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Ask HN: I feel my career is at a dead end. Any advice on what could I do?
165 points by iamcirou on April 11, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 143 comments
Hey HN,

I'm 35, working for an IT consultancy company and I feel my career is going at a dead end.

I did well with my career (maybe too much?) and after 10 years I'm far away from coding activities, more involved in project management and I'm not sure that this is what I want.

I like coding (that's why I started this job, I also consider myself good at coding) I like to learn and explore new things.

The problem is that, at same time I feel that coding can't be a lifetime career: what will happen in 10 years from now? Maybe company will prefer younger coders to hire and I will not be able to find a job anymore? (I have family, I can't risk to lose my job) Shall I find now another role or company that may be can offer me a job where I can cover for both roles (Coding and project management)?

I'd like to hear your point of view, maybe I'm missing something here. Thanks in advance for any advice.

This is my experience, and your mileage may vary:

Multiple times in my coding career I have felt stalled and/or like I was regressing.

Early on, I worked on a programming language, gosu (https://gosu-lang.github.io/) which ended up not really going anywhere. Once the work on it was done, I returned to more mundane web programming for a while (over half a decade.)

A long while after that, and unexpectedly, I turned a jQuery function I was noodling on into intercooler.js (https://intercoolerjs.org/). After a year of that I returned to mundane web programming for quite a while (over half a decade.)

Unexpectedly, a year ago, the country shut down. I was at home and decided to see if I could remove the jQuery dependency in intercooler.js, and so created htmx (https://htmx.org/).

When creating htmx and removing some attribute/functionality that was in intercooler.js, I realized that a small programming language would be the ideal replacement, so I created hyperscript (https://hyperscript.org/) I had not expected to work on a programming language again, but now I am.

So my career has been some very exciting technical projects punctuating long stretches of pretty basic, boring web development, where the most exciting thing is me wondering if I can figure out what the deuce is wrong with my CSS.

My takeaway, at least in my career, is that patience is a virtue, and the interesting stuff tends to come up at irregular intervals and in unexpected moments and ways.

For a moment I was very confused since I remembered hyperscript being this and existing for a longer time: https://github.com/hyperhype/hyperscript

Hopefully you are already aware of the name clash.

I am definitely interested in your hypescript more than the old one but the name clash is unfortunate.

When you are working on "mundane web programming", are you employed or just freelancing? If you are employed, do you quit your job to work on these more exciting projects?

I have been in both situations over the last two decades.

I don't quit to work on these projects, I usually work on them sporadically during work hours or, during intense periods that rarely last more than a week or two early on, full time. htmx was done during the first few weeks of the covid shutdown, for example.

can't tell if this is an ad from the get go or not

Yeah, it's a webdev posturing on how he reinvented the wheel three times in a decade. Look at the code he linked, and weep.

Or consider it a viable solution to the itch OP was trying to scratch with their own development.

It's easy to brush aside a monumental amount of effort and thought that gets poured into projects like these, marking them internally as fruitless, when

1) we're not the ones that spent the long nights and weekends obsessing over the nuances of the specific problem OP was trying to solve.

2) any of us on HN are usually here shit posting because we're avoiding putting in the same effort for our own projects.

that's true to an extent (it was nearly two decades :) and adds to my answer for the parent question: there has been a lot of mockery along the way during the interesting parts, as well as depression when things I was very passionate about (e.g. gosu) were ignored or failed

hyperscript will most likely meet a similar fate

that's life

I like the stuff he made. I find using htmx much more pleasant than react type programming.

htmx looks really neat, I think I'll be using it for some quick and dirty prototyping.

the underscore is silent -- love it

I think 35 is quite young, I wouldn't worry about "aging out" for another decade or three.

Make sure to keep up with technologies as part of your day job. It's amazing how fast things, even SQL change. You don't need to own it all, just build situational awareness with an occasional deep dive.

Read other people's code. Look for projects that interest you and always be learning from them. Build things. Build your writing and presentation skills. You can always learn by helping to document the projects you use.

Look for industries that fit your interests. Programming is a dual-class: your domain of expertise and your technical chops. As you progress in your career, deliberately choose your domain. Immerse yourself that sub-field, identify high-value problems, and how computing techniques are used to solve them. Your success in later phases of your career is measured by how you are able to help a given community with problems that matter to them.

Critically, seek low stress: it's a long haul. Save. Avoid abusive employers and clients. Keep professional boundaries. Build and maintain a robust circle of friends. Finally, if you have children, focus on them now -- you won't get another chance later.

I'm in my 30s and think I'm close to aging out

I’m 50 and I don’t feel like I’m aging out. I’m going to go through a dozen interviews over the next several months so we will see how that turns out though.

Nice. I've been in the industry and in the same company for 9 years. I'm a midlevel dev. They've had me switch stacks 4 times. Every time it becomes much more difficult to learn the new stack. I think part of it is lack of motivation - why try my hardest if the knowledge will be thrown away in a year or two? (And they don't follow their own policies, to my detriment)

I used to be more worried about aging out. This was about 10 years ago when I was in my 30's, but my fears haven't been realized so far.

It does take a certain amount of agility to keep up with what's popular, but sometimes you get lucky with the skills you pick. Python, for me, has lasted quite a while. I picked that up later in my career after starting out with C and Perl.

Perhaps you're just burned out? 9 years at one place could easily leave you in a rut. Or have you looked around to see if there is a company that might inspire you again?

My problem is that I believed the company when it told me things. I ended up working on things the company needed which only hurt my career- basically doing the jobs nobody else wanted. They said they don't outsource and that they don't layoff. They do both now. I spent years on FileNet and Neoxam. There's no market for them.

I'm about a year into working with AWS stacks, so maybe I can switch when I get more familiar with that. But there aren't many good IT jobs in the area and my wife won't move.

Basically, I can't even imagine a future. I can't see myself tolerating this job for 9 more years. I don't see any jobs in the area that I would be interested in, or would pay as much (I support my family).

Ask your wife if she wants a miserable or a happy husband. I moved for my wife and I didn't regret it. She is willing to move for me too, if it ever comes to that.

But most IT jobs are remote now anyway. Look for those opportunities. Don't be scare.

I haven't seen very many remote jobs. Are those mostly at the big tech companies? I've spent my career (and other jobs) at non-tech companies.

Tech Companies in general.

What I have seen happen in the last year is the following:

1. Covid forced most people to work remotely, at least at tech companies. 2. The world didn't end for those companies, so now many more are amenable to remote workers. 3. Even the ones who aren't happy can't really force everyone to come back to the office, so they're still remote friendly.

I don't know how long this situation will last, but for now it's a good time to be a remote worker.

> why try my hardest if the knowledge will be thrown away in a year or two?

