As my first job in the tech industry, I learned so much from my time at Dropbox. Here are some lessons that I took away:
You are in charge of your own career
It’s easy to become complacent in the role. It’s a comfortable place. You are in control of your career so learn to be uncomfortable in the role. Look for projects that will help you grow, interest you, and have a large impact.
Mentors are people that can help you up-level. I formally had two mentors through the internal program. My mentor was a tech lead and manager who were able to provide perspective from outside of my organization and from being in the industry longer. The other helped me grow technically as a front-end engineer. Even more valuable were the friends who I could ask complicated and basic questions and help me see challenges in new lights.
Put yourself in the shoes of leadership
In order to understand what senior managers are saying, you need to understand how to be politically correct. Learn to hear between the lines of what they say.
Know what is going on in the rest of the organization
I was fortunate to have come into the Growth when it was relatively small as an organization (< 20 engineers). When I left, it was around 50 engineers. As it grew, it meant that I knew people in all parts of the organization. At any point, I had a decent understanding of what projects were going on and what the priorities were. It helped me to frame how my work fit into the bigger picture and maybe where to redirect my efforts to make the most impact.
Ask repeatedly and consistently
During the time I was in Business Growth, there was a lack of projects that would help me grow to the next level and to make the jump to SWE. It was a conversation that I had repeatedly with my manager. I made sure to it was a frequent topic in our 1:1’s to make it happen.
There are times when I didn’t necessarily agree with my manager and co-workers. I learned to better deal with disagreement with grace and when to be vocal and which battles to pick. Many decisions are undoable, so let others go down their paths and seek your help.
Alignment with company values
At Dropbox, the five values were: Be Worthy of Trust, Aim Higher, Sweat the Details, and Cupcake. When Peregrine was published, it is key to understand how that fits into the new standards for the company. Know which ones resonate the most with you. Understand those values so well that it becomes the framework for your work and your annual performance review.
Have an circle of honesty
I had colleagues I could trust. Yeah, we joked a lot, played lots of pool and ping pong over long lunches, and listened to each other’s frustrations. These friends were the ones who helped me put everything else in perspective, and I wouldn’t have been able to get here without them.
Working with people
Build trust rapidly, iterate, and improve
When we moved to “squads” on my team, I started working exclusively with one PM. While our working relationship was not new, it was going to be much closer. I proposed that we have bi-weekly 1:1’s as a way to improve each other. From that, we were able to have meta discussions that were not about the work we were doing, but how to improve the work we were doing. It started with small things like clarifying the format of the specs so that we could produce error-free code. It was also large things like what kinds of projects should be tackle next so I could continue to grow as an engineer.
When I moved to a different team, I began working with a new PM and new engineers. It was critical to have these same conversations with the new team to figure out how to work effectively together. If anything, I started having these conversations too late because I spent so much time hanging out with old friends rather than new ones.
Ask the stupid questions
There’s a lot of assumptions which need to be outright agreed upon. I worked on a cross-team project where I assumed the other team would be handling certain tasks and they had assumed the opposite. Fortunately, we were able to get it back on track rather quickly. There were nuances in the implementation that looked straightforward in the beginning, but were critical for the analysis of the data later on, and I’m fortunate my PM was there and able to help sort those out.