Failed Google L5 SWE - time to give up SE

Amazon / Eng jNeo42
Oct 19, 2018 69 Comments

Didn’t get an offer, but never thought I’d even make it to an on-site. I think I did well enough to be liked as some type of Googler, and I think I’m ready to quit coding. Can anyone at Google suggest an alternative? I like business and customer needs, and also supporting engineers. There are solutions engineer types of roles and also TPM. Will I look desperate if I go back to my recruiter, acknowledge my defeat in this industry, and see if Google thinks I can parlay that experience into a non-SWE role? I don’t want to feel degraded, though, like an underpaid almost-SWE who’s treated like an intern.

I’m an SDE 2 at Amazon and I’ve sadly reached the end of the road on that one.

Note that this isn’t me desperately trying to get into Google, I know they’re not that great. I’d just like to find a way to transition from engineering to something similar, with a good company who values my past experience and potential. Unfortunately I cannot switch to Engineering Manager — it seems this can only happen within a company from an IC engineering role. I missed my chance for that at Amazon.

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TOP 69 Comments
  • Google / Product
    Urs

    Google Product

    PRE
    Microsoft, 500 Startups
    Ursmore
    Hey man. First things first. Keep your chin up. Take a deep breath and realize that you are better off than 99%+ people of the planet.

    Now lets talk this through. PgMs and SEs bring other 'softer' skills that you may not possess and/or may have a hiring committee question if you'll do well at Google if you lack demonstration/examples of that skill. I work with some world class PgM and SE at Google and while I am sure you can do their job better than them, you may get unfairly penalized due the hiring process.

    If you are unhappy at Amazon, and your final goal is Google, let me suggest another path.

    Take a detour. Go join a place that gives you the experience you need to be a PgM or SE at Google. Go work at a startup or a smaller company. They would love to have someone like you in their ranks. You would learn a ton. And guess what, in 3-4 years (and that is assuming if you even want to leave- because you are having so much fun) if you were to re-apply at Google, we would absolutely roll out the red carpet for you.
    Oct 19, 2018 5
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      Well, I do have lots of engineering experience at smaller companies. 1.5 years at Amazon *was* my warmup for a place like Google. I know Google is not The End, but I got caught up when it appeared that I had the chance. It’s not that I didn’t like Amazon, it’s truthfully a younger man’s game. I don’t want sprints where I’m churning out stories and giving daily updates, and having to constantly please SDMs who only believe in negative reinforcement. If Google is no different, then I guess I deserved to fail the interview because I would likely fail the job. But my understanding was that Google realizes that engineering succeeds by being able to breathe a little: Amazon does NOT. Amazon SDEs are treated no different from FC (warehouse) workers, the main difference is sitting vs standing & monthly quotas vs daily. Amazon SDE is a churn factory just like the fulfillment centers. Only we pee in bottles because Amazon was too cheap to spring for 2 men’s rooms on most floors LOL.
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Amazon topcoder5
      I disagree with you saying SDEs are treated as fulfilment workers. I think it largely depends on your team and manager. Some teams are run very bad, just to ship get promo and leave. But there are plenty of teams which think long term and don't burnout their workforce.
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      I’m overdramatizing a tad with the FC analogy — but not by much. In the eyes of Amazon as a business, SDEs are in fact piece workers. I don’t know what your tenure is, but I suspect Amazon more than any other salaried big tech company puts a price tag on every worker’s hours and expects a minimum return. You know, just like a factory. Or warehouse.
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Amazon topcoder5
      You seem to be in a bad team (or I have a good manager). I have been at Amazon for quite a while and can tell that our managers do care about folks, especially after a period when it was high churn. How otherwise they will run the business, if they burnout all their devs?
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      I burned myself out and my skip level didn’t want to deal with it. When he finally got a manager to take me over, he clearly told him to not waste his time with me and to get me out. I basically said the same thing at our first 1:1, though veiled. But SDMs have to see through our behavior and there was no other outcome. I just likely had to end up with an older manager who could figure me out, and I didn’t have that luck. My team was always exclusively younger Indian managers as well as the lead SDE 3 (no offense). The other newer SDE 3 seemed to like me quite a bit (non-Indian), but he wasn’t going to do much to save me. Don’t give me flak for this, because I’ve seen Indians on here say that they feel screwed by other Indians. I’d be a naive idiot to say that this was not a factor in my chain of problems. I was clearly a factory worker on that team the moment I made my first slip-up (whenever that was, because I wasn’t told).
      Oct 19, 2018
  • BuzzFeed / Eng
    0xdead

    BuzzFeed Eng

    PRE
    BuzzFeed
    BIO
    leet hax u fr00bs
    0xdeadmore
    +1. Curious of this, too, as I have an on-site approaching and anticipate failure.
    Oct 19, 2018 5
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      For SWE? If so, I’ll tell you what you need to do to prepare. I’ll find that link..
      Oct 19, 2018
    • BuzzFeed / Eng
      0xdead

