I think this is like one framework to think about, which is, you know, how much of your job is enjoyable or challenging. The other framework, which is what this picture is referring to, is thinking about your job in terms of different activities in four different buckets, which is zone a zone of incompetence, competence, excellence and genius right there are certain things that you're not good at incompetence there's certain things which you can get by at competence that certain things but you you actually quite talented that excellence and in the top box Get is zone of genius. And what that means is things that you're you're uniquely good at. And you'd love to do, right? So this something which it looks like work, but for you, it feels fun, it feels like play. Right? And having that conversation with each of your reports as well, is what did you enjoy in the past three months of work? What What if you could reflect and allocate your time into these four different buckets? How would that work? How

Unknown Speaker  30:26  
would that look for you?

Rahul Pandey  30:28  
And what you want as a manager is there should be at least some work in the zone of genius, right? And then your job should be? How do I give my report more work of that type. And if you can do that consistently, not only will you have a very, very high impact team, you're also gonna have a tonne of loyalty to the company into your team, that is going to lead to a really happy and productive, like fulfilling career because you know, the point of what we're trying

Unknown Speaker  30:56  
to do here. And again,

Rahul Pandey  31:00  
similar to kind of the career frameworks model that I showed earlier, that graph, this is coming from someone smarter than me in this domain called zone of genius. The book is called The Big Leap. So we'd recommend checking that out if you want to learn more about this. Okay, that was all I had in terms of the main content. I just want to wrap up by saying, I literally spend about 20 hours a week just talking to engineers or managers about how can they do better? How can I help and so I can be helpful for you, I'd love to connect with anyone here. The idea with Tara, like James said, is that we're trying to build a software engineering career guide, with really vetted high quality advice from people like all of us here, who have experience who can really give high conviction opinions. And people can decide once they have the opinion what to do with that. One way to think about it is I want to make the job of any manager easier by having a kind of canonical set of classes that people can benefit from, that your reports can learn from and benefit from, and it makes your job much more focused on how do I really personalise my feedback or coaching for this person. And a lot of the low hanging fruit Toro can take care of case studies and tactical advice. And I really want this to be helpful as like a level playing field for every engineer anywhere, regardless of how much support they're getting at work. I want this to be something they can rely on. And so if you think I could be helpful, I'd love to hear from you. I'm Rob

Unknown Speaker  32:33  
Thanks, everyone. Awesome.

James Dong  32:38  
Thank you so much, Rob. Oh, there's so many so many gems in that my favourite takeaway that I wrote down was the awkward turtle, because I've never heard of that before. But you're so right, that a one on one should be kind of cringy. Because you are talking about some really heavy conversations about what you're feeling about work. So we have some time for q&a. I would love So Paul, I see you've written a question there. Would you like to unmute yourself and share it?

Speaker 4  33:03  
Yeah, so in my situation, there's no framework for what a good engineer looks like. What's a good angle to start approaching it from and to get the conversation going and figure out if like, what the essence of what will be the development and we could focus on those and measure those? When there's nothing like that. How do you start? Yeah, yeah. So

Rahul Pandey  33:25  
I think it's a great, great question, because just to underscore your point, Paul, that is the starting point for literally every company. Right now, Tara, we're a tiny team, we're, we're four people. And so of course, there's no notion of like, okay, here's a senior engineer, here's, here's like a director, we have no director, right, like, the team is so small. And so when when companies get to the adolescent phase, what I call the adolescent phase, where they're big enough to have some structure, that is finally where they start to introduce that structure. And usually it comes too late. And so just want to call out that this is not a unique problem. Everyone has to avoid initially, if you're at a small company. And so my short answer is just blindly copy it from an engineering organisation that you respect. And that won't be perfect, like so for example, Dropbox has an open source career framework for what does it look like to be a junior mid level senior staff level engineer at Dropbox. And so rather than trying to invent it on your own, which, you know, is fraught with difficulty and like a single perspective that me or you have had, what I'd recommend is start with the dropbox framework, or whatever framework that you pick up on like a mature company, and then modify it for your needs. And of course, your company is gonna be very different from Dropbox, I'm sure. But that can be a good point to at least start with, and then you can modify as needed. Right.

James Dong  34:47  
And then, Tom, if I'm saying your name correctly, do you want to come off mute and then also share your question?

