Are you a software engineer who has been pondering the question of whether to become a software engineering manager or to remain a software engineer? This is a decision that should not be taken lightly. The reality is that both paths have their own unique set of challenges and rewards, and the choice ultimately depends on your personal goals and aspirations.
First, let’s talk about the benefits of becoming a software engineering manager. You get to sit in meetings all day, talking about budgets, timelines, and resources. You get to delegate tasks to other engineers and then take credit for their hard work. You get to be the person who says things like, “We’ll have to push that feature back to the next sprint” and “Let’s circle back to that in a future meeting.” Doesn’t that sound like a blast?
On the other hand, if you remain a software engineer, you get to do what you love: write code! You get to spend your days buried in your computer, solving complex problems and creating amazing things. You get to be the person who actually builds the product, not just talks about it. Plus, you don’t have to deal with all the bureaucracy and politics that come with being a manager.
On a more serious note, becoming a software engineering manager can be a great career move if you have a passion for leadership and enjoy working with people. As a manager, you will be responsible for overseeing the work of other engineers and ensuring that projects are completed on time and within budget. You will also be responsible for managing the overall direction of the team and ensuring that everyone is working towards a common goal. This requires strong communication skills, the ability to motivate and inspire others, and a deep understanding of software development principles.
However, it’s important to note that becoming a software engineering manager also comes with its own set of challenges. As a manager, you will be responsible for managing budgets, timelines, and resources. You will also need to make difficult decisions, such as whether to prioritize new features or to focus on fixing bugs. Additionally, you may need to deal with interpersonal conflicts or other issues that arise within the team.
Benefits of becoming a software engineering manager
- Leadership opportunities: As a manager, you’ll have the opportunity to lead and mentor a team of engineers, which can be a rewarding experience.
- Increased responsibility: You’ll be responsible for the success of the team and the projects they work on, which can give you a sense of accomplishment and pride.
- Exposure to the business side of software development: As a manager, you’ll have a better understanding of how software development fits into the broader business strategy, which can help you make more informed decisions.
- Broader skillset: Management requires a different set of skills than engineering, such as communication, negotiation, and project management, which can help you become a more well-rounded professional.
- Higher earning potential: In many cases, managers earn higher salaries than individual contributors, which can be a motivator for some.
- Opportunities for career advancement: If you’re interested in advancing your career, management can be a good way to gain experience and build a strong professional network.
On the other hand, remaining a software engineer can also be a fulfilling career path. As an engineer, you will have the opportunity to work on challenging technical problems and create innovative solutions. You will have the satisfaction of seeing your work directly impact the success of the product, and you will have the freedom to explore new technologies and techniques.
However, it’s important to note that remaining a software engineer also has its own set of challenges. As an engineer, you will be responsible for writing high-quality code that meets the needs of the product. You will also need to keep up to date with the latest technologies and techniques, and you may need to work long hours to meet tight deadlines.
Benefits of remaining on the engineering track
- Technical expertise: As a software engineer, you’ll have the opportunity to dive deep into technical challenges and develop a high level of expertise in specific areas of software development.
- Creative problem-solving: Software engineers often work on complex problems that require creative thinking and problem-solving skills, which can be both intellectually stimulating and satisfying.
- Flexibility: Software engineers often have more flexibility in their work schedule and can work remotely or on a flexible schedule, which can be beneficial for work-life balance.
- Focus on coding: As a software engineer, you can focus on what you do best – writing high-quality code that helps create great software products.
- Ability to specialize: Software engineering is a broad field, and there are many different specializations you can pursue, such as front-end development, back-end development, or mobile development. This allows you to find your niche and become an expert in your area of interest.
- Collaborative work: While software engineering can be an individual pursuit, it often involves collaboration with other engineers, designers, and stakeholders, which can be a rewarding experience.
- In-demand skills: With the rise of technology, software engineers are in high demand, which means job security and potential for career growth.
Factors to consider when making this decision
- Leadership skills: A software engineering manager needs to have strong leadership skills, including the ability to motivate and inspire a team. If you enjoy leading and managing people, and have a track record of success in this area, then becoming a software engineering manager could be a good fit for you.
- Technical expertise: While a software engineering manager does not necessarily need to be a technical expert in every area, having a solid understanding of software development and engineering principles is important. If you enjoy staying up to date with the latest technologies and have a passion for software development, then becoming a software engineering manager may allow you to apply your technical expertise in a new way.
- Communication skills: A software engineering manager needs to be able to communicate effectively with both technical and non-technical stakeholders. If you have strong communication skills and enjoy working with people from different backgrounds and disciplines, then becoming a software engineering manager may be a good fit for you.
- Management responsibilities: As a software engineering manager, you will be responsible for managing budgets, timelines, and resources. If you enjoy the challenge of managing complex projects and have experience in project management, then becoming a software engineering manager could be a good fit for you.
For me, I had been contemplating this same question for a little while and had expressed some interest to my boss in pursuing a leadership role. I was still unsure if it would be right for me, but an opportunity arose and I was offered a management position. I decided that I would give it a try for at least a year or two to see if it really was a good fit. If at the end of that time I decided it was not, I could always go back to being an engineer.
At the time of writing this post, it has been over a year and a half, and so far, I do not regret my decision at all. There have certainly been challenges but it has also been very rewarding. I love leading my team and making decisions about the direction of our teams that have a major impact on the company.
Ultimately, becoming a software engineering manager can be a great way to advance your career and take on new challenges. However, it’s important to carefully consider your skills and interests, as well as the specific requirements of the role, to ensure that it is the right move for you.