Mark Gilbert

Mark Gilbert


“I WANNA BE A MANAGER”…if I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I would have ummmm, well, several dollars…a lot of good that would do me!  And sometime, that is just how good a manger job will do YOU, just the same.

It seems that so many engineers believe that the best track to a better career is to become a manager.  Let me tell the you story about a wonderful friend of mine who left a big company to become a VP of Applications, at a decent size start-up.  Management (so he thought) was what he saw as his best chance to move ahead, and become a “contender”.  (Only Marlon Brando fans will get that).  Well after 6 months at the helm, he frantically called me up and said “get me the &%$@ out of here.  I spend half my day doing paperwork and reports, and the other half keeping my team in line, and the 3rd half handling all the pressure coming from all sides.  I have to watch my teams every move, and that is not what I like to do; I have to work to keep everyone happy and explain everything to everyone  every day.  I loved being technical and I miss it”.  Well he is a Senior APS guy today at an EDA company, and could not be happier.  His story is not an anomaly. 

I am not saying that manager roles are not a good objective for some.  Being a Manger/Director, or even VP can be very rewarding.  But you really need to think it through and ask yourself some very relevant questions.  Here are just a few…

Do I really want to lead a team, and accept all that responsibility?

Do I want to give up the hands on technical role??

Do I want the pressure of deadlines and release quotas???

Do I want to deal with all the different personalities, and will I be able to control them????

Do I want to deal with every problem and delay?????....Well you get the idea….

If you can answer yes, and your goals are to lead teams and manage people, then I say go for it.  But remember, it is not a walk in the park.  Sometime there are other options to career growth.  Basically I like to think of it as two different ladders.  One ladder is the management side, and one is the individual contributor side. 

Senior and Principle engineers can be (in effect) like managers without the responsibility of managing.  People still count on you, and turn to you for suggestions, but instead of telling people how to, you are the actual implementer.  And good engineers become de-facto leaders, because your knowledge is admired and respected. For many this is a wonderful role, and can be even more rewarding in a start up.

So before you set your sites on moving only if it is a manager job, know that the seemingly same position is different at every company.  A good engineer can carve out a great career path by talking to the folks at the new perspective company about what he hopes the position ALSO entails.  Responsibilities for the product can come, without the pressures and hassles of management.  The few dollars more a manager can make, is sometimes not with the price he actually has to pay,  So think it through, and know that sometimes what you wish for is not always what you actually end up with.

Mark Gilbert

Technology Futures  Inc. d/b/a ...

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Review Article
  • Business on hold March 22, 2007
    Reviewed by 'Friend'
    Mark! how many manager's req. do you get every year? Is that 1-3. That's difficult to make a living for.

    On the positives of being in the management-
    1. You (really) know the future direction of the product, instead of hearing cooked direction.
    2. You (really) know the product definition/architecture at higher level.
    3. You can choose to do tech. work yourself and get the frills done by the team.
    4. You get to see a percentage of product revenue. Your efforts directly translates into several-thousand dollars- not pennies :)

    happy manager

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  • Recognize yourself April 19, 2007
    Reviewed by 'Rohit Priyadarshi'
    I believe that Mark is asking to understand yourself., and then decide on what role fits you, not what someone else tells you, or what sounds "glamorous". Art, Rajiv, Walden and Mike did what they probably felt deep inside them, but not because they became "chance" managers since someone was pushing them. You need a deep seated desire and will to push yourself to achieve it, whatever goals might be. Do you dream of being the head of a successful company, or do you desire that you invent the greatest algorithm to solve the toughest problem in this world? It may seem that the society ends up measuring you based on how many people you “command”(resource allocation, layoff-list etc!), hence the (!)logical conclusion may be to move towards management.

    I believe that you must look at how many lives you can improve, and then you may be regarded as a leader. Being in a management or technical side becomes irrelevant at that point. -- my 2 cents :)

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  • I can believe that April 18, 2007
    Reviewed by 'Sanjay'
    Its good to always have another perspective. And I can agree that behind every position there should be a motivation and skills to succeed in that role. To manage a bunch of engineers can be difficult and require the most skill full people management. In today's world, I feel that successful teams are built with what Peter Drucker called "knowledge workers." And to tell knowledge workers what to do or to justify demands of upper level management can be difficult.

    I'd say this article is makes one realize the challenges of being a manager which I certainly see in the mid-level managers.

    Thanks and best.

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  • *Yes* April 03, 2007
    Reviewed by 'anon'
    Mark, you make it seem like high tech. managers go thru unreasonable business pressure, do only people management and get only 1 penny more than most engineers. Please tell this to Art, Rajiv, Walden and Mike, If they were as wise as you are, they would be sitting in the cube and writing and testing their code.

    -My 2 pennies.

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  • an engineer April 01, 2007
    Reviewed by 'anon'
    As a manager, you can't give up the hands on technical role, especially in so called high-tech company. You may not need to understand all the details, but at least when you make the important decisions of your product, you need to understand what your team members say.

      2 of 5 found this review helpful.
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