What should I do next?

Jul 7 31 Comments

Hello Blind

I’m 32yo, 9yoe and I’m reflecting on what I should do next in my career. All my work experience has been in startups of different stages, always in technical roles. Currently I’m what one could call “cloud architect”, if that makes any sense.

I don’t completely suck at programming (I was recently able to clear an E5 SWE interview at FB), but I don’t think my strengths would show in sitting down and crunching feature code for 50 hours a week with a bunch of crazy smart kids who know 24 languages and all their framework APIs, I’m just not at their level of wizardry. I would be setting myself up for failure, I believe.

My biggest strengths have always been my very assertive personality and technical intuition that drives me towards simple but functional solutions: thanks to this, I’ve always been put in front of important customers as “technical expert” to solve their problems or calming them down when stuff breaks (and I’m not talking about being a support guy, I’m talking about flying to a big customer onsite to find, troubleshoot and fix a sneaky multithread race condition when our product was used a scale).

I also have 50+ major conference talks (some had 2k+ people in the audience), people really like me as a speaker so my companies always send me around to do heavy technical talks.

This made me reflect on these positions:

- SWE: as I said, not ideal for me, and that’s why I actually turned down FB offer.

- Engineering manager: I tried but I really didn’t like it, I’m very picky and technically opinionated so it’s hard for me to be emphatic towards other engineers, knowing that I’ll ultimately be judged on THEIR productivity. I prefer to be their peer and be judged on my productivity.

- Sales engineering: this is where one can make really good $ (I have friends who make 500k+ consistently) and where I would be able to use my assertive personality the most in front of customers, but in a way that’s too distant from core engineering and I would lose my technical abilities.

- product management: hell no, just no. I believe it’s the most useless role in the world.

- Startup CTO: this would be really nice, but I don’t have previous experience in these roles, and I’m kind of burned out by startups.

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TOP 31 Comments
  • Amazon 10022004
    Probably come back to reality and realize you aren’t as great as you think...that would be a start.
    Jul 7 10
    • Amazon 10022004
      Who, me? 320k.
      Jul 7
    • Databricks / Data
      data4u

      Databricks Data

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      500 Startups
      data4umore
      God dam so true about OP
      Jul 7
    • OP
      Very helpful databricks
      Jul 8
    • Databricks / Data
      data4u

      Databricks Data

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      500 Startups
      data4umore
      It should be helpful another person thinking ur delusional
      Jul 8
    • OP
      It would be helpful if you tell me why you think I’m delusional, since it might help me improve. Just telling me I’m delusional doesn’t really provide me any feedback, since I have no idea what part of my thread made you think I’m delusional.

      Unfortunately anonymous forums are full of people like you who just like to put others down, without providing any constructive feedback. If we were face to face, you likely wouldn’t treat me like that, whereas I would exactly explain to you my problem and career dilemma the way I wrote it.
      Jul 8
  • Intel / Eng nullptr0
    Why do you say product management is useless? I'm an SWE myself but curious to hear your perspective.
    Jul 7 4
    • OP
      All the PMs I worked with, and again this is based on my own experience after having worked with several dozens of PMs, have no technical intuition, no product intuition and not enough people skills to actually be useful in front of customers.

      So effectively they end up being useless, always wandering around and trying to pretend to upper management that they are contributing something, whereas engineers and engineering tech leads effectively own 99% of the product aspects. As a result, most engineers don’t respect PMs at all, so that’s a role I don’t want to find myself in.

      Again, based on my experience.
      Jul 7
    • Oracle uswabiyura
      PMs are not always like that. Many of them come from Engjneering background as well. Looks like you had a bad experience. Great products are almost always led by great PMs (but no credit taken away from Engg and other fields)
      Jul 7
    • Salesforce / Eng Gjjdhjekej
      Seems like your skills might help u become good PM in your terms. As you have good public speaking skills / technical intuition etc.
      Jul 7
    • OP
      What part of “I don’t care, I don’t want to be a pm at all” was not clear in the post? :)
      Jul 8
  • New / Eng MwSA45
    My understanding, FB SWE can be like startup CTO, depending on the team.
    Jul 7 0
  • Accenture hdow
    how about independent consulting? just offer an end to end service from architecting/project planning to implementation
    Jul 7 0
  • Mentor Graphics / Product
    PEwt73

    Mentor Graphics Product

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    TSMC
    PEwt73more
    What sort of roles in sales engineering are you considering?
    Jul 8 5
    • OP
      None at all at the moment, but these would be enterprise sales engineering in big companies. Customers who have 7 figure deals and you fly onsite to set everything up and then grab your 5% commission. I have friends in Cisco making 1M doing that.

      It requires a certain type of personality more than technical skills, which I believe I have (like I said above).
      Jul 8
    • Accenture hdow
      what are their titles? is this more of a VP/director or pre-sales/architect role?
      Jul 8
    • OP
      Pure and simple “sales engineer”. And yes, they are mostly in pre sales roles. I have been involved myself in a few startups I was in and saw how easy it was to get some dough.
      Jul 8
    • Accenture hdow
      i assume the $$ is lumpy, considering the effort to win the gig and overall sales cycle. but when you get commissions it's always big money

      our managing directors in accenture are kind of sales people. they deal with 7digit deals and get performance based bonus and RSUs
      Jul 8
    • Northrop Grumman HowCouldYu
      Still probably easier said than done
      Jul 8
  • Microsoft
    devices

    Microsoft

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    Apple
    devicesmore
    Your post reflects what I would want my Tech Lead to do but being afraid of smart kids is a red flag.
    Jul 7 2
    • OP
      What I meant is that if I were purely judged based on the quality and quantity of specialized feature code I can produce, I don’t think I would be nearly as valuable as the good performers of FAANG (and Microsoft as well, obviously) and would be probably at risk of PIP.

      I would not be afraid in an absolute sense, more in a “stack ranking” sense.
      Jul 7
    • Microsoft
      devices

      Microsoft

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      Apple
      devicesmore
      You would be expected to design stuff at higher levels and that’s where you show your intuition/design capabilities. Learning to ship faster with good quality can happen once you become aware of efficient ways to do that. Every company has a bit of ramp up time.

      Also, I can understand quantity of code being produced as a problem but not quality. That essentially indicates you have not entirely grasped the nuances which means there is a need to invest time in asking people the right sort of questions and spending more time in reading the code/running different tests.

      Additionally, whenever there are some bugs, how you attack them is very important. All in all, I don’t think you should be too worried as long as you take your job seriously and/or are competent which going by getting E5 seems to indicate you are.
      Jul 7
  • Salesforce cheppanubrother
    3 years older than you , not achieved 1/10th of what you did.
    Jul 22 0
  • Cruise Automation eushf284
    Thanks for this thread! In similar position. Still no idea what to do next.
    Jul 17 0
  • Amazon Agent 007
    Have you considered starting your own company?
    Jul 8 0
  • Zillow Group ipoop
    Maybe something like a "technical advisor" - those roles specifically exist for strong ICs who aren't management or leadership material
    Jul 7 0

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