This is not a bad attitude. It's perfectly rational not to waste time on the framework or tool of the month.

It's the industry's fault for generating endless unnecessary churn.

We can fight it by focusing on understanding core principles and concepts (that changed very little since 1970) and ignoring the noise.

Good Luck!

I'm in my 40's and also going through a number of interviews. It's been a lot of hackerrank/leetcode type stuff mixed with some practical problems and behavioral questions. Also stuff about times I've demonstrated technical leadership...

I'm in my mid-50's and coding full-time for a living.

Twice in my career, I've found myself in senior management roles (CTO in an EMEA organisation, and Software Eng Manager in a medium sized tech company).

In both cases, it's fair to say I wasn't having fun in those roles. I stayed in each for 4-5 years. And in both cases, I left the role to return to a pure coding role (I went freelancing, and eventually ended up as an employee in a company in both cases).

The adjustment was tough. Luckily, I'd been coding in my spare time, so the tech transition wasn't too hard.

But finding myself suddenly in a position of almost zero influence was tough.

I suddenly wasn't setting the agenda. I also found myself disagreeing with my supervisors' decisions but I had to temper my replies (I knew I had more management experience than some of them, but I needed to stay in my box, to a large extent).

In some aspects, it's an ego problem. As a senior manager, you're invariably in a highly visible role, and that brings a certain level of ego boosting.

Also, in my case, there was the various visible attributes that comes with a senior role - company car, personal assistant, international travel, visibility up the org tree, etc.

Luckily, I ended up in a financial trading company so my compenation now is probably where it would be if I had stayed on a management track in other companies.

Do I regret my decisions? At this stage, no (my most recent "reversion" was nearly 7 years ago). I'm happy writing code and not being involved in the politics and BS of management.

But there are times I also miss some aspects of management.

In terms of it being a long-term career choice? I feel it's easier to find roles as a freelance developer than as a freelance manager (or management consultant).

How do you find freelance developer roles? I see those as extremely underpaid?

Welcome to the paradoxical dichotomy in IT: In order to be a top notch (line/product/project) manager, you need to have relevant experience in engineering itself. Also, the higher value for any company is engineers that are great at multiplying themselves by keeping a whole team aligned with the organization's goals.

But in order to be a great engineer, you need have lots of curiosity and an affinity to tinkering, none of which you'll get higher up. And on top of that, engineering expertise has a half life of just a few years nowadays, so engineering managers without at least some hands-on exposure to recent technology get less valuable over time.

One of the better approaches I've seen is that some of the best people I've ever worked with, they've jumped back and forth between manager and engineer multiple times in their career (even Bill gates did, famously).

The key here is to step up while stepping down: Go to a lower level position — but in a smaller and better org with a better culture and build something up from scratch. That way of spiral learning lets you get better as a manager as well as an engineer, when you miss the benefits of the other side too much, just change it every few years. It's the path I've chosen myself as well.

The second path is side projects. I have kids and little time for that right now, but the other threads are covering that topic a whole lot better.

The third path to stay sharp is doing some prototypes, tracer bullets and related stuff yourself every once in a while. I enjoy that as well. Just don't do the mistake of putting yourself in the critical path ever or neglecting your core duties over tinkering.

Hi endymi0n, thank you. The first one is a very interesting approach, unfortunately I can't work on side projects right now because a baby is coming in next months so the 'spiral learning' approach could be suitable for me

You have a baby in the next months. Don't worry if your career holds water for a little while. That baby will take more than enough of your energy.

Seriously this. Depending on your baby’s sleeping habits and how they line up with yours, you may be in a fog for the next 2+ years. And babies will take up any free time you’re willing to give them. Now is a good time to coast if you can.

There are companies out there who value the experience of senior software engineers (and I mean real seniority, not the job title that you update to senior after 3 years in the field).

Such companies will have a career ladder up to Principal or Distinguished engineer. You will have to share your knowledge, of course, but without having to give up coding and do people management, if you don't want that.

I'm 39, happy infrastructure engineer, individual contributor. I tried being team lead for some years, but didn't really enjoy people management. That's okay.

Charity Majors wrote some great posts about that:

- https://charity.wtf/2019/09/08/reasons-not-to-be-a-manager/

- https://charity.wtf/2019/11/23/questionable-advice-after-bei...

- https://charity.wtf/2020/09/01/the-official-authorized-list-...

- https://charity.wtf/2020/09/06/if-management-isnt-a-promotio...

I love the article 'if management isn't a promotion....'

Wish I had read this years ago. Of course it was not out years ago ...

Principal (even many Staff roles) at my company is reduced coding and many have direct reports, so YMMV. To stay coding, stay “senior” level.

I work with a Principal engineer in my team, who used to be the team lead. He works on IC level only, doing a mix of architecture and operations work, with some interviewing on the side.

No direct reports. There are multiple Principals in the same situation. No direct reports, they just usually work on a scope that involves multiple teams,but they don't lead them.

It really depends on the company (or even part of the company if its bigger).

As a Principal I do code less than I used to as Staff or Senior. But I still do a fair amount of coding (along with design, arch, mentoring/guiding). I've made it clear that I want to remain a hands on engineer, and my company has let me remain so.

Not everyone is so lucky to have a choice, but if you do -- In the end, its finding a place where you can get the balance that makes you happy.

When technical track people have direct reports it's usually like here's two senior devs. Give them a sympathetic ear when they get frustrated about something and give them some tips about how to move up to the next level.

When management track people have direct reports it's usually like here's six people to manage. Three of them are junior-level and need constant hand-holding.

He could stay below senior level too. I'm intermediate and almost 9 years in.

9 years feels like a long time, but it's important to remember that it's not even a quarter of the way through your career.

That's assuming one retires at 65. It seems most people in this industry retire closer to 50. I'd say I'm a third of the way in. Many people seem to make senior developer in 5 years. It's all politics though.

Life is a long term game. Don't box yourself with status and compare yourself with others. Take a step back and assess what you want out of life and what you like to do. Go behind experience rather than money. Money will follow you when you have gained experience. There is no end to learning in this life. Think Long term always. 35 is an age where we are no junior or seniors. You have lot of options to chose from, so take your time to choose.

> Money will follow you when you have gained experience.

Don't rely on this; it could be spectacularly wrong. Heaps of experience can lay aside unused if some other critical ingredients of good approach aren't there.

When I meant experience, I not only meant work experience, but soft skills, networking and you encountering wide variety of lessons over time. Monetizing your experience is the key but when you do, chose long term benefits over short term. Just thought to elaborate on this point so experience is not a narrow term but a wider one.

Sounds like lot of self help book. lot of ambiguous words but noting useful to OP

gonna go ahead and give a big hell ya to this.

> Maybe company will prefer younger coders to hire and I will not be able to find a job anymore?

