When the startup Adriana Bosinceanu was working for got acquired, things changed fast.
She went from being one of eight engineers on a small team building a streaming service to joining a company that was five times larger and had a much bigger scope.
That company was Plex, where Adriana has been working remotely as a software engineer for the last four and a half years.
As her team grew from two people to ten, Adriana decided to lean into the opportunity to grow; along the way, she found herself deepening her technical skills, her self-confidence, and her relationships. We sat down with Adriana to learn exactly how she did that, and to hear the tips she has for other engineers experiencing growth opportunities on their team.
Seeing the good
When faced with the complete disruption of the way your team works, you might feel overwhelmed, pessimistic, or even scared.
While it took about a month to get used to working on a new, bigger team and supporting a growing product, Adriana quickly saw all of the positives of her new position—including and especially all the learning it set her up to do.
"I started working with two new colleagues, and they were both such good engineers," says Adriana. "I went from an environment where I was the most senior person, and didn't really have anyone to share things with, to this place where I was suddenly surrounded by senior engineers who were very good at what they were doing."
Again, that might sound like an environment ripe for causing feelings of inadequacy. But Adriana saw it as an opportunity to learn from the best people in her field. And she knows she's not alone in having that experience at Plex.
Since the media streaming company has always been all-remote, explains Adriana, who works from a small city in Romania, that means they can pull the best-quality talent. "Whenever they hire someone, they don't have to pick the best person in the city—it's always the best person out of a much bigger pool of candidates. That means that in general, the people at Plex are pretty great, and very culturally different, and it's just a nice atmosphere," she says.
She attributes a lot of that to Plex's culture. "Every company has their values, and some are more genuine than others," she says. "In our case, one of our values is to be kind and nice to each other, which sounds very simple. But here, everyone is actually trying to be kind and helpful. [And] when you start working with people who don't act in any way like they're superior or know more or have more experience, then you don't really feel overwhelmed."
Leaning into technical challenges
Soon after Plex acquired Adriana's former employer, her team was faced with a new project: to build out the content streaming side of Plex's personal media product.
Instead of a user just being able to access their personal home videos or pictures from all their devices, this new project would introduce streaming options, from podcasts to TIDAL to live TV.
"I've been in a lot of companies where people are scared by a big change or a big feature. They try to just do the smaller version instead. And our mindset has always been to not be scared of doing the scary, big feature," says Adriana.
Her team jumped all the way in, and it paid off. "It was super fun because I was there from the start," says Adriana. "From the first line of code committed to now, years later. It really helped my confidence to be able to make decisions, to see everything grow, and to figure out that it's okay to make mistakes and to rewrite, to adapt, and to be constantly evolving."
"My technical skills have definitely grown because before I had never worked on a product that had such a scale. I never worked somewhere where we had to deal with hundreds of millions of requests a day or with huge databases," explains Adriana.
Now, being in charge of vital parts of this huge project, Adriana can look back and recognize the impact that taking on a big technical challenge with a growing team had on her self-confidence.
"I feel that now I could do anything," she says. "I could be part of any tech project, where before, I didn't have the confidence to think about myself that way. [That comes from] seeing how I could start a big, ambitious project and actually code it from beginning to end."
3 tips for making the most out of growth opportunities
If you find yourself in a situation similar to Adriana's, whether that's experiencing growth on your team, joining a new company, or facing a new, challenging project, here's what she recommends you do:
- Get to know your team and understand its dynamics. "Whenever someone joins the team, the team dynamic changes," she says. "Sometimes it's very easy, sometimes you need to adapt." Pre-pandemic, she and her Plex colleagues kept up with that dynamic by meeting up for in-person off-sites at least twice a year. "When you get together with your small team in a foreign city for a week, you have time to talk about everything and to bond, and those have really helped us a lot," she says. They took those meetups online this last year, and while some of the magic is definitely missing, says Adriana, "a week of not coding and hanging out and talking still helps."
- Be patient with yourself if you feel overwhelmed. "A lot of people feel like they're not good enough or don't have enough experience and that's just not true. That's how everyone feels," says Adriana. That's especially true if you're trying on different technical skill sets to find the ones you like best, she adds. "Personally, I switched languages a bunch of times until I finally figured out what I like. I think it's hard to figure out without trying," she says.
- If you're not getting the opportunities you want in your current situation, seek them out. "If you're unhappy, you know, [gather] some courage and apply for whatever your dream job is," says Adriana. "If you're hardworking and you like it and you're into coding, I'm sure it's going to work out."