It's mid-June, which means that my company has started our 360 Performance Review period. June is dedicated to requesting peer reviews and writing self-review, peer reviews, and upward (manager) review, and in July we'll be receiving our downward reviews and discussing the feedback with our managers.
Over the last week or two, I've spent some time working on my self-review, which meant reflecting on how the last six months have gone for me. I'm someone who often focuses on the negative and things that go wrong, so I was pleasantly surprised to easily discover things that I was very comfortable listing as "hits" and successes that I had this year. Here are some of those hits:
- Successfully completing some work on our company's backend/platform codebase (which I wrote about a few months ago). This work involved me setting up a new codebase on my computer, working with a new IDE (which was not exactly a walk in the park to set up), working with a framework I had never worked with before, and writing some code in a new language. While I struggled with the work a bit, ultimately I was proud of myself for doing the work and starting to acquire a new skill, and it was a great success with which to start off my year.
- Contributing to our inclusivity work. At the beginning of this year, my team did some work to increase inclusivity on our platform, including increasing gender options and adding the option for a preferred name. I am proud that I was able to contribute to this work, as I think increasing inclusivity and helping everyone to feel comfortable on our platform is one of the most important things we did in the first half of the year.
- Making significant contributions to two new features launched by my team. In the first quarter of 2020, my team was committed to launching two new features. Originally this was intended to be done with a team that included four front-end/fullstack engineers (including two senior engineers), but thanks to some special projects and changes at the company (all good things), we wound up working on this as a team of two front-end/fullstack engineers - a mid-level engineer and a junior engineer (aka me). I know that my teammate and I stepped up to meet the challenge and for a few months I was doing the work of a mid-level engineer (with my teammate doing the work of a senior engineer). This was a big and scary challenge, but also one that I enjoyed, and I'm hoping that as part of my performance review my manager recognizes this work and how much I contributed to the features we launched during that period.
- Constantly learning new things. I went into this job wanting to learn many new things, and while I have occasionally felt like I wasn't learning much, I know I have learned a great deal. In fact, I've shared some of my learnings from my time at the company, including blog articles about Typescript and hooks in React-Router, as well as presenting my knowledge on a new technology we had adopted to the rest of my team. I know I still have a lot to learn, but when I reflect on the past few months, I know I've learned a great deal and I am very proud of that.
While I'm proud of my successes in the last six months, I can't look back at the last six months without acknowledging some of my "misses" - the things I could have done better. I'm trying not to spend too much time focused on what I did wrong, but I do think it's important to acknowledge my mistakes so that I can begin to learn from them. There are two big misses that I am truly hoping to learn from:
- Struggling to communicate with my team. While I felt like I was communicating okay with my team when things went well, when I started to struggle, I was unable to communicate with my team about my struggles and frustrations. Without being able to communicate with my team, I couldn't get their help with resolving my difficulties. I did eventually speak with my teammates about a particular issue, and it helped me feel more comfortable with the idea of sharing my frustrations with them, but I know I still have a long way to go with my team communication skills.
- Allowing myself to take steps backwards in my career growth. This was a tough miss. For a few months, when I was working as part of a smaller team, I felt like I was growing at a rapid pace. I was taking on new responsibilities, and I felt fairly comfortable in those responsibilities. But when our team size grew, instead of advocating to maintain the same level of responsibility, I allowed my responsibilities to be scaled back, and that led to a lot of frustration. At this point, not only do I feel as if I have not grown in the last month or so, I feel like I've "demoted" myself. While my manager and I are working on a way to help fuel my growth, I do need to acknowledge that I could have advocated for myself better and I need to do that in the future.
There was one particular project experience that I know I need to acknowledge, but is hard for me to categorize as a hit or miss. My company's app is divided into several different experiences, and until this project, my team had only really worked in one experience. One of our big projects for the second quarter of 2020 was to introduce our product into a different experience. I had never worked in this part of the app before, but I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to take on something outside my comfort zone and learn something new about the app. I wanted to become comfortable working in this new-to-me part of the app, and so I volunteered to take on tickets relating to implementing our project in this experience and took it upon myself to learn a bit more about the patterns used in this part of the app. Based on both what tickets I worked on and the final product of my work, this should be a "hit". I took on a project that was outside of my comfort zone. I completed the project without significant help. I became the "expert" in that part of my team's work. But every step of the way it felt someone was telling me that I did something wrong, and so much work has been done since to refactor this work (even though we all originally agreed that the way I was doing it was appropriate), which makes it hard for me to see this as anything but a miss.
I've struggled a lot with how to feel about this project. I contributed in a very significant way to a new feature and volunteered to step outside my comfort zone. This should be a hit. This should be one of my biggest accomplishments of the last six months. But I can't see it as anything other than a miss, and it has negatively impacted my work. Because of this experience, I don't trust myself to take on new responsibilities, I'm not sure I trust my team, and some of the things that happened during my time working on this project contributed to my decision to move to a different team at the company (although it was not the only factor or even the primary factor). Going into this project, I wanted my work to be a hit, and the fact that it feels so much like a miss has really impacted my confidence and my experience with my team.
I struggle a lot with performance reviews (particularly when I have to review someone else's performance), but I do appreciate having had the opportunity to reflect on the last six months. I've discovered that while I have had some struggles, I've had even more accomplishments. I'm very proud of what I've accomplished so far this year, and while I wish certain things had gone differently, I feel that I am in a good place to have a successful second half of the year.