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How do I figure out whether I should stay as an IC engineer or explore management as an EM?

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Senior Software Engineer [P4] at VMWare2 years ago

I'm deciding between staying as an IC and becoming an EM, and I'm completely neutral right now.

When looking at the managerial role, it seems like you get more exposure around the product overall and you’re more involved within the product lifecycle end-to-end. When I look at Staff+ engineers on my team, they are more sound technically but don’t have as much impact on the product direction. As a senior engineer, I don’t understand the product much end-to-end, I'm mainly just working on features - It seems like becoming an EM is a way for me to get more of this scope.

When it comes to mentorship, I'm just mentoring some interns and no other full-time engineers. The mentoring is also more ad-hoc and unofficial - I help them out here and there, especially with onboarding.

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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago
    • The #1 question to ask yourself with this decision: Do you enjoy taking care of and growing people?
      • If the answer is "no", then you definitely shouldn't be an EM.
      • If the answer is "yes", then it's possible being an EM is right for you. You can still do this as an IC engineer, especially if you're operating more as a TL. This question is just the basic litmus test.
    • Having a bigger influence on the product shouldn't be that big a consideration here as it's pretty separate from the core issue of being an EM, which the above question covers. What you described in terms of who has product influence seems like more of a VMWare-specific thing. At Meta, IC engineers were actually encouraged to have huge influence over product direction, exemplified by the formal Staff+ engineer archetype of "PM/engineer hybrid".
    • It seems like you need more signal to answer the above question, so I recommend seriously mentoring another engineer. In your situation, if there is a strong, easy-to-work-with P3 engineer on your team, try mentoring them and make it your goal to bring them up to your level. This will be a challenging exercise with good team impact as every team wants more senior engineers.
      • If you really enjoy this experience and find it fulfilling, you can pick up more mentees and start seriously working on an EM transition with your manager
      • If you end up not liking this experience, you can divest, not pick up more mentees, and stay as an IC
VMware, Inc. is an American cloud computing and virtualization technology company with headquarters in Palo Alto, California. VMware was the first commercially successful company to virtualize the x86 architecture.
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