32 here, but most of my professional circle is my age or older.

Programming is not Logan's Run and outside of maybe bold and snappy SV startups companies cannot afford to sneer at experienced professionals wanting to join - not in the current market at least.

My advice would be to talk to your superiors about this - perhaps they would be willing to put you into a coding role? If not, you can start sending out resumes and having interviews - it's not like you have to be jobless to make time for that.

Perhaps you have friends from previous college/pervious companies, who could help?

My experience is that switching roles is generally hard and will take time - you'll need to take that into account.

But it's not impossible and I have anecdata to support it.

I'm 29 and the amount of anxiety I read about in programming as a profession is staggering. All the people trying to get into it worried that they're not cut out for it, only for 10 years later to be worried that they're aging out of it.

I wish I could understand where it comes from. There are so, so, so many programming jobs out there. There are no hard and fast rules about anything. I love the comparison to Logan's Run, I've had the same thought myself. I know many people in their 40s and 50s who still code in their day to day.

My pet theory is that it used to be something hard and for the young and innovative, but was eventually commoditized.

My aunt was one of the IT pioneers in the late 80s in Poland(her first task was to figure out how to put together her work machine - fun stuff), and was only laid off in 2010 - two years before retirement - due to stuff unrelated to her performance.

I think currently it boils down to us being expensive resources - I was told repeatedly at my current workplace that we (the team) are "a cost", so we should focus on delivering instead of ensuring quality, which is kind of ironic given that I know we're pushing code which simply doesn't work so we aren't actually delivering.

Bottom line is that we're expensive and that causes anxiety among the decision makers, who in turn transfer that anxiety onto us.

This is my best guess anyway.

That anxiety is due to incompetence, at management levels and business side. They simply are clueless how to manage IT, and refuse to learn.

This induces impostor feelings and confusion downwards..

If you are considering moving back to a technical career, perhaps my experience (over the last 34 years) will be of use to you. There is an excellent living to be made purely as a technical person without having to unduly fear your job going to younger folks. I chose to take six months off each year since 2001 (*). I have never had anyone report to me ever, yet I have strived to be good enough technically that I am often the person people turn to, from higher management to the entry-level programmer. I do short-term consulting engagements (almost always hands on technical work), and I am never in a hurry to get the next gig. This is what I have learnt.

First, think in terms of entire systems. Clients pay, and pay handsomely, for honest solutions to their (technical) problems. Don't think of the solution as a "coding" issue alone. There's design (of interfaces, of documentation), there is hardware (IoT, network), there are deployments with 24/7 operations, there are installations in unforgiving environments ( sensors in a corrosive humid tank) and so on. Each one of this is a technical challenge. At the end of the day, clients want a system that is a pleasure to use and is maintainable and extendable by someone else.

Second, get good at all aspects of delivering a system entirely on your own. That is, you don't have to do it by yourself, but you should be decent enough to pitch in as a replacement for any part. This provides opportunities for endless learning, and in my experience, breadth of experience is rewarded.

Third, many real-world problems are not shiny and cool, and younger people don't want to do them. HN is biased towards Open GPT more than say, wastewater management systems, so one could be forgiven for feeling uncool and out of date all the time. Nah, it is a big world out there. And there's plenty of opportunity to use Rust or Elixir or whatever tickles your fancy.

Fourth, if you go my way (not working one's tail off for the whole year), I'd advise you to downscale expectations in terms of money and lifestyle. Once you learn to make peace with making less money, you will find that you will have loads of work coming your way, enough time and plenty of money to enjoy life where it counts. Most good things in life (health, travel, books, sports, entertainment, vacations) are surprisingly affordable. And you need time to enjoy them with your loved ones.

Good luck.

(*) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21645117

Come to Google! No forced management track so you can code for as long as you want, no ageism (colleague just turned 60; I'm 40 myself), will probably let you support a family, great WLB :)

fine print: must leetcode for a year before entering. results are not guaranteed. along with the fact that you'll feel like an insignificant cog in a gargantuan machine

fine print2: Google is a place where love of software goes to die. A place where PhDs work on CI/CD systems and edit robots for text config files.

Thought this was sarcasm at first :)

I would love to work at google. I am an older coder and founder but I doubt highly I could pass the tests to even get an interview. :(

Give it a try :) I interviewed twice and was hired twice, at 30 and at 39. Don't believe the naysayers, the interviews are actually super reasonable! It's algorithmic, but not leetcode; it feels like "let's figure out this problem together in the whiteboard, colleague".

Having to reverse a binary tree or some other associated nonsense for a frontend UI role meant I turned the interview process at Google down. That and about 6 prospective hours of interviews for my application to then be sent to a "hiring committee" who ultimately decided if I was worthy enough of a job at Google, it just wasn't worth the hoop-jumping.

What was the TC difference between GOOG and the job you have?

Might be worth it for some people out there

> but I doubt highly I could pass the tests to even get an interview.

I don’t get this “won’t even try” attitude for a job interview - what is the worst thing that could happen?

Waste of time, effort, energy, and fear of rejection. Plenty of downsides.

And also they can't interview at Google for another year after rejection. So failing the interview has multiple costs associated with it. It's better to prepare well and then appear for the interview.

I feel like if you interviewed with Google, you should put "interviewed with Google" on your resume.


Or rather, find a new job (could be internal, but often easier to make the move by finding a new employer).

I've been pulled away from coding activities before (into management). If you've done it for a few years and you don't like it, you should bail. You've leveled up your skills in terms of seeing the bigger picture, now find the right place to apply them. With your experience right now you'll be a valuable IC (see https://charity.wtf/2019/01/04/engineering-management-the-pe... for more; I think sibling comments have referenced this post too.)

I wrote a blog post about all the jobs ancillary to coding that a good software dev can move into: https://letterstoanewdeveloper.com/2020/10/05/how-to-make-a-...

If you want to talk about devrel, technical training or startup CTO, happy to chat (contact info in profile).

I feel like we are seeing a post like this every week. Contrary to sentiment here, writing CRUD apps for FANG is indeed not the dream and a path of fulfillment.

It is a way to a stack of money. Which may not give you fulfillment but it does you options.

of course it's a way and it pays well. but once you've become debt free and have some savings in the bank, it loses it's appeal exponentially. this leads to burn out, lack of motivation, people questioning their career choices/decisions

I think I've had the benefit of having had very labour intensive jobs in my past. Working in an office, or better at home is a real treat. It does get to me sometime. But I can think back to literally digging ditches landscaping and I think to mysef I can totally handle this a little while longer.

OP doesn’t seem to be financially independent just yet:

> I have family, I can't risk to lose my job

Maybe building FAANG CRUD apps can offer something here

I agree that it loses its value exponentially, but not the appeal.

