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How do I figure out how managerial my career path should be?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer at Startup Companya year ago

I have a couple years of experience, so I'm thinking if it makes sense to go down the engineering manager path. I'm well-positioned to start this journey at my current company as well; I'm a very early engineer on my team, and I have the ability to build up the team and mentor those new people. However, I'm unsure if this is the right way for my career to go and how much of my job I want to be people management - How can I figure this out?

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  • 23
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    Staff SWE at Google, ex-Meta, ex-Amazon
    a year ago

    Do you want to manage out poor performers? Tell people they didn’t get promoted? Tell your team a project they really believe in is canceled? Tell stakeholders an important feature isn’t landing?

    The good parts exist too, of course. Promoting someone, celebrating a successful release and such, but my experience was that difficult things happened with higher frequency (but lower magnitude).

    Why do you want to manage? Do you love writing documents, reporting/defending status in meetings, and want to step back from code and design? What type of leading do you want to do as a people manager that you can’t do as a more senior IC?

    Would you have strong support and an ability to switch back if it doesn’t work out? Can you take on more management responsibilities without official title change to see if you like it? Can you talk in depth with existing managers about what they love and hate about their job?

  • 14
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    First, I recommend the following Q&A about deciding between IC and management track, which contains advice on what should motivate you becoming an engineering manager (EM) and how to see if you're good at it: "How do I figure out whether I should stay as an IC engineer or explore management as an EM?"

    Supporting and growing people is also a spectrum as I talk about in-depth in my deep-dive on effective mentorship: [Case Study] Mentoring Junior SWEs [E3] to Senior [E5] In Just 2.5 Years At Meta

    You can start with something light like taking on an intern or being a dedicated onboarding buddy for a new hire. If you like it, you can take on deeper mentorship roles, and if not, just naturally let those ties fade away (onboarding and interns are both time-boxed by default).

    Lastly, +1 to everything Lee said - A good EM acts as a shield/sponge for a lot of messy thrashy/political issues. It's a job full of hard decisions.

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