Working the Performance Review System as a Senior [Software] Engineer

1. Stop worrying so much already!

Nobody gets to be a senior engineer in one instant; it’s not like you were walking along minding your own business in college and all of a sudden out of the clear blue sky you had a senior engineering job. These things happen gradually. What you have been doing to date has obviously been working so keep doing it. Seriously, I’m very sure you didn’t suddenly become an idiot when you were promoted. Quoting basically every Disney movie, but especially Moana : “Remember who you are!”

2. Stop expecting every review to be your best ever!

There are no senior engineers who can say “this is the best half I have ever had” every half. It just doesn’t happen. You will have great halves, you will have ok halves, and you will have meh. This is totally normal! The fact is that if you’re completely consistent you probably are not taking enough risks to maximize your impact.

3. Stop expecting people to tell you what to do!

If you’ve made it this far there is a very real expectation that you understand your business. You’ve worked hard to earn that expectation.. Do not go back to your old ways of asking your boss what is important! While that’s still a part of what needs to be done, it can no longer be the only part.

4. Trust what you know!

You did not get here by accident, and while you certainly still have a lot to learn (who doesn’t) you have wisdom in the bank. You may be put in new, challenging situations, in fact you almost certainly will be if you’re doing it right. When that happens, remember the sage words of Mr. Miyagi: “Trust the quality of what you know, not the quantity.”

5. Impact those around you and be impacted!

One of the most important things I do is to try to keep a balance between Learning, Teaching, and Doing. These things are all very synergistic of course, but even though it seems obvious people frequently fall into the trap of not doing all three. In fact, like so many other things, you know you have the balance between these things about right when you feel like none of them is getting enough time…

6. Think about your output like you would a portfolio!

This next point is probably the most important of all. The surest way to get consistent results year after year (or half after half) is to have an assortment of projects on the go. Some will be fairly simple and can be delivered quickly, some will take a little longer and require help from a few people, and some should be much longer term and maybe be not even delivering soon enough to be recognized for whatever your upcoming review cycle is.

7. Don’t sweat other people’s success!

Results vary widely and are situational. You will drive yourself crazy if you are worrying about the success of others. But if you keep investing in yourself and others… well it’s pretty hard to fail like that. You may feel like an imposter some days… but that’s ok. On other days you’ll be leading with dignity and poise. Helping others to be as great as they can be.

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Rico Mariani

Rico Mariani

I’m a software engineer at Facebook; I specialize in software performance engineering and programming tools generally. I survived Microsoft from 1988 to 2017.