I've reached a point in my life where I believe I can live off my salary comfortably and start a family. I work at a startup that doesn't have levels but I was told this was the equivalent of a mid-level engineer. For the longest time, I wanted to make X amount of money so I can provide for my family. With my current salary, there is still room to grow but I don't have the same ambition I had with trying to get promoted. I am more focused on learning new concepts, building new apps and just having a solid work-life balance.
I would still consider myself early in my career 4 years of experience. Would you recommend I try to level up to a manager or any advice on what you would recommend as the next step?
This type of reflection is so valuable every few years as our careers evolve 👍🏽
It's great that you've hit your financial goal to live comfortably and start a family. Keep in mind that, in a seed stage startup, there is a lot of uncertainty. I hope you're working at the next Google, but you should plan for the scenario that the company may not be around in a few years (either through acquisition or getting shutdown). So I'd focus on saving money and also building your skills + network so you have the ability to find a new job as needed.
In terms of what's next, my philosophy is that you should at least get to the senior level as an individual contributor (IC) before switching to a manager. There are 2 reasons for this:
If you feel like your startup is continuing to grow, I'd stick around and become a de facto tech lead. As the team grows, you'll likely be a natural fit for a management role which you can explore.
If your startup feels more stagnant, I think you could find the W/L balance you're looking for at a larger company, and it'll also just be a good resume-booster. Something like Microsoft comes to mind.
Also, checkout the masterclass about choosing a new team/company.
Just to add to Rahul's thoughts here, it isn't fully just about respect and ability, but also because you need train others up to your level as well. Keep in mind there are managers with really solid technical backing and managers with really bad technical backing and its pretty easy to tell them apart, hence why you want to have the better technical backing going in.
In the current US economy, I'd be concerned about making the switch and making sure there's a job if things go south, so what I did in my personal work experience is getting myself up to speed with obvious business learning in my free time and then stay as a very solid technical contributor.
I think from what I've seen is being an experienced mid-level with probably 5-6 years of experience, but I've certainly seen former interns get to engineering manager in 2-3 years after their time to us without any context of the intermediary accomplishments.