Two paths diverged

I mentioned before that my current boss is leaving.  He’s hanging around to do our year-end reviews since they don’t have a replacement manager yet, but he’s already splitting time between our group and his new job.

Because of the desire to cut costs in our organization, my ex-boss’ bosses are still debating how to list the job posting.  They seem to be reaching a consensus to list it as a very low-level management job, despite the fact that it comes with a group of 25 underlings and a host of other program management responsibilities.  In fact, the level is so low that the most senior people on my program can’t even apply because it wouldn’t pay even close to what they’re making now.

Our group works well because of the camaraderie between members of our group and the free rein we’re given as long as we get our work done (and we get a lot of work done).  This often means pancake breakfasts, bets on football games (whoever loses the bet buys bagels for the whole office), midday coffee breaks in the conference room, etc. As such, there is a desire to keep the management job “in the family,” i.e. making sure no new guy/girl is going to come in an attempt to change the culture.

At this time, there are only 2 people who have the required experience and also don’t make too much money to apply. I am one of them.

I’ve been getting a little bit of pressure to apply for this job.  Part of it is that there’s no one else since the job is ridiculously underpaid for the amount of work (they think I don’t know this), part of it is that they’ve done the same math I have, and they know I’m one of two potential “insiders,” and hopefully part of it is because they like me and think I’d be good at it.

As a career move, it’s not a bad one.  I’d be making more money more quickly – it would amount to the promotion I planned to ask for this year (I am convinced it will be denied this year and next year, but possibly 2013), or just slightly over.  It would set me up for more management responsibility in the future, all the way up to CEO. (Just kidding.)  I do think I’d enjoy the money aspects of it, given how much I enjoy my own, much smaller, budget.

Still, I’ve always said that I wanted to stay technical.  I love the challenge of engineering, the moment of clarity when you’ve finally figured out the solution to a problem.  My career aspirations were always to be an expert, to run the analysis that drives the evolution of technology.  I hoped I would be smart enough to get there.

In the teeny, tiny, gossip-ridden office I work in, everyone would know if I applied, interviewed, or was offered the job.  Which means they’d also know if I turned it down.  In all the pressure to get me to apply, I was assured that I’d have a good chance of getting it.

I just can’t decide if I’d want it.

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6 Responses

  1. Food for thought: I have a dozen direct reports and that is a host of a pain in the patoot. That’s on top of more than a dozen major projects to run. I multitask and work like an insane person but it’s still something I’d want to scope out pretty carefully considering the pay/posting level – I wouldn’t want that to show up as less than what it was.

    Of course, totally feasible that managing engineers requires a lot less time but I still think that’s 25 one on ones on some kind of a regular basis and 25 evaluations once a year however they’re conducted and if you’re anything like me about being as good a manager as possible, those 25 evals might feel seem like they could kill you.

    On the positive side, management is a huge learning experience which is kind of awesome. On the eh side, it has often been headdesking while learning. There’s so much stuff about people you don’t know until you manage them, and then you sit there and wonder: what. in. the. HELL?? But you come away with some pretty hilarious stories eventually. It does usually tend take you away from the core of the projects really fast, though.

    So there’s that.

  2. Managing 25 people? I cannot think of anything more horrible (I am clearly not a people person for these things).

    That said, if you do manage 25 people and do it for 2 years or so, if you are unhappy, you can:
    a) Ask for more money for the job, even if it is “low management” *snort*
    b) Leave to go to another company to make more money and manage less

    Either way, it looks great on your resume, and if you would enjoy it, why not try it?

    The problem is trying to go back down to engineer where you are happy, if you decide you don’t want to be a manager after all…..

  3. P.S. I snorted because managing 25 people is not a low management job to me at all.

    • It’s really not! And our company has managers at this same level who don’t manage any people. I’ll be shocked if they get anyone worthwhile!

  4. Definitely don’t interview unless you are at least about 80% confident you want it. If you want to stay technical, it doesn’t seem like a good move. BUT I can tell you that being a young talented technical person is not going to pay off financially as quickly in this environment, so it depends on how motivated you are by the raise.

    I don’t think it is too hard (in my area at least) to transition back to a regular engineer after doing some management. Do you think you’d like managing? Is it both program management + functional? You should talk to someone who has made the transition and see if you can get some insight.

    I’ve always admired how you have a real career plan and you have people that you want to be in 20 years. If this doesn’t fit into the plan, it might be best to avoid it. If it could be one step in the plan or wouldn’t totally derail what you are shooting for, and you think it would be a fun challenge, then go for it.

  5. […] The Powers That Be will agree with him, but it was high praise.  When I was asking around about that other job, several of the higher-ups I spoke to for guidance told me that I was one of our program’s […]

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