Would you recommend software engineers try a rotation as an SDM (software development manager)? What benefits or drawbacks would you say would come from making that switch to SDM?
Is rotation like some sort of probationary period where you're only a manager for 6 months or something? If that's the case, I'm averse to it. If an SDE switches into SDM, doesn't like it, and then switches back to SDE, that causes a lot of thrash for the manager - Management is something you should go into for the long haul.
For benefits/drawbacks, it depends on what your preferences are as an engineer and person, but here's my take:
Another way to approach this situation is to take on just some managerial responsibilities and behaviors without doing a full-blown rotation as an SDM. Here are my thoughts on how to do that.
I also recommend asking yourself, "Why do I want to get into management?". There are many good and bad reasons to become an engineering manager:
Lastly, I recommend our masterclass on what a good engineering manager (EM) looks like and how the best EMs empower their team.
Usually the transition to management happens at a more senior level, e.g. senior or staff engineer. Even if it's possible to rotate as an SDM before that, I would not recommend it, since it'll be harder for you to build the trust with the team you manage.
The important question here is around why you want to get into management. Most engineers find the transition quite painful, and you'll probably have to be ok with a bit of a slower career progression, at least for a year or so while you pick up management.
I want to write real replies here that are bespoke to the asker, AND I have written on a lot of topics on LinkedIn already. I don’t want to drag people away from Taro, nor copy-paste, so I will answer briefly but then link relevant things at the end.
Briefly: No. There is no reason to do this unless you really want a career change to a different role.
Not at all briefly: This isn’t a promotion from SDE, or the next step. Being an SDM is a much different job, even from a team lead role. Your love for planning projects or developing people is not sufficient. The amount of managing up and out is tremendous.
You may learn a few things being a manager that will make you a better IC if you come back. You can learn them other ways.
If you want to explore, do take some of your manager’s responsibilities outside of direct team management. Write some of their docs, go to some meetings to represent your team. See if you love those aspects.
Don’t do this without tremendous support. If who you will be reporting to isn’t L7 or long-tenured L6 that has MANAGED MANAGERS BEFORE, they will have a hard time teaching you as you ramp up. This is not something to do without a net.
There and Back Again - My journey from IC engineer to SDM and back
Qualities for an Engineering Manager, in 2 parts