When there seems to be no end to ramping upFeatured

Hi X, I have a question.I've typed that sentence at least 300 times since I started my full-time job as a software engineer at Microsoft in September 2019. Every day, I have questions about the connections of multiple codebases, the logistics of distributed transactions, how to run tests for different endpoints, and the ways in which our multi-layer architecture communicates. I have questions. Lots of them. "It's not an easy team to be on. We have very hard problems to solve," my manager told me after I asked him about my performance and he assured me I was doing a great job. I did not believe him. Every day, I see my co-workers turning in pull requests at a faster rate, contributing to design conversations with deeper insights, and solving problems with incredible efficiency. There are days when I’m over the moon about working with such talented people, but there are more days when I simply feel that the distance between us is increasing indefinitely as I desperately try to reach for knowledge that only comes with time. "Time," I repeat to myself as I release tears of anxiety for holding myself to impossible standards. It is hard not to hold yourself to high standards when you are a Latina, first-generation American, and a low-income student whose family has nothing but absolute faith in you. My dad didn’t have the chance to finish elementary school, and my mom didn’t get to go to school until her teens. My grandma was constantly discriminated against for being indigenous. Their stories about their youth and even adulthood always leave me bawling because there were so many sacrifices, humiliations, and so much pain. When there has been so much suffering in your family, the only thing that you aim for is to be a light bright enough to dissipate the darkness that your loved ones had to go through to give you a chance at success. And yet, I needed to remain sane for my own well-being. I immersed myself into the past to look for patterns that might help me, and found myself on the same street of self-doubt that I had been stuck on for my first semesters at Yale as an undergraduate. I failed miserably during my first semester, and ended up with a sub- 3.0 GPA. I kept comparing myself to the super students that surrounded me, thinking about the velocity with which they went through problem sets and the insights that they offered in seminars. I remember going home ashamed of myself, crying to my dad as he struggled to understand what happened to his beloved straight-A student. What got me out of that hell? Bingo! Questions. “Am I as well prepared to be in college as my classmates?”Absolutely not. I barely started speaking English three years before entering college, my high school didn’t even offer physics, and I did not have the chance to learn math proofs since middle school. “How can I get help for the problems I have?”Holy moly, I didn’t know office hours in CS would help me understand concepts better!“Can the problems that I have be solved?”Yes, always. When the overwhelming number of things to learn in technology beats you down, when the voice inside your head preaches self-defeat, when tears cloud your eyes and your judgement, ask questions, lots of them. The answers will surprise you:“Have I worked with multiple massive codebases before?”No, I only worked with individual, isolated projects in my past internships, never with something at this scale. “How long have my co-workers been software engineers?”My co-workers have three years of experience at the very least. Heck, my boss has been at Microsoft for 10 years.“How long is the average ramp up?”My ex-boss said three to six months. My coworkers told me ramping up takes a year in our team, at least.Reach for the balm of reality and anoint it in your heart. And as a very honest friend would say, "Chill the fuck out girl, you got this!"
Love this! :) I was also a dev at Microsoft, and when I started I questioned my performance sooo much. Everyone on my team had at least 5 years of experience *at* Microsoft, whereas this was my first role with the title "software engineer". I totally agree regarding asking questions. Even if that person is a principal and has decades of experience on you, they are still there in part to be a resource for you. Like your friend would say, you got this!! And feel free to DM, I'm also in the Seattle area!
Great post! I have been at my current job nearly 3 years and still have soooo much to learn. I took a major hit to my confidence as everywhere I turned, nothing made sense or was super technical and there was no or outdated documentation. Not fun.Apart from lots of questions, understanding that there are things I will never know through and through, and learning to engage and lean on my teammates, was a challenge but ultimately helpful. everyone is in or has been in the same boat, remember that.
