Wren Howell
January 23, 2022

Red Flags to Look for When Looking for a New Team

Posted on January 23, 2022  •  3 minutes  • 521 words

It is a new year with a competitive job market and plenty of people looking for new roles. Recently, I was in a Twitter space where participants and I talked about red flags to look for when joining a new team. The following are a few we identified when looking for a new team. In no particular order, here they are.

  1. Managers that do not have technical experience.

This applies to people who are relatively early in their careers. At the start of your career, your manager will have a critical role in your development, if not the most crucial role. They will be the ones that will help you become a better engineer and help guide you where you want to go. So if a manager doesn’t have any technical expertise or has limited expertise, they will struggle to coach you in the right direction.

  1. Lack of a diverse set of team members.

If you are interviewing for a company and there is no person of color on the team, that is a sign for you to look elsewhere, especially if you are a person of color. For instance, if the largest civil rights protests in recent history, sparked by the public lynching of George Floyd, could not improve the team’s hiring practices, I do not know what will. There are better teams you can join that will value you. Look for teams with people with diverse backgrounds, career changers, and those who do not have a traditional four-year computer science degree.

  1. Expertise is pigeonholed, and the team’s Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)are too ambitious.

This tends to happen more in small teams that do not have enough engineers but can happen in any team. This is a situation where one engineer or a couple of engineers do most of the work to meet the team’s OKRs. When there is not enough time for the other senior engineers to train or teach you, you can end up working on projects that have limited impact. Alternatively, if you get assigned meaningful tasks and get stuck, the other superstar engineers will be unable to assist because they are too busy. A method to avoid this is to look at the team’s composition of engineers. A team with more principal/lead engineers than junior engineers could be a symptom of this issue.

  1. Your health is not prioritized.

This should go without saying, but we are still in the middle of a pandemic. If you cannot take days off when you do not feel well mentally or physically, move on to a team that better supports you.

  1. A mentor that expects you to know things.

Bad mentors, like bad managers, will significantly affect how you work. We all have had senior engineers that do not help when you ask questions, do not seem invested in your growth, and have a bad attitude when you ask for help. This contributes to diminished morale, reduced motivation to work, and significantly impacts your self-esteem. When interviewing for a new team, make sure to ask your future mentor, future manager, and future teammates how they promote a learning culture.

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