I have always been ambitious in my career but I am unsure where this has taken me. I want to be taken seriously, I feel an intense need to retain control (not necessarily over people, just over my immediate situation), and I really do not take it well when I get knocked down. Right now I am facing something of an inner turmoil, I have been up the past couple nights pondering about what I should do for the most strategic long term outcome.
The product team that I am on now started with myself and a friend, and we took a proof of concept and made it into the internal success that it is now. The development team has grown to 5 with no clearly defined leader. I talked to my friend about it and he had no interest in being the technical lead for personal reasons, so in my last annual review I made it clear I would like to act as technical lead for the time being. My manager was very genial and open to the idea so I went with it. I started attending meetings and dealing with the business side to free up the developers to focus on their work. I started managing their tasks, assisting them technically and helping to define technical specifications. I put in a lot of extra hours to make sure that my first project as a lead would be a success despite some bumps along the way. Morale was high for the team and I was happy. Everybody had fun and were thrilled to learn new technologies and work on a greenfield project.
A little while ago, an architect was demoted for his handling of a million dollar project and he started to attend our meetings. I figured that he was just representation from the organizations architecture group so I didn't think much of it.
I got called into my managers office recently and was asked why I was going around telling people that I was the lead?
I was shocked because I thought this was a fact that I was acting lead. Being ambitious I sought to do the job that I wanted not the job I was assigned, but now she is trying to back pedal and tell me that she never once said I was acting lead for the product, just that she said I could lead on this one project. I asked her why is she telling me this now and her response is that she didn't want certain people to get upset to where it was an incident. I tried to glean from her more information but I already knew who was being designated the new product lead, somebody who has proven to be a failure and knows nothing about the technology.
I felt angry and humiliated. Similar things have happened to me throughout my career and I can't help but feel that the nature of software development has been the opposite of a true meritocracy. My mind is in turmoil, filled with regret over a career that I doubt will ever truly be fulfilling based on what I really want.
When this happens to me in my career I feel compelled to leave, give up, throw in the towel. I especially feel this urge when I know my leaving will cause a giant technical hole, fulfilling a dark revenge fantasy of causing chaos and confusion, and management coming to the conclusion that life was so much better when I was there. I am unsure if this is indeed the right choice however. In the past I have left, sometimes to what I suspect is an even worse job with even more disgusting amounts of internal politics just because I cannot contain my emotions around certain people anymore. The cycle continues.
How can I recover from the emotions, anger and humiliation that I feel when I am in the office now? How can I save face, inform people tactfully that I am not the tech lead without causing confusion, or inciting questions or suspicion that I feel incapable of dealing with?