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I've been a software engineer for 6 years.

For the last 2 years I've been working for a US-based startup as a contractor in a Senior Engineer position (I'm South American).

The whole tech stack was new to me when I joined, and I made it very clear. The company didn't have any problem with it, as long as I showed good problem-solving skills. After a while, I got the hang of it and had nothing but excellent reviews from my last 3 managers (team rotation is pretty common). They were even pushing me to get ready for a tech lead position.

But this year has been a giant turmoil.

In January, the company pushed for a complete tech stack switch. We moved from using Camunda and AWS to mostly just Temporal, which doesn't have that much of a great learning curve.

Coincidentally, at the beginning of the year, I broke up with my girlfriend of 11 years, and my dad got cancer. He passed away shortly after.

Obviously, my state of mind hasn't been the best since.

2 months ago the company laid off 20% of its headcount, because of bad financial decisions. I survived it, but my manager didn't, so I got assigned a new one.

First 1:1 with him, I express my concern that the whole team is moving very quickly with the new tech stack, and I won't be able to catch up 100%, as I'm still grieving and having a very hard time. He says it's cool, and that we'll set expectations accordingly.

For the 7 following 1:1s, I don't receive any feedback at all, nor talk about any of the expectations he mentioned.

Today he basically unloaded a truck full of negative feedback, telling me that, even considering my personal situation, I'm severely underperforming in my role. For some, I didn't agree, but his main concern is that I'm still playing catch up with the tech stack and work culture changes. He basically let me know that I have to improve quickly, or I'm out.

I don't know what to make of it. He had 7 meetings to point out what he thought was wrong but didn't. I've already proven that I can adapt to a new tech stack when I joined, and I've been well-valued for 2 years.

I'm not saying that I shouldn't be pointed out if I'm doing something wrong, but why did it have to come to this? Why not point out things at the moment instead of letting them pile up until the situation is critical?

I know they are a startup and have to make money at all costs, but for a company bragging about being people-first, I think this is a crappy move.

My first idea is to play it cool, ask for concrete examples of underperforming, counterexamples to show what I should have done instead, improvement tools, and metrics to know how my progress will be tracked. Then just give the best I can without exerting myself given my emotional state, and hope for the best.

My second idea is going for idea number 1, but also bringing the matter to the head of the RD department, but I don't know if that'll just bring me more problems. He probably even gave the green light to do this, and that'd probably piss my manager off even more.

Third idea: I have enough savings to last for a whole year. I could just quit, dedicate time to take courses and certifications, and then come back to the workforce with a better set of tools and a clearer state of mind, but I don't know how good that'd look on my resume.

Thoughts? Advice?


I wrote this still in the heat of the moment. I talked to my pillow and my shower, and I think I found the best path forward. I wrote to 40 different recruiters I have as contacts in LinkedIn, and all of my ex-colleagues, to see if I can find a new job as soon as possible. If I land one before I'm fired, when they ask how fast can I join, I'll ask for at least a couple weeks. Then I'll immediately quit my job, and spend that time to cool off, and get finish the certifications that are more relevant to my new position. In the meantime, I'll do the best I can at my current job, and shake hands on my way out. Wish me luck.


Update: In case it's of any use to anybody.

I crushed my PIP. I came up with a plan that my manager modified to his expectations, and I overachieved it. He said he never saw someone come back that strong from a PIP. Not that I believe much of what he says now anyway.

Was it worth it? Not entirely sure. The market is down, there are so many people for so few offerings. I interviewed like crazy, but haven't got anything yet.

The stress of aiming to pass the PIP & interviewing, combined with the grieving almost put me on medication. I get to collect a couple more months of paychecks in a place I now resent, with a Manager I resent even more, until they need to reduce headcount again.

So the extra runway to get a new job is nice, but I'm tired and day to day working in a place I don't fit in anymore. Do keep in mind that you'll probably feel the same if you choose to try and pass a PIP. Looking back, I feel like any outcome would've been equal in pro/cons balance.

When I passed, I got an email with something along the lines of "Congratulations! You are doing so much better than a couple months ago!". You don't say? A couple of months ago I was scattering my father's ashes you moron, thanks for nothing.

