I'm a software engineer but want to advance my career into management, ideally in something like a senior architect role. However, I have no idea how to do this, because the company I work for is very small and there are no such roles available. I feel like I have kind of worked myself up to and am trapped at a ceiling where I am highly valued by my employer, but not able to move up any more or increase my salary to what I feel like I would be commensurate with the contribution I could make in a more high level role.
The typical advice I hear for advancing and earning more money is to switch companies. But how can you switch jobs and jump into a management / software architect position when you haven't had a lot of formal management in your current position (aside from the occasional "wear many hats" roles common in many small companies)? Also, at a new company I feel like I would basically be starting over. Maybe not from scratch, but I would be "doomed" to continue doing the same sort of work that I feel I have already outgrown for more years "paying my dues" as I watched for opportunities to show initiative and position myself for a promotion, whereas in my present job I have been there many years and were there any management opportunities it would be a lot easier to work my way into one already.
I have done a lot of work in my spare time which could be considered the domain of a senior software architect (I have literally written hundreds of pages of notes, analysis and other documents including some formal specifications on the architecture and implementation of software systems, but it's not anything my employer is even interested in or has a use for - other than bits and pieces here which have proved useful and valuable.) I really want a role that would let me utilize my abilities in this regard, ideally in managing a team of software engineers to provide leadership and vision. But I don't know if this really transfers well beyond looking impressive in an interview into an actual job of the type I would like to have. If I had the connections and the wherewithal I would actually be seriously interested in something entrepreneurial, but being part of a company helps to ground me as to what people really want and will pay for as opposed to what I could ideally create.
Additionally, my annual review is coming up in a couple of weeks and I'm looking for advice on how I should approach it. In my last review I put out feelers and subtly touched on my long term goals, and the general feel I got was one of support and accommodation with the caveat that I'm pretty much already being paid at the top end for the job description I'm doing and that my long term goals don't really align with company objectives as it's not quite in the same industry. I don't want to burn any bridges, as I can't really afford to just jump ship, and I'm happy to be a loyal and valuable worker, but at the same the same time I feel somewhat discouraged by the fact that my actual job sometimes seems more like a distraction which takes time and prevents me from accomplishing something more remarkable. I feel underutilized by easily meeting or exceeding what is expected of me while still having enough spare time (I work a 40 hour week and working more isn't really encouraged) to put effort into architecting systems which have the potential to be far more valuable and useful to a much greater number of people. I can't give up my vision or my job, the only alternative - how to advance into a position where they are one and the same?