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I work in a mid-size startup (~150 people) in the US. I am a software engineer. My company is doing well, so we're growing rapidly.

I'm in a ~15-member engineering team, writing software for the company. This team includes a senior engineer; let's call her Alice (Alice is not the only senior engineer in this team, there are three more). We all, including Alice, report to my manager.

Today, my manager explained to me that while the company is growing we're making some structural changes. So, they're creating a new, small group, which will be led by Alice. So if I accept this, I'll be reporting to Alice along with newly hired engineers. For the most part, nothing regarding my work will change other than the person I'm reporting to. They explained that Alice wanted to get some management experience and since we're growing fast, they decided to make a new group led by Alice, with focus X, and since I'm interested in X, they decided to move me to Alice's team.

My relationship with both Alice and my manager are very good. I'm very happy with my company, it has chill working ours, interesting work, good compensation, stellar benefits, etc... All is good so far.

I'm very inexperienced in this industry (this is my first year working), so I don't know what to make of this. I cannot decide whether this is me getting demoted, or just Alice getting promoted, or both at the same. If it's just Alice getting promoted, it's great. She's a good engineer, and she'll be a good engineer manager.

Also, I was planning to ask for a raise soon, maybe even today. Is this a bad time to ask for this, or is it acceptable for me to ask this to my current manager (this week) or new manager (next week)?

Any suggestions? I don't want to find bad things when there is none, but I also want to be defensive about my career. I wanted to ask this to random people before talking to Alice and accepting this offer.

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    If this is your first year of working, you are in the most junior role and you can't really be demoted – Hilmar Jun 13 at 5:09
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    Based on the information provided it is unclear exactly what sort of promotion Alice received. Is Alice responsible for hiring/firing/promotions/raises in her "department" or is she just a "project manager" without any HR responsibilities? – MaxW Jun 13 at 6:48
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    I assumed from your question title that you were a manager, but it sounds like you're just an entry level team member? You can't really be demoted from non-management. – pboss3010 Jun 13 at 11:51
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    Could you explain why you feel that this could mean you are demoted? – Michael Jaros Jun 13 at 16:41
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    You really have to examine the assumption that "doing management" is a promotion, or that being freed from management tasks is a demotion. Why would a sensible business take a good engineer and make a probably mediocre manager out of them? – jamesqf Jun 13 at 16:52
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I cannot decide whether this is me getting demoted, or just Alice getting promoted, or both at the same.

Unless your title is changed, this is just Alice getting promoted.

Congratulate Alice, enjoy the new focus of your work, and work hard together so that you both succeed and get rewarded.

Also I was planning to ask for a raise soon, maybe even today. Is this a bad time to ask for this, or is it acceptable for me to ask this to my current manager (this week) or new manager (next week)?

If the time is right for raises, then ask your current manager now.

New managers may have more difficulty getting raises approved, and it may look like a new manager trying to throw unearned rewards at their new team, rather than employees requesting earned raises.

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    Wouldn't the person to talk about a raise with be the current manager? The Alice thing hasn't even happened yet. And with "newly hired engineers" in this small group, it's a decent opportunity to push OP's position as a slightly more senior engineer (assuming newly hired = new grad) – Mars Jun 13 at 7:23
  • @user297847337 Also you mention that you have 1 year experience in this field and I guess your title would be "Junior software developer/engineer" so (no offense here) you cannot be "demoted" to something. If you enjoy working with Alice as a co-worker it is in your advantage that she becomes your new manager because she has both the freshness factor and she was (closer) to your position till more recently... – kokobill Jun 13 at 9:18
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    To add to this, the reason why you should ask your current manager is because he has a better outlook on the work you done than Alice. If his answer is that there isn't enough experience yet to raise your wage, ask Alice in about 6-12months. It is also your new chance to present yourself, so use this new opportunity to work hard and hope for the best. – Tryb Ghost Jun 13 at 9:38
  • It may feel like a demotion to have one more person above you. But rest assured it is not. – O. Jones Jun 13 at 11:15
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    @user297847337 - pay particular attention to the part where you said 'growing rapidly' - it is quite normal for a growing organization to add an additional layer of management. Then, promote good candidates from within to fill newly available slots. – Jon Custer Jun 13 at 13:39
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15 people is a lot of people to report to one manager. It's entirely reasonable to split the team up. Alice got the chance to step into management. Congratulate her.

Having said that, it is reasonable to give the new manager a good bunch of people to work with. Take it as a vote of confidence that you are on her team for that reason.

