Author Topic: Downgrade the Job?  (Read 13208 times)

courtstreet

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Downgrade the Job?
« on: June 10, 2012, 07:46:32 AM »
Long time reader, first time poster.

I was looking for advice from anyone who has downgraded their job within the same company. My current position comes with a very high level of stress. I lead a team of developers and my responsibilities include full-time development work in addition to leadership responsibilities (reviews, tough conversations, etc.) I am also ultimately responsible for both my employees and the product. This essentially means that if an issue comes in, it's my responsibility to handle it and so I get stuck at the office quite frequently after hours. I also have a work phone that I am expected to respond to emails etc. on off hours.

Given the nature of software development, this management route isn't necessarily the only option available to me. It is highly common within my company (and industry for that matter) for developers to just advance technically rather than through management. After I have experienced management for a few years, I think that ultimately I have discovered that I don't have a  passion for it. To that end, I am considering having a conversation with my boss regarding moving back to a development only role. The issue is, I can't help but feel like I am taking a step backward, and I really don't want to hurt my long term prospects at this company (love the company.) Also, my wife will be having a baby later this year. I want to get my workload and stress level under control before then.


TLDR: Job is stressful and I want to downgrade without ruining my career.

Any sage advice from the mustachians? I really appreciate it.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2012, 09:13:00 AM by courtstreet »

Gerard

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2012, 08:45:31 AM »
I'm assuming most mustachians will say, "Save some money, quit the job!"

But I can see your strategy working. Assuming you enjoy the non-management side of the work, and that you want to do it for a few years at least, why not go for it?

Either way, make sure you have your spending and saving planned to the point that you aren't making decisions solely on whether they "ruin your career". Especially since you're not really talking about your career here, just your chances of promotion within one particular company.

courtstreet

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2012, 09:02:18 AM »
I'm assuming most mustachians will say, "Save some money, quit the job!"

But I can see your strategy working. Assuming you enjoy the non-management side of the work, and that you want to do it for a few years at least, why not go for it?

Either way, make sure you have your spending and saving planned to the point that you aren't making decisions solely on whether they "ruin your career". Especially since you're not really talking about your career here, just your chances of promotion within one particular company.

Thanks for the reply. Maybe 'ruining my career' was a harsh way to put it. In general, I am interested to hear if anyone has made a similar move, and if so, did they regret it.

Tyler

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2012, 01:13:17 PM »
I think the reaction of the employer is the key here, not your own.  You know what you want, and I don't get the impression you will regret refocusing on technical development rather than management.

So just focus on your reasoning with your employer. Don't say "I'm not cut out for management" or "I want to work less".  Say "I love development and want to focus on that" and "I'll be a father soon and want to make sure I'm in a role where the company won't suffer if I don't answer the phone after hours." Always spin what you want in terms of "what I can do for you" and you'll most likely see encouragement and not resistance.

catalana

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2012, 02:14:46 PM »
I think the hardest part is getting your head around the idea of saying "I have reached my career limit".  I think many women go through a similar piece of soul-searching after having children.  It is accepting within your mind that you are capable of going further, but putting aside the need to prove it to other people.

I switched roles a couple of years ago so that I didn't have management responsibilities.  Not quite the same situation as I moved employers to do it, but it was a great decision for me.  I prefer "doing" to "managing" so my daily life is much happier.

However once again, I am feeling the urge to progress so that I a) earn more and b) have a greater say in how the business is run.  I am a little worried that I will always feel this urge to prove myself....

Tyler

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2012, 02:30:17 PM »
BTW, within engineering companies management is often not the most prestigious career path. A strong technical lead often has much more pull with company leadership (and is much more difficult to replace) than a generic middle manager.

Regardless, you're much more likely to advance in your career doing what you enjoy than by making your passions subservient to someone else's expectations. People reward performance, and it's a lot easier to perform when you're happy.

gooki

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2012, 03:57:01 PM »
Tyler's advice is spot on.

menorman

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2012, 04:52:31 PM »
Tyler's advice is spot on.
I second that motion. The company can find another sacrificial lamb middle manager without too much difficulty, but a developer who really knows his stuff and putting out phenomenal work will be much harder to replicate. But regardless of which position you're in, do the bathtub test. Fill the tub with water, stick your fist in, then measure the size of the resulting hole when you remove your hand. Unless you're the sole in a sole proprietorship, the size of that hole is how the company will handle your absence. (:

mtnrider

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2012, 06:37:42 PM »

I've seen a handful of managers decide that they didn't like the stress, and move back into individual contributor engineers.  When it happens, there's a bit of gossip, everyone wonders what the final straw could have been.  But no one blames the ex-manager.  The ex-managers have all gone on to be successful engineers, sometimes moving up the technical ladder.




courtstreet

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2012, 06:48:13 PM »
I think the reaction of the employer is the key here, not your own.  You know what you want, and I don't get the impression you will regret refocusing on technical development rather than management.

