I spent the last year and a half or so managing an engineering team at Olo. It was a ton of fun. I grew a team from 3 engineers to 8. I led projects of critical importance to the business. I advanced important changes for individuals, teams, and the whole org. I worked with an outstanding Product Manager. I had a excellent group of EM peers. My team performed great, and seemed happy with my leadership.
It was really a wonderful time, and I learned a lot. But I needed to change.
I was restless. Antsy. I was involved in the management problem space in a way that meant I was less connected to my team. I was back at the point where I needed to get really good at the parts of management that wear me out, and I just didn’t want to do it. I needed a way to have higher leverage impact, not just an impact that scaled with my effort. But I didn’t have enough margin to learn that.
So I’m back out of management, again. But this time is different from other times I’ve stepped out of management.
First, I’ve received a strong vote of confidence in my ability by receiving a lateral transition into a Staff Software Engineer position. Olo sees this as a leadership position with a technical focus, a peer to an Engineering Manager.
Secondly, I am armed with a lot more knowledge and relationships in the company than I would have had if I stayed an individual contributor. I managed a team at the center of our platform, learning broadly across it and deeply in core areas. I leaned into cross team collaboration, and wasn’t shy on bringing my opinions in EM team discussions. I had the visibility and context to help people all over the org, so I did.
I’ve been an engineer for a month or two now. I’m writing, testing, reviewing, monitoring. Helping others. Learning a new team and a new area of the code. I’m finding problems and helping solve them. It’s a lot of fun.
This doesn’t mean I intend to stop leading, or to make a smaller impact now. Quite the opposite. I plan to keep influencing, just without the burden of authority. I plan to help others work, change and grow. I plan to grow by learning new and better ways to be a force multiplier and a change agent.
It’s exciting, to have the good luck to be allowed to run this experiment. Can I balance this? Will it make me happy? Will it be something that anyone wants to pay me for?