18

This question is related to my previous question here.

In a nutshell, my career aspiration is to become software development manager. However, I am in need of increasing my salary whenever there is a chance, due to certain commitments.

After my first interview, I realized that there is no chance to land the management position. The company is still interested in me as a developer. They invited me for a second interview. My current title is Senior Software Developer. The position I'm being interviewed for, has the title Software Developer. In the job nature, the change is also in the responsibilities. In the new position, I will be only doing coding, while I'm mentoring, leading, planning, and doing much more at my current position. The only two advantages for the new position are:

  1. The Pay could be 40% to 70% more (I won't take it for less).
  2. The scale of the projects is way bigger (much bigger company)

Although there is no job offer yet, and I'm just going for a second interview, I'm in big confusion about how to approach this. Before I go to the interview, I'm thinking of the future of it. Losing the Senior title (not only the title, but also the responsibilities related to it), will probably narrow the chances of becoming development manager.

My Questions:

  1. What are the implications of losing Sr. title, on my resume, and my future career growth toward development manager
  2. Although this might sound ridiculous, is there a way to approach the hiring manager to ask him that I want to keep the title even if the responsibilities are different?

My way of thinking, I need the pay, and the name of the company. But I do not want to ruin future growth for instant money. So, will this step ruin, impede, or delay potential growth?

26

Job titles are worthless. I've been a developer, developer level 5 (tell me what that meant!), an analyst/programmer, a principal developer, a development architect, and a senior developer.

Bet you can't tell which one I had most responsibility in, and which one paid the most?!

See, job titles are not an industry-wide thing, sure 'senior' always means 'better than junior' but it that's as far as it goes. IIRC Sun used to let people make up their own job titles, they're that pointless as a reference point outside the current company.

What matters far more than title is your responsibilities and work. When you come to write your CV with a job title of "developer", then feel free to say you had a senior role within the company and list the things you were responsible for. Recruiters will always look at that and will pretty much ignore job title anyway.

When you go for interview, ask about job titles as part of the "general friendly chat" part, make it casual and you might get an answer. It might be that the company only has "generic programming units" and "management" roles anyway... and I'd be way more worried about that. But then, they might also not care about hierarchies and I'd be very happy about that.

  • I concur. There isn't a set title tier in the world of software. What is "senior" ranked at one place might not work in another. If you stayed someplace for 5 years, sometimes that is enough to qualify you as a "senior" developer merely from years of service. – Dan Nov 10 '15 at 13:07
  • Would you please explain further this IT might be that the company only has "generic programming units" and "management" roles anyway... and I'd be way more worried about that.? Thanks – Hawk Nov 12 '15 at 1:25
  • @Hawk that some companies treat workers like they're all the same, interchangeable "worker units". Managers in such places are the ones that tend to be considered 'important' and worthy of more personalised attention. – gbjbaanb Nov 12 '15 at 8:40
  • I would like to add that in terms of salary, taking a role as a "developer" as a senior developer may actually be helpful. Larger pay rises usually come only with job title changes, which makes starting low title, high salary an advantage. – bytepusher Jan 20 at 0:42
  • I disagree. Job titles do make a difference. After lobbying for a promotion at my last job, in title, I was already doing the work, I left for a better paying and better title. Guess what, I now 'qualify' for that same title elsewhere now too on various pre-screenings and with recruiters. So yeah, it does make a difference. The company can as well if they are known for not using those titles, but in the OPs case he is also giving up his responsibility and leadership, which is his long term goal. I rarely say to pass on the money, but this might be one, given the career aspirations. – Bill Leeper Feb 21 at 15:55
13

No matter where you are, there are always opportunities to learn, gain experience, and exercise leadership.

  1. Although this might sound ridiculous, is there a way to approach the hiring manager to ask him that I want to keep the title even if the responsibilities are different?

In terms of career growth, the actual title is less important than the responsibilities of the new position, so I would worry less about item #2, to the point of not even asking. Unless you are looking to quit in the next 6 months, your entering title doesn't even matter, and might suggest you're planning to job-hop without proving yourself.

Think of the even longer term. You may be thinking that right now is a step backward, but if this is a much bigger company with larger projects, you now have a path upward, a chance to get into a lead/mentor role on larger projects.

Consider the fact that you're coming in as "only" a developer as an advantage: you have the opportunity to observe for a while and see how things are done in the new place -- might be much different than in your current position.

