Episode 391: Post-staff and direct or a jerk
In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.