I know a few people who worked at FAANG for a few years and then bought nice houses in the city I live in (they left their FAANG jobs). Money might not bring you fulfillment, but having enough to buy a $500k house in a place you want to live can get on the way.

You want a job where you can cover both coding and management but you actually prefer to just code. Are you wanting a touch of management just because you'll get a higher salary?

Like the other commenter suggested, it really is best to seek a more leadership role within technical work: architect, tech lead, product owner.

Does your company provide training opportunities? Find skills gaps that your team has and volunteer to fill them. Find gaps of responsibility that you can help with and eventually take over.

If money is the core of your issue, communicate to your manager your career path and back them up by identifying those gaps you see. It helps to frame your problem in a way that you're solving for your company and get buy-in from someone who should be supporting your success - your manager.

If your company doesn't support your transition, well get whatever training you can get on technical skills and leave.

I'm 53 and, at 50, thought my coding career was over. I had failed to keep with the latest tech and was also aware of the ageism conversations. I was afraid. But I bet against my fears and focused seriously on bringing myself up-to-date. Also largely eliminated various distractions in my life while doing so. I now have the most interesting job of my long career (I've been in tech since the late '80s). If you have a history of success and you're reasonably smart (I'm no genius), I'm proof that it's possible in the current economic climate. For some people, moving out of coding and into management is a good way to extend your shelf life. For me (not a good manager), the opposite turned out to be true.

Like others have pointed out, a career in tech doesn't necessarily follow a linear path.

I landed my highest profile job so far as a fresh graduate, but I quickly found out it was a miserable place to be in. I have made a healthy work environment my top priority ever since. In my opinion you should chase what makes you happy, which may or may not be what makes some random HN users happy.

A healthy work environment is the answer. Sounds simplistic, sounds trite, sounds like something not worth taking seriously. But it is correct.

And yet it’s a crapshoot more often than not. There are places that are absolutely terrible and these are easy to spot, but there are many functionally toxic places that you just can’t spot until you’ve accepted the job and are a few months in. What then? Suck it for a while? Quit and start over?

The problem is that, at same time I feel that coding can't be a lifetime career:

Is this actually true?? I’m concerned because I read that you’re making decisions based on this assumption and I’m not necessarily true this assumption is inline with reality.

I’m 36, and have been moving away from coding for the last couple years too, I’m deeply concerned because engineering seems to earn more across the board than project management.

My strat is doubling back down on coding, by starting to read engineering and algorithm blogs and books in my free time, and finding little toy projects and scripts to do.

I have taken a bit of a different approach. For the the first 10 years I have been focused purely on coding while dabbling a bit in UX and Design while rejecting any management opportunities given. The last 5 have been a mix of the prior and management, product owner, growth, founder. I plan to continue this while staying at smaller companies where your responsibilities are what is currently needed and very hands on, not strictly what your title says.

This I feel gives me the most flexibility for the future. I’m not necessarily concerned about not finding a job in programming until I retire, but I like to make life decisions (e.g. where and how to life) first and job decisions second.

I haven’t done a whole lot of programming in the last 1.5 years or so, but so far I’m not feeling that I’m falling much behind given that I’m doing around 15 hours of mentoring, code reviews and problem solving sessions with programmers per week.

> I’m deeply concerned because engineering seems to earn more across the board than project management.

Where I live (Sydney, Australia), front-end contractors earn (in AUD) $800/day, back-end $900/day and project managers $1000/day. There’s a range, of course, but that’s the gist of it.

Is this through an agency or solo? I work in Sydney but in a very back-end 'department in a bigger company' setting so have limited exposure to that side of the industry.

I'm just a couple years behind you and have been having a related discussion with my manager recently. He identified that for developers, there are (at least?) two paths of progression: either you move into a management role (like technical director) or you move into some sort of domain expert/specialist role.

Like you, I wanna make stuff, not manage people, and I told my manager that as well so we could set progression expectations. What this has looked like for me is still that I'm not doing as much coding as I was as a junior, but I am documenting a lot of things, formalizing development processes, teaching peers about dev ops practices, and so on. I keep on top of new developments, understanding what's worthwhile for our team and why, and disseminating that information to the rest of the team.

My feeling is that you can be safe from younger coders if you continue to learn from your work and show the expertise you've gained from your years. On the other hand, I have also seen senior-titled engineers whose code was indistinguishable from fresh graduates, and that's a bad place to be.

I'm 36 and think I faced similar issues.

Was proposed a management role about 3 times. Somehow it felt like the end in general.

For my coworkers age isn't as relevant as simply coding skills. They want to be able to give me any task and be technically lead, if they don't know the technology themselves.

I've set a goal for myself: be able to do most of the coding related tasks - including devops, testing, deployment, monitoring - using up-to-date tech stacks.

During this weekend I've played around with self hosting and ended up replicating my company's development pipeline. It's quite barebone, but includes a git server (with working ssh clone urls), simple docker based CI pipeline, nexus repo and some management apps. All apps are proxied behind let's encrypt's SSL certificate.

I also added a simple google oauth integration so that anybody with google account could quickly set-up their own repos.

I don't remember last time I had so much fun to be honest. Also, as a byproduct, I hope, I gained the "hard to get unless you're in trenches" knowledge that is so valuable, when opportunity comes. It does come often in the place I work.

This is an example of the general approach I take: make sure to keep technical skills up to date using free time, by setting up goals, which are easy (for me) and fun - the end result should give the "I'm so happy with, what I made" feeling. It shouldn't be forced, because that would make me hate it in the long term.

I have a long list of things to try out sometime (computer vision, home automation, simple raspberry pi project, webapp to manage a game we play) and just pick something in free time.

I’m glad you have time for this! I’m 37 and haven’t had time for personal tech projects in years; family, home ownership and life have all gotten in the way. I’m on the management side (senior director equivalent), but I do make more than any of my engineers and I probably spend 50% less time working. I do a mix of people management, architecture design and executive communication, but it’s 95% stuff that falls into “important but not urgent” so I delegate most of what I can.

I don’t get the satisfaction of being happy with what I made, but the quarterly bonuses and stock grants make me ok with that :) Management is a great 9-5 job if you do it right, and if you’re a people person it’s super easy. Lots of potential career growth if you’re willing to put in the face time and play politics; your knowledge is less important than your style the further up you go.

Are you openly bragging about making more money while working half as much as the people you are supposed to be responsible for?

I would be embarrassed to write that.

I think a lot of people are in a similar position but not as open and honest about it. I feel refreshed reading it, rather than that it’s something to be embarrassed about. Edit: better english

To grandparent's defense - I find management genuinely essential and quite impactful.

