I am the founding engineer at a startup. Since the beginning of the company I've reported directly to the CEO and then the CTO after he was hired. Our company has grown considerably since then (from three employees to 100 employees).

A while ago we hired a manager specifically for the engineering team that I am on. All of our junior engineers and engineers hired since then have been put under him. Lately, our CTO has been talking to me about moving me under the manager. He tells me that it's just because he doesn't have time for me to continue being his direct report, which I don't necessarily doubt since he's a busy person these days. However, this concerns me because our manager is more junior of an engineer than I am and I don't feel that I have as much to learn from him as I do our CTO. Also, I'm honestly insecure about seemingly being moved down the chain at a company I've been at since the very beginning.

I suppose I need to talk more about exactly what this move would mean and what it would mean for my standing in the company. How should I be thinking about this? Is this certainly a negative for me or is it possible for a re-org such as this to be a positive move? If the latter, how can I make the most of it and make the transition as smooth as possible for all involved?

  • 3
    What is it you hope to learn from your manager, either CTO or the new manager? Jul 31, 2018 at 8:57
  • 2
    why does a manager's engineering seniority matter? and did you manage anyone or was your only job engineering?
    – bharal
    Jul 31, 2018 at 9:03
  • I've rolled back the change here as it removed all the details, making the question more broad, not less. Aug 14, 2018 at 6:25

3 Answers 3


Seems to me that you are more interested in your prestige position of reporting directly to senior leadership and working on special projects than anything else.

By rights, the time to handle this was when the engineering manager position was announced - you should have applied for the role in order to cement your seniority and maintain a leadership position.

Now though, the company has evolved from a lean startup to what is hopefully an established, successful business. By staying on the engineering side of things rather than moving into a leadership position you've decided to be one of the grunts, a cog in the machine, and you need to accept this.

Aside from this, it is incredibly rare to learn technical skills from management. That comes from other engineers and books and online resources.


Your manager's job is just that - managing. He may do a bit of engineering on the side (I like to get my hands dirty too - it helps keep me in touch with the project).

If you were, for instance, senior engineer and he were being made uber senior engineer, then you would have cause for grievance.

As it is, you are an engineer and he is a manager. Unless you feel that you have superior managerial skills, go along with it.

This sort of growth is quite normal for start-ups and eventually you have to develop a more formal hierarchy. It is certainly no poor reflection on you.


Look at the differences in responsibility between you two: he/she manages a team of engineers and you do the engineering. Why would you expect a manager who might be in charge of team budget, performance reviews, conflict resolution, non-stop meetings, strategy, etc need to be a more senior engineer than you?

Your manager's job is to support you, figure out/listen to what you need, give it to you, and then get the hell out of the way. If you want to continue learning from the best, help the manager hire people better than you so you can learn from them. Offer to review resumes, participate in technical interviews, etc. Propose a fund for technical staff to go to conferences, have renown people come on site and do trainings.

You need to also ask yourself where you would be most happy. If you want to manage, you need to communicate that. If you want to develop, then manage-up and let your manager know what you need to succeed. If you want status and recognition and to be known as 'founding engineer', that ship might have sailed once you transitioned from startup to mid sized company.