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 Mark Gilbert

Mark Gilbert


“I WANNA BE A MANAGER”…if I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I would have ummmm, well, several dollars…a lot of good that would do me!  And sometime, that is just how good a manger job will do YOU, just the same.

It seems that so many engineers believe that the best track to a better career is to become a manager.  Let me tell the you story about a wonderful friend of mine who left a big company to become a VP of Applications, at a decent size start-up.  Management (so he thought) was what he saw as his best chance to move ahead, and become a “contender”.  (Only Marlon Brando fans will get that).  Well after 6 months at the helm, he frantically called me up and said “get me the &%$@ out of here.  I spend half my day doing paperwork and reports, and the other half keeping my team in line, and the 3rd half handling all the pressure coming from all sides.  I have to watch my teams every move, and that is not what I like to do; I have to work to keep everyone happy and explain everything to everyone  every day.  I loved being technical and I miss it”.  Well he is a Senior APS guy today at an EDA company, and could not be happier.  His story is not an anomaly. 

I am not saying that manager roles are not a good objective for some.  Being a Manger/Director, or even VP can be very rewarding.  But you really need to think it through and ask yourself some very relevant questions.  Here are just a few…

Do I really want to lead a team, and accept all that responsibility?

Do I want to give up the hands on technical role??

Do I want the pressure of deadlines and release quotas???

Do I want to deal with all the different personalities, and will I be able to control them????

Do I want to deal with every problem and delay?????....Well you get the idea….

If you can answer yes, and your goals are to lead teams and manage people, then I say go for it.  But remember, it is not a walk in the park.  Sometime there are other options to career growth.  Basically I like to think of it as two different ladders.  One ladder is the management side, and one is the individual contributor side. 

Senior and Principle engineers can be (in effect) like managers without the responsibility of managing.  People still count on you, and turn to you for suggestions, but instead of telling people how to, you are the actual implementer.  And good engineers become de-facto leaders, because your knowledge is admired and respected. For many this is a wonderful role, and can be even more rewarding in a start up.

So before you set your sites on moving only if it is a manager job, know that the seemingly same position is different at every company.  A good engineer can carve out a great career path by talking to the folks at the new perspective company about what he hopes the position ALSO entails.  Responsibilities for the product can come, without the pressures and hassles of management.  The few dollars more a manager can make, is sometimes not with the price he actually has to pay,  So think it through, and know that sometimes what you wish for is not always what you actually end up with.

Mark Gilbert

Technology Futures  Inc. d/b/a ...

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