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