It's a rare occurrence that developers on their own can communicate well with any kind of stakeholder. It might be anecdotal, but I find a high correlation between best technical and worse communication skills. I've seen people, who might be seen as typical 10x developers, cause they were so productive, be extremely bad with speaking about development in general. I've seen product owners literally gnashing their teeth in anger, but holding it up, since the guy really delivers - despite the bad "style".

Also, seeing already quite a fair share of stakeholder meetings... The part about style couldn't be closer to the truth. The non-technical people act, as if they didn't hear "99% percentile uptime is so so" or anything similar - at all! What they do hear instead are the speaker's emotions. They want to feel secure and good about going forward.

I've seen big budget moves based mostly on that: how well the project was sold to them. Technical merits were irrelevant. Whole teams disbanded, despite being quite productive, because someone got management excited about the new thing (also completely inapplicable to the problem at hand, but with good marketing: e.g. AI, cloud)

I find the grandparent just frank. It aligns pretty well with my anecdotal experience. I also think managers should be well compensated, since so much is at stakes (whole team, departments).

The knock on management from a lot of folks I’ve talked to is that managers end up working harder for less money — this is actually the case at the line manager level, but if you can get past that things improve quickly.

Personally, I think it’s a suckers game to look for meaning or purpose at work. I’m there to do a job, get paid, then use that money to find my own purpose. If you want to use work as your creative outlet, great — but you’ll probably be frustrated.

> I would be embarrassed to write that.

And working twice as long for half as much

Start a company or maybe an open-source project.

You'll need to code, probably to improve your knowledge and skills, but also to manage projects.

I think the usual distinction programming vs management is harmful and is only relevant because big companies need the specialization of middle-managers.

This is not the only way.

Also, old coders can be extremely valuable as experts and mentors.

Two suggestions

1. Get a role inside a large org. Like Fortune 50 large. They are starved for talent and generally love people that can code but also have a broader view of things. You will see many 50+ year old people in these orgs still contributing technically. And you can have many job titles during your career there.

2. Look at setting up an income generating portfolio. There are many stocks and ETFs that pay a monthly dividend. If you can save up a modest amount (for an engineers salary) over the next 10 years you could see your portfolio paying you 2k or more per month. This can give you a backstop and some confidence to put yourself out there as you age in your career.

I’m in my mid 50s. In 1988 when I graduated from uni my dad said “Congratulations you’ve just spent 4 years learning to be a software dev... you won’t be doing that in 8 years time”

The message was “expect to retrain and switch careers every 8-10 years”

BTW: Dad was wrong - 34 years later I still write code at work... But I’m a Solution Architect - technical leader in a $50m govt IT project.

If the only option for ‘advancement’ is project Mgmt and you’re sure you’re a died in the wool tech-type then it’s time to find an employer that has a technical career track that goes right to Principal Architect Developer

One approach is to save as much as you can so that you don’t have feel trapped by a job you can’t afford to lose.

A common theme on this site. I myself have conflicted with this. In my mid-30s, I realized that I need to move into management because I was not able to keep up with new paradigms such as functional programming and DevOps. I didn't want to be stuck in endless cycle of learning on my own time, just so that I can change job to get a pay raise.

But last few years been horrible as a manager. Now in my forties, I realized I am not a good manager. Programming is my hobby and I get to do that as a developer. But as a middle manager, I have no real power, but I am responsible for delivery of product. Moving higher up also seems like too much work and politics. I tried to get a job as developer but I got rejected multiple times mostly due to the fact I am rusty as coder. But I still want to go back to programming. So now I am studying LeetCode in my evenings.

My current plan is:

* Study LeetCode and get a job in FANNG\ * Always be preparing for interviews\ * Switch jobs often, I spent too much time at my current company to climb the ladder\ * Specialize in something such as Java or Python\ * Find a way into consulting firm. I could start focusing on this now, but I want to build up some cash reserves with FAANG salary\ * Become independent consultant\

Once independent consultant, I am hoping I won't have a real boss, I can work with clients and if they are abusive, I can fire them. The hard part is specializing in the right thing and then building reputation and network.

I'm a little younger, but also try my hardest not to get dragged into more management (it's easy to happen).

Are you worried you're not going to be skilled enough in management - and therefore you're trying to get "ahead of the game"?

If not then what's your fear - code until you can no longer, and then take a few months off, re-train and go into management (as a skilled coder you'll already have a big advantage if you want to manage teams in tech). Life is too short to work a job you don't like.

I, thankfully, ran into this problem when I was 28 and I'll just let you know my journey. The thing that I realized about my career is that the _people_ I was working with where "dead end people." They basically followed what society was telling them to do. If Google/Facebook/Redhat engineers invented some tech (today Google/Amazon/Microsoft), our team was just re-implementing it 5-10 years later. When I realized it was the people I had a decision to make — Try and change the people I work with or move myself to an area where people were still excited about the future.

I moved to Silicon Valley and have never looked back.

I've been programming since I was in high school (started on TI-81 in 1996), I'll be 40 this year and I still LOVE LOVE programming. BUT the only reason I do love it is because I've reached a level of mastery where I pretty much get to choose what projects I work on and the _people_ I work with. Steve Jobs said something back in the 90's that Ive heard other say about the variance in skills of developers vs other jobs[1].

You're burned out because you're working with low quality people and it's way easier to move yourself to an ecosystem where people are more excited about the future than it is to change your peers. (P. T. Barnum also says something similar to this in Art Of Money Getting, published in 1880 [2])

Also, contrarian advice — almost every one of my friends has switched to a manager track. I'm currently in the process of building my own company and most of them can't provide any value at this early stage. They don't read anything on how to become effective managers, they aren't socializing in any communities, they aren't attending any conferences on people management, not reading any books as life long learners, they say things like "I'm technical" and "I know enough to be dangerous", but they can't materially contribute to helping me build my product outside of testing and light UI feedback.

So my two things would be:

  1. Move to a better environment (Doesn't have to be SV but some place where there is a community passionate about things you are).
  2. If you're going to eject out of coding, eject to an owner, not to an employee.

[1] - http://www.geekmind.net/2012/07/steve-jobs-on-average-vs-bes...

[2] - https://www.gutenberg.org/files/8581/8581-h/8581-h.htm#link2...

> I like coding (that's why I started this job, I also consider myself good at coding) I like to learn and explore new things.

Choosing managerial track is far more dangerous than being developer in the context of job secruity. Managerial roles vary from company to company and you can not show what you learned as a manager, since its mostly depends on the team members which you do not have much control. Once you leave the organization or if the company goes down, managers go down with it and very hard to find jobs because most people who don't like coding are competing for the manager jobs. There are lots of people in that category.

On the other hand Managers are paid much more than developers i hear, but i doubt its not more than 1.5x of a senior developer salary. In my opinion is not worth the risk. If you are a developer you can constantly learn and stay relevant.

