You need to really want to manage and develop people (with all the idiosyncracies that real human beings come with!), and to communicate, co-ordinate, and delegate for a living.
Some will love this, others hate it. But don't view it as a natural progression that will work for everyone.
It is a different role, and not merely a coder who tells people what to do. It has a different skill set, and some people will fail at / only muddle through it just like learning a new language or tool.
If you don't like dealing with people's problems, enjoy solving the problem at a detailed level and being quiet and working things out on your own, then management may not be for you.
There are companies that reward talented individual contributors as much as good managers, but they are rare. Also I would say that an individual contributor needs to be quite good to match a mediocre manager's salary, unfortunately -- but that's how the hierarchy is generally set up.
Could this actually explain why a lot of people don’t like their managers? Because they are just too damn inexperienced.
Re: knowing few staff or principal engs, my personal anecdotal observation (and other people have told me the same), is that many engineers don’t change their titles on LinkedIn, or say they are “staff eng” etc in public. In fact, for some people, the higher they go the more they downplay their title in public. Don’t have data to back this up, just anecdotal convos with some people I know.
I’d also like to think the culture is slowly changing, about feeling forced to get into people management to progress your career. But that could be wishful thinking!
that's exactly why! i've worked and had managers who were so green and bad at their job. the staff engineers that i worked with were older folk that really have been around the block and had better communication skills than the managers. it's all extremely backwards
> Clearly, the way to more money in the long run is the manager path even if you find it horrible.
Gotta break this down. How much more money would one need to make justify having a shitty time 40+ hours a week?
I would actually be okay with doing this, if it were an option. I believe it is not, due to how ageist tech hiring is.
If a team hits their metrics a good (super-) manager knows if it’s because of the manager or in spite of them, and vice versa.
What we really need is to train people to be better at identifying these organizational concerns, and set the right incentives, so that people choose to be Engineering Managers for the right reasons.
Edit: and to answer your question directly, in a healthy org, it’s definitely possible (and in fact in some very rare cases easier) to fire your manager than for them to fire you. Also depends on the level of trust you have built for yourself as in individual contributor.
What's hard about firing people? I actually don't know and would love to find out if you could share your thought
This is flipped on its head for things like abuse where the company could be liable for not responding to reports in a timely manner. Cross a line behavior-wise, and you can get fired quickly.
If you can do interesting work and use your team to help, it's great. The problem with management IMO is all the politics, "managing expectations" (I think this term must have been coined by some hardcore sociopath) and team quality.
You rarely have team of senior experts only so you can focus on doing great job. You have people underperforming, having issues with others etc. Also, employee personal agenda is often more or less different from company goals - it's a constant battle.
The most common reason somebody becomes an EM that I've observed is because somebody else tells them to do it. It's a promotion, so you should want it. I'm one of very few people in the SwE world I've encountered who very actively and clearly wants to do it, and for the reasons you listed - to spend more time on humans and less on code.
Most of my managers have at best tolerated the position; several have confessed being miserable and just wanting to code again ("okay, let's switch" hasn't worked, though). That includes my current and previous manager; the one before those 2 said he didn't want to manage and despite being CTO was trying to maneuver into more of an architect position, the one before that quit within a month of being promoted. I've known several people who were EMs and switched back, and had a friend confess that she was on the verge of quitting before she got offered the chance to be an IC again.
Not a one who got promoted and then loved it.
Given that it's true most ICs want to code and not manage (even if many can learn to be good managers), and these days big company ICs are very well compensated... it really feels like the driving force is external - somebody else tells them to do it, it looks like the natural progression, and that's "just what you do" more than anything else.
That is the difference between being a renter in SV for the rest of your life versus being an owner. It'd also set you up for retirement and potentially let you be a single income household.
At first I really disliked it but the more time I spend doing it, the better I get at it, the more rewarding it becomes. I fear by the time I find someone to actually replace me, I won't want to go back to being an IC.
Very few of the skills overlap even within the same categories such as architecture and execution. One is about the code, the other one is about the people.
Once the core skills are developed e.g. being able to clearly communicate a vision and plan, ability to have tough conversations, building interpersonal trust, being an effective salesperson for the team. Once these skills are adequately developed, it becomes a good job again.
Most people have spent at least a few years training to become a professional software engineer before being able to do that job, and yet most engineers don't give themselves/others the same understanding for developing the necessary skills to become a professional engineering manager.
Do you like the idea of managing people, setting goals, spending time thrashing out plans with colleagues where your team, not you, will do the "work" - or are you simply preparing to tolerate all that for the extra salary and perceived career progress?
Honestly, it's not a trick question - you might really like all that!