I Work as a Programmer. Is Software Engineering Management Something I Should Pursue?

I Work as a Programmer. Is Software Engineering Management Something I Should Pursue?

For coders, moving into management is a popular career path. It’s a satisfying career that enables you to combine technical skills with project management and people skills in order to lead, guide and support a team, push projects, and produce results. Management is a popular career choice, but it is not for everyone. Some developers may want to work as freelancers and advance their careers in this way. We delve deeper into software engineering management in this post to help you decide if this is the suitable career path for you.

Let’s get going!

We’ll talk about:

  1. What is the job title of a software engineering manager?
  2. Individual contributor vs. manager
  3. Characteristics of an effective software engineering manager
  4. Obstacles in management
  5. What are the steps to becoming a software engineering manager?
  6. Conclusions and Next Actions to be Taken


What is the job title of a software engineering manager?

An experienced developer who manages the development and design of software projects is known as a software engineering manager. This typically entails directing a group of developers and assisting them with daily chores and projects. This position necessitates an understanding of the complicated technical parts of the projects on which your team works, as well as the ability to effectively lead a team and allocate duties and responsibilities to your team members. You’ll also be in charge of motivating your coworkers and developing and maintaining a positive work environment. As a manager, you’re also in charge of informing your bosses and other stakeholders in the organization about progress on projects and assignments.

Here are some of the qualifications stated for a Senior Software Engineer Manager with Microsoft to help create a better image of what firms seek for in an engineering manager:

  1. 5+ years of Java/C#/C/C++ experience
  2. Ability to design and develop highly available distributed systems at scale, as well as an enthusiasm for doing so.
  3. Problem-solving and debugging talents that have been demonstrated
  4. Ability to make sound decisions in ambiguous situations has been demonstrated.
  5. Computer science bachelor’s degree or equivalent is necessary. The following are some of the job responsibilities:
  6. Project-driving attributes
  7. Building good relationships with partners and leading multiple teams to deliver on scenarios across group boundaries
  8. Scaling up the production of highly accessible systems
  9. Regardless of ownership, driving changes, identifying process bottlenecks, and devising strategies to increase efficiency


When making the shift from software engineering to software engineering management, it’s crucial to recognize that you’re actually changing careers (which is fine!). While there is no “one-size-fits-all” developer job route, advancement within the developer career track comprises rising from junior engineer to senior engineer, staff engineer to principal engineer, and so on. While some developers see management as the natural next step in their career, being a manager doesn’t always imply that you’ll be more successful. That career change is more of a reflection of what you want to get out of your job and what talents you want to use.

Some developers prefer to work as lone wolves, while others wish to lead and manage a team. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and everyone’s journey is distinct. Your path in software development does not have to be the same as everybody else’s. It’s critical to stay focused on your interests and take the steps necessary to achieve your own objectives, not those of others!

As a developer, you’ll be required to understand system design concepts and how to apply them as you advance in your career. Notice how Microsoft is looking for someone with experience “designing and constructing highly available distributed systems at scale,” according to the job posting. When you start interviewing for higher-level software development positions (whether in management or not), system design becomes a bigger element of the process.


Individual contributor vs. manager

Each role has advantages and disadvantages. Let’s  begin by emphasizing that both job routes are financially rewarding. It’s a common myth that if you want to make more money, you need to go into management. Being a high-performing engineer vs a high-performing manager necessitates different skills. Some developers prefer to stay as individual contributors and advance in their careers rather than taking on managerial responsibilities. When you take on the role of manager, you are no longer an independent contributor. As a manager, you must make judgments and work in the best interests of your team and organization, not just your own.

When considering a career change, consider the following questions:

Do I prefer working on my own or assisting others in solving problems?

Managers devote a significant amount of time to assisting their teams in resolving issues. As a manager, you must get to know your team well enough to recognize their strengths and weaknesses so that you can delegate tasks and allocate duties effectively. Your team may turn to you for guidance or counsel, and you must be prepared to assist them in resolving any issues they may encounter. Individual contributors, on the other hand, may work with their team or other teams, but they spend a lot of time debugging and fixing complex technical problems on their own.

Am I able to switch between jobs quickly and efficiently?

As a manager, you’ll have to switch contexts frequently. You must not only manage a team well, but you must also manage competing tasks, priorities, and deadlines, as well as figure out how to proceed. As an individual contributor, you’ll usually have the opportunity to focus on getting your priorities in line (unless your manager says otherwise). In general, an individual contributor role appears to need less context switching than a management role, although this is dependent on your firm, organization, team, and so on.

Is it possible for me to be both tough and compassionate?

This is something that is critical in both professions, but it becomes much more crucial as a manager. When diverse scenarios happen in management, you must know when to be a little tougher. It’s critical to be able to perceive circumstances correctly and act accordingly. You may need to have difficult talks with your team from time to time, and you must be able to advocate for yourself and your team while also showing empathy for others.

