Episode 391: Post-staff and direct or a jerk

Soft Skills Engineering

Jan 15 2024 • 38 mins

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Hey guys! I’m a young engineer in a specialized area of infrastructure. I’m pretty good at what I do, and I’ve been through some leadership development programs, so I’ve advanced to a “Staff” role quickly, just based on observing the age of my peers.

    Tech titles are completely mysterious to me, so I’m wondering - how much “up” is there from where I am? What’s the top of the IC ladder? Do ICs ever become executives? The idea of being a manager and sitting in 1:1s for hours sounds awful to me, so I’m not excited about that side, but I’ve heard, allegedly, that there is room on the IC side for promotion as well.

    I’m a goal setter, and I kinda feel like I’ve hit a ceiling, so I don’t know where to set my target anymore. I don’t even know that I care about titles that much, but I very much like the pay raises that accompany them.

    Thanks!

  2. Johnny Droptbales:

    How do I tell if my manager is a direct communicator or a jerk? Should I trust my gut on this (he’s a jerk)?

    I’ve been working with my manager for a year now. He’s fairly fluent in English, educated, and keeps up with broad knowledge of our team/domain. He often connects different aspects of our work to discover discrepancies, bugs, and interesting ideas.

    I’m trying to wrap my head around his communication style. Here are a few examples that stand out:

    1. I refused to take on a new small project because I was concerned about meeting the deadline on my high-priority solo project. He gave me feedback that I missed an opportunity to demonstrate context-switching skills, which would look good for a promotion. I responded with my own reasoning, but he wasn’t interested and just moved on to the next topic.
    2. He insisted on a new weekly requirement for our on-call pager rotation, which is to come up with one idea to improve the experience. When I asked why asking for help on a problem wouldn’t be enough, he answered that he expected his engineers to have been hired for their critical thinking and leadership skills, and they should be able to demonstrate those.
    3. Recently he’s been leading weekly meetings to improve the on-call experience. He tends to ask very direct questions – we’ll look at a bug ticket, and he asks, “What is the root cause?” “Why do we do this?” “What are your ideas to solve this?” When pressed, he insisted this was a brainstorming sort of conversation, as opposed to a Q&A.