Is it OK to lack ambition to keep climbing higher and higher?

Nov 13, 2019 29 Comments

I'm an SDET working in an individual contributor role and I have 17 years of experience. I used to have a burning desire to earn a promotion to a Principal or Architect role, but for varying reasons, I never got one, some of them my own fault. I didn't and don't want a role that involves having direct reports because I don't want the baggage of managing people and having to write their performance reports every year.

I have gotten really comfortable where I am and I'm pretty happy with my TC. Depending on the level of cash bonus and RSUs I get, my TC is about 175-192 thousand annually. I'm really satisfied with this amount of money and don't have a driving need to keep fighting for more and more. There are just easier ways to get more income and if I wanted it, I'd just take savings and start buying apartment buildings to be managed by others, so the cash would come in without much extra effort from me to earn it. I also have the very nice allowance of 2 days WFH/week

I have school aged children and a spouse with mental health issues. Right now, we are working through some of those issues, but the current thing we're working on is going to take months to resolve. He doesn't work, but manages our household as best he can given the circumstances. Obviously, this situation complicates my ability to take on greater demands at my job. If I were to take on a higher level role, I think it is very likely that I wouldn't be able to continue with 2 days WFH/week. Even without direct reports of my own, I'd still have leadership responsibilities to meet.

I am torn. Part of me feels like there is something wrong with me for not having gotten promoted. And the reason for that, I'll have to admit, is that I've seen people with pretty subpar technical skills and project management skills get promoted over and over again. But... that's life, right? A lot of people get those roles because they make up for what they lack on core job skills with greater drive, ambition and political talent. I know I shouldn't be comparing myself to these people. Still, I feel like it makes me look inferior to them even though I'm not inferior. I'm just less socially adept, I guess. Logically, I know that getting a promotion might complicate my life by upsetting the balance I have struck. And being in a leadership role makes it a lot less acceptable to just withdraw into myself when my personal life gets challenging. Which is always going an issue given my spouse's mental health condition.

I am fearful of being seen as a loser and eventually being ditched for younger employees who are cheaper and eager to advance to higher roles. Who wants someone with 17 years of experience and gray hair who isn't aching to be a senior manager? I can't afford to be out of a job with two young kids and a spouse who is unlikely to ever be able to hold down a job of his own.

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TOP 29 Comments
  • Amazon 8-)
    I truly envy you for building a comfortable place for yourself. Sorry about the spouse's situation, but you seem to be handling that bravely. I wouldn't worry about promotion trading my happiness and life balance.
    Nov 13, 2019 0
  • Zillow Group k5g8hf
    The sad truth is that tech isn’t family-friendly. You won’t necessarily be replaced because the other person is younger; you’ll be replaced because they have the flashy new skills that you don’t have. In order to survive as a tech IC you have to keep picking up new skills, or work in a tech niche that will never be obsolete, and I can’t think of too many of those. I just saw F5 networks lay off a 20+ year employee who specialized as a data architect using one of those weird-ass XML-based DSLs that you use to define data schemas. She was being all positive and glass-half-full about it, but the reality is nobody hires those folks anymore. Don’t be like her.
    Nov 13, 2019 3
    • Shit... i was about to apply for a new F5 Networks position today
      Nov 13, 2019
    • Akamai Technologies hJks67
      OP
      I don't have issues with having an outdated skillset. I keep up to date with those and pick up new tools, languages and technologies easily. I spent a lot of time learning new things and I work on problems at Leetcode and study mathematics off and on for fun. Decent core QA skills like test planning, debugging, etc just don't go out of style.
      Nov 13, 2019
    • Zillow Group k5g8hf
      Then you’re good. QA folks like you are super hard to find, hire, and retain.
      Nov 13, 2019
  • New
    caj

    New

    PRE
    Scotiabank
    cajmore
    There is nothing wrong with you. Feel proud that you’re a bread winner of the family. Your husband is lucky to have you.
    Nov 13, 2019 0
  • Salesforce peaceguy
    Also I feel , feeling happy and satisfied with one's life has become the most difficult thing nowadays which otherwise makes everyone miserable , unhappy, depressed irrespective of their TC and wasting valuable time in life in overthinking and endless pursuits for no good reason and always moving the goal post without being satisfied.

    This rat race seriously needs to stop, It has become beyond repair.

