Recently my manager has had an interest in doing what I do, software development. He has started to do his own learning but now has asked me to teach him and even started a project that was meant for me. Is this a bad sign?

  • 6
    A lot of people would love to have a manager who takes such an active interest in what they do on a day-to-day basis.
    – BenM
    Mar 24 '14 at 23:25
  • 8
    You can't "take" skills. If you're teaching him, you'll learn faster than he does.
    – Greg Hewgill
    Mar 24 '14 at 23:33
  • When does it cross the line from friendly interest to being the replacement?
    – user3439417
    Mar 24 '14 at 23:40
  • What exactly do you expect your boss to do when you leave? Of course he can hire someone else, but in the mean time...
    – user8365
    Mar 25 '14 at 0:19
  • 3
    Maybe someone told him he doesn't even know what his company's doing anymore, and thought to himself that you're the best employee to learn from. I wouldn't expect his demotion to your rank, if you're concerned about that. Mar 25 '14 at 13:23

This isn't necessarily a bad sign, but you may want to find out more regarding his motivation for learning about software development. Does he want to have a better understanding so that he can more accurately assess the work required for certain projects? Does he want to be able to help out when times are tough and you are spread thin? Or maybe he's just curious about the field in general and wants to learn something new so he can relate to you a bit better?

There's also a growing sense that "everyone should learn to code", as evidenced by sites like code.org. So he may be interested purely due to the fact that he thinks he should have a little bit of knowledge like everyone else.

I would love it if my boss wanted to learn about software development and would be totally flattered if he came to me to teach him. My boss has way too many other things going on, however, to even consider doing so, and given that I wouldn't be worried about my job if he asked.


If hes trying to learn so he can sack you, its good - in that you know now its time to leave rather than being shown the door. If hes learning because he wants to watch over you and micro manage you, that is also good because you know it's time to leave.

If he is over being a boss and wants to be a geek, that is good, there is a job being his boss coming up soon.

If hes learning because he want to understand the problems you face and become a better boss, can I have your job......

So is it good he has asked you to teach him- Up to you what you do with that information and how to respond to it. Its not good, its not bad, it just is.

Its up to you - your response determines if its good or bad.


At least in NYC, for every 10 rank beginners who want to become a software engineer, only 1 or 2 succeeds. It takes 6 months to learn Ruby and I don't trust anyone who claims to be a Rails guy and has been at it for less than 2 years. It take 12 to 15 months for someone to become a good-to-very good Javascript developer. About 6 months for someone to be very good at Python, including a couple of libraries. It's more important to be persistent than to be smart when learning software engineering - it's more about getting help when you need it, and not giving up than about being smart because there are plenty of smart people who just give up, at least temporarily.

If your boss wants to learn software engineering, then more power to him. Hopefully, he gets to appreciate what it takes to be a good software engineer. Looking at the bright side, he might learn how to manage a software engineering project and do a better job of managing you as a resource. If he thinks he can replace you - and there is nothing from your post that indicates that he wants to do that - and do your job, then you are working for a fool. Because he can't do YOUR full-time job as a software engineer and HIS full-time job as a manager at the same time. If he tries that, then something has to give - his work/life balance, his physical health, his mental health, his ability to do either job satisfactorily, or something else. He is probably not getting a bigger paycheck out of doing two jobs :)

  • 1
    I agree with the sentiment of your answer. I don't agree with the figures you have included - lets say those numbers are subjective estimates :) Mar 25 '14 at 15:57
  • Yes, these figures are rule of thumb but I am living these figures myself, and I am spending a part of my time helping, motivating and supporting those who are newbies in our thriving hacker community in NYC every chance I get. The process of learning to be a software engineer is part marathon (with occasional sprints) and part roller derby where you elbow your way through obstacles :) Mar 25 '14 at 16:09

I've had a boss that told me she wanted my job. This was in the mid 1990s and I was doing Visual Basic 3. While she was currently a manager, she was also a good DBA, and that's the role she eventually settled on.

I've also had at least three bosses that knew how to program and hated it. They hired me, but they knew enough to know that I knew it, and also enough to know what was reasonable to ask for.

More than likely your boss is genuinely interested, and isn't 'after your job'. A lot of management jobs are pretty thankless, and people would rather do something real. I would recommend showing him anything he asks for, drop hints about what is really interesting or useful, and let him go to town. More than likely, there's plenty of work for both of you if he wants to shift roles.


The job of any good boss (or indeed, any good worker) is to train their replacement. If your boss is looking to learn your skillset, there's a good chance they're one of the following:

  1. Curious about the work you do and thinking they could learn how to do it themselves.
  2. Seeing some handwriting on the wall and thinking they'll need your kind of job at their new employment / startup (not replacing you per se, but you might want to check the company's health...)
  3. Looking to get their hands dirty now and again, whether to be more valuable or to convince themselves they can still do the work.
  4. Evaluating you as a possible trainer for other coders and programmers.

Any of these shouldn't be a problem if he's actively curious and wanting to learn -- at worst, it won't hurt your role at this company to be cooperative with your boss.

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