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Ask HN: How do you think about promotion?
4 points by confuseddesi 2 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 7 comments
I currently manage a team of product managers at a major tech company. I have been working on trying to get promoted to director (which is the next title up) and a lot of it seems to be networking with various VPs to get them to vouch for me. My manager seems a bit passive in getting me promoted - he has given me scope and it’s now up to me to set up the right conversations to make the case easy for him. I am not sure if this is the way things are supposed to be - part of me thinks he should be taking a more active role in setting up the right conversations to get me promoted.

However, as I reflect on this promotion process, I find two things:

- I am mostly motivated to get promoted because it is the next step. I look at my manager’s life and I don’t envy him. He works crazy hours and it’s taking its toll on him.

- I am mostly trying to get promoted to not stagnate. But honestly, if it were culturally acceptable and I didn’t feel the need to keep up with the Joneses, I would be happy in my role for the next 20 years.

So my question is to this group - how have you thought of being promoted? Is it worth it to not stagnate? Is the self-promotion to VPs with your boss waiting for it to happen the norm if you do want to get promoted?

> part of me thinks he should be taking a more active role in setting up the right conversations to get me promoted

Nah, in my experience, if you want it, you need to go chase people yourself.

"Stagnation" is very personal question. If you're happy with your work-life balance right now, then you're happy. I know of people that have been happily working at the same company (in a few cases, in the same role) for 10, 20 years. But also, stagnation can be a double-edged sword, in that it may cause you to lose your edge (happened to some people I know). I myself thought being comfortable was fine early in my career, but when the opportunity presented itself, I decided to take it and now I don't regret it. You can think of it as a new challenge to master new skills.

IMHO, there's no correlation between seniority and working long hours. Just like it's on you to pursue networking, it's also on you to set your schedule and office hours expectations (i.e. if you let work dominate your life, that's kinda on you)

This is very insightful - especially the part about it being normal to chase promotion yourself.

In your opinion, what is the right time horizon to switch roles and/or companies to maintain your edge?

Let me qualify: I don't see it as "chasing promotion" per se. It's more like laying the groundwork, in a "dress for the job you want" sort of way. Basically, it's a lot easier to argue for a promotion if you let your boss know of your intent/career goals, and then you show progress to the point where you can say "look, X and Y can vouch for the fact that I'm already de facto doing a lot of what's expected of that role"

For leadership level, that typically means having valuable working relationships with other parts of the org that your current role might not necessarily require you to interact with.

In my experience, typically first promo might happen at around 2-4 years of tenure (basically whatever is considered enough time to "prove yourself"). Further promos might be more difficult, as they might involve carving a path via some sort of org restructuring.

The best position to be in isn't always the top. You can stay in a mid or even bottom position and be happy. Japanese culture is a great example of this, in how people take great pride and detail in how they butcher fish or manufacture salt.

I'd say find something you're interested in improving on and just improve on that. A middle manager has to lead up and down. You might want to stay good at that, or you might want to go up and just lead downwards.

I hate self promotion. We have to do that even for our year-end stuff. I think it creates bias toward people who are good at telling management what they want to hear. I hate the term visibility because most of it is done just for the sake of getting one's name out there and ignores the impact (even better if one brags about the fire they put out when it happened to be caused by themself).

I thought managers where supposed to help eliminate this sort of procedural and political overhead so the ICs can increase productivity by focusing on value-added work? Instead they just push the work down the org chart.

I've given up on promotions. The system might as well be rigged for all the reliance subjective evaluations. It would be far easier to move to a team with a manager who had a high opinion of me than to change the current one's opinion. The "standard" document lists 41 skills to evaluate - 41! I know plenty of people who have been promoted that don't meet all of those. Their manager's opinion is all that matters. Even if I were to get a promotion, 7% is practically nothing when making under $100k, and then I'll be evaluated against even higher expectations.

I have pretty much stopped thinking about promotions within the same team. IMO you need much more work to change peoples perception of your level than you do to just interview and talk your way into an opening at that level. This is after working at companies that will tell you a promotion is coming until the cows come home. It never materializes until you have another offer.

I used to have this practice where I would overlay a cartoon character over my avatar in the physical world. (e.g. my own self image)

By doing this I would neutralize pain, improve functional ability to stretch, and charm people.

I hadn't done this in years, but I was feeling despair this morning and felt myself merge with a 30 foot high firebird (e.g. phoenix) made of neon lights. It lasted for a few seconds and it wasn't completely lit up, maybe it was 5-20% of what it could have been but it was already glorious with bright and saturated colors.

I haven't gotten that vision back yet, but I will, and I will light it up completely. I might even build one.

It might be crazy or outside your experience, but that is what progress means for me.

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