Ask HN: Why did you become a manager?

9 points | by movin_on_up 505 days ago


  • MarkSummer 505 days ago

    I went from individual contributer to manager, then back to individual contributer. But I believe the decision is dependant on the quality of work and the team you're managing.

    For the latter transition, I got some sideways looks at first from people asking "you realize your taking a step back in your career, right?" My reply was twofold:

    A.) I replied "I'm still getting the same pay and benefits, right?" The answer is yes.


    B.) As an individual contributer I don't have to waste my time (which I could be using to actually work on creative and interesting projects) trying to fix the work/quality of complacent and mediocre engineers.

    So, for me, if I get to manage a team of highly competant engineers, then I will gladly take that management role because the team actually extends my ability to accomplish more than if I worked independantly. However, if you want me to manage a group of half-ass engineers who have little-to-no passion for pushing the envelope, then I'd much rather work independantly as an individual contributer.

    Life is too short to waste on menial tasks that do little to improve the world.

    • abatilo 505 days ago

      I became a manager in October 2018, because my manager quit and he recommended that I take over.

      I'm on my way to going back to IC. I learned a lot about myself. According to my new manager, I am/was doing just fine as a manager. My reports like me and think I'm tough but fair, which is the perfect review of a manager. However, I've since learned that I honestly just don't care to do anything a manager is supposed to do. I love being in 1x1s. I love talking to my manager. I thought hosting 1x1s with my own reports would be fun to do, but (and maybe this makes me a bad person) I've just discovered that I can't get emotionally invested in any of my reports. Maybe one day I'll get to that point but as for right now, I'm just not at that point.

      So I'd ask you, are you ready to fix people problems? The amount of coding you'll get to do will drop significantly, and the metrics by which you're evaluated will become completely different. Your job will now be to defend your reports from anything above you. This was something I have problems with as well. It's really hard for me to defend my reports when they make mistakes.

      I'm working to becoming a better, more empathetic person, but I'm just not there right now and it's a disservice to my reports to stay their manager when I just don't believe in them, and I can't convince myself to believe in them.

      • laurentl 505 days ago

        For me, it was a default choice: it was the only career path that didn’t suck (the alternative was to become an expert which, in that company at that time, meant plateauing after a few years). So it took me a while to become a competent manager, and to start enjoying it.

        All this to say that if you want to become a manager only for the added responsibilities / perks / title, chances are you’ll be a lousy one. To enjoy being a manager (and be a decent one rather than a PHB), you need to care about people.

        In your case, enjoying mentoring junior devs is obviously a good start; try to extrapolate that to how you would coach on non-technical topics (people skills, career choices, giving negative feedback, etc. ). Another good point is the relationship with stakeholders. Just keep in mind that as a manager, you often get the shit part of the relationship: you break the bad news and cover your team, but you let your team get the credits for the good stuff. On the other hand, I would advise you to forget about coding: even if you can keep writing some code, it is absolutely not your job as a manager. You also need to consider the impact on the rest of your team, especially if you’re not the most competent developer in the team. (Imagine being the coach of a sports team and putting yourself in the lineup to play every game)

        • throwaway-43752 505 days ago

          I'm considering the same thing and interested to hear answers.

          • milquetoastaf 505 days ago

            I love money