I might be totally wrong, willing to hear the other perspective. If you feel i am being not polite to managers please understand i am not good with managing people and hence probably i downplay managers role to feel superior. Its possible this is the case.

Good managers are rare.

In my experience the best managers deeply understand the business and deeply understood what motivates people and what they’re good at. They are expert match makers of problem -> skill and help bring the best out of people. They are servant leaders.

Managers have a lot of leverage. An experienced manager who understands their art is worth their weight in gold.

One old developer colleague once said wisely that if you find a good manager follow them through the job switches if possible.

Many times over, I have been working in companies where they had no other option but to call back coders from retirement to ensure migration and operational activities. There are plenty of aging systems requiring coding skills and experience freshmen can't deliver. Tech can be a lifetime career for sure, you only need to figure out where the demand is and navigate it...

I was told by my mom that people change careers several times in their lifetime. Sometimes those career changes are within the same company (for example, IC to manager role).

10 years from now, you might not be coding; but, right now, do you want to? If you want to, if you like it more, maybe you could do that instead.

Senior and Principal software engineers at some companies manage projects (so you'll still get some managerial experience if you want to go back to it), and they still code.

And there are a lot more software engineers now than there were back when age-ism was a bigger thing. More software engineers getting older means a larger pool of old software engineers, means there's more good, older software engineers and they'll fight back or destroy some of the old age-ism stuff.

For what it's worth, I've worked at companies where there were definitely older gentlemen in engineering roles, a network engineer who was a genius and very well respected. It all depends on where you work.

Do what you like, you've only got one life :)

I am 39, been programming for about 10 years, and I have never managed anybody. Mentored numerous, always had an "open door" to sit with a junior or even not-so-junior dev to hash out/debug/conceptually consult on something. This is part by explicit choice, part by just not being as "emotionally" invested in the tech decisions as people who desired management. I always volunteer to take on or clean up parts of the code or stack that no one else wants to touch as long as my other work duties would be reasonably adjusted to accommodate for this, so that everyone else's job could be more fun and productive. I have always been valued by both management and for being this kind of "informal player", and never felt my job was at risk, or that I got stale. You don't need to be working on the latest tools/lang's/stacks: just writing and reading code constantly. Tech challenges that keep your skills sharp lurk everywhere.

I’m in a similar situation. If you are good at talking with people and managing them, then companies will naturally try to coax you into positions where that’s what you do. A lot of people can code, and naturally a smaller subset can code and manage people well. I believe that all you can do is be as honest as possible with your company without making ultimatums. See if they are receptive to changing your role so that you are doing more coding. I feel your issue though because it’s easy to think “but I started making a lot more money when I started managing people, if I go back to coding, will my pay still be justified? Will future raises/promotions be forfeited because I go back to coding. Is coding “going back”? Is this furthering or regressing my career? Etcétera.

My only advice there is if you’ve successfully managed for a few years and you make the switch back to coding, to go back to management will not be hard, at your company or at another. Good luck

Hey iamcirou,

I’ll be honest , you’re analysis is perfectly right.

This is just my opinion , but I think the industry has evolved from what is was 20 years ago.

With the rise of social platform , access to knowledge has become universal.

Today anyone can proclaim themself an « expert » on any topic. Trust me on this , I have seen people telling me they knew about something and when you scratch the surface you realize they know very little... Add to this the widespread of IT Trainings everywhere and you have made « IT consulting / Software Dev » become something trivial...

While someone who was a consultant 20 years ago was worth a lot for his own company and valued by his own peers/superior/customer his now considered as not much than a cell inside a spreadsheet or a unit of work for a given task...

There is no surprise there and I think it’s not even specific to you or consulting. It’s the same everywhere if you are working in large business ( Fortune 500 / SV Unicorn / Big Fours ...)

> The problem is that, at same time I feel that coding can't be a lifetime career: what will happen in 10 years from now? Maybe company will prefer younger coders to hire and I will not be able to find a job anymore?

What will happen in 10 years? Who knows? Things change a lot in 10 years and your perspective on things will change too. I think you may be overly stressed about ageism (keyword being "overly"). All of these young engineers will hit their 30s/40s/50s/60s too and the age group distribution will reflect that in the years to come. I'm in my 40s and most engineers I socialize with are my age or older. None have any intentions of becoming managers. Keep a level head on HN, the attitude here is very SV focused and doesn't necessarily provide an accurate depiction of the overall industry.

I work at company (Olo) where at least two people I know of have asked to go back to developer positions from their manager positions, and have done so without any negative takes on it.

In my mid 30s I had a couple years where I kind of re-invented myself. I had been doing your typical C# backend stuff for like 10 years, just going to work, doing the thing, going home. Then for 2 years I spent some time learning other languages (F#, Nim, Rust,Go) doing coding challenge type things (Codingame, Advent of Code) and doing some open source work and game dev on the side etc.

Anyway it all kinda made coding fun again but when I next had a job search it opened a lot of doors. Knowing Rust and F# got me in the door at some very interesting places, and all the "leetcode" challenges made me able to interview very confidently.

i would like to get a 6- or 12-month follow-up from OP.

i think concern about age is very warranted.

i think you should try to casually talk to your manager(s) about going back/down to a role where you can do more of what you want. give back some salary if you need to.

if that fails, then start looking around.

then raise the issue again with your manager(s) as a more serious issue -- i.e. you really want this.

being burned out is affecting your home life, too, so your wife/kids get to experience your depression.

my new pet cause is a 4-day work week.

don't know if i'll be able to achieve it this time around, but i feel like it would offer some protection against the dread of a boring 'dead-end' job.

one company i just talked to has 'mental health fridays' -- one friday off a month. seemed like some kind of important admission (of guilt) -- or a commentary on the state of work in 2021.

I would echo the common sentiment here that personal projects could help you in your development, and break away from monotony. At the very least, learning something along the way and demonstrating it can increase your marketability if that's something that concerns you. This is my current strategy. I'm not exactly anxious about my future, but I think it's reasonable to hedge bets with lifelong learning.

Another primary driver for my starting side-projects, which I swore I wouldn't do because "I already program enough at work" (I think this is fair when I'm burned out from it but I feel that less and less often as I improve), is that I want to be more creative and less consumptive in my free time, with something I would value.

TIL 35 is old.

1. You might be leaking energy: Try write down the different activities you have done during coding over the past 10 years and see if any of theses activities has been antagonistic with each other. If you have found antagonistic activities, try eliminate them and give yourself a year to work on complementary activities in coding. It might reveal a thing or two to you.

2. It's incredible hard to predict an accurate version of the future. A better alternative might be to set yourself to quickly adapt to changing scenarios and being strong on timeless foundations.

