How I got the highest rating at Meta
I finally understood what "focus on impact" meant and got the highest rating.
Even before I was a Staff Engineer at Meta, I was actively helping engineers accomplish more. I have been answering the question of 'how to get a higher rating' for a long time now. I have also talked about my projects, the ups & down and behaviors that helped me get higher ratings. Hence, I am sharing this broadly so that readers can get another data point.
I received Redefines Expectations(RE), the highest rating, once during my time at Meta. REs are awarded to approximately 1% of the company.
Ratings were given for the work you did in a period of 6 months.
I received the RE rating in H2 2017 after my main project in H1 2017 was cut three months later due to my mistake.
I am currently a Staff Engineer (E6) and a Tech Lead in core infrastructure at Meta. I was an E4(non-senior level) in H2’2017. Also, I was in my third half as an E4 and was also hoping for a promotion to E5 (senior level).
For those who are not familiar with Meta's rating, here is a quick overview.
Meets, exceeds & greatly exceeds are pretty self explanatory
Redefines expectations is a rare rating. It is awarded to individuals who make exceptional contributions to the company, and their impact is in the top 1% for their level.
Project - Typically, a medium-scoped project that runs for many weeks to a few months.
Team direction - At E4, you are only expected to set self-direction for your project.
People growth - This is mostly a bonus at E4.
My big mistake in H1’17
My main project was to develop a new API aimed at reducing memory utilization across the infrastructure fleet. I completed the code and had a rollout plan in place, but unfortunately, the other team decided not to adopt it.
The new solution could only work for a subset of usages. I had not communicated the nuances of this effectively to the other team. It was not possible to make it work and the memory impact wasn't as exciting as we had hoped. As a result, the upstream team had valid reasons for not adopting it.
I was upset by this setback.
At Microsoft, I worked on a desktop app. PMs handed us features/goals to build. So at Meta, I assumed if I was supposed to build X then it was an already vetted idea. I only needed to execute on it.
However, here in an infra team, I needed to reduce the cost of running infra and not just build functionality. I did not focus on the right “impact” metric. At that time, it was reducing cost.
For the remainder of H1'17, I was added to another project that would provide significant CPU improvements. This was a long-term project owned by our tech lead. It still had more than 6 months of work remaining, and I was supposed to assist in its completion.
This mistake reflected in the half’s feedback and felt disappointing.
RE impact in H2’17
I was committed to learn and not repeat my mistake from H1.
To explain my impact better, I will explicitly highlight the unplanned work that I picked up during the half.
[Planned] Got the company a huge (more than anything at the time) global CPU win across the infrastructure fleet. That meant a lot of $$$.
I led the project's safe rollout while the TL was on paternity leave.
I collaborated with multiple teams. This time I over-communicated and did it frequently.
Additionally, I went beyond my team's code base to resolve issues and unblocked the project several times.
[Unplanned] Our oncall members reduced to just 3 including me.
I was already comfortable with the team’s entire tech stack by this time. So it was not hard but quite stressful and impeding project work. I managed a few tricky SEVs very well.
[Unplanned] I spent a lot of time trying to understand what impact meant for us. I even found a few brewing problems. As a result, I had been working on a side project that would fix a rare overload scenario.
It so happened that a customer breached a cliff and the shit hit the fan. Oncall was a true firefight for two weeks.
I fast tracked this project and deployed my fix. That instantly eliminated the overload and made the system reliable under load.
[Planned] I was also evaluating the direction for the next big project for the team. I was comparing which approach would help us scale for the future. I came to solid conclusions that helped us plan the upcoming half.
Apart from that
I was ramping up new engineers on the team, and in retrospect, I had become a key member of the team.
I was our main point of contact (POC) for multiple teams. I was also driving/presenting parts of team-wide planning sessions.
Managed an intern.
Nervousness about the promo
My team got a new manager in H2 and given my boo boo in H1, I was very nervous about getting a promo to E5.
Imposter syndrome did not help. Also I had no real benchmark to say I was already acting as a senior engineer. So, I was not sure at the time.
Retrospective on this RE as a Staff engineer
I can assess my past performances better now than I did back then. The things that made a huge difference were (and what you can benefit from):
I learned from my mistakes. I focused on impact and internalized what it meant for the company and my team.
Core areas for impact were reliability, scalability, and maintainability.
I sought help in validating my prioritization model.
I embraced an ownership mindset, being proactive in identifying and addressing problems.
These traits helped me focus on building solutions for the right problems. However, I do think RE is a very hard rating to get. There is an element of luck in going from ‘greatly exceeds’ to RE. I was lucky because I
had a great TL who would encourage me to lead.
got to work on a project that had a huge global CPU win. These do not come by all the time.
My advice - don’t chase the RE. I believe it's important for people to learn how to do better. That way when the right opportunity comes along you have the right framework to get that RE.
Want to find your impact? While you are in the moment it can hard to see what you are missing. If you feel stuck or have suggestions please leave a comment.
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