Do I want to be in charge?

While both jobs provide opportunity to lead, managers assume overall leadership, ownership, and responsibility for a team. Solutions and designs are usually the work of a single contributor. In addition, you must be comfortable working as a leader, mentor, and instructor to a group of people in a management role. You must be able to connect with each member of your team in order to identify their skills, potential, and appropriate ways to challenge and push them to succeed. When leading a group of people, you must be calm and patient, and you must be comfortable providing frequent criticism and guidance to others.


Characteristics of an effective software engineering manager

Certain characteristics are essential for managerial success. It’s critical to recognize that these qualities may be cultivated. If you want to be a manager but lack some of these skills, use your current job to help you develop them! Some of these traits are similar to those of a skilled software engineer, while others are more crucial in a management role or take on a somewhat new meaning as you advance.

Let’s look at some of the characteristics of a successful software engineering manager:

  • Trust: In partnerships and teamwork, it’s crucial to have faith in yourself and your teammates. If there is a lack of trust among your team members, it can jeopardize productivity, foster a toxic atmosphere, demotivate your employees, and stifle communication. Putting your faith in others is difficult, but it is necessary for team cohesion.
  • Empathy: As a manager, it’s critical to develop empathy so that you can understand how your employees are feeling and respond correctly in a variety of scenarios. Interactions, communication, and culture are all improved by empathic management. When a team member confesses a personal or professional issue, you can exhibit empathy by looking for indicators of overload or burnout in your team, expressing interest in their personal needs and wishes, assisting them when needed, and showing kindness.
  • Supportive: It’s critical to be available to your team as a guide, mentor, and facilitator while they complete their tasks. An excellent manager will be present for his or her staff and assist them in overcoming obstacles that obstruct productivity and professional growth.
  • Encouraging: A competent manager strives to motivate his or her team, to uncover latent abilities or potential, and to lift the team up in order to boost morale and productivity.
  • Cooperation and team effort: When you become a manager, you will no longer be able to make individual contributions. It’s now more important than ever to be an engaged leader who collaborates with your team, other leaders, and stakeholders on a regular basis and efficiently.
  • Open communication: Knowing how to communicate what’s needed to others and how to give simple solutions to orient your team is an important part of being a competent manager. Good managers can create a clear vision and communicate it to their team in a way that is both effective and motivating.
  • Autonomous and accountable: A strong manager can make difficult decisions with their team without relying on outside help. More significantly, a competent manager must be able to accept responsibility for such decisions, regardless of whether they result in positive or negative outcomes. An independent manager is unafraid of taking responsibility for his or her actions. A responsible manager comes to work for his or her team.
  • Promoting a healthy culture: Good managers cultivate inclusive, safe, sympathetic, and supportive cultures within their teams to guarantee that varied viewpoints are brought to bear on the development of products for a diverse audience. On a team, everyone’s opinion counts. A team that thrives has a lot of variety and inclusiveness.


Obstacles in management

There are numerous advantages to working as a software engineering manager. There are a lot of roadblocks as well. Yes, as a manager, may face the same issues that you face as an individual contributor. However, the job description as a whole is unique. As a manager, you are now a team’s mentor and leader. Stakeholders and executives must be communicated with more regularly. You must accept responsibility for the decisions you and your team made. You’ll have to stick to deadlines, encourage teamwork, improve customer service, and satisfy your organization’s objectives. There can be a lot of pressure to continually perform well and execute everything properly. It can be difficult to communicate effectively all of the time, balance work and home life, manage a team remotely, and so on.

It’s critical for you to view setbacks as stepping stones toward becoming a better version of yourself, both as a manager and as an individual contributor. Every person, no matter who they are, will experience a variety of problems throughout their lives. When we face a challenge, the most essential thing is to be adaptable and learn from it. Always strive to be a problem solver and to keep moving forward.


What are the steps to becoming a software engineering manager?

To begin, you must have prior software engineering expertise in order to be a software engineering manager. Most software engineering managers have at least five years of experience as a developer (and have progressed up the ranks during that period). As you work as a developer, look for opportunities to grow and hone your management skills, as this will help you prepare for a future management position. Try to improve your project management and soft skills too, as they are critical in a managing position.

As you advance in your developer career, talk to your boss about your goals so that he or she can help you set yourself up for success and find opportunities to mentor and lead. It’s also a good idea to go over job descriptions to see what organizations are looking for in their managers.


Conclusions and next steps

Many developers make the transition to management, but it is not for everyone. If working as an individual contributor appeals to you more, you can be just as successful in your software engineering career. It’s critical to consider which career path makes the most sense for you and which corresponds most closely with your personal and professional objectives. If you want to work in management, you must be able to motivate your team and bring out the best in them.

All the best in your learning!