So just focus on your reasoning with your employer. Don't say "I'm not cut out for management" or "I want to work less".  Say "I love development and want to focus on that" and "I'll be a father soon and want to make sure I'm in a role where the company won't suffer if I don't answer the phone after hours." Always spin what you want in terms of "what I can do for you" and you'll most likely see encouragement and not resistance.

That is great advice, thanks. I have a meeting in about a week with my manager and I think this is the approach that I will take when broaching this subject.

The best part is that it will be simple honesty. I do love development, but the extra responsibilities placed upon me have really taken me away from it and I feel like I don't have the time to grow technically.

It's funny but now that I have made the decision to go for it, I feel a lot better already and confident that for me, this is the right decision.

courtstreet

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2012, 06:54:30 PM »
BTW, within engineering companies management is often not the most prestigious career path. A strong technical lead often has much more pull with company leadership (and is much more difficult to replace) than a generic middle manager.

Regardless, you're much more likely to advance in your career doing what you enjoy than by making your passions subservient to someone else's expectations. People reward performance, and it's a lot easier to perform when you're happy.

When I started working at my company, there wasn't really that much advancement going technical only. In the past few years they have really come a long way (due to employee feedback) in providing clear career paths for technical only employees. This was part of the reason a lot of my peers got into management in the first place - it was really the only option if you wanted to feel like you were making any sort of career advancement.

I don't want to sound like I am complaining though. The company itself is amazing to work for and there are really a lot of perks (otherwise I would just try and find a new job rather than moving internally.) I just want to find a position that's more in line with my personality, lifestyle, etc.

Thanks for your reply though, you really make a lost of sense. We do have several senior developers who are leaders in the company, just not managing other employees. That is the direction I would like to head in.

courtstreet

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #11 on: June 10, 2012, 07:04:10 PM »
I think the hardest part is getting your head around the idea of saying "I have reached my career limit".  I think many women go through a similar piece of soul-searching after having children.  It is accepting within your mind that you are capable of going further, but putting aside the need to prove it to other people.

I switched roles a couple of years ago so that I didn't have management responsibilities.  Not quite the same situation as I moved employers to do it, but it was a great decision for me.  I prefer "doing" to "managing" so my daily life is much happier.

However once again, I am feeling the urge to progress so that I a) earn more and b) have a greater say in how the business is run.  I am a little worried that I will always feel this urge to prove myself....

That is interesting, thanks for sharing your experience. It will be strange going from being a part of the strategy meetings, and feeling like someone else is steering the boat.

I don't want to say I will never go into some sort of leadership role again. Maybe I will one day get tired of the frustration that comes with solving technical problems all day for instance. But for now, I think I could really enjoy putting myself back to work "doing" rather than managing. I actually had a long conversation with my dad about this and he gave me some perspective that I still have a lot of career ahead of me (I am < 30) and if I want to get back into management one day, I can.

jwystup

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #12 on: June 10, 2012, 07:43:57 PM »
When I started working at my company, there wasn't really that much advancement going technical only. In the past few years they have really come a long way (due to employee feedback) in providing clear career paths for technical only employees. This was part of the reason a lot of my peers got into management in the first place - it was really the only option if you wanted to feel like you were making any sort of career advancement.

This is how it was until recently at my job. They just added more levels for "Software Engineer" so that we can advance without going to management. My old boss just moved from a "Manager" to a "Software Architect" position that they just created recently as well (I believe the idea is that he's still involved with determining how things are structured and how they should work but without the management stuff). They've had to hire managers from outside the company because no one wants to go from development to managing. I don't think it's too uncommon to want to focus just on developing.

I also have a friend who just recently got a new position within the same company she works for (in accounting) and she knew the first day that she didn't want to do the new job, she's working on moving back to her old position (that luckily wasn't filled yet!)