Speaker 3  34:54  
Sure. Thank you. Thanks for who you mentioned the terminus stayed for four seniors? How would that work then? Like, once someone has switched at stake in terms of like, pay increases? Or? Yeah, yeah, things like that. Yeah, I mean, I think that. But obviously, if

Rahul Pandey  35:17  
you get promoted, you got a much larger compensation increase compared if you were at the same level. But if you stay at the same level, and by the way, companies like Google or meta, there are people who have literally been at the same level for eight or nine years, because they choose like, I actually have talked to a friend, who was a staff engineer, which is, you know, the level of of senior, and he, he was offered the promotion to go to senior staff. And he turned it down. So I think that the reason he turned it down is, of course, your scope and responsibility will increase at each level. And that can lead to more work hours and more stress. And so he actually didn't want that. And so it's fairly common for people to stay at staff level or senior level for many years. And Your pay will still increase. But typically, in that mode, your base. So typically, you know, there are four parts of compensation, you have your base salary, your equity, you have an annual bonus, and you have a sign on bonus, that's how big tech will operate. And so the base salary you get will just keep up with inflation, typically, there'll be like, go up, maybe four or 5% per year. So that'll continue to go up. I think how people usually make money, or increasingly, increasingly large amounts of money, if they're at a plateau, like they say the same level, is you have to rely on the company that you work at, to grow in value. Right. And so what that means is, if you've been at Google for 10 years, even if you stayed at SR for the whole time, the value of Google stock has gone up probably 3x or 2x, in 10 years. And so even if you're getting the same amount of equity investing every year, that is going to, you know, continue to increase in value for every every year that you've been there. And so that's typically how, you know, you can still rely on your pay increasing.

James Dong  37:08  
Great. And then Jason, did you want to ask your your question about real examples of career paths? And then that will be the last question.

Speaker 5  37:15  
Yeah, sure. Thanks for the talk. I really liked the example of when trying to give people like examples of real world Korea pause, like someone else who has already done it. But one situation I found myself in when when trying to address those is some reports do that themselves and say, Hey, that person has been working the same amount of time as me at this other big company? How can their senior and I'm not? And I've found that is a difficult conversation that I've tried to drill in more and with varying success, what's your opinion of how to kind of approach those topics?

Rahul Pandey  37:49  
Yeah, yeah, I mean, I think that's a really good call out in that comparison can be very valuable, because it shows you what's possible, it can be a way to, again, open your eyes and increase awareness, right, there is some value in kind of poking your head up out of the sand and looking around at the same time. You know, that expression? I think it's something like comparison is a thief of joy, right? So it's also like a bad thing, where it's like, oh, my gosh, that guy, you know, in my world, startup entrepreneur, that oh, that person has raised a huge series A and I'm stuck over here like, doing doing okay, but not great, right? So it's again, like, that person is a senior engineer in two years, right? How did he get promoted so quickly? First, I'm stuck here, working for four years, and still not seeing or whatever it might be. And so I think that as a manager, I think it's always worth calling out two things. It sounds like an example that you cited, there's actually a entirely different company that that person was working out that the report was talking about. And so that's a huge Delta, right, though. promotion rates at Google are going to be objectively slower compared to promotion rates at a medium sized company, right, because presumably, the medium sized company, if it's growing rapidly, is gonna have more scope, more work to do, compared to if you're at a mature part of Google, there is simply not as much hair on fire problems, right, there is not as much scope to go around. And so that's like, one thing to call out is I hate every company is different, every company is gonna have nuances and how they choose to promote some companies are very by the buck in terms of tenure, hey, if you haven't been working for two years as a mid level, don't even think about promotion. Whereas a company like Facebook, actually, one of the things I appreciated was that they were actually very willing to promote people rapidly. If they felt like your peers and your manager were supportive. So like, within a year, you get promoted from mid level to senior if you really knocked out of the park. But that's the kind of thing that you have to call out to the different people who you're working with. And even within the same company, I think that a lot of people who compare their performance to another person, they look at the surface level, which is oftentimes like, Okay, what level are there, right? That's the most obvious manifestation of career growth. But there's so much that goes on behind the scenes in terms of what project did they end up getting? You know, how did they get the work done? It's not simply a question of impact, but also, did you earn the trust of the people around you as you achieve the impact that becomes increasingly important as you become more senior? And so I think it's worth calling out that, hey, there's a lot more complexity that goes on behind a performance evaluation beyond just, you know, how much did you increase that KPI by having just, you know, calling that out? And, you know, making sure people are aware of the differences between companies between levels between projects is a good way to mitigate a lot of a lot of that anxiety. Alright,

James Dong  40:34  
awesome. Thank you so much. I'm gonna go ahead and stop the recording.

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James Dong
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