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It seems that the traditional way software engineers typically become managers (that is, having engineers directly report to them) is to climb their way through the engineering ranks, moving through progressively more senior engineering positions before accepting a management position.

I am wondering if technical project management or technical product management would be a viable alternative to this, functioning as a good stepping stone to a software engineering management position.

And by "good stepping stone," I wanted to know whether such a role would both help prepare someone for that kind of position, as well as market themselves for such a position, even if they don't have experience managing direct reports.

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Any relevant role, that gains you experience in a management or development type setting, can be a good stepping stone to the career path that you want. There's no right or wrong way to become a software engineering manager. So sure - there's nothing inherently wrong with the job titles you outline there.

It seems that the traditional way software engineers typically become managers (that is, having engineers directly report to them) is to climb their way through the engineering ranks, moving through progressively more senior engineering positions before accepting a management position.

I'm not sure I'd agree this is the case (or at least hasn't been the case for a while now.) Typically at some point you get to choose whether you want to shoot for a senior developer based job, or a management based job. It's not necessarily the case that you have to rise to the top of the engineering ranks before taking a management role - not everyone wants one.

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