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What if you're not a very good engineer, like me? But would make a good people manager?

One of the best managers I've ever known described herself that way.

She may not have been a great engineer (I'll never know), but she gave us the tools we needed to do our job, shielded us from the upper management pressure and BS and got out of our way. In return, the team shipped a ton of functionality in an impossibly short timeframe that she later confessed she never thought we'd be able to achieve.

Excel at what you're good at and the rest tends to take care of itself.

But to be a people lead, you ironically need to be good at engineering first ;).

One of my bigger challenges is that the older I get, the more I care about people and want to work on those issues... which means I gradually lose interest in code and pure technical stuff. The longer I stay stuck on the IC track, the more obvious this is going to become.

Same thing, still: show it. Take on coordination/facilitation/people-facing roles in projects. Become a JIRA/bug triaging/product-person-facing master.

that can be fine, you just need to find an organization that emphasizes the people management side of things and has other avenues for technical leadership. Typically a place like that is self aware about it and quite upfront (as a tech lead will really hate that kind of role, and they need to understand where the technical leadership comes from). I have a friend who is very much primarily a people manager and loves it.

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