3. Align your strengths with the output of the company: Find your strengths are and what you enjoy and figure out how to align it with the outputs of the company and serving humanity. I find that having a goal bigger than ourselves tends to energise us.

4. If you need to move to something different, it might require you paying a price; I think of it as paying a premium on your first deal.

5. Have a personal motto:I have observed that organisations tend to become the motto they ascribe to themselves. Maybe individuals can leverage this?

Some posts from leverage thoughts that my help below:





I hope this helps and I wish you the best.

Buy some ETH and learn about the blockchain and defi. Some smart people expect ETH to go to 10k or more this year, based on this the code change in July, along with an inflationary collapse of fiat. You could do some videos, or websites based on 11ty and jamstack. It sounds like you are capable. There are some very promising alt-coins that run on ETH that could see 20,000 percent gains this year after the July code change in ETH. A first project - generate your own seed phrase with dice or atmospheric TRNG streams and validate it offline on a secure OS (openBSD?). You could write a python program to do this. You could also help us all get away from centralized banking and services. Good luck.

It’s not really a dead end, since you can go coding and you can stay in your job.

What you worry about is what will happen in 10 years...

Thinking that choosing a path now may lead to a dead end in 10 years is overthinking it to me.

You can always switch back to engineering management if/when you need it.

Ageism is likely going to be less pronounced in the future than it has been in the 2000s as well. New companies were created by young people, but all these companies are still there, managed by people who also get old.

The way I see it is that we’re in an industry with no shortage of jobs, and that’ll likely be the same for the foreseeable future. We are so lucky that is is the case. So maybe try and stop worrying, you’ll be fine coding...

Have you considered to start freelancing? You could build a personal brand as a specialist for an industry, tech stack or <niche of your choice> you feel passionate about and decide on your own which projects/clients you want to work.

Any advice on marketing and getting contracts? Say, hypothetically someone was in a niche that could be useful, but locally there is only one company and other than that it's kind of a vacuum.

> what will happen in 10 years from now? Maybe company will prefer younger coders to hire and I will not be able to find a job anymore?

I think that people vastly overestimate ageism in the software industry. And experienced engineers are far more valuable than someone who is just starting out. In the worst case, if the industry looks very different in 10 years and your prospect aren't that great, you can move to project management or some other management position at that point instead of settling for it now.

Get a developer job if that's what you prefer to do; I think that you're overestimating the downsides of choosing that option.

You may be interested to become a software architect. This role is not offered by all companies, and differs from company to company. But usually it requires a good mix of technical, business and management skills, with the emphasis on technical. In my company, at least, the architect is expected to be hands-on and be able to code the critical/foundational parts that have to be done right. So you might want to find a company where there is a meaningful architect track that is parallel to the management track in terms of compensation and career levels.

Congratulations on making the jump to management, which is a socially acceptable job all the way to retirement.

I’m in my 40s and still coding. I wish I had your problem, which I’d solve by scratching my coding itch out of hours.

Be careful though - this is the path I took, and it still comes with trade-offs. I started out as a developer and made the transition to management, where I now oversee a mid-size engineering department (~100 people). I never get to even look at code any more - there's just no time. Off hours I get to do what I want of course, but there are real life things competing for my time there. Unless you're single with no kids and no house to maintain, there will always be a list of stuff that needs to get done, and then you have to choose again. When I actually get a couple hours to myself to do some project coding, it's glorious, but it doesn't happen very often.

One piece of advice I can give is that if you do decide to go down the management path, own that decision and understand what it means. I spent a number of years trying to keep a foot in the code, and it was exhausting because I never had the blocks of time necessary to produce good output, and as a result, both my code and my management duties suffered. Learning to let go was very difficult, at least for me, but when I did, it was better for me and everyone I was managing. My job was supposed to be about making sure other people could do theirs, and as soon as I understood that, I was able to focus my attention properly.

Project management is one of those skills that you need to hide if you want to remain an engineer: being a good PM will just make you nominated to be the PM any time there isn’t one (which is half the time in dev jobs because technical PMs are underpaid and overworked).

So be a bad PM if you want to remain a developer. Manage your tasks and nobody else’s, and intentionally so. It kind of sucks, but the primadonna attitude a lot of senior developers take is basically because it lets you escape the PM responsibilities that get you sidetracked from an engineering career track.

I know you're asking for practical advice and for that I don't have much to offer. But I do notice a lot of assumptions and judgments in your language which may not be true. There is no such thing as a 'dead end' in a career, that's just a thought you have. Same with the idea that you can't code for the rest of your working life. Or that 35 is old.

These are all just thoughts you have which very well may not be true. Why don't you dig into those thoughts, why you have them, and see if you can think about them differently.

I probably want what you have now, mundane fixed schedule job which gives you the time and freedom to work on your passions post your office. Could very well go with wood working and infosec research. Those passions can (probably) be leveraged later for a different career opportunity or a small, bootstrapped startup. I know friends who were pure play project managers but worked on their passions after office hours (whenever they had time). Now they are working on their passions at a job that pays them to do so.

There is ALWAYS work for a senior engineer who keeps his blade sharp. Just because you have years put in, it doesn't mean you need to get into management. Dive deeper, become an even better engineer. You have years on the job, something money can't buy and companies WANT.

Just don't be one of those older engineer codger that still pushes for subversion instead of git and prefers php instead of something modern. That's a fast track to becoming irrelevant and unhireable. Keep up to date and SHARP.

I'm 45. Unemployed for more than a year now. Been in Software Development all these years. Unproductive 2020 - Got stuck outside home during Covid lockdown without a laptop and couldn't be back for 8 months. Was watching training videos online during that phase. It looks like a dead end for myself. Not much opportunities coming my way. Software still excites me.

Focus on what makes you happy and start working on it. Good to work on stuffs that you may not have tried out before.

I am in my 40s, working as senior SRE at a large firm since 2.5 yrs now, and working some nights and weekends on developing my product. Few months ago, I became tech lead and was given managerial tasks. But this came with a lot of anxiety and stress to the point that i started looking for a new company.

I agree that going up the ranks is not as nice ( i did not make it that high yet). Also dont put all your eggs in the same project. make sure u are also doing something u enjoy

"if it’s clear that you can perform all your responsibilities at a high level, you are no longer in the right job" A quote from my today's reading (HBR).

Same problem here, work in IT as developer, tech lead and PM, have not been promoted for years. I am staring to think IT consultancy software is full of dead end jobs.

I'm nearly at your spot in my career, but I'm not in management. I'm transitioning from a senior programmer position into a technical architect and team lead. I'm going to help write requirements and how to implement them from a high level, then create tasks and assign them to team members (including myself) to implement. I might be mentoring others from time to time. Maybe there is a similar position where you are?

