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TLDR

My performance review (based on engineering skills) was positive, I applied for promotion and got refused because in the next period I will be taking managing responsibilities (and I'm new to managing). Now I'm not sure management is the right career path anymore.

Context

I'm a ML engineer working in a (big) startup. In the last year our ML team grew significantly, so it became difficult for the CTO to manage the team alone. 3~4 months ago they asked me if I would like to take some manager responsibilities.

Seeing this as a good learning opportunity, I accepted. I'm not officially a manager, but I participate in manager meetings and try to learn from my supervisor.


Then we had a performance review, where it was stated explicitly that I will be evaluated only on my skills as ML engineer, not managerial skills.

My review was positive. The conclusion was "I exceed expectations for my current level (L4)" (along with some ask for improvement of course). So I applied for promotion (L5), but was refused.

The reasons given were :

  • Since I will be manager, I will be evaluated at L4
  • Ask for improvement mentioned earlier

My understanding

While the second reason makes sense, I don't understand the first reason.

I was specifically told I am not evaluated on my manager skills, yet the reason given is about my expected manager skill.

It seems my career growth (in this company at least) is hindered by the fact I will take management responsibilities. I would have a higher level by not taking these responsibilities (and therefore a higher salary).

If I wait the next performance review and my managerial skills are not up to L5 standard, then I will stagnate to L4 one more time. But if I give up management and just focus on engineering, there is good probability that I will reach L5.

Question

How can I approach my supervisor about this problem ? I want to know if being a manager is the reason for the promotion refusal, and make it clear that if it's career-limiting, I'm not going to take these responsabilities.

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  • 10
    Your thoughts seem very well laid out here. Just set up a meeting with your supervisor and say this stuff. Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 0:46
  • 4
    A question that would guide you is the following: "What career path you prefer?" Do you see yourself as manager eventually? Is being managerial a priority for you? Would you prefer to stay engineering but be top top level? Is the level/payment what matters most to you in this moment? I second Philip comment, your post is very well laid out, ask your manager to clarify.
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 3:40
  • Thanks for the comments. @DarkCygnus The question indeed guide me, I must first clarify what I want before talking to my manager..
    – Astariul
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 14:33

2 Answers 2

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How can I approach my supervisor about this problem ?

Talk to your supervisor. Things to discuss

  1. What is the difference in compensation between an L4 individual contributor and an L4 Manager? Typically managers sits in different salary bands since management is actually hard work
  2. Does your added responsibility for doing management duty comes with extra benefits? If not, are you expected to do the extra work for free ?
  3. What would your career path look like A) if you do management and B) if you stay an individual contributor? What would your supervisor prefer and what would the recommend?

Take your hints from there. It looks like you are asked to do extra duties with no compensation and you will need to decide whether the extra learning you are getting out of this is worth it for you.

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  • Thanks for this answer, it's very on point. 1. As far as I know in my company it's the same salary band. But yes, I need to clarify this point. 3. That's what I need to do. I need to lay out how I see my career in both path and ask him his opinion and recommendations ! Then from there, like others mentioned in the comments, I need to weight my options and make a choice ! Thanks for the helpful answer !
    – Astariul
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 15:04
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I want to know if being a manager is the reason for the promotion refusal

Ask your supervisor what the internal structure for management looks like. It sounds like your company is experiencing growing pains and is still unsure of the answer, so this might be an opportunity for you to set expectations going forward.

It seems promoting levels in your company is an experience/pay indicator, rather than a position/responsibility indicator. If your level is independent of your role, assert that you have exceeded expectations (for your experience), and should be duly rewarded. If your level is dependent on your role....

they asked me if I would like to take some manager responsibilities

Your change in responsibilities should not come without a change in title. If you are shadowing/learning, you are still an engineer; you should be promoted as such. If you are a manager, inform your supervisor it is time to change your contract, and negotiate on terms of being a manger.

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