Move to management track for good?

Jan 3 9 Comments

I am an engineer with 10yoe as SWE (infra SWE) as well as a manager. I have been in early startups where I grew and managed teams of 2-6 people for interesting projects, some with incredible deadlines and super crazy requirements. At the same time, I also like technical work, I have been in the front line many times, am listed in several patents, opinionated about tech, write code as much as I can, read programming books in my free time, ...

Here is the thing: I am burned out in my current company and would like to apply to a FAANG. The Google recruiter told me I can apply as a SWE or Manager due to my resume experience.

I like technical work and would like to stay technical but, as I am approaching my mid-30s I wonder if I should be more strategical and officially have my managerial career take off, by either trying for a manager at faang or a director at a growing startup or tier 3 company, with the hope of being some VP in 10 years rather than a “super duper principal engineer”.

As I look online, it seems like software engineers with decades of experience are a liability these days, for the most part salaries for ICs don’t scale as well as managers. Getting 500k as IC is a pretty sweet deal and almost impossible outside faang, getting that as a manager with some experience is more common, and as a director is cheap.

In short, I am terrified of ageism, as waves of young engineers keep flooding the market.

Any advice?

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TOP 9 Comments
  • This comment was deleted by original commenter.

    • OP
      I am being told I am a good manager because I provide good technical insights, am able to accurately distinguish between technical expertise and being bullshitted by some smart ass (most managers I met fall prey of this due to their lack of technical depth), and am able to set the right priorities without causing technical debt to the team.

      I completely shield teams from bullshit, and I always give all credits to the team, especially to the more introvert good performing engineers. I routinely go to my skip managers and praise to them people in my team for specific accomplishments, giving them and their work visibility.

      I also mentor them, I taught many engineers how to grow harder balls and learn to say no to unreasonable requests, as well as taught more selfish engineers how to become more generous towards juniors and poor performers. I have a very assertive personality so people seem to like listening to my advice.

      Why is Blind always so negative, always in offense mode... chill my friend. I asked a question and you don’t have to reply just to be an ass.
      Jan 3
    • Salesforce iwereu
      Ignore test_404. He is being an Ahole. Long term manager is a good direction since you enjoy career progress quickly. But you have more responsibilities than IC.
      Jan 3
  • I’m in a similar boat, albeit with a slightly different career progression up to this point. But I’m also in my 30s with 10+ yoe and I share your concerns about my future as an IC.

    I opted to join a public tech company with high TC as an IC and I specifically looked for one that is supportive of me going to manager track AND is supportive of going back if it’s not for me.

    If I were you I’d interview for whichever role you’d do best in and really try and find a company that is supportive about switching tracks later if you want. No need to make a single decision now that boxes you in for decades.
    Jan 3 0
  • Google NSvj37
    TL;DR - if you're burned out it may be because you don't know what to do. IME you generally don't choose a track, you generally naturally fall into one or the other. Don't do it for career or TC or whatever - think about it hard enough and I bet you'll have your answer. I've been both but FWIW, I'm sticking with the IC track for now.

    *************************************************************************************
    At least at Google, ICs tend to earn more than managers at the same level. Sometimes a LOT more. At the very high levels - principal and above, an IC is sorta treated like royalty. Yes, the expectations are ginormous, but you're much more in control of how you meet those. If you're the equivalent manager, you have all the BS of budgets and performance reviews and performance of your team and getting head count and all the rest of it.

    Yes, the "liability" is there are far fewer upper level IC opportunities than there are for equivalent management; Google and elsewhere, and IME, that is because it is much harder to climb the ranks as an IC. Either way, outside FAANG, most managers and directors never get anything remotely close to $500k.

    I think you're thinking too much about it at this point. IME per your description that chances you are hired as a first level manager at Google are very small, and management is so different here I'm not sure I'd recommend it, unless you were coming from a Facebook. Another option is as TL - basically a chief engineer - you get to set direction and tell people what to do and do at least 50% technical work but you aren't their manager. But again, it's also hard to land at Google as a TL. You can always start as an IC and transition later into either role.
    Jan 3 2
    • OP
      Thanks for your detailed feedback. If I might ask, what do you mean with “management is so different here”?
      Jan 3
    • Google NSvj37
      Different in that it is not traditional. Traditional/common first line management IME is where the manager is benevolent dictator - the manager decides who works for them, the manager decides bonuses and raises, the manager commands and controls employees, and the manager can fire those that do not perform per their requirements. First line management at Google is basically the opposite of that.
      Jan 4
  • Walmart hMPC02
    You can also try being an architect. Based on your rightup feel that is the best role for you. Shall stop ranting now, and let other blinders help you out 😊
    Jan 3 0
  • Facebook / Eng bytect
    My $0.02: my manager at FB is directly involved in the day-to-day code. He is one of the most skilled engineers I’ve ever met. He helps make technical decisions and occasionally still pushes code. That sounds like it’s what you’re looking for.
    Jan 3 0
  • Walmart hMPC02
    Agree with @bytect here. With experience i have learned that in some companies the IC will have the role you are asking for and in some others the Mgr will.
    In many companies the line managers(lowest level Mgr) are the only guys who have the profile you are looking for. Any body over that is navigating politics, pushing paper, and playing the survival game. Believe me when I say my dir spends more time playing the alignment game, than you would ever like. Choose to be an IC there (he is more like an architect with the overall delivery goal)
    In some companies the Mgr does the hands on roke. He has a small span, and does exactly what you want to do.
    There are pitfalls to slotting, but one Mgr doesn't fit all companies
    Also mgrs are a dime by a dozen, and getting interviewed is easy, getting selected is difficult. So be aware of that. It's not a generalization, but something I see on the ground. Looks like a lot of people are choosing to move
    Jan 3 0

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