Thinking about a career change rant

Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by Deelee, Apr 5, 2021.

  1. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    Ok, not really a rant. And not really a total career change.

    Current position - Sr. Manager of an IT group that builds/maintains a back-office financial system.
    New position (same organization) - Sr. Enterprise Architect

    One is on the manager track. The other is an individual contributor.

    Current position pros - the team pretty much runs itself until there are issues. And then I am on the hot seat (ok that's a con). Current position cons - sort of a dead-end in terms of career growth. Not much opportunity for promotion. Many layers in the org and I am not as high up as I'd like to be on the org chart.

    New position pros - Slight salary increase. Working directly for VP. Can negotiate lots of training to get certifications (that actually do have meaning in the job market if I ever leave). No directly responsibility for anything. Cons - it's not a management position. I haven't been an individual contributor for a long time. Something about it seems like a demotion.

    So what better place to ask for career advice than from a bunch of strangers (well, I have met a few of you) on the internet. Anybody made the jump from management back to individual contributor land? Pros/cons?

    This is a bigger decision than whether or not to upgrade from foreflight pro plus to performance plus... (I upgraded, btw).
     
  2. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route

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    Chose your best future ROI. Which job is more fun? Which one will have you in a “rut” in a few years? Which one makes you valuable to the market? Is the answer is the same in each case?
     
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  3. DaleB

    DaleB En-Route

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    I have done almost exactly what you're considering. I went from managing a good sized team of *NIX engineering folk that built/maintained back end systems at a good sized online brokerage. Left that to join the EA team, though not as the Lord High Architect.

    It was the right move for me at that time -- the manager job was not without its downsides due to a shift in corporate management structure away from our area. In my case, the downside was that the Lord High Architect was not actually looking for anything on his team other than rubber stamps for whatever nutty idea he had that week. I ended up leaving less than a year later.

    Resume-wise... I'm not sure if it's helping or hurting, to be perfectly honest. In the long run, getting out of management was a great idea. I've worked for my current employer for over 16 years now, and have survived countless upheavals, reorgs, regime changes, layoffs, and so on. Most of the managers I have known over the years are long gone; they seem to be the first ones to go when a new CxO comes on board or there's another merger. On the other hand, were I to look for a new job now, it would be very challenging to find one with compensation equal to what I've got now, without becoming a manager -- and my last management gig was a long time ago.

    How many working years do you have left? And, as a manager, can you get some training and certifications to make a future job hunt easier and maybe bring a little challenge to your current role? And -- take a good long look at available jobs. In your new role, would the training and certifications actually make it easier to find a new role? There are a ton of architect jobs out there, but they're pretty much all software. Looks like if you're a developer with Agile, CI/CD, and cloud development chops you're in luck. This week.
     
  4. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    Good call on looking at future ROI. I have a pension and 401k where I am, so it really is in my best interest to stay where I am. And I like the org.... no real reason to look outside. But if I ever had to, I think making the move to EA would round out my resume. I have 20+ years in IT. Developer. Like @DaleB mentioned, the team I run now is agile. We have a mature CI/CD pipeline set up. Full test automation and can deploy on demand. I pretty much ran the team that built the current system, so I had a big hand in setting up the processes around which we build and deploy software.

    Training is one of the pieces in my negotiating puzzle. I need them to commit to getting me trained up for AWS (that's cloud stuff for ya'll non technikal peeple..) solutions architect pro. With that, I would have a resume that would get me a job anywhere pretty quickly if push came to shove.

    I have about 9 more working years left until I think I can comfortably reitre.... depends on some stuff my wife is getting into. If that hits, then maybe sooner.
     
  5. DaleB

    DaleB En-Route

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    So agitate for AWS training in your current job. What are the chances you'll migrate anyway, to either a public or a private cloud?
     
  6. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    Pretty high. Moving to AWS is on the roadmap. My team is already doing prep work... we are basically container-izing most of the app and breaking things down into slightly smaller services. Breaking some dependencies... stuff like that. Some other, smaller apps are slated to move first. But we make the jump in 2022. Just not sure if I want to be on the management side of that or the EA/consultative side of it.
     
  7. jsstevens

    jsstevens Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    I moved back from management track to technical (for about 2 years) and then changed businesses. I went from storage management software systems (in the era of tape, RAID, optical jukeboxes and CD-ROMs) to simulation systems software. Once I had built my technical chops in the new business space, I accepted a job as CTO for a new startup (two of us) and was both an individual contributor and manager-transitioning over time into more and more management. It was a good choice for me but the opportunity was rare. 17 years later I've been Sr. Executive management for several years.

