How To Ace Your Annual Review (Code Like A Girl)

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The key point is to network really well and understand all the different pieces that compile together to result in your final review. By Rupa Dachere (Founder, CodeChix & Software Engineer, VMware)

Your annual review – everyone’s favorite topic… One of the most difficult and stress-inducing issues in our industry is understanding how you are going to be evaluated. It is more of an art than a science, which makes it a bigger hurdle for logical-minded developers.

First off, setting concrete goals for each quarter is really, really important. This is how you know what is expected of you and what your “stretch” goals are. So, for me, every quarter (or thereabouts), I get together with my manager and go over my goals to see if they are relevant. Because, you never know what changes in the market or economy might affect the direction of the company and the company’s goals.

Make sure that your goals are aligned with the goals of the company. And, if they are not, make sure you work with your manager to change them to be aligned with the company goals and that they also have impact. This is really critical.

Secondly, when your mid-year or year-end review comes around, understand how your accomplishments are going to be perceived. You might think that you’re working on the coolest project that the department has produced in the last umpteen years, however, you could be very wrong.

Find out how your project and your work is viewed by not just your team, but, by others.

Here’s what happened to me – I thought I was working on the smartest, most modular and comprehensive validation system for our products. However, what was really important, was this relatively small and rather mundane (I thought) security feature that I had built as part of the overall design. And THAT small, mundane feature was what was PERCEIVED as the most important aspect of my entire project. That was a revelation!

Which brings me to my next point – know your “review universe”. Think of a Venn diagram and draw your review circles inside it. Who has input into your review? Is it just your teammates and your manager? What about the guy in the next cubicle who could be asked about your personality? What about other teams that you might have worked with on difference projects? Other team managers – do they have a say in your review?

The key point is to network really well and understand all the different pieces that compile together to result in your final review. And, no matter what role you are in (Dev, QA, Mgmt., Tech Support), always be genuine and be helpful.

Editor's note: This blog post is part three of Rupa Dachere's Career Lessons from the Developer Trenches series.

Women 2.0 readers: How have you managed your manager? Let us know in the comments!

About the guest blogger: Rupa Dachere is the Founder of CodeChix and a Software Engineer at VMware. She has worked at various multi-nationals and startups and learned many lessons through the hard knocks of life. She is a speaker at the Grace Hopper Conference (2012) and dedicates her time and money towards building great products and providing continuous education and mentorship for women developers of all backgrounds and skill levels. Follow her on Twitter at @rdachere.