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!
Honestly, I think if people read the reasons NOT to be a manager and still want to be one, that's the article right there.— chase adams (@chaseadamsio) September 8, 2019
Personally, I think "management" is a smell that the way we perceive leadership is broken. Points 11 & 16 speak to that...
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.
My manager has changed my life. She’s inspired me to grow & develop but at a pace that I never would have imagined. She fought for me when I was being underpaid & she moved the dial for me professionally so that those who didn’t have the ability to see my awesomeness, saw it.— Kristjanna (@krisstjanna) September 8, 2019
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.
You get more excited by the prospect of debugging organisations and people than debugging code.— Erwin van der Koogh (@evanderkoogh) September 8, 2019
Human systems like organisations are orders of magnitude more complex than computer systems.
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.
🌿 One very effective way to stand up to existing power structures is by doing it from the inside. A++ def recommend management to WOC. I fight so those who come after me don't have to. https://t.co/inzQQ1g1PL— Aastha Gaur (@astadapasta) September 9, 2019
For those of us keenly attuned to present day struggles (eg. awful hiring techniques, marginalized groups, harassment, getting your foot in the door, Agile theater, etc.) it is a chance to start righting the ship and throwing a ladder down.— Shawn Holmes (@Hanzo55) September 8, 2019
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.
A female mgr told me that senior women end up doing so much emotional labor that they eventually decide they should get paid for it. Also management usually means less travel than senior IC, good for kids.— Joyce Park (@troutgirl) September 10, 2019
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.
This is true up to a point. Once you get to an executive layer of management (e.g VP of engineering) then there is a dual expectation of both management & leadership in thst role.— Dare Obasanjo (@Carnage4Life) September 8, 2019
That said I agree that as an IC or first line manager, leadership & management are orthogonal.
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?
As an engineering manager, I really enjoy bridging the gap between tech and business, helping engineers understand the reasons behind the work and allowing them to stay focused while making sure customer and upper management needs are satisfied.— Annie Hsieh (@ankey) September 8, 2019
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.
Haha! It’s ok. I got bored with computers too 😂— Erwin van der Koogh (@evanderkoogh) September 8, 2019
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.
I love the depth of learning you get by being welcomed into how people on the team think and approach problems, I love helping people find their greatest strengths, I love getting to share in their growth and how proud of folks I get.— Layla (@LaylaSells_cshs) September 8, 2019
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.
Anyone who responds to this with, "to have a say in decisions", "so I can have an impact", "so people will listen to me" --— Charity Majors (@mipsytipsy) September 10, 2019
Think about what you're saying. Really think about it. https://t.co/xx85Dl2Wut
The irony here: The more authority you have, the harder it is to use. I had more success "leading by mandate" as a tech lead than I did as a manager or director.— David Brunelle (@davidbrunelle) September 10, 2019
Attempts to "lead by mandate" as a manager are met with skepticism and resentment. It becomes all about influence.
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.
Yeah. That's a good point. I would argue that the correct use of authority in this case is to build trust so that you can stop relying on authority.— Jenniferplusplus⚧🆘 (@jennplusplus) September 12, 2019
The hard way if to be right about everything for a while. "I know you don't want to, but just do this and you'll see it's better."
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.
I enjoyed becoming a manager for the first year I had to do it because I was able to try a lot of ideas I had on what would make things run better. Some worked, some didn’t. But as time went on I became more disconnected from the daily coding and more meetings focused. Not as fun— Paul Mendoza (@PaulDMendoza) September 8, 2019
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.