    In your case, you have to assess the rest of the organization as for opportunities. Competent technical managers who can setup a successful program with process, team, infrastructure etc. are valuable commodities. But if you've just completed setting up the only such opportunity your organization will have for the next decade, you've topped out. Go be an EA. If there are more, potentially bigger, projects to be started up and you're in line for them, you'll be more valuable (and SHOULD be better compensated) over time.


    Edit: And this is predicated on optimizing your earnings potential which may not be the most important measure to you. That you need to decide. I went back to technical because I enjoyed it much more-at the time, in that organization. Being a startup's CTO and casting the technical culture of a new development organization is the most rewarding thing I've done professionally by far. But those opportunities don't come by very often.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2021
  8. Clip4

    Clip4 Final Approach

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    In the big scheme of your life, just go with your gut. There will be many more changes during you life. Some you will credit a mistakes, but that’s what you learn the most from.
     
  9. Initial Fix

    Initial Fix Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I have many friends who jumped back to technical career paths after many years in management and won’t ever look back.
     
  10. idahoflier

    idahoflier Cleared for Takeoff

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    +1 on leaving management to an individual contributor role. I have never looked back. My experience has shown me that no two organizations are alike and some are really different, so I don't know someone outside of your organization can really give you good guidance. That said, if you feel that you won't miss the accolades that come with being "the boss" I wouldn't hesitate at jumping into the EA role, sounds a lot more interesting to me...

    Good Luck!
     
  11. Van Johnston

    Van Johnston Cleared for Takeoff

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    Your peak earning potential is probably greater as a manager, if you can continue to go up. But the competition is stiffer.

    IMO your long term employability is better on the technical track, and therefore lifetime earning potential the same or better as staying in mgmt.

    I say that as a manager who sees too many manager resumes and not enough technical ones, and who now looks back wondering 'what if?'
     
  12. schmookeeg

    schmookeeg Administrator Management Council Member

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    I left management at the Sr Director level after orchestrating 5 rounds of increasingly bitter layoffs in the first dotcom bust. Never again unless it's my own company.

    I think there are FAR fewer contract opportunities for management than for Eng. I like this flexibility, as managers are expected to be around for a few years, and that's an eternity in tech. As a contractor/consultant I can chase the money, and a CV full of 6-week or 6-month engagements is not a downside. Plus, each jump keeps me sharp and current. It's tiring af but I'm not gathering moss.

    The real question I would be asking in your shoes is what viability is your hands-on chops, and more importantly, how long can they remain viable? It's an uphill slog once people detect you're of a certain age. I'm early 40s and starting to discover those headwinds, and they will only get much worse. Additionally, my give-a-care is also moving in the opposite direction, having gone through the motions and the gladhanding and the fake smiles, there is a bit less joy in hopping onto yet another dumpster fire project that needs code or refactor, even at high bill rates, and learning yet another fashionable and dispoable technology stack. It starts to feel meta-repetitive after awhile.

    If I was not secure in my financial position or over 50, I would probably keep a death-grip on the management role, and plan to stay in it for years until retirement, company disappearing, or some other more compelling offer appears with large $$ attached.

    If I was in a secure position, and was bored or restless (and I get an undercurrent from your post that this might be the case), then yes, hands-on Eng is the opposite end. Coding in fashionable techs that did not exist 3 months ago and will be obsolete in 3 more. It keeps you running and the brain engaged a bit. You might consider having your cake and eating it too, though, by keeping the day job and working a side hustle, either as a hands-on remote contractor or as a startup cofounder. It's still a seller's market, so you can work the "right" gig if you look around and sell it a bit. Hacker News has a monthly "who's hiring/who's freelancing?" thread which is a good first step. Tech Interviewing is a skill too, so I'd honestly start there, even if you have no intent to land a gig, and see what sells. Tech interviewing has nothing to do with the actual job, sadly, and is a slog all unto itself.

    $0.02 :)
     
  13. NealRomeoGolf

    NealRomeoGolf En-Route

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    I'd love to go back to an individual contributor role but I only get paid what I do to manage. My current spot not only manages a team but I also have to "manage" 6 of my peers. That last part I like the least. But it pays for airplanes.
     
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  14. Half Fast

    Half Fast Final Approach

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    I went back and forth several times between management and individual contributor, and sometimes did both simultaneously when I was working multiple projects. I especially enjoyed chief engineer roles as they had a nice mix of technical content and personnel management without much administrative crap. I hated being a program manager, where my duties were mostly related to cost and schedule and I had to leave the engineering to others. When I retired I was the manager of our chief engineer department (aka “chief of chiefs”) and really loved the group I ran.

    My advice is to do some soul searching and decide what sort of work you really love and do that. You’ll do a better job then, and rewards almost always follow performance in the long run. I will point out that reporting to the VP, if you do a great job for him, can help you be aware of future opportunities and win them.
     