      BuzzFeed Eng

      PRE
      BuzzFeed
      BIO
      leet hax u fr00bs
      0xdeadmore
      SRE, SWE track. 5 YOE.
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      See my comments here, it’s the secret sauce for the coding rounds:
      Check out this post! "Google interview (Career)"
      https://us.teamblind.com/s/0VFuPTut
      Oct 19, 2018
    • BuzzFeed / Eng
      0xdead

      BuzzFeed Eng

      PRE
      BuzzFeed
      BIO
      leet hax u fr00bs
      0xdeadmore
      Thanks so much!
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Axtria nyc!
      Yes, agree with OP's comments. I observed this too.
      Oct 19, 2018
  • New / Eng poRd04
    Why won't you stay at Amazon as an SDE2?
    Oct 19, 2018 13
    • New EVlp62
      Your manager didnt tell you about his expectations?
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      I had 4 managers. The one who hired me had inserted a first-time SDM who was freshly transferring from SDE 2. I was his first charge, while his title was also SDE 2 for the first few months (he’s 15 years younger with only around 5 years of eng experience, and only 2 of those at Amazon). That hiring manager left a couple weeks later. My new SDM left after 6 months, just as review season and OLR was being finalized. He submitted me as LE and left (I went on vacation the day after he announced and didn’t see him again), and my skip level had to deal with it and the dev plan. Then I thought I’d cleared that, but another young SDM was rotated in — and his first job was to get rid of me. It sucked so bad, at that point I was damaged goods and I couldn’t take it anymore. I eventually longed for a Pivot. What really hurt is that I really liked my team, I actually cried at the thought of leaving (more than once) because I enjoyed their company so much. It’s rare to be in a group of 15 engineers and actually care for them all as people and professionals (a couple of them less so, but that was only because I could tell they were primed to play politics whenever needed). Oh well, there go all my secrets. I’m a hot mess, no wonder I can’t get hired. LOL
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Microsoft Shanty
      Wow. Amazon sounds like a fucking terrible place. You interviewed at Microsoft op?
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      Not yet at MS — the recruiters are godawful, I’m convinced most are just bots. I gave up on that route and will contact someone I know there. One recruiter who did indulge me early this year had 2 things for me: one was a sort of Azure SRE role, and the other Universal Store. I phone screened for the Azure role but was disappointed once I learned it was SRE and not core dev, and that screener agreed I wasn’t a fit for that role but told the recruiter I’m otherwise a good fit for MS. She asked if I wanted to pursue Universal Store, and I nicely said god no because it’s the last thing I want after Amazon. She basically wrote back and said she could submit me for anything. And that was it. She never wrote back with any ideas. I apparently need to find the roles myself, so why do I need her when I can reach out to an actual employee. But I do need to page through the Senior SDE roles for some ideas, I have no idea what teams are in WA.
      Oct 19, 2018
    • State Farm / Eng 599
      Thanks for sharing OP. Sucks you’re going through all this hell when you’re a great worker. Your passion for working with your team really struck me because I also really enjoy working with mine (haven’t cried yet lol. Maybe when I leave?) Working with someone like you must be an awesome learning experience. Just goes to show that being loyal to a company doesn’t pay off.

      I’m sure you’ll be in a better place several months from now.
      Oct 20, 2018
  • New EVlp62
    If you couldn't be a SWE at amazon, why would you want to continue that role in another company?
    Oct 19, 2018 5
    • BuzzFeed / Eng
      0xdead

      BuzzFeed Eng

      PRE
      BuzzFeed
      BIO
      leet hax u fr00bs
      0xdeadmore
      Companies vary in culture and problem domain. A SWE at one company may work differently than a SWE at another.
      Oct 19, 2018
    • New EVlp62
      You really think so?
      Oct 19, 2018
    • BuzzFeed / Eng
      0xdead

