Reasons to Give Management a Try

September 12, 2019

This past weekend Charity Majors published a great piece listing 17 Reasons NOT To Be A Manager. I don’t disagree with any of her points. Management isn’t for everyone.

But I’m here to tell you that being a manager can be incredibly rewarding. There are plenty of reasons you should give it a try. I say “give it a try” because nothing is permanent: As Charity has previously written, there’s no problem (up to a point) moving between management and individual contributor (IC) roles.

Before getting to the reasons, let me offer a disclaimer: Management is hard to define. It can be different from organization to organization. And your experiences can be vastly different depending on your privilege, the health of your organization, and exactly what you’re responsible for. In other words, your mileage may vary.

So, why might you want to give management a try?

9 Good Reasons to Give Management a Try

1. You know what you might be getting yourself into

If you’ve never managed a team, you should know: It’s completely different than being an individual contributor. I’d go so far as to say that you shouldn’t consider your first management job to be a “promotion.” It’s really the start of a brand new career.

So before you take the leap, be sure you understand what you’ll be giving up and what new challenges you can expect. And, as Chase says, if you still want to be a manager after understanding the downsides - it might be for you!

2. The work you do will have a direct impact on people

The work you do as a manager can make people’s lives better. And that’s pretty awesome.

3. Organizations are just as interesting as products

The same way it’s impossible to write bug free software, it’s impossible to have a bug free organization. Humans are complicated, messy, and wonderful - most of the time. So organizations, because they are made up of humans, are going to be complicated and messy. Most management jobs involve a certain amount of process design, politics, collaboration, negotiation, and influencing.

4. You want to challenge existing power structures

It’s a reality that straight, white, cisgender men & women are overrepresented in tech. And that existing power structures are maintained through bias and, unfortunately, sometimes outright discrimination. As a manager you’ll be expected to build teams. That includes hiring and promoting. You’ll have an opportunity to level the playing field by building diverse candidate pools, removing bias from the hiring process, and ensuring that everyone on your team is given the opportunity to progress their careers.

5. Potential for more compensation

It’s an unfortunate reality that, in some organizations managers can get paid more than individual contributors. And if you decide to climb the management ladder your earning potential will only continue to accelerate as you become director, VP, CIO or CTO. Hopefully the money isn’t your only reason to pursue management - but maximizing your earning potential is completely valid.

6. Leadership will be a core part of your work

I’ve mentioned before that those in management roles don’t have a monopoly on leadership. Anyone, at any level, can be a leader. But at a certain point in your management career leadership will become a critical part of your job: setting a team vision, shaping strategy, rallying a team (or an org) around a common goal. If these things interest you, you’ll get an opportunity to do them a lot.

7. Storytelling and communication can be fun

At its core, management is largely about communication: context, feedback, status, roadmaps, etc… Do you like making sure everyone has the right context? Enjoy translating between domains (engineering to design/ marketing/ product/ finance)? Does pitching the perfect idea to the CTO in order to secure funding sound exciting?

8. You’ll build new muscles

As an individual contributor do you ever feel bored? Are you itching to learn new things? As a manager you’ll get a chance to learn new things and practice new skills: creating hiring plans, putting together interview loops, owning and planning a budget, learning about compensation, and more.

9. Helping people grow feels really good

It may be cliche. But it’s true: it feels great to help other people succeed. For me, that feeling makes any of the tradeoffs between being an IC and becoming a manager worth it. It’s an honor and privilege to watch people learn new things, earn promotions, and grow as people.

2 Bad Reasons to Give Management a Try

1. So you can have more power

Yes, managers are typically empowered to make decisions. And managers have a certain level of authority that’s not as common amongst ICs. But if you want to be a manager so that “people will listen to you” or so that you can “make the calls” - you’ll be in for a shock. Turns out that people don’t like to be ordered around.

If people don’t listen to you in your current role, it’s unlikely they’ll be happy about taking orders from you once you’re their manager. Making change happen as a manager requires that you establish trust and use influence.

2. It feels like you don’t have a choice

Sometimes people are put into management roles reluctantly. This can happen because there’s no one else to take the job or because it’s viewed as the only way to progress. But before you accept the responsibility of becoming a manager, please be sure there’s a part of you that wants that responsibility.

Taking a job you don’t want is a recipe for burnout. As a manager your burnout will have a large blast radius - and that’s not fair to your team. It’s perfectly ok to stay an IC. If you want to stay an IC, but feel you’ve peaked in your current organization - maybe it’s time to consider a move.

Conclusion

Yes. Pursuing management as a career choice comes with tradeoffs. But if you’ve ever thought about management you owe it to yourself to explore the upsides with as much energy as the downsides. You’ll learn new things. You’ll experience new challenges. You’ll have an opportunity to be a positive influence on people’s lives and careers. You’ll grow in ways you never expected. The tradeoffs are worth it.

Hi, I'm David Brunelle. I am a human-centered product engineering leader who builds teams, develops leaders, and helps people achieve their full potential. The teams I lead deliver revolutionary digital experiences that grow businesses and delight customers. You should follow me on Twitter or say hello by email.