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While "middle manager" is often nowadays a negative term, having a good manager between yourself and the upper management/customer can be a godsend. They can act as a bullshit filter, they can deal with bureaucratic busywork, they can get you whatever resources you need, fight for more funding/people for your team, help out with HR stuff and so on. You need these people so you can get on with "great engineering".

Those people should not be paid nearly as much as the actual value producers.

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