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If I've worked in engineering for 10 years, and accept a management role, does it hurt my resume/CV when applying as an engineer at other companies?

My employer is giving me a choice between becoming an "engineering fellow" (50% technical, 50% leadership) role, and a $20k raise (i.e. $160k ==> $180k), and my salary caps at $240k; or a management role, which is only a $10k raise, but caps at $300k, and provides an "easier" path to becoming a director/executive over the next 10 years (engineering fellows can do this too, but it's rare).

I'm concerned about economic downturns and possible layoffs in the next year, and in my experience:

  • Low-to-mid-level managers are the first to get cut.
  • Having management as your most recent job tends to make it harder to interview for top-level engineering roles (I've seen my own colleagues at multiple companies say "oh, he's rusty, too much management, he shouldn't be applying for a principal/senior engineering role").

Is it normal for an engineer to have a harder time interviewing as an engineer with their more recent roles being in management? Should I change my job title to "engineering lead" or "chief engineer" when applying to other companies? I've seen this sentiment at multiple companies, so I don't believe it's just hearsay.

Also, should I consider turning down the promotion to management and insist on sticking with the engineering role if management insists I choose a non-technical/management promotion instead of an engineering promotion? Or is that asking to be fired by insisting on a different path/stream of promotion?

Thank you.

  • If you turn down the promotion, it should be because you enjoy what you are doing and want to continue doing so. But even then, the new roles might also be enjoyable. How it looks on your resumé depends on the next person reading it which, ideally, would be nobody. – Dan Bracuk Feb 15 at 20:25
  • a country tag would be helpful. questions how a CV is perceived depend upon culture. – Benjamin Feb 15 at 21:29
  • @Benjamin Updated as advised. – Howard Feb 16 at 1:05
  • When I see a resumé from someone with a small amount of experience and who claims a title of "chief engineer" I immediately think "chief BS artist". Be careful when using extreme job title puffery as someone will call your bluff. – David Hammen Feb 17 at 8:38
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My old department lead found a job as developer just fine after getting laid off. This may depend upon connections, how much development you did before becoming a manager, etc... Also, I think this may depend on country. I know that in Germany, older people said there is no way back from management. But I think it's not as true as it used to be. But that may be a local bubble.

If you refuse a promotion because of your CV, that might be seen negative. But if you say you see yourself more suited to other path X instead, a lot of people will be understanding. Some may try to push you anyway, because it is convenient for them! But for most people, refusing a promotion you think you are unsuited doesn't get them fired. If you're company does this, you are better off without them.

In summary, I think you should focus on the question if the managerial path suits you. If you think you might do a good job, why not give it a try?

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  • To be honest, I'm mostly interested in whichever provides the most amount of money over the next 15 years, all other things held equal. My main concern is my ability to retain my current job as well as rebound if my current company has layoffs. – Howard Feb 16 at 1:07
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As far as your opening question - "am i still hireable", you're always hireable. (You can always get another management job you know, I'm told that those positions still exist even after downturns). But as long as you have a reason why you're applying for a technical role once you have had management experience (ie I love technical roles), then you're fine.

You really need to ask yourself what you want to do with your life - you'll be dead soon, well, sooner than it seems, and you'll probably wish you'd done what you wanted to do. Management can be really fun and interesting, and it requires a different skillset, so initially it will be quite challenging but a real learning opportunity too.

Engineering will always exist, so it's never going to be too hard to get an engineering role either. I'm not sure what you want to do with your life, so maybe talk to your boss about it - you can show uncertainty as long as you're also showing a desire to make a challenging, interesting choice for your life.

Much of your question, though, seems to be "i'll be fired in a year in a downturn and i will only apply for engineering jobs once that happens", which is really weird.

  1. If you know there is going to be a downturn next year, then start buying puts at the appropriate time and you won't even need to job hunt

  2. If you know it's going to all up until then, start buying calls now, and then you can setup a hedge fund to buy the puts in a year with your successful track record, and you'll not only not need to job hunt, you'll be hiring engineers!

  3. You can also, you know, if you take the management role now, apply for management jobs after this downturn. I'm told that management roles are much easier to get than programming roles, especially when you have recent management experience.

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10 years of engineering sounds quite low to me personally to be considered for management, so maybe you have that on your side, at a future date you could say you were not done getting your hands dirty doing the real work. At 32 years now of technical work, I'm done for sure and nobody replies to my resume anymore despite me doing the best work of my career, so don't leave it too late

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  • you can be a manager after one year... I'm not sure why you think managers needs years of engineering experience? it's a people role! – bharal Feb 16 at 21:15
  • You need to read a person's answer more carefully, I'm not interested in what you think to be honest and your reply to me only reinforces that sentiment, if you bothered to try and comprehend my answer you would have noticed the "to me personally" caveat – Mikesplace Feb 16 at 23:20

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