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Ryland @ Stackbit
Ryland @ Stackbit

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A Guide to Career Growth by Facebook's Director of Engineering

In 2009, as a new grad, Raylene Yung started as an engineer at Facebook.

In six years, she went on to help scale Facebook from 700 to +10k employees. Then she did the same at Stripe from 200 to 1500.

Here are her engineering career growth tips (for new engineers to org leaders).

Raylene Yung Engineer Leader

Top 3 lessons thru every stage:

1/ Strive to be the most valuable, but least critical.

Early on Yung got paged constantly.

She had become the sole person to fix a job. She learned that being the lynchpin is a drawback. So her goal became — be extremely important, but not a failure point.

In other words, think about how long you could be away from your team and how far off course they would get. Do everything you can to close that gap.

2/ Want to succeed as a manager? Establish emotional equilibrium.

As an individual contributor, Yung believes you don’t see the full picture of the ups and downs managers deal with.

So she sketched this chart as a visual metaphor.

Life of an engineering manager

3/ Focus on growth and learning at every step — not quickly climbing the ladder.

Yung believes management and individual careers (IC) aren’t strictly parallel paths.

But to have flexibility, you need to learn to break down large problems & DELIVER on technical projects.

If you can do that, you will enable yourself to choose any career path later (IC or manager).

Software Engineer Career Path

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For New Devs,

Yung outlined these three moves as ones that knock early engineers off-course:

  • skipping engineering fundamentals to pivot into other roles prematurely.
  • moving on from a team or company too quickly.
  • chasing the latest trend.

Instead, as a new dev, she said to lean on these two tactical, guiding questions:

  • how can I make every code change a great one?
  • how can I be as good at [X] as [this person] on my team?

For Technical Leads,

Yung said they should focus on three growth-focused questions:

  • do I deeply understand the systems I work on, and how they can break or be improved?
  • how do I know we are working on the right things?
  • how can I build better people leadership skills?

She mentioned that people can get trapped as a domain expert here. To keep that from happening consistently ask yourself:

  • how do I keep learning & stay challenged?
  • how do I continue to show value when I’m starting over in a new area?
  • how can I transfer knowledge to the people around me and lay out a strategy for future generations?

For Engineer Managers,

Yung's advice is to consistently ask yourself:

  • how healthy is my team? How high-quality and high-impact is our work?
  • how well can my team operate without me?
  • don’t default to adding more engineers.

Instead of increasing headcount, ask:

  • why does my team exist? And why does what we work on matter?
  • how can I help my teammates grow across all experience levels and scenarios?

And for Organization Leads,

Yung's advice is to continual question youself with:

  • what unites your teams and why are you supporting them together?
  • are your teams as healthy as they can be? Are they even the right teams?
  • am I spending time with my teams in the right way?

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I'd love to hear your take on these tips, especially from people who've been through a few of these career stages.

The article did take me a while to unpack. So if you enjoyed please share the thread.

Till next time!
-Ryland

Discussion (4)

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halldorstefans profile image
Halldór Stefánsson

Awesome summary! Thanks 😃

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rylandking profile image
Ryland @ Stackbit Author

of course. cheers, Halldór.

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kethmars profile image
kethmars

Great points. Shared in Twitter.

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rylandking profile image
Ryland @ Stackbit Author

right on. thank you for the support, Kethmar. appreciated