So, today is my last day @ Yieldmo

November 07, 2017

Today, I bid farewell to my fellow Yieldmates.

It is bittersweet since this group is composed of a talented bunch which I am sure will achieve their vision to make mobile advertising more engaging and less invasive.

Previously, over my two years spent at Axial, I grew from a front-end engineer shipping their first mobile app (thanks Ionic) to a technical team lead. It had been an invaluable opportunity for me to grow personally by helping other engineers get a better sense of their career path, and professionally by tackling bigger projects representing higher stakes. Unfortunately, I failed to contain my passion and eventually burned out.

Immediately after, I figured I did not want to handle any more interpersonal responsibilities (aka I did not want to manage people anymore) and focus mainly on growing my technical shops (hello Impostor Syndrome). When I interviewed at Yieldmo, I was amazed of the degree of challenge and it sounded like a great way for me to figure out what I was made of.

Yieldmo is a great company. The co-founders have a proven track record of bringing their concept to a viable market fit and pushing the vision they have to reality and solve the problem they set themselves to. It is a no-nonsense approach and it is very clear that everyone aligns with that vision. However, like many startups, Yieldmo has had its share of pivots and employee turnover at various stages of growth.

When I joined, two teams that were working on separate part of the app had just been unified and the engineers had to get used to work alongside one another. It is not an easy feat by any stretch of imagination as people have been provided a specific work environment from the time they got hired (sometime going back a few years back), get used to that certain way of working and have developed habits to support their daily schedule.

After a few weeks, I realized the chasm that was present within the team and, even though this was not my primary assignment, I probed a little to try to understand how the engineers were working with one another. After all, given my title of Staff Engineer, I wanted to make sure the ideas I was bringing to the table were:

  1. making sense: how could I pretend to understand the whole stack and architecture after just a few days on the job when others had been dealing with it for years? I needed confirmation of the proposal coming from my observation and gut feeling
  2. understood: it was important to me to fill up any knowledge gap I would sense within the team
  3. valid in the current context: sometimes you can be right before everyone else, in which case you are wrong. That is a lesson I am still in the process of learning and a key item I believe every software engineer has to be confronted and need to develop tools around. Identifying when a solution which seems the way to go will not yield the expected results in the current context. In which case, you need to be able to provide the list of prerequisites for such an approach to be successful.

In hindsight, and thanks to the invaluable ability for my management to discuss these openly during my exit interviews, I realized the following:

  1. I have not been able to correctly identify and communicate efficiently about those prerequisites. Instead I embarked into my vision and started putting together the architecture that I believed would make sense for us to use. Even though I had taken the steps to outline my vision and others seemed to agree with me, I failed to recognize when I was hitting significant hurdles that would have otherwise had me reconsider my approach.
  2. Titles can be a source of interpersonal problems: On that end, coming in as a staff engineer, coworkers of “inferior” ranks expected me to know, or at least figure out, certain things I was not necessarily familiar with. At other times, I would not necessarily get the feedback I was seeking since, from their understanding, I was meant to know more than them. This is one point I have been struggling with the most: How do you communicate to others that, despite whatever title you and they hold, you are seeking their feedback and their wisdom as they have both more knowledge of the current stack and probably have experienced many of the pains you will eventually encounter?
  3. Sometimes, even though you take it upon yourself to communicate clearly, you can fail to be clear. As a French native and someone who struggle to articulate my words, I can use certain figure of speech and expressions that will deter others from understanding what I am trying to say.

All in all, these 3 items put together can lead to a downward spiral. The more you struggle bringing your vision to life, the less confident about it you become. With little to no feedback and the inability to clearly communicate that you need help, you end up silo’ed and left to crawl out of the hole you dug yourself into.

I wish I had been able to see the bigger picture and push harder for help. As a broad thinker and someone who has no problem facing the 500 pound gorilla in the room, I tried to address these symptoms in 1–1 meetings. However, given the relatively young age of the newly constituted team and my poor track record, I had very little leverage to fix what was already broken and parting ways was the right thing to do.

To conclude (thanks if you have read all the way to this point), I realize that sometimes you will not “gel” with the team. Many interpersonal factors can get in the way and there will be very little of it you can control. Yieldmo is a great place to work with amazing talent and a great mission. However, timing is always of the essence and there will be occasions when it plays against you like has been the case for me.

But… On to new adventures! I will take some time off as to not repeat the same mistakes I have made in the past and jump too quickly into the next shiny great thing. I will take the time to build my foundations back up (thanks to platforms such as Frontend Masters and Egghead to name but two) and rebuild confidence in my technical abilities. I will also further my expertise in RxJS and get into the habit of partaking in the OSS effort.

Finally, I am going to work as an independent consultant whilst also working on various personal startup projects which I will share more about on here.

All the best Yieldmates!

PS: This article was originally published on my Medium profile

Xavier Lozinguez

Written by Xavier Lozinguez who lives and works in New Jersey (sometimes) building useful things. You should follow him on Twitter