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    @JoeStrazzere I didnt mean idea 1 or 2 as to argue Im a good performer. Its clear they think they I am not. What I'm saying is that the only clear expectation is my handling of the tech stack. I just know they think Im doing bad, but I have no feedback, no goals, no plan for improvement, nothing. I want to at least have a clearer picture for whatever short time I have left. And Im not intending on leave on a rage, I dont want to burn bridges. But I do feel like an off time could do me good, instead of getting another job immediately
    – ThMad
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 15:30
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    @JoeStrazzere I didnt mean a literal flip off lol, I'd never do that. I've been educated to shake hands and thank your boss when leaving, even if you want to punch his face. I have plenty of funds, but yes, I'm giving it some hard thought.
    – ThMad
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 17:39
  • Does this answer your question? Surviving a PIP with no earlier warnings
    – keshlam
    Commented Jul 5, 2023 at 18:09
  • @keshlam not quite. My work environment isn't THAT hostile. At least not yet. I'm supposed to bring my improvement plan to a meeting tomorrow, and at this point I'm expecting anything. I have 4 interviews next week, so my plan is to put up with whatever crap they throw at me.
    – ThMad
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 19:58
  • Health should be your top priority. Breath deep, take things easy and move forward. You mention you have some savings. Here's my advice: Don't immediately start with the new job as you mention in the question. Take at least a month off between jobs and dedicate this time to you. If you like travelling consider visiting some new place and disconnect completely from work (no courses, no Linkedin, even no phone if possible). Charge batteries and start the new job fresh.
    – Elerium115
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 9:25

2 Answers 2

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Generally when a situation becomes untenable you start looking for a better situation. This has all the signs of a failing startup.

There is no need to flip fingers and be unemployed. Just soldier through with your head down until you can land another job. A one year cushion is a very nice asset, don't waste it.

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    Im seeing it as an investment. There are many certifications I'd like to get, but I simply dont have enough time with my daily responsibilities. Quitting, and taking a couple months to enlarge my resume with more and better technical skills is looking tempting, and could maybe help boost my career a bit.
    – ThMad
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 4:19
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    Not a bad idea if you think it necessary. I got all my certs while working full time, so unsure if it's necessary, but your mileage may differ.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 6:13
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    Personally, I would advise against getting certifications, not because they're useless (some are, some aren't), but because it seems like a cop out to me (no offense). I'd suggest using time out to get your head straight. Then get a job that works for you, when you're able to fully focus on it. Good luck, and sorry for your loss
    – bytepusher
    Commented Jul 5, 2023 at 22:49
  • @bytepusher Thanks for your condolences. I can't be offended because I didnt understand you. A cop out of what?
    – ThMad
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 19:49
  • What I meant was: Instead of taking a break and facing your problems, you do something that seems useful (getting certs), rather than getting a job. I suspect (but can't know) that it'd be better for you to overcome the problems, then get a fresh start. Rather than end up half-assing, ending up with some certifications, but still underperforming for the same reasons. OFC, you have to know that for yourself, it's impossible to diagnose that from afar
    – bytepusher
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 21:34
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Not sure how much a random stranger on the internet can help. But it does sound that you have been struggling to learn the new tech stack... So he does have a valid complaint against you.

That being said:

2 months ago the company laid off 20% of its headcount, because of bad financial decisions. I survived it, but my manager didn't, so I got assigned a new one.

It is likely that your company is still going through hard times.

I don't know what the make up of the new team you are on is, but if they were a team before the purge then you are being prepared as the sacrificial lamb when the next purge occurs.

Regardless I would start looking for somewhere else before the ship sinks (as 99% of startups do).

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    Totally, the complaint is valid even tho there's a reason for it. What doesnt seem valid to me is not mentioning it nor providing any guidance for 2 months, and all of a sudden putting me over thin ice. He even told me I have to come up with an improvement plan myself alone. Isnt that supposed to be his job?. Like you said, it just looks like they are prepping the guillotine.
    – ThMad
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 4:30
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    @JoeStrazzere Never said it did, nor I think it's a bargaining chip or anything. All I'm saying is I take responsibility of my shortcomings, not my manager's.
    – ThMad
    Commented Jul 1, 2023 at 16:17

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