  15. Shepherd

    Shepherd En-Route

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    I avoided, like the plague, all attempts to put me in management. I'm a science guy, I do science, figure out how things worked, and had access to great toys, and (mostly) I could pick and choose what the team worked on. Sometimes we got stuck with something, but it was a small price to pay for the autonomy we had.
    It was never money that motivated me, which might have been a mistake, but I loved my job, my team and looked forward to going to the Lab every day.
    January 2009 I come to work and find out I'm a direct report to a VP in Global Services. I still have to do my Research stuff, but I also have to "Advise and Assist" some guy who didn't even know how to turn his own computer on. (seriously) His entire staff was like that. Sales people and bean counters. Telling the truth about anything was forbidden, and they didn't really want to fix anything, just shuffle piles of excrement around so no manager ever got blamed for anything. It became a struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
    In November of 2009 the VP asked me how many of my team I could "surplus". I asked my accountant if I could comfortably retire. She said "Yup". I then started finding jobs for my team, outside of IBM (for more money and better benefits). In January 2010 I called my VP and told him I'm retiring.
    Says he: "You can't do that!"
    Says me: "Yes I can."
    Long story short, I explained I was not coming back to work. I wanted to retire in April with a 6 month package and medical for a year. It would take them a year to fire me, so you might as well settle. I wanted to be able to do the church full-time, no more "time slicing", and continue some of my research.
    Then I stopped answering the phone and ignoring emails. I did my Research stuff, transitioned all my projects to people I thought could handle them.
    In March 2010 the VP caved. I retired in April, got my package, and left. I've never looked back.
    I took my whole team with me.
    And I'm still doing church and research stuff.
    Moral: Do what makes you happy. If it's money, go for it, if it's personal achievement, go for it. If it's a struggle to go to work, it's not worth the effort.
    And I fly a LOT more. :biggrin:
     
  16. UngaWunga

    UngaWunga Pattern Altitude

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    Mid-Management are the ones to go when the company needs to trim fat. At most companies I've worked at, they're just HR proxies. Would much rather be in the EA role. Mine is pretty good now, a step below EA. I think I'll stay there, as I get to actually code and I don't have the responsibilities of a EA, but get to direct how/where/why code is written.
     
  17. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    This thread makes me want to get a job flipping burgers at McDonald's.

    The Big Mac has endured hundreds of generations of computer hardware and software technologies.
     
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  18. jsstevens

    jsstevens Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    This. In spades. As a technical person and technical manager for more than 4 decades, I can say with great confidence that money does not generally motivate great technical people. This is no dig on folks for whom money is a motivator, just that as long as they're not being abused, technical folks are more interested in the work: cool things to work on, smart people to work with, good tools to do the job. If that's you, go technical. If span of control and/or money are what fires you up, go management. Only you can answer that question.
     
  19. RyanB

    RyanB Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    You could work alongside the burger girls if you did that!
     
  20. asicer

    asicer Final Approach

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    Actually, McDonalds burgers aren't flipped. They are grilled both sides at a time.
    [​IMG]
     
  21. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Bro do you even lift
    I could, but they tend to put the cream of the crop at the registers, not back in the kitchen.
     
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  22. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Interesting.

    "The XPress Grill's upper and lower grill plates cook both sides simultaneously, reducing cook times by up to 50%. Upper grill plate is automatically raised and lowered by a lift system powered by a quiet actuator. Lower griddle plate made of 3/4" (19mm) thick carbon steel, machine..."
     
  23. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Okay this is amazing. "...400 Whoppers per hour."
     
  24. Pugs

    Pugs Line Up and Wait

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    I'm in a similar position, leading a team and the only real challenge is the sponsor. The actual technical work is something I used to do with ease and most of my work is as a "technical translator" from my tech team to the customer, who thinks they're technical but really aren't, and help to guide them down the right decision path. If I wasn't less than a year from calling my career "accomplished" and retiring I'd be asking similar questions.

    As for your situation, I'd seriously consider the switch. Working with the VP and "C" suite is going to give you insights and opportunities that never filter down to your current role. No one says you have to do this new job forever and if you work well with the VP a good leader is always looking for opportunities to move people they trust into jobs that help them build their trusted network. Who knows what really cool opportunity will pop-up.
     
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  25. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    I'm getting close.... HR recruiter and I talked yesterday. Talked to a bunch of higher-ups on the business side who I work with (and have great relationships). They say it's the right move given some upcoming changes in my current org... I was sort of aware of these changes, but not the extent. Basically, my entire unit reporting up to the VP of app dev is going to be shaken up... and the business isn't happy about it. Long story short - my friends in high places say this is a great opportunity to eject from a situation that is going to be a mess.... Just need to work out a few details and I think I'm gonna make the move. Higher salary, slight bonus to make the move... I asked for in-person training to get me to a highly sought after certification... If I can have that guaranteed... I'm jumping.
     
