4

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?

  • 5
    You've hit a cap at your current Job. If you want to keep growing, then you need to switch to a different company with a higher cap. – Shadowzee Oct 1 at 4:25
  • @Shadowzee The cap for the position wasn't based on the company but on a survey of salary ranges (outside the company for the industry in general) for the position, which seems to imply to me that without jumping up to a new role I haven't had previously this isn't possible. My question is how I can make such a jump within the constraints I am currently experiencing. – Michael J. Oct 1 at 4:52
  • 1
    I meant more role/experienced wise. If you want to keep growing, but the role or mentor doesn't not exist, then you can jump into a new company with the role and people who have experience in it. You might be starting fresh, but you can grow much higher. Otherwise, you will need to grow you company, so that the role becomes necessary, however not ever boss wants to grow and expand their business. – Shadowzee Oct 1 at 4:55
  • 1
    Be less subtle at your upcoming review. Clearly state your wishes. It would not be the first time that a position is created just to keep a valuable employee. – user180146 Oct 1 at 7:26
  • TL:DR but from the first paragraph or so, ask them to make a new title for you? If you think you're in a good position to manage more junior team members then the company should have no problem creating a new level for you. – Bee Oct 1 at 16:06
9

how can you switch jobs and jump into a management / software architect position

You apply for those sorts of positions. And it's correct that often it's best to switch companies.

Perhaps invest in yourself, take a management course, two major benefits to this are that you learn whats involved, and you get a fancy certificate. Management is a skill like any other, the courses don't teach a great deal, but they're almost impossible to fail and you get the paper.

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.

Welcome to the 99% of the World which is earning a living in an office. If you really want to accomplish something remarkable, in my experience you invest in it yourself while your daily slog pays your bills. Very few people get a free ride to 'remarkable'. But some truly amazing things can be accomplished if you commit yourself to them.

  • 1
    If Plan A, applying for management jobs, possibly after taking some courses, fails consider looking for a software engineer job in a larger company, where the opportunities do exist. – Patricia Shanahan Oct 1 at 7:24
  • 4
    Another benefit of attending management courses is building a network - the people you meet at the course are either trying to become managers, on their first managerial experience or needing to brush up their skills, and might be in the right place to help you or advise you in your career move – Juliana Karasawa Souza Oct 1 at 9:26
  • When you mention a certificate now I'm wondering if there is a specific thing your have in mind, like "Microsoft Certified Project Manager Evangelist" or something, as opposed to something like am MBA. Am I on the right track here? – Michael J. Oct 3 at 3:58
  • @MichaelJ. no idea whats available in your locale. Managers here take some Mickey Mouse 12 week course at the Uni and come out with a splendid multicolour embossed piece of paper.... doesn't guarantee they can read and write, but gets them jobs. – Kilisi Oct 3 at 4:10
1

I understand you're bored, looking for more responsibility and looking for a bigger paycheck.

Software architecture is one road. Management is another.

Increased salary and being less bored are actually not directly related to either of those.

"Managing a team of software engineers" is quite often not the same as "provide leadership and vision". Places tend to group them together, but in reality a lot of management is just boring paperwork and dealing with things your underlings / other people in some other part of the company have broken.

If you want truly want to "provide leadership and vision", then you're looking for a team lead role or possibly a mid-level architect role. You'll be able to extend your current knowledge and improve your people skillz.

You need lots of people skillz to be an effective architect. Or manager. And you need years of practice to get good at them. Otherwise you'll be one of those managers , you know, the ones that real engineers try to get away from.

So, my suggestion is you improve your people skills. Build good working relationships with people in other areas of the company. Or if it's really small, start going onsite and visiting customers and building your people skills there. Learn how to connect and deliver what people want.

If you don't want to go the people route (ie, you don't want to be a manager), you can try the project management route, and get better at planning work.

If you really want to be a senior technical person, then you're going to have to leave your current org. And yes, you may have to "pay your dues", but hopefully at a bigger company that has growth opportunities.

In any scenario, you'll need better people capabilities, so go and do it.

  • Those are interesting suggestions, but challenging as there are already people in those roles. I'm comfortable with my people skills as far as interacting with others and do it quote frequently in an informal way - that is to say I lack authority in that I'm nobody's boss, but can get what I need from others either directly or through their boss. But that's still a big difference from actually managing them. – Michael J. Oct 3 at 4:06
0

Could it be that you're trying to make too big of a jump at once?

Without knowing the specific role requirements, but going from a Senior Engineer role into an advanced management role sounds like quite a leap. I know some places expect their Senior Engineers to have act as a mentor to Junior and Mid-level Engineers, but this is not the same kind of personnel management that a Lead or Team Leader performs.

As mentioned in a comment, you could move sideways into Senior role at a larger company, and then work up from there. You could also look for a Lead role as a stepping stone to higher management. Either way, you should easily be able to do this without taking a hit on your income (in fact, moving to a similar role another company will usually increase your salary) - especially if you are not in too much of a hurry to move on/up.

  • I'm not sure if I'm in a hurry or not, but given my age (50) I kind of feel like maybe I should be... – Michael J. Oct 3 at 4:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.