    As Bhagavad Gita says, one needs to be happy within himself and not rely on external things for happiness. If you can't be in peace and happy with yourself, even with a 1 million $ TC, one will be quite miserable. The current tech generation is doing exactly the opposite
    Nov 13, 2019 1
    • Amazon 8-)
      ^This^
      Nov 13, 2019
  • Intuit HuEo58
    Your post should have been maybe 3 sentences. All the rest is unnecessary. You clearly understand your values and interests and that’s all that matters. Don’t spend 4 paragraphs trying to rationalize and apologize for how you feel. You’re not in high school anymore where you need to worry about what others think.
    Nov 13, 2019 4
    • Akamai Technologies hJks67
      OP
      Except when it comes to gaining and retaining employment, you literally do have to care what other people think of you. Because if they don't think well of you, you're expendable when it comes time to cut staff and you're not desirable when you're trying to get reemployed. There is a value system at play in technology that prizes steady promotions over the course of one's career. I literally read a post from someone else on here earlier this evening before I even wrote my post who voiced the very attitude I fear: "Why hire someone older who hasn't advanced to senior management at age 44? That says to me they just don't have much room to grow. I could hire someone much younger who can advance so much further and grow so much more." It's not like I don't have to worry about this.
      Nov 13, 2019
    • Amazon 8-)
      @intuit what hurt you?
      Nov 13, 2019
    • Intuit HuEo58
      No problem, here, @amazon. I’m very similar in that I want to remain an individual contributor and as long as I communicate that and align with my leadership as well as provide value, I’m in my happy place. I don’t need society or Blind to dictate what makes me happy or defines success.
      Nov 14, 2019
    • Amazon 8-)
      But you still need to shit on others posts, if that's your way of steaming off, I can understand that. Good luck to you too
      Nov 14, 2019
  • Amazon xAmznTechy
    You are likely in the top 5% of the world in terms of health and wealth. Let that sink in before you go on bashing yourself.
    Nov 13, 2019 1
    • Akamai Technologies hJks67
      OP
      Oh trust me I know how good I have it. I didn't grow up with privilege and I come from a part of the USA that is one of the poorest nationwide. I think this is one reason why I find the ravenous need for more and more money that seems to drive some people on Blind kind of baffling. Like I said at the end of the post, I'm just scared of being seen as expendable because I'm not constantly on the search for 'more'. I just hear so much about 'hungriness' being a desirable attribute in employees that it makes me feel worried about not being seen as 'hungry'.
      Nov 13, 2019
  • I don’t know, man. This is not cool. Your salary-YoE ratio is terrible. Here is the goal for you. Join Google. You’ll have great WLB and much higher TC. Start grinding leetcode now.
    Nov 13, 2019 3
    • Amazon 8-)
      Grinding is the keyword here.
      Nov 13, 2019
    • Akamai Technologies hJks67
      OP
      Google tried to recruit me about three years ago. Thing is... they don't have the vacation policy I have and I was told they're not all that flexible about WFH. I really can't over-emphasize just how important those things are to me and my family. I'd have to work years to get to their max vacation time and it still would be two weeks less than I get now. If they had 30 days PTO and were willing to allow 2 days WFH/week right off the bat, I'd have jumped at the chance to interview with them.
      Nov 13, 2019
    • Ok. Maybe CloudFlare? 100% wfh, great tech.
      Nov 14, 2019
  • GE / Product BYEGE
    There is natural need to be the best of the best. That is purely nurture for human beings. You’re managing your life appropriately. You value a family above career progression. That is OKAY. Not everyone will agree, but the reality is what works for you. If you’re comfortable with your job, you have a family you care about and a life you enjoy. That is enough! I’m fortunate to have progressed quickly in PL roles, and it’s something I enjoy and makes me happy. But if it didn’t, I wouldn’t do it. It’s that simple. Do what makes you happy, nothing more, nothing less.
    Nov 13, 2019 0
  • Amazon 8-)
    Everyone is going to be replaced by younger folks eventually. But you can delay that by not demanding too much and keeping a good relationship with your employer.
    Nov 13, 2019 0
  • Amazon 8-)
    I don't know about Akamai, but some companies that are very employee friendly are: Salesforce, Workday, Rackspace, Atlassian. Try joining one such company if Akamai isn't helping you stay happy.
    Nov 13, 2019 0

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