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  26. TCABM

    TCABM Pattern Altitude

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    I lost any desire to be responsible for others when I retired from the military. What I most enjoyed was making a difference in someone’s life and quite honestly in corporate American management roles primarily are responsible for delivering a sum of results that is greater than the whole.

    That expectation to value business results over people just doesn’t motivate me, so I choose to stay an individual contributor.
     
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  27. asicer

    asicer Final Approach

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    I think you may have simplified my lunchtime decision making process for today.
     
  28. EdFred

    EdFred Taxi to Parking

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    Which one gets you to your exit from the workforce strategy quicker?
     
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  29. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    and it's literally still on version 1.0
     
  30. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    Everyone I know who’s deep into AWS simply did it. The training and certs aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

    (Unless you have to get past a clueless HR dept someone equally clueless about tech, but managing techs, delegated their hiring responsibilities to.)

    The reason the stuff is worthless is it’s going to describe how the “ideal” works at AWS. Then you’ll slam your face repeatedly into Amazon’s own limitations built into things that are never mentioned in training and only about 90% documented.

    If you want to do AWS just set up an account and do AWS.
     
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  31. DaleB

    DaleB En-Route

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    A number of years ago I got a call from my manager, and he had his manager on the phone.

    Manager #1: "Have you ever thought about working in <another department>?"
    Me: <thoughtful pause...> "Should I?"
    Manager #2: "It might be a good idea. They have a position open."

    I moved. A month later, my old team was decimated during a re-org. Manager #1 was gone, and Manager #2 survived another year or so before he was gone as well. I, on the other hand, survived that re-org as well as the ensuing rounds of layoffs and a buyout that saw tens of thousands lose their jobs.

    I always carefully consider advice from people who probably know more about the future than I do.
     
  32. Pugs

    Pugs Line Up and Wait

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    In the Navy there was the concept of a "sea daddy' that took an interest in and watched over the careers of people that they saw future in (or often a
    younger self). The difference in the civilian world is only the name of that person. They still do it.
     
  33. chartbundle

    chartbundle Pattern Altitude

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    I lead pretty much every interview with "I have no desire to be management". Currently I'm a consultant working for a consulting firm, which means I get a new job every 1-6 months and I don't have to actually change jobs. Back in the beforetimes the travel was nice too.
     
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  34. jsstevens

    jsstevens Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    I've always approached management as partly delivering results for the company and partly helping people grow into areas they have desire and interest for. Those sometimes conflict in the short term, but I believe they do not in the long term. So I've always tried to balance that...
     
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  35. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    non-management. It should allow me to work and slowly fade away into my early retirement age of 55... Or retire then consult for a few years based on the resume I built.... where's that thread I started a few months ago with all the jargon....

    Yep. It is looking more and more like that is the case. So this could turn out to be win-win-win....

    Feel the same way. But in this case, I want the training and the certs so I look like the senior person on the team as soon as possible. One more nugget of info - the VP I would be reporting to may retire in a few years. If I want to slide back into management at a VP level it will help to be the clear #1 on the team.
     
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  36. idahoflier

    idahoflier Cleared for Takeoff

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    This is so true!
     
  37. Ghery

    Ghery Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Does the company have a true dual track career path, or do they just give it lip service? I had a job back in the 80s and early 90s with a company that had a true dual path. The last position I had I was a pay grade above my boss (as was appropriate - his degree was in biology and he thought he could micromanage engineers). It worked well there. You will have to make that call based on what's best for you and what you plan on for the future.
     
  38. kayoh190

    kayoh190 Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Can't talk to your overall question - I'm a lowly career pilot after all. But I also have a half dozen AWS certifications from about a year ago when I decided to get off my butt and learn something new. I have a tech background but haven't written code in a professional capacity in 20 years. My Dad is a big AWS fanboy (yeah yeah), so he sent me down that path to get back into learning something relevant.

    As @denverpilot mentioned none of this certification stuff is gonna get you to a place where you can do anything actually useful for an employer, but in my case it provided a structured environment where I could learn all the various crap that AWS is capable of, and from there used my tech foundation to learn how to use these tools to actually build something. I don't harbor any illusion that the certs will help me get a job, but I didn't find it to be worthless either.
     
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  39. bflynn

    bflynn Final Approach

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    Simple choice - do the thing you love because that will be the thing you excel at. As long as the money is good enough to keep momma happy and let you convert 100LL into noise, it works.
     
  40. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    We’ve got enough experience in the platform now that it’s almost a first reaction during scaling up anything... “Okay what arbitrary limit did we just hit?” LOL.
     
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