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I work at a large US company that has a fairly standard advancement path for software developers. Something like junior, mid-level, senior, lead, and then the seemingly non-sequitur jump to dev manager.

I'm fairly happy in my role, I feel like I'm valuable and productive. But I'm getting nudged in the direction of dev lead, which I have no interest in. At my company, dev leads don't do much dev (maybe 10%). Also, I am not a natural leader and don't want to spend time honing those skills, nor do I want the added stress and responsibility.

In general, is this situation viewed negatively - specifically an employee not wanting to advance? If so, how do I frame the discussion with my manager so he knows I'm not interested without painting myself with too negative a brush, and killing any possibility of future opportunities?

  • Are you currently a senior developer? You can tell them you would like to focus on dev work and feels that dev lead position doesn't fit you well. – Nelson Aug 25 '16 at 1:37
  • I am currently senior – ConditionRacer Aug 25 '16 at 1:49
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    Don't see how any answer can be anything but opinion based and company specific. I've been in companies where you could stay as a techie, others for who the one path led to management. Whether staying as a developer affected your career depended on the company, and you can't generalise. Voting to close as opinion based. – The Wandering Dev Manager Aug 25 '16 at 3:13
  • @TheWanderingDevManager: While the details will be company-specific, you can list a number of common approaches companies take, and explain the motivation behind them. So I think you can still answer this meaningfully, though possibly in somewhat general terms. – sleske Aug 25 '16 at 7:15
  • the great thing is that there are lots of companies with a great technical career path that does not require becoming a manager, and they are hiring. They do require that you demonstrate technical leadership, but not managing other people. – kevin cline Aug 25 '16 at 7:57
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Some companies have a technical career path that extends in parallel with the management path -- architect, Distinguished Engineer, etc. It tends to be harder to get into the higher technical levels than into management, because there are fewer such positions; you need to demonstrate unusual value to the company via patents and the like... but it may be doable.

Talk to your management about what your next step would be in that direction and what they need to see from you to justify it.

If your company doesn't offer that path, you may need to investigate moving to a company that does.

Or you may stay at your current level for quite some time, voluntarily or because the next step is a difficult one.

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  • I'm surprised a large US company doesn't have a technical path parallel to the managerial path. See if you can figure out where the senior devs end up. – Nelson Aug 25 '16 at 2:31
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In my opinion, for every person like you, there's 5 or 10 others who will moan because they're being overlooked for promotion.

To me, it sounds like they like you and want to make you a dev lead so you'll stick around, rather than frustrated being "stuck" in your current role.

I don't think they'll view it as negative. My advice is simply to tell them that you're honoured they've considered you for the role but you're happy where you are, adding that you're also happy to review again (in six months? a year?) in case you do then want a change but they don't consider you.

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