Joined a data infra team but have low moments every week


I had hopes that I would become a better engineer by joining the team. Now I feel I’m becoming a pariah. I am losing sleep over it and don’t know what to do.

I’ve been a software engineer for almost 20 years. I’m 38 and my first job was at the same company for 15 years. The new company is different in many ways: they use slack, Google docs, aws, python.

It’s been a steep learning curve. First job was to lead a team of four as a technical lead manager. Project was halted after 8 months due to no fault of mine. I had a choice to stay and wait for new work on same team. I decided to try hand at individual contributor. Heck the reason I switched from my 15 year position was so that I could code more!

The new team is a infrastructure team. Every project on the team starts off exciting. But none have ended well…First project I tried many different ways, but alas all attempts were not working and I had to put it aside and do a new project. I believe it failed due to being in over my head and not getting the support I needed to finish it. I was too new to the team and didn’t grasp the problem I was solving and lacked skills to make any progress.

Next project worked with another junior colleague and we had a senior mentor. I took on picking a technology for the platform we we’re building and doing in depth research. Unfortunately the design documents I produced were not organized well and every member of the team had lots of questions. I spent so much time on it too. But I didn’t make strong cases. I myself didn’t know how to pick the right technology. After getting some help finally from the senior mentor, the technology choice was a bit easier to make. However, still, i feel quite shakey defending the choice. It seems overkill for the current use case and the defense that we are building a platform falls flat. Even some details that I thought I understood correctly were wrong. And it was quite embarrassing to find them out during a meeting with other senior members. I just can’t seem to grasp anything. My confidence is getting very low.

Then I tried to code up another part of the project. This was a bit better and I was feeling good. It was short lived.

Now I have been assigned a new project to revamp an existing system to lead and recruit a new member on the team. So far I have been trying to spend time understanding the problem space. It’s taken about a month or so, combined with other work. I spent considerable time looking at the codebase that exists for this project and that took longer than expected. I am having trouble sequencing the work and estimating the time it will take. Recruiting a new team member is also proving hard because I don’t have good small tickets. I haven’t written down the milestones yet or started a design documents. It’s due in a month. Somehow I was going to get it done, maybe be a week or two late. However, today my manager said he has been easy on me for the last year. But this project is my graduation present. A lot is riding on it and it should showcase a solid senior engineer work. If I can’t do it he said I might not be a good fit for the team. I feel extra anxious now.

Speaking to his manager about this proved even worse. She gave me extra context that I had to be defended a lot for the recent perf period.

I also did some presentation on the new project and both went pretty terribly. First was too high level…I didn’t know enough yet. Second one, my boss spoke over me and I lost control of the presentation. Both incidents made me feel terrible.

The thing is I am trying hard. However, I keep getting the lingo wrong. It takes me time to get it. My boss thinks as a senior engineer I should be faster…but I don’t know how.

I feel like calling in sick tomorrow and the day after…I feel ashamed to show my face and go to stand-ups each day.

Things are falling apart. I want to try to get the project moving but a part of me thinks it’ll be so painful to because whatever I produced will be terrible, picked apart and I won’t be able to feel good about my work. This is because of all previous projects so far.

I try to do small wins to keep my ego up…but the recent comments from my boss have just lifted the curtain and shown how low everyone feels about me.

Junior engineers tell me I lack confidence. That I should speak up more. But I feel scared to. Every time, I get off on the wrong foot. I keep trying to anyways but I can tell everyone thinks I’m dumb. Words come out if my mouth but it sounds like bs.

I had hopes that I would become a better engineer by joining the team. Now I feel I’m becoming a pariah. I am losing sleep over it and don’t know what to do.


I’m really sorry you’re in this position Munusen. I can’t speak to whether or not you’re being overly hard on yourself (it sounds like you might be), but I can say that I have tons of times where I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, or that I’m totally in over my head, or that I think that everyone thinks that I’m an idiot or completely unqualified or whatever.

But I guess the bottom line is that unless you’re actively being called out, the best you can do is keep on keeping on. You sound like someone who is like me - that you’re your own worst enemy. That you’re ruminating and thinking about this a lot and you’re coming up with the worst case scenario. But unless someone tells you that you’re fired or you’re on a personal improvement program, if you can try to take one step at a time, that’s all you need to do. That’s your job. Just one task at a time, and maybe things will start to look a little better.

I’m really sorry you’re in this position. Hopefully it turns around soon.