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Background:

I joined my current workplace about 6 months ago with 4 years of experience. I'm a software developer (relevant for examples). I definitely was a case of "2 years' worth of experience two times" rather than the usual 4 years' worth of experience due to my previous workplaces heavily discouraging growth (which is why I kept switching jobs).

So at my current job, it took me a little more time than most new employees to get up to speed. In addition to context-specific knowledge that I didn't and mostly still don't have, which should take time, I learned an entirely new programming language and had to pick up their development cycle strategy whereas my previous workplaces discouraged learning new languages or using any kind of development lifecycle. My managers agree I've done a great job learning this stuff so far and getting up to speed with producing valuable output.

However, I'm a little concerned about how my pull requests are handled sometimes. Due to the work I'm focused on, pretty much one manager always looks at and approves my PRs, and it's the same one each time. And I usually feel like the amount of "hand-holding" he does on the PRs is a little excessive and worrisome.

Examples:

He will add tasks to the PR for things such as "getting the pipeline to pass." However, it is readily visible that the pipeline must pass for a PR to be approved, and I've been through this song and dance quite a few times. Sometimes the pipeline behaves differently than my machine or I forget to satisfy a couple requirements, but I always fix the pipeline right away if it fails. I don't need to be reminded to do this, and yet my manager seems to think that I do.

Likewise, I've had two people now advise me to squash my commits. I always, always, always squash my commits. I am very worried that I am perceived as someone who will not squash my commits unless directly instructed to do so.

Reason for Concern:

I'm concerned about this because I think that there can be a psychological effect to constantly reminding a subordinate to do something. If my manager is constantly reminding me to do basic junior-level things like squashing my commits, I am concerned that he is going to internalize this and when my performance review rolls around, he is going to report that I need to be reminded to squash my commits even though I always have done this even without being reminded. Even if I am not forgetting to do these things, he perceives me as someone who needs to be reminded.

Possible Solutions:

I have started gently but firmly affirming when I already know something or have already done something in in-person conversations with this manager in an attempt to reshape his perception of me. I keep the tone upbeat and friendly but I try to avoid "letting things slide" that I already know. I want him to know that I have learned and picked up knowledge along the way.

On the pull requests, I have considered writing comment replies such as "FYI I always squash my commits," but I'm not sure how to phrase this without sounding arrogant. My company is VERY outspoken against arrogance in the workplace to the point it is also a significant component of our performance review.

Also, and some of you may not think this is relevant but it probably is, I am female in a company that is almost entirely male and I am the only female engineer I ever interact with. So something I say could be perceived very differently from something a male colleague says with the same language and tone. I try to be mindful of this without straying into "fawning" territory which can also be a big turnoff. I am not saying this because I have some kind of complex (I really love my job and workplace) but rather because I know I need to navigate this a little more carefully than a male colleague might, and any female readers might have tips specific to this.

Final Question:

How do I reshape my manager's perception of me without coming across as arrogant?

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    Is it just your machine that behaves differently to the pipeline (and do you know why it does) ? Oct 13, 2023 at 14:35
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    Just respond "Thanks, I know, I always do" and ignore it. This may not be directed at you; it may be a general reminder. Gods know I try to remember to squash but sometimes forget, and a poke is appreciated even though it shouldn't be needed. There are hills worth dying on, but I don't think this is one of them. (I really miss the Git server where there was an option on the merge operation to squash, in case the author hadn't. Much more effective than pestering people.)
    – keshlam
    Oct 13, 2023 at 15:03

2 Answers 2

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Regarding the squashing issue: Was this two people, multiple times, or two people, one time each? Either way, it sounds more just like offhand remarks to make sure you don't forget. Low cost to remind someone, but can take an annoying bit of time to undo a commit that wasn't squashed and make sure nobody ended up pulling the unsquashed-merge main branch. If you really want to get ahead of it, you could even just branch and squash your commits before your PR (keep the original branch for making changes, and squash and replace the PR branch when you do). Then nobody can tell you to squash, and if they do then you can say "I already did, but thanks for the reminder!" which is both friendly and affirming your knowledge and preparation.

Pipeline issue: You have reasonable excuses for why it happens, but they're still excuses, and there are ways to prevent it. Work with coworkers who don't have the problem to figure out what the problem with your local environment is. Manually run the pipeline on your branch in github/gitlab/whatever before you PR to make sure it works. Put the PR up marked as a draft first to let the pipeline run and then take it out of draft when it's ready. It just sounds like your coworkers are apathetic to your struggles and simply want you to do things their way/the right way, period. Not that that is right of them to do, but it's something to overcome either way.

It's impossible for us to know if the comments you receive are warranted, due to overeager teammates, due to sexism or bias, or something else. The only way you can definitively solve your issue is to be absolutely on top of everything. Then you will have solved the concerns of accurate comments, and left no room for unfounded criticism. This is the only way to reshape your manager's perspective. No responses to your manager or coworkers saying "I already know" will improve things, and in some cases those could even make things worse for you.

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    This is a great answer and I appreciate the tip to squash before the PR so that no one can even see the "ugly commits" to remind me. I also like the tip about the pipeline. I didn't know about draft PRs yet and it didn't occur to me to manually run it before making the PR because other people make PRs with pipeline problems and don't seem to get all the reminders. I will definitely put this stuff into practice. I just want the vibe of "hand-holding" to stop without having to say something and draw more attention to myself. THANK YOU!
    – ribs2spare
    Oct 13, 2023 at 16:47
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    @ribs2spare If the reviewing manager is someone with whom you have regular 1:1s or other check-ins, consider making a habit of asking "Is there anything you'd like to see me improve about my performance in general?" It's a good discussion to have with your direct manager regularly anyway, to avoid being surprised come review time; plus it's a good way to gently suss out whether there's an actual issue here - esp if you do everything this answer suggests and still see the hand-holding.
    – thatgirldm
    Oct 14, 2023 at 14:16
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    I would add that it is also possible that OP received these comments because it is company policy/ culture/ habit to give these comments to everyone. It is just easier to remind everyone frquently than to occasionally have to fix it if someone forgets. Nothing specific to do with OP.
    – quarague
    Oct 16, 2023 at 9:45
  • Thanks @quarague, some of these comments/answers seem to be implying that I must be lying about squashing my commits or something because the only reason this could happen is if I'm actually a horrible forgetful employee. I mean maybe I'm really lacking that much self-awareness but...I have always squashed my commits, long before anyone reminded me to.
    – ribs2spare
    Oct 16, 2023 at 12:26
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I think you can have this conversation directly with your manager without it coming off as arrogant. In your next sit down with him, I would reiterate the points you made in this post:

- You appreciate how helpful your managers have been in catching you up to speed with the fundamentals that your last job ignored

- You feel as though you've been doing a good job since you've been at this job, and your managers have expressed as much

- While helpful at first, you find the reminders about little things to be unnecessary now. No need for words like condescending or anything, avoid any language that could be taken as an insult. Just gently express that you can manage commits and pipelines without reminders now and would feel more confident if he let you do so.

I would also keep an open mind that these comments may not be specific to you. You can ask him if he reminds all his developers about these things, and if so then you can stop stressing about it, and if not then he should have no problem no longer doing it for you.

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    "No matter how strange it may look, most people are actually trying to be helpful." - Gerald M. Weinberg Oct 14, 2023 at 0:26

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