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Yes, junior people frequently make the incorrect assumption that entering management is a promotion (partly because we have made the mistake of unthinkingly treating/rewarding it as such). They are often incentivized to seek management roles as part of a "this must be my career path" because of the associated salary.

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.






Realistically speaking though, manager is an upwards trajectory in the CS world. Most companies don't define the IC track well, and a staff engineer is usually a 10 year veteran whereas a manager path, even if you hate it with a passion is a quick way to get a really high salary with low years of experience. Even more salary once you become director and that's not out of the realm of normal with 5-7 years of exp. I know 1 staff engineer, and 0 principal engineers, whereas I know tons of directors/VPs. Clearly, the way to more money in the long run is the manager path even if you find it horrible.

I don’t know whether you’re right or wrong, but calling someone a veteran based on 10 years of exp, and a director after 5 to 7 years sounds like a recipe for disaster. (Unless you literally started the company or something Like that).

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!


> Could this actually explain why a lot of people don’t like their managers? Because they are just too damn inexperienced.

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


I agree with the overall point you're making.

> 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?


Everyone's got their own numbers, I'm sure. But if you don't want to be sitting and coding at the age of 50 with 20 year olds around you "changing the world" for yet another VC startup that will fold in 4 years, your best bet is to make as much money as you possibly can as fast as you can and with some smart decisions attempt to retire in your 40s aka the FIRE thing that is popular these days. Misery is subjective but it's the smart thing to do if you want the highest probability of doing whatever you want to do later

> But if you don't want to be sitting and coding at the age of 50 with 20 year olds around you "changing the world"

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.


To quote a discussion on HR from a while back (can't find the actual link in my history) - "My manager can fire me but I can't fire my manager". Manager is a promotion if only based on power dynamics.

It really does depend on the organization IMO. In a healthy organization, the managers manager can easily distinguish between contributions and fuck ups of the manager versus the same for the managers reportees.

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.


Not to quibble, but it's a lot easier for most of us to "fire" our managers than it is for them to fire us. If your manager sucks, start interviewing.

I don't think that's a quibble. I think that's pretty fundamental. Most people don't quit their jobs, they quit their managers. And to your point, it is MUCH easier to quit than it is to fire someone. Firing someone is generally a painstaking process.

I've never had to fire someone but I've seen interviewing being very difficult. (With it being routinely common for engineers to spend months prepping on interview practice over weekends and nights before even doing their first real interview) Is firing someone really that difficult? I've seen it done on what seems like a whim - no long review process or anything.

At any mature employer if you fire someone (and it’s not due to general layoffs) you need a 6 month PIP pre-termination as legal cover.

> MUCH easier to quit than it is to fire someone

What's hard about firing people? I actually don't know and would love to find out if you could share your thought


Generally (especially as companies grow) it's all about liability protection. Companies don't want to get sued, and they don't want to lose if they do get sued. That means paper trails, and attempts at showing a history of objective criteria leading to the decision, etc. This often looks like performance improvement plans and so forth, and so it can be pretty easy for someone to do just enough to not get fired but still be a quite low performer (especially with inexperienced managers).

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.


Large organizations (and many small ones) just don't do it if there's any way to avoid it. They're rich targets for lawsuits, of course, but more importantly, it has widespread effects on morale. Fire one guy, and ten start thinking that their jobs are nowhere near as reliable as they had thought.

Managing people work is not that bad by itself - you delegate things you don't want to yourself do or you want to give more resources to.

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.




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