As for the raise? This probably has little to do with it. If you have put in your time in the company and have provided value to deserve a raise, then ask for one.

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    I like the point about taking it as a vote of confidence. You were picked for the new team, and probably not arbitrarily. Either Alice is thought of as an incredible manager who can hit the ground running with any team, or the current manager picked a team he knew could adapt to having a new manager, help her transition to her new role, etc. Both of those are good things for you, OP. – Nic Hartley Jun 13 at 19:38
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Am I being demoted?

You are not. Your role is what you do. How many layers are above you is a function of the company's organization, not a reflection on you.

Most change is just change. You're still doing what you were doing. Even if there isn't growth, there are going to be many mergers, reorgs, others leaving and you moving on throughout your career. Even many changes that are touted as game-changers probably won't really be for you. It's good you care about your career but be careful not to read too much into everything.

  • +1 for addressing layers. Some people get too focused on how many layers they are from the CEO. – rrauenza Jun 14 at 18:40
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I don't know what to make of this.

Does your manager have a history of being dishonest with you? If not, then it is what they told you it is.

I cannot decide whether this is me getting demoted, or just Alice getting promoted, or both at the same.

This Alice being promoted. If your title didn't change to a lesser title, your salary wasn't reduced, and you did not have tasks and responsibilities taken away from you then this is not a demotion for you.

I don't know if this course of action is normal.

Companies make organizational changes all of the time. On the face of it, it looks perfectly normal to me.

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You're not being demoted, Alice is being promoted. As all other answers already pointed out.

They explained that Alice wanted to get some management experience and since we're growing fast, they decided to make a new group led by Alice, with focus X, and since I'm interested in X, they decided to move me to Alice's team.

They seem to be attuned to employee's interests and aspirations and they seem to be helping employees such as Alice to grow in their career. They know this is smart, since that way she'll be able to deliver much more impact and will stay very motivated to grow in the company.

Also I was planning to ask for a raise soon, maybe even today. Is this a bad time to ask for this, or is it acceptable for me to ask this to my current manager (this week) or new manager (next week)?

Use the opportunity to talk to both your old boss and to Alice about your career and how you would like to grow in the near future.

Of course, asking a raise is part of this, so talk about compensation as well.

But taking the opportunity to have a meaningful discussion about your career is a smart move at this point.

  • Do you see yourself taking a tech lead role in Alice's team? If not now, maybe in the future?
  • Would you see yourself mentoring new hires in her team, since you'll be the engineer coming with the previous experience of the current team?
  • How can you bring the most impact to the new team? How can you help Alice be successful (which is a great way to share credit for her team's accomplishments)?
  • Do you consider going for a management position down the road? Or do you prefer a career in which you become a very senior technical contributor?

Of course, you might not have set ideas on many of those, but still having these discussions with your managers is very useful. Your managers are there to help you grow in your career (Alice's manager is clearly doing that), so use that in your favor!

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    Spot on, plus this is very common in a startup. They are growing, teams get too large to manage and that requires more leads/managers. Promoting from within where people have the desire/skills is ideal. – Greg H Jun 13 at 22:03
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Don't disagree with any of the answers, but I do have some perspective, as this same thing actually happened to me once.

At the time my entire group was 3 engineers, with something crazy like 4 empty slots on the org chart, due to Dotcom Bubble related personnel losses. All three of us reported directly to a full-blown manager. I once had someone else in the company when I told her my group name, say "Oh, under Staff Engineer X" (our highest pay-grade group member), and I kind of surprised myself with how I indignatly responded that no, I reported directly to the manager. I'm sure this meant nothing to the company; I was still just another end-node engineer on the org chart. However, it clearly meant something to me to be relatively high up on it.

Of course the bubble burst, we filled those slots, grew some, and now I report to a team lead for roughly the same job (plus a couple of pay grades). Of course that was just a nod to management realities. A manager with multiple group leads reporting to him can't also manage 15 direct reports. But yes it does feel a lot like a drop in status. It isn't at all, but it sure does feel that way when it happens. This is a normal feeling you are having, even if it is arguably unreasonable.

My advice is to give it 6 months or so and see how you still feel about it. Probably you'll have a bit better perspective then. However, if you're still sore, perhaps you actually want yourself in a supervisory position. In that case, consider what you'd need to do with your career to get yourself into one. It would probably even be worth talking that career plan over with your own supervisor. In an up economy, positions will come open from time to time, and it would pay to prepare yourself for them both personally and politically.

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