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Would time as IC in big tech (if lacking experience in modern tech and big tech) enhance marketability for EM roles?

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Anonymous User at Taro Communitya year ago

Trying to decide about taking an IC role I received in big tech (my first one! Thanks, Alex and Rahul!). I'm very excited about it except that I'm concerned about whether I'd still have the option to be an EM again someday, if I took this offer (I am an EM in a very small company now).

Do you think someone with this resume/background would still have a shot at EM roles? Doesn't need to be FAANG or big tech, but EM roles in at least mid-tier companies.

My resume would look like this, in this order:

  • 12 YOE as software engineer and senior software engineer in small non-brand-name companies (no modern tech or working at scale). I did lead some teams of 6-9 people for about two years during this time (some EM jds will count that toward management experience)
  • 1.5 YOE as software manager/director managing three then six people in a small non-brand-name company (got role through internal promotion) (little modern tech, no distributed systems or working at scale, not a great management culture in this company, management is very casual, I have a lot of exposure to the overall business, though)
  • 1 or more YOE as a senior engineer at a big tech company (first work experience working at scale with distributed systems and modern tech, mentor team members, manage an intern or two if allowed, work on management- and impact-related goals with manager, options for impact in the org)

There are actually lots of EM roles requiring experience with distributed systems, microservices, large-scale consumer-facing products, modern tech, etc. I don't meet the basic requirements for these roles now but would meet them after working as an IC in big tech.



  • 3
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    a year ago

    Definitely, you can switch EM roles later in your career. Many people get promoted into EM roles from IC roles in big-tech companies. Also, there are people who switch between EM and IC roles and back over the years to keep themselves challenged in different roles.

    If you wish you become EM sooner then later, I recommend having this conversation with your manager. Ask them to mentor you in becoming a EM. They will assign you tasks that can help you in the EM role and also can provide opportunities to mentor/lead juniors and interns.

  • 2
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    a year ago

    There's 2 different concepts here:

    1. Big Tech
    2. Modern Tech

    From my experience, these 2 are often separate and conflicting. Big Tech is what it is due to its scale and history. Most code at Big Tech is ugly, old legacy code (but it pays the bills so you need to maintain it). Of course, there are sectors at FAANG that work on cutting-edge stuff (i.e. those putting out new open-source libraries), but I would say that most code at FAANG is fairly jank. I feel like the main value of FAANG is that you learn more fundamental skills.

    When it comes to modern tech, I feel like mid-sized unicorn-level startups (or recent IPOs) are better for that. The Android tech stack at Robinhood (a company in this demographic) was far more modern than what I worked with at Instagram.

    Going back to the original question, if you're going to FAANG as a senior+ IC and grow into a strong tech lead, you can generally switch into M-track. If you end up taking this Big Tech offer and going back to IC, make sure to maintain that healthy career dialog with your manager as Touseef mentioned.