I have an unconventional career path from management to engineering, which is considered backwards to traditional, when a person first gets hired for sort of junior engineering position and then grows up to tech lead and, above, to head of unit, increasing amount of management portion and decreasing engineering portion of daily work. Also, I'm sure that among both hiring managers and lead engineers, who can and often do take part in an interview during hiring process, it's kind of a warning bell when a person who applies to a tech position has a lot of prior experience with almost none that could be relevant and direct for the position.
So should I try to sell my reverse-traditional career path and represent it as a huge advantage for the organization (self-sufficient worker, can estimate with low error, can lead things when they turn into chaos); or should I better render it to match actual technological/engineering requirements?
PS. I've been on the other side and I've interviewed very different people. None of them has similar path. So I don't have enough information to even predict my own reaction.
Update: after getting several comments, I have to define some information more precisely:
- The question is actually about the cover letter. What happens at the ongoing interview, is completely out of scope of this question.
- My prior experience as a manager is great. I am educated, trained, I loved this job. My success rate is high, however isn't 100% (yup, I failed on some projects, particularly on the first one). But thereafter things got complicated.
- My current lifestyle doesn't allow me to be stressful and under pressure all the time, and management work is all about that. The reason is that I got mixed up in bodybuilding, with all its regimen, insane water consumption and frequent training sessions.
- So, the core point is me restructuring priorities, not prior failures or disappointments.
- I actually have a formal Computer Science education (BSC). But I don't believe it could let me raise a bid because a) it's twice as short as my working experience; b) it's out-of-date-ish, since I got my diploma in 2009.
- I've been working as a freelance software engineer part time for last 2 years to regain skill and learn new things (many have changed since 2009). This information is out of scope, though. Moreover, I don't believe it's a good idea to showcase my freelance experience alongside with experience as an employee, besides the former isn't as impressive.
- My goal is to get an engineering position. I won't oversell my management experience, unless it suits the job description (e.g. at a startup that lacks self-sustaining).