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Ask HN: Why did you transition from an engineer to a manager?
8 points by romankolpak on May 19, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 7 comments
I'm curious why do people become managers in their organizations.

I feel like my career growth stalled and I'm at a crossroads where I need to decide whether I'm going to transition to a management role or stick to my craft, so I'm looking for other people's experience on this.

What motivated you to become a manager? Was it money or something else?




Generally necessity of the company and organization - at a point you become one of the more senior engineers and your role starts to change from one of implementation to one of specification, mentorship, solving the hardest problems versus building everything yourself.

You help product and senior engineering decide how to build things, how long they might take, what features are hard to build and should be cut from the first version, etc. Usually this happens with more junior devs who will actually implement the feature; so it's collaborative and you help them get started with the project, get over any snags in the implementation, and eventually code review before shipping.

I think at this point you need to decide if you want to be more technical or handle the people side of things - think CTO vs VP Eng, the former tries to have zero or few reports while the latter manages senior engineering or engineering directors who might manage another tier of more technical engineers depending on the size of the org. These titles can mean different things in different companies, but I typically think of the CTO figuring out the tech strategy, and VP Eng thinking about the organization's strategy around recruiting and keeping talented engineers.

There is value in having both types of people, and companies should set up career tracks for both with similar salary and stock compensation. I wouldn't say they'll always be equal, but you'll end up doing well in either and you should probably optimize for what makes you happy -- leading the team technically, or from the management side.

Additionally I'll say some engineers think they need to manage to move up and they have a strong desire to do so; so much so, they'll bounce around between companies until someone gives them an engineering management job -- but they're often terrible managers lacking any empathy and only really thinking about their bottom line and not what's good for the team or organization.


I personally got tired of all the churn in technology and didn't feel like I could keep up long term. Management seemed to be the easy path forward.

With that said, I'm actually now looking to get out of people management and back to being more of an team lead or cto type of position where I don't have to be a people manager. I miss the technology part.


I'm sure my team will read this (hi!) but for me it was because I was already helping fill a leadership void as we were and still are a small company. I found that I cared a lot about my team and their success and wanted to help them solve their problems.

I think if you're doing it for money you can be successful but I'd argue that in terms of dollars per hour worked x stress level doesn't make it worth it financially unless you're at a really high level.

I also think you should try to find ways to lead without being a manager and to see if you enjoy it. https://www.tombartel.me/blog/exhibit-leadership-as-individu...


1. Need

The company I work for needed a manager for a new team. I identified the need for the team and proposed it to my boss so I ended up leading too.

2. Boredom

We had switched to several technologies that I was not particularly interested in working with so I needed to find something else to do. I still work on personal projects in my free time but I don't use any of the technology we do at work. I was actually considering leaving the company until the opportunity presented itself.

Overall I _think_ I like the transition. Some days are better than others :)

I spend a large portion of my time just helping my team with blockers, hashing out problems, etc. This means I need to be online and available for a large portion of my day where before I could be offline and focus on the task at hand.


Manager actually fits my personality better. I don't actually love programming in itself. I love systems, and humans are a much more interesting system than software. Org charts are as interesting than architecture.

I've switched back to programmer since, but it was fun for a period of time. I'm not sure why people are against it - you deal with way more tech as a technical manager, just that your experience with algorithms, etc is less useful. My experience with optimization and such applied more than ever though. A lot of programmers can't see the forest for the trees and a good manager helps with that.


Personally, I felt that I could make a bigger impact than as an individual contributor. I like solving problems and don’t really care how.

But, I’m both technical and people focused. If the prospect of pitching things to people in meetings, resolving conflict, etc is horrific to you, that may be a reason to stay with the craft.





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