      BuzzFeed Eng

      PRE
      BuzzFeed
      BIO
      leet hax u fr00bs
      0xdeadmore
      I know so.
      Oct 19, 2018
    • New EVlp62
      Haven't seen it myself so hard to belief. Idk how and why your ability code changes based on your circumstances at work. Otherwise, interview process should be more than coding as according to you, it is not the sole determinant of a engineer's success
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      It’s fine if I leave FAANG, I just don’t feel my work is done there yet. But I’ve also failed at, oh boy, Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Square, Indeed, Facebook, who else? Microsoft is all I have left. I can’t seem to find an interesting startup who’ll take me — my generalization again is a problem. I might need to just take a year off, hone in on one skill, and go from there. I just don’t know what that specialty is, other than my niche of financial business and engineering combo. I’d have to go back to NYC for that — and still refine that further. My disappointment with that is that I thought my Amazon experience would help me stand out there. But to my surprise nobody in NY gives a flying 💩 that I’m at Amazon. It actually seems to be a hindrance. I might have to downplay that experience to get back into that market. Which leaves me wondering, why in the hell did I move out to big tech in the first place? It has more than humbled me. Maybe that’s why.
      Oct 19, 2018
  • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
    OP
    I need to stop using this thread as my personal therapy, thanks everyone! Hopefully some of it is informative, especially my tips on the Google interview. Remember, immediately start typing comments and stubbing while you clarify. That way you can immediately start the real coding without much air time — because there’s none to waste. Then be ready for scaling it, some verbal and maybe some coded. If you have time go ahead and practice some hard problems. But your time is best spent on quickly pushing your way through ones which are easy (then graduate to medium). Plodding through hard ones will not train you for speed!
    Oct 19, 2018 1
  • Amazon nullval
    Why can't you be an SDM at Amazon? Not saying you should, and I'm too inexperienced to answer your question. I'm just curious what makes people stop from being an SDM and whether that'll happen to me too.
    Oct 19, 2018 1
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      See my comment in the response above — it’s too late. I played the game wrong and lost. I had a bad series of SDM misfortunes and that contributed to my downfall. People can say what they want about LEs here — but let me tell you mine is one of the most unfortunate in Amazon’s history, it was a complete waste of a talented person. But I simply could not recover from it.
      Oct 19, 2018
  • Qualtrics / Ops
    qualtricdo

    Qualtrics Ops

    BIO
    Came from non tech to tech.
    qualtricdomore
    Technical program management is where I would look if you have Dev experience but don't want to continue as a swe. We hire tpm's with that profile, but we don't sponsor. Let me know if you want to chat
    Oct 19, 2018 3
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      I considered TPM roles at Amazon, but I honestly wasn’t impressed by the few I met there. By “don’t sponsor”, what do you mean? I am a citizen.
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Qualtrics / Ops
      qualtricdo

      Qualtrics Ops

      BIO
      Came from non tech to tech.
      qualtricdomore
      I never know who is a citizen and who is not, so I throw it in there so we don't waste time if people need h1b.

      I've been pretty impressed by our tpm's. We have a staunch requirement that they know how to develop. I'll pm you so we can chat.
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      Thank you. I’m afraid I’m giving away way too much about myself, someone out there would be able to identify me. But at this stage of my career I’m less concerned about it.
      Oct 19, 2018
  • Intel / Eng pleb
    Hey, OP, this is one of the best threads I've read around here in a while. The other one with your insight and advice about Google interviews is the most spot on and detailed I've read. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with, us, youngsters. It clearly comes from level of maturity and self awareness rare to find on Blind.

    I understand you're in WA. Have you considered relocating to the Bay Area ? There are a lot of other large companies around here with good pay, even if not FANG level. I've seen here people from Oracle, Adobe, Cisco, VMware, LinkedIn making decent money.

    It's hard to recommend Intel when we're all scrambling to gtfo but there are people who get decent pay and WLB is definitely good. Maybe there's a chance your experience could be valued in one of these older, slower paced companies.
    Oct 20, 2018 2
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      Thanks for reading! I did just try for one SF role, which seemed like a near perfect fit, but didn’t land the offer. Spent a week there roaming around. I’m not attached to Seattle but did find SF less desirable than it was 20 years ago. I’m going to have to put my search on hold. I of course don’t expect to win them all, but that one was mine to lose and it’s a sign that I’m doing something wrong which needs to be corrected. I need to find some life coaching, and do some Toastmasters kind of stuff. And maybe teach a class. Trying to work out my kinks at interviews is tiring and is now costing me good opportunities. The same could be said to all of you — staying in the tech game isn’t just coding, you have to be good in many ways to land the better gigs at the super-senior level.
      Oct 20, 2018
    • Intel / Eng pleb
      Try to do mockup interviews when you feel like getting back in the game. There are people here who could help you with that.
      The higher you aim, the more networking it takes.
      Oct 20, 2018
  • Intel jitl17
    Fuck FANG. Go to a startup or a small company.
    Oct 20, 2018 1
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      It’s not any easier to land those. The same challenges apply.
      Oct 20, 2018
  • Google / Eng quix
    Wait, what???

    This is crazy talk. Google accepting or rejecting you does not mean anything. I would suggest you go back, do some more prep with leetcode and give Facebook, Uber, Netflix, Pinterest a try. Along with Microsoft and adobe.

    At the end of the day - if you make a decent amount of money without burning out - you are good.

    As for moving out of software engineering... why on earth would you walk away from the years of effort that you have invested in getting here?

    Just my 0.02$
    Oct 22, 2018 0
  • Square EHbt10
    FWIW I failed my first try at Google L5 with about 15 yoe, they had me reapply a year later and I got in. Some of it just comes down to whether you happened to get an interview slate that matches what you're good at.