It's tough to realize that you want to change back, and I think it's tougher to admit it! Good luck with all the telling-your-boss(es), etc!

tooqk4u22

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2012, 09:41:15 AM »
The skills/traits/joy required to be a manager are almost always different from the postition being managed. Many times people are promoted because they were the best performers but that doesn't make them good managers and people want to become managers because it is a sign of progress, more income, etc but that doesn't mean it is the best job.

I am not in software so it may be different, many times I find that if you step down you will be generally considered off the list for other promotions.  Falls under the guise of if you are not growing, you are dying.  Doesn't make it true and there is plenty of career ahead to move and change, and if you are on this site it may not even matter that much in short while. 

Bottom line is it is your issue about stepping down and handling the ego equation, but if you enjoyed your other role, had significantly less stress more time and better quality of life, and will be compensated enough to meet your needs/goals then I would do it in a heartbeat.

$_gone_amok

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2012, 03:55:43 PM »
Some companies treat QA and developers with the same respect and pay. But doing QA is often less stressful and balanced than development. I've done both and personally prefer QA because I get to play around with all the knobs and switches. 

iwannaretire

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2012, 08:53:15 PM »
I downgraded a few years ago after realizing the stress level was too much.  Every time I would go into a management-type meeting, I would get a terrible stress headache and my scalp would do this weird tingling thing.   I was losing hair likely crazy. 

I don't regret the decision at all.  The stress-related health problems mostly went away after I left (and I started telecommuting at the same time).  I have much more control over the type of environments I want to be in.  It was a big adjustment in terms of lost income, though.  I don't know if you'll have the same issue.

In terms of how to handle it with your employer, I think honestly is the best policy (without being a whiner, of course.)  Has someone else in the company made a similar-type move?  I was able to point to another worker who had done something similar and indicate I would like the same arrangement.  I think most employers value good employees and may not fully realize it when an employee is unhappy.  So, they should want to keep you in an arrangement where you are happy, rather than let you suffer in an arrangement that is not good for you. 

Be prepared for some rumors, though.   Even though I went to most of my co-workers individually and explained why I was making the change, I felt there was some skepticism as to whether I was being honest or whether there was something more nefarious going on.

Good luck!

courtstreet

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #16 on: June 12, 2012, 05:45:14 PM »
I downgraded a few years ago after realizing the stress level was too much.  Every time I would go into a management-type meeting, I would get a terrible stress headache and my scalp would do this weird tingling thing.   I was losing hair likely crazy. 

I don't regret the decision at all.  The stress-related health problems mostly went away after I left (and I started telecommuting at the same time).  I have much more control over the type of environments I want to be in.  It was a big adjustment in terms of lost income, though.  I don't know if you'll have the same issue.

In terms of how to handle it with your employer, I think honestly is the best policy (without being a whiner, of course.)  Has someone else in the company made a similar-type move?  I was able to point to another worker who had done something similar and indicate I would like the same arrangement.  I think most employers value good employees and may not fully realize it when an employee is unhappy.  So, they should want to keep you in an arrangement where you are happy, rather than let you suffer in an arrangement that is not good for you. 

Be prepared for some rumors, though.   Even though I went to most of my co-workers individually and explained why I was making the change, I felt there was some skepticism as to whether I was being honest or whether there was something more nefarious going on.

Good luck!

Thanks for sharing, there have been others in my company to make the same move, but it hasn't happened for years.

courtstreet

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2012, 03:43:12 PM »
In case anyone was looking for closure, I had a meeting with my boss today to discuss changing positions within the company. It went very well. I tried to just be honest as possible with how I was feeling in my current role. She was very accommodating and thankful that I came to her to discuss a change, rather than just leaving the company. We are going to work out a timeline for a transition and determine how we can make this a smooth change.

I was very apprehensive going in as I didn't know how this was going to play out. In the end, I am very pleased how it went and the level of commitment I got from management to help move to a position I am more excited about and comfortable with. Just another reason why I love working for this company.

Thanks everyone for your input.

arebelspy

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2012, 07:34:18 PM »
That's excellent.  Glad it worked out so well.

Up front honesty is nearly always the best way to go about something.  Thanks for the followup.
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catalana

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #19 on: June 20, 2012, 06:04:56 AM »
I'm really please the talk went well - that's the hardest part over and done with!

Good luck with the transition.

James

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Re: Downgrade the Job?
« Reply #20 on: June 20, 2012, 08:24:15 AM »
Thanks for the follow up, glad it worked out well!

I think your approach if definitely best, but you can't predict how they will react so I agree it would bring some trepidation.  Good luck on the transition.