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I'm in a developer role, and applying for developer positions since around 3-4 years. I'm in a moment in my career where I'd be willing to lean toward a managerial position as I feel fit for the role, however I have little to no prospects how I'd be doing this.

I could apply for junior project manager positions, but that would mean job hunting without related experience and difficult for me to get the job. I would also have difficulties to train to that new role, as switching company culture at the same time than role.

I could also try to get promoted in-house, with the benefit of not having to switch jobs, but this would require the company to trust I would do a better job higher up than in my current position. Since we are a small company, and they had trouble keeping developers lately, I'm guessing the answer would be no or take a long time to complete.

Finally, as this world is completely unknown to me, I have preconceptions that managers work in average more time, are more often on-call and am a bit worried if this move would be detrimental to my work/life balance. I'd rather not try anything if this is at stake.

What would be the most reliable way to climb up the ladder, without risking to burn out, supposing I have the ability ?

  • have you talked to your manager about this? – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Oct 26 at 15:39
  • I haven't told my manager yet. @JoeStrazzere Hard to draw conclusions from people managing me in the past. One seem like jumped in an opportunity at some point, another had a background that was tailored for his position iirc (think he made a project management school) – Arthur Havlicek Oct 26 at 15:47
  • It's important to note that going from Developer to Project Manager is not a promotion. At best, is a career change. – STT LCU Oct 28 at 14:34
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Preface: There is no "this one weird trick to climb corporate ladder, 100% effective money-back guarantee".

"Climbing the ladder" means gradually take more and more responsibility, managing more risks, being involved in more projects. The scope of work is like a cone on its' nose, it gets wider as you get higher.

You seem to be concerned with lack of experience or trust in you.

job hunting without related experience and difficult for me to get the job

...

require the company to trust I would do a better job higher up

You have two things going for you:

  1. You are a professional, and have been for some time. You are capable of holding a job, very related to your desired path. You also understand what you want to do in life, you can articulate why you want to do X. Many people can't, especially right after college. That takes experience (you saw bunch of PMs and know what is good and what is bad)
  2. You are currently employed. You can ask for more responsibility. The "manager" title doesn't mean much, what's important is earned authority. You can be a manager while working as a developer. You can create pocket of excellence, you can train your coworkers in better practices, any other systemic improvement. You need to ask your supervisor for more responsibility in this area, and perhaps negotiate your work. Negotiations usually require some leverage (competing job offer is good example)

Bottom line: you can get necessary experience. It is not chicken-egg problem, where you can't get managerial experience without being manager, and you can't become manager without experience.

  • I was a bit expecting this as an answer. I've been pushing toward being responsible of an intern for instance. I still asked because I feel it's a nice question to ask for fellow developers. – Arthur Havlicek Oct 26 at 16:34
  • Some coworkers will perceive the training process as negative because it will bring the learner to a lower position. Somebody who explains the world to other tries to stand ontop of them. This can be perceived as negative for the companies culture. – Manuel Rodriguez Oct 28 at 19:57
  • @ManuelRodriguez in practice, there is something you can teach, and something you need to learn. Experienced managers can recognize that and help knowledge transfer happen. what you describe is a symptom of unhealthy corporate culture – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Oct 28 at 21:41
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In software companies, the work of product management has some high rungs on the ladder. You can learn about it with tutorials from an outfit called "Pragmatic Marketing."

In general, there are two paths up the ladder. One is the "principal engineer / distinguished engineer / CTO" path. The other is the supervisory ladder.

In either case, let your supervisor know you want more responsibility. (Don't tell him you're gunning for his job!) Ask for advice about what you can do to prepare to get more responsibility. Almost every employer really wants people who want responsibility, so you won't insult anybody by asking about it.

For both of these paths up the ladder you need top-notch communications skills. (You know that job-req cliche "excellent written and oral communication skills?" It's a real thing, and a key to advancement.)

How to get those skills? By communicating:

  1. teach. Present lunch-and-learn topics. Sign up to teach night school. Prepare and deliver training on how to use the stuff you make.

  2. speak in public. Do short presentations for your colleagues. Sign up for Toastmasters International to get practice in public speaking.

  3. write. Whenever you write anything for work, do your best to write clearly. If you can find a co-worker to be your "editor" -- to read over what you write, that's good.

  4. write. Blog. If you can't think of anything else to blog about, do a "something I learned today" blog.

  5. write: Write a book about something you know. Get it published. O'Reilly. Packt.

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The strategy I have seen successfully used the most is to get management certification. Invest in yourself and take a course. You'll learn what is generally involved if nothing else. And you get a chance to do some networking.

You may well find it's not to your taste, it's a very different role.

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    that's similar to MBA, i heard people saying that networking is like 75% of the positive outcome – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Oct 28 at 16:24
  • yep, networking is a big deal, courses try and get people positions and networking because it boosts their service in many ways. – Kilisi Oct 28 at 21:03

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