Yeah similar age and similar thoughts over recent years. My suggestion is go entrepreneurial. It doesn't have to be IT related or VC backed. In fact you might have an easier time if it isn't.

Spend some months researching spaces. There's opportunity everywhere and I think anyone smart enough to do programming is smart enough to dive into other spaces too. Short list some ideas and put some stakes in one or two.

In my experience always have a side project you can work on. I had at least 2 side projects any time in last 10 years.very few got to where I planned but they kept me updated.

With evolving technology, Industry will require knowledgable managers who are familiar with latest tech and trends. You will fit there with your experience even after a decade.

@OP I hope you get quality advice from veterans who frequent these forums.

I have some tangential questions for you and maybe others.


As a programmer, how can I avoid the pressure towards management?

What is that pressure and why do people succumb to the pressure?

How much is that pressure external and how much is internal?

What form does the pressure take? What advice can help withstand the pressure?


I work in a medium sized silicon valley tech company.

I’ve done both and am not sure which I’m better at. I can 100% say that I found more pure joy in programming, but probably have had a much larger positive impact on the company in a leadership role.

The ultimate control against the pressure is “no, I don’t want a management role” or “I don’t want a management role higher than team lead” or whatever. No one will fire a good engineer because they don’t want to go into management.

Part of the pressure is on pay; part is on control; part is on boredom/frustration with doing the same thing, especially if you’re doing the same thing and think there are bozos higher up in the company making bad calls.

I’ve often said that once I have a totally secure retirement, that the ideal job from a happiness standpoint for me is a principal (or maybe even one step lower) software engineer role somewhere. I don’t want to just travel and certainly not just golf and watch TV.

One of the best ways to make yourself much more hireable and to give yourself job security is through continuing education. Consider certifications in cyber security, dev or ops certs on AWS or other popular fields that are hiring. It will also give you a big boost in self confidence and bring your skills current.

I am in a similar situation. I am doing everything but coding. Like you I loved SW development. Unlike you, PM would be a happier place than where I am now.

That said, I am planning, when I can (Sept 2022), to go back to SW development. It might be a bit of a pay cut, but the job satisfaction will be worth it.

I know plenty of 60+ year olds who have specialised in a programming technology and get pretty good government contracts. Some of them went to management and back, because people management isn't for everyone.

Good luck!

Any career change could take time, or even create an employment gap while you skill up for the next thing, so, in addition to what others have said, I would also stockpile savings.

Your company pushes you to a managerial role because your experience allows you to deliver more value in that than you would as an individual contributor. You're are essentially a force multiplier for more junior ICs by providing the strategy, direction and mentorship to them. You'll find this career trajectory to be fairly normal.

Being a coder makes you a cost centre, whereas being a PM gives you some degree of charge over a budget, which means you can more directly quantify your $ contribution to the business. The upper end of your salary expectations will therefore likely be higher in the PM role. It sounds like you don't want to do PM, but sort of realise this.

There are a handful of exceptions to this, where you become such a domain expert that people will write blank cheques for you do still do the technical stuff, but you will find overwhelmingly that your experience level is one where companies see your best value in providing you the responsibility to guide the high level and leave the detail up to juniors below you.

Of course, you may choose that you want to become that greybeard IC, and that's totally ok, but expect it to put some degree of limit on your salary's upward trajectory. I don't think that they will kick you out just because you're old, but they certainly see you as being able to deliver more value in some degree of management. As an IC, you simply can't provide that much more value back to the company compared to juniors in similar roles, because your true value lies in being leverage to multiple juniors through your experience and mentorship. If you're paid well enough, satisfied with having that for the rest of your working life, then it's an increasingly stress-free way to pay the bills because your mastery of the role will mean it's easy to deliver.

It's worth noting, that some of the other ways around this (starting your own company, freelancing, consultancy) will inherently include a degree of management of some description. Whether it's the right balance for you is again something only you can gauge.

So if you truly want to stay as an IC, how do you do that? Talk to your supervisors about your career goals and highlight that. Have that discussion, explain to them that you're happy to take on a mentorship role but still want to be in the weeds at the end of the day, and hopefully your company is flexible enough to work with you there.

Context: I'm also 35 but in a mech engineer career, and in exactly the same career stage as you. I now have 3 people reporting to me, but more informally play a strategy/mentorship/leadership role to a team of about 10 more junior engineers.

I have thought a lot through this, and my team has multiple of those old greybeards who stayed in the technical expert IC role. I wrestled with the same issue (I used to love doing technical design, FEA, CAD, etc., and can still probably run rings around the juniors in it) but ultimately realised that I want the career growth and that I can deliver substantially more value by moving into a leadership position.

Look into Technical Program Management as a career track. The right blend of technical, management and leadership IMO.

forgive me for posting this here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26808749

I am also desperately in need of advice, for last 2 hours can't do anything at work, feeling worried about what to do next.

It's curious that modern life has brought this sort of angst.

I mean, long ago you would work in farming or as a blacksmith all your life and that would be it.

With such constant change nowadays, you can't help but feel that you are always on a tightrope. Late capitalism has made everyone expendable; you have to prove yourself constantly.

Also, inequality takes away some of your freedom. Sometimes I wish I could take some time off from IT and do something simpler like wait tables or walk dogs. But it just is not possible to take such a huge pay cut.

I'm not entirely buying it.

You might be a blacksmith, but eventually you'll become the master of the shop, take on some apprentices under you, and take on more high-level responsibilities. You might still get to work iron periodically (especially if it's a complex, artisan piece) but more of your day will be consumed with balancing books, managing contracts of supplies, client liason, etc.

I don't think that's really evolved a great deal compared to the OP's sitaution.

Plenty of people live on the wage from waiting tables or walking dogs. Of course it's possible for you - it's just a lifestyle change.

Have you thought about Engineering Manager role? It covers both technical and people management

Look into Technical Program Management as a career track.

6 years of TPM'ing in BigTech. I'm looking to come "back" to Software Engineering where I could do more of the "real TPM" work than in my current Senior TPM position.

I'm finding that this role is being diluted by Program Managers with very little if any technical background. (Sometimes they learn enough of basic scripting, and suddenly get the T). But this is not the same as an engineer that had built stuff for years.

These people are indispensable in handling the organizatioal chaos, but are less efficient in preventing it, and driving the overall vision, especially if a problem being solved is deeply technical and strategy and tech issues are intertwined (they always are in e.g. scalable infrastructure).

I'm finding that deep technical and strategic organizational vision increasingly belongs to just very senior Software Engineers, who may stop coding, start working more with people, but actually never convert to TPM.

It’s called clinical depression from burn out. I’ve been there before. Take a step back seek treatment. Everything will be crystal clear again.

let younger agile people Code, be an Software Architect if you like Code or manage coding teams. That is most likely better.

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