First of all you’re a great writer. And it sounds like your progress is epic compared to where you started off in life. I’m not an engineer but I can tell you that comparison is the thief of joy no matter what you do. Your rate of growth and learning is the only thing that matters, not where you are right now compared to other people who have been doing it for years. There will ALWAYS be someone smarter and more experienced out there. Tons of other people have been hanging out on the planet trying to do interesting stuff before us. But that doesn’t mean that what you have to offer isn’t still valuable. Your offerings are valuable in your unique way because of the unique life path you have had. So just keep going! Keep asking questions, keep learning. Learning is actually the only skill you need to become great at things, and as long as you have people willing to teach you you are in a good spot.
Chill the fuck out girl, you got this 2020. First gen in tech here, also started in September 2019, also felt this way, also needed to hear this today. Negotiating my role for the first time and I’ve been freaking out even though I prepared the last few weeks. Thank you for posting <3
Hi Jambrosio,You are a great writer! As a fellow software engineer, my advice is: think about what's your strength and weakness is, and choose the company/team that will let you shine on your strength. For example, you never worked at a huge 20-year-old codebase before, then choose a relatively newer team with a smaller codebase. And your ex-boss and coworkers are right, most new employees need 3-6 months to ramp up, and for some teams, one year is normal. You will get over this stage soon.
Great post! With >5 years of experience and a reasonably privileged background, I still feel this way all the time at my new job. Don't know if that makes new engineers feel hopeful or hopeless :P
Latina in tech marketing here. I think in many interdisciplinary roles or a role that is challenging me with a changing scope each day, week, month, quarter, I always feel like I’m still ramping up, like I’m still learning, like I’m pushing myself, sometimes feeling discomfort by not having a stable set of job duties, in which I understand the ins and outs and feel like an expert. Your high standards and desire to grow are intrinsically coming from you. That’s so amazing you have a desire to excel and make your family proud. For me sometimes the pressure I put on myself feels like a hamster wheel of never ending tasks and new things to learn and achieve. I’m trying to structure more time in my day with brain breaks to curb those feelings.
Fantastic post. Really well written. I’m sorry that you’re feeling you’re not there... you sound like you’ve really got it. Ask questions. Remain curious. After over 20 years in tech, on the mainframe, one of the things I love most about the job Is that I’m always learning. I’m still asking colleagues, some have more experience, some less but have different experience, questions daily. Keep learning. That’s the beauty of tech. Also, try to stop comparing your achievements against others.... that’s a sure why to deflate yourself.... just compare yourself against yourself - it’s difficult to get out of the habit of thinking such and such is better at x, y, z. Your questions - have they overcome the things you have etc - are really good so it sounds like you have a healthy way of questioning and resolving these things. You sound like you’re really doing ok, just not feeling it all the time. The very best of luck. You’ve got this abs it will get easier.
You're incredible, and insightful, and impressively smart. I'm an immigrant and a writer who's felt incompetent a lot in her life, especially coming from aerospace engineer parents, but has made English her career regardless. Sending you lots of love. We got this.
This post resonated with me a lot, and your writing is beautiful! I recently switched industries and the idea of a “ramp up period” has been really difficult. I feel like I should be on the same level as some of my coworkers, and then realize that I’ve been doing this work for less than one year, compared to over a decade for some of them. Thank you for the encouragement to keep asking questions to learn and grow!
You're a great writer and I admire you for being as tenacious and hard-working as you are!On a more tactical note, since I've personally struggled with imposter syndrome, it really helps me to take a step back and clearly define what is objectively expected in a role. While it's great that you want to strive towards your own standards, you should also be aware of the distance between your standards and the role x level expectations so that when time comes for performance review, you're not grading yourself much harsher than you need to be. Being aware of the objective expectations will also help you identify when your interests diverge from your day-to-day scope & responsibilities.
Hola, primero que todo, quiero decirte que no estas sola. Lo que estas experimentando es completamente normal y tipico de las experiencias que vivimos nosotros #firstgenrisers. No dejes que estas dudas se apoderen de tu vida y destino. Estoy aqui para apoyarte en lo que necesites. And by the way Love your post.