    That said I agree that TPM is probably the way to go if you don't have management or team lead experience already.
    Oct 19, 2018 0
  • Deloitte diracdelta
    Do some cool projects, do research at a university in CS or chill and travel the world. After 20 years of corporate nonsense maybe it’s time to shake things up
    Oct 19, 2018 0
  • New EVlp62
    What's an IC
    Oct 19, 2018 9
    • New EVlp62
      Or IC is an actual type of role that is not SDE? Any of SDEs are ICs concurrently?
      Oct 19, 2018
    • BuzzFeed / Eng
      0xdead

      BuzzFeed Eng

      PRE
      BuzzFeed
      BIO
      leet hax u fr00bs
      0xdeadmore
      I’m saying it’s possible for an IC to want to switch professions.
      Oct 19, 2018
    • New EVlp62
      Then why cant a SDE switch role as OP says but only IC can. Are you comprehending my confusion?
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      I just updated my OP to state that the switch to engineering management (eg SDM at Amazon) only seems possible from your IC role at that company (eg SDE at Amazon). So, I can’t easily leave Amazon as an SDE then go to Microsoft and apply for an Engineering Manager there. It’s not unreasonable, just hard to do. The only way it may be possible is a startup might be willing if you interview well — but even then I’m finding that to be very difficult as well. There’s always a lot of managers looking, it seems.
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Bloomberg / Eng iVX372
      None of these companies need to know that you were terminated at Amazon, unless you are asked directly. It sounds like you haven't actually applied to any MS roles and are making excuses. Apply to several of the best fit positions you can find there, including SDM roles. Then email the recruiter with links to the job postings
      Oct 19, 2018
  • Google Ndzi
    Curious why you apply for L5? Have you asked if L4 is possible? That’s a better match for SDE2.
    Oct 19, 2018 3
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      I would have expected the recruiter to offer that, they leveled me as such. From what I’ve seen posted on Blind, Google would rather decline than downlevel. At least they will if you’re in the 20+ yoe bucket like me. When you’re older, the veiled ageism is that we are very much WYSIWYG — any red flag at all is huge because we’re not likely to respond to coaching like a younger buck would. My red flag is that I’ve been a generalist my whole career. I’ve done a ton of sh1t, but I can’t knock anyone dead with anything. I can with writing squeaky clean production-ready code and detailed technical docs/specs, but interviewing is about fast code first and I’ll never get to demonstrate those others in interviews.
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Google Ndzi
      Some time I feel our recruiter is not doing things right. I interviewed a L5 candidate few days ago, the candidate’s skill is so poor even for L3. I guess recruiter just let him target L5 given he worked 10+ years. To be clear, I never asked complicated algorithm like DP, and, never expect bug-free code in the first round.

      Anyway, for op, if you really need to find some place and interested in that, why not just ask recruiter if you can try other roles. You have nothing to lose. Good luck!
      Oct 19, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      I know where I went wrong in my interviews, I’ve written it up in this and the linked thread. I needed to clear my head and code faster. And for my 2 design rounds I needed to get to my solution with more confidence and less iteration. I could succeed in a month, but I’ll have to wait another year. My thoughts are that since I have to wait anyway, I could pass some time in a non-SWE role, and then try again from the inside. I already know being inside gives me zero advantage, I could still fail and remain in my non-SWE role. Eventually I could do it, I have the skills. Just need to wake my confidence up after a little more practice (using other people, not alone). I just didn’t have the time for that with this round. And like many others, I practiced for the complicated and varied scenarios which require the big heavy toolbox rather than more fundamental problems which can be quickly tackled with a travel-sized toolkit. Though you do need to restock that toolkit, which does take some time (but not much after you’ve refreshed from your notes — which you should have! — and did some online practice and some throwaway interviews).
      Oct 19, 2018
  • New / Eng poRd04
    Why don't you get retired? Haven't you piled up enough in 20 years?
    Oct 19, 2018 2
    • Microsoft AiehRwj61G
      👆🏽👆🏽👆🏽
      Oct 20, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      I know, I have savings but should have more (I underinvested that cash this past booming decade). I somehow have it in my head to go another 5 years or so. And I want to end on a high note, not the bummer endings I’ve been having through much of my career.
      Oct 20, 2018
  • Salesforce IdXz73
    Keep you heads up!
    Oct 19, 2018 1
    • Amazon / Eng jNeo42
      OP
      Thanks, but... then what? 🤕
      Oct 19, 2018
  • Microsoft AiehRwj61G
    Sounds like you would enjoy a Partner Engineer role.
    Oct 20, 2018 0
  • Okta Lgcr28
    Sales Engineer, or PreSales Engineer
    Oct 19, 2018 0