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I want to switch stacks, but my manager has concerns.

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Senior Engineer at Series C Startup2 years ago

I'm currently working closer to the product side (i.e. consumer-facing) on my team. However, I want to move deeper into the infra layer, more into the back-end and away from the front-end, as that's what I'm more passionate about and this area should be more technically complex.

I've brought this up with my manager a couple times, but they said that since I'm already doing great in my current role, they would prefer for me to stay here. How can I navigate this conversation and convince them of this move?

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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago

    Like with all situations, it's important to have empathy, and in this scenario, it's understanding your manager.

    Putting myself in your manager's shoes, I think their priority is maintaining the stability of the system. It looks like you are a very accomplished senior engineer, so they have some reservations around stability loss if you were to move off and leave a gap.

    All that being said, I think the main thing to do here is a crucial senior engineer behavior: Make yourself replaceable. Here are my thoughts here:

    • Find someone (or someones) to mentor, so they can take on your current responsibilities. This is ideally a strong mid-level engineer, but if you have the patience, it could be a junior engineer as well.
    • Work with your manager to find this person - They may already have someone in mind. This situation is a win-win-win for all parties, and you should communicate this (removing your self angle). It's a win for whoever you mentor as they become more productive. It's a win for your manager as they will have a more productive team member and a more resilient team as you become more replaceable. And of course, it's a win for you as it will enable you to switch stacks smoothly.
    • Set up expectations if you can. Try to understand the bar which your manager has in mind to evaluate whether a replacement is suitable enough to do what you're currently doing.

    As a senior engineer/tech lead, it's crucial to learn how to work through others. I did this a lot at Meta and Robinhood, and this allowed me to move around pretty freely and work on what I wanted. I hope you're able to find the same cadence eventually!