Seems to me this is a natural progression, from a senior/lead role in a smaller company to a developer in a larger company. You're looking to learn and grow for the right reasons. Even if you don't get to the management position you want, you will have gathered valuable experience to go back to a management position at a medium-sized company.

Sounds like you would have plenty of room to move up in the new job, which is always a very important consideration.

  • +1 excellent summation of progression through small to large company, I have seen similar a few times – Kilisi Nov 10 '15 at 2:33
7

I like mcknz's answer very much but felt I should add a little bit myself:

Some people do ask for the post title to be changed for them, and get their wish - but that typically happens in smaller companies, who are eager to attract talent. In larger companies there is usually a lot of politics involved in who is "senior", and also the pay scale might be significantly different. In other words they may not want to change the title either because:

a) They don't want to upset other devs who've been with the company longer and feel have "earned it"

b) Don't want to set themselves up to you accusing them of not paying you as much as they should for the position (they may see it as a legal liability)

c) They already have a team leader and want to make it very clear that you are a subordinate, not in charge, no matter what your responsibilities were at your old job.

Last but not least, the title is less important than actually reaching your goal of being Development Manager. I would advise further researching the company:

  1. Check to see if there are any old/current job postings for senior developers at that firm. Look to see what the requirements are compared to the job you are interviewing for, and how your current experience compares. In other words, do you feel you would have a good shot at getting the job of Senior Dev if you had the opportunity to apply for it? They may not feel that you are ready to be Manager yet, but could you move up the ladder in a reasonable time frame, given the chance? (or do you have a lot of learning still to do?)

  2. Check Glass Door, and other review websites. What are other former/current employees commenting about upward/lateral mobility in the company? Are they the types to encourage growth, or do they hire "automatons" whom they want to perform a certain task until the end of time? This is crucial for you to know.

  3. This step will primarily be necessary if the first two don't turn up any decent answers. During the interview you may want to subtlety put out some feelers about the company's attitude toward employees with higher ambitions. Be careful not to give the impression that you wouldn't be happy with the position you are interviewing for. Ask questions along the lines of whether the company typically promotes employees from within their ranks vs hiring outside talent, and whether they support employees in gaining new certificates and furthering their education. Google things like "how to ask about advancement opportunities in interviews" and read up on how to best approach this conversation.

What it really comes down to is this:

Good Scenario

They like you. They don't think you're quite manager material yet, however they want to make you part of their team, and, if you prove yourself to them, groom you to rise within their ranks.

Not So Good Scenario

They pay well, but expect people to be highly specialized at their tasks, to the point that they do not like promoting people out of a role "they excel at" (a flawed philosophy, but one which many companies still adopt, sadly). They really do like you, but not as management material - they will not offer you much in the way of upward mobility.

Conclusion

The only way to determine which type of company they are is to take the above steps and inform yourself. If you feel that they are a Not So Good kind of company, then maybe insist on only taking the job if the position title changes to "Senior Dev" (that way if you later jump ship it won't look like you took a step back from higher responsibility). If, however, they seem like a place with great potential, simply take the job, even if they don't give you as big of a raise as you'd like. Get your foot in the door, as they say, and climb that corporate ladder.

Good luck!

0

I have made a similar change earlier in my career. My title at one company was "Senior Developer" and my first title at the next company was "Software Engineer", with a 45% increase in pay, and about 10x larger in terms of manpower. I do not have the explicit goal of being a software engineering manager but years later I'm very clearly being nudged into that path.

If anyone asks about your job title change, all you need to be able to do is tell a story about it, that doesn't explicitly rely solely on salary. You probably already have one, you just need to practice telling it.

My story is that I was supposed to be the Senior Developer doing Tech Lead type-stuff at the first company, because we were a startup that was going to hire more people as we made more money. We didn't make that much money, so those other people never materialized. After being there a while, I wanted to work where that sort of opportunity was possible, so I went from being "Senior Developer" at a company with 5 employees to "Software Engineer" at a company with 70. At the new employer, I was able to be a Tech Lead and did so on many projects, and became a "Senior Software Engineer" within a year of working there. I have all sorts of other details in this story that illustrate the kind of difference in position that I'm going to leave out of this answer because they could uniquely identify me, but in an interview I would use to talk about myself in a way that emphasizes whatever I want to emphasize.

Also, very few people will care about the name of the companies you work for unless they are tippy top companies. If you're not working for a tippy top company (e.g. Google or Amazon or other similar top companies), then it matters less about what the company is than what you actually did there. If you tell a story about things you actually did that illustrate what you could do at some new company in some new position, you'll be fine.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.