Should you switch from an IC to a managerial role?

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After working a few years in industry as an Individual Contributor (IC), one is often posed with a question - should I take a managerial role? I have talked with many friends and colleagues when we faced this choice. This choice can be quite hard.

I hate to tell you that the answer is - it depends. But there are a few actionable things I can advise to get you closer to your answer -

1. Talk with other managers

Managerial roles can have different challenges based on the organisation you work for. So the first thing you should do is to talk with your manager to understand how his/her day to day work looks like. Get deeper into each thing to know why that matters.

2. Soul searching

Now, you probably know what the role entails. But is that role for you? Here are a few questions you should ask yourself - Where do you bring the most value? If you are exceptionally good at what you do today e.g. a distributed system specialist or machine learning expert etc. and you deeply enjoy doing it, I strongly suggest you pass the opportunity. Being a deep expert in an important domain can be hugely rewarding. Many great ICs get lured into becoming managers thinking of it as a promotion and end up getting confused about their path forward. Are you passionate about building and leading a great team? This is probably the most important duty of a manager. Unless you truly believe in the potential of a team compared to an individual, you are not ready to become a manager. What do you aspire to be in the next 10 years? This is such a loaded question. But your choices should always bring you closer to your long term goal.

3. Plan fallbacks

In case you are leaning toward becoming a manager, you still should think of your plan B. What if you don't like it? Is this decision reversible? Understand the technicalities of your company's policies if moving back to IC role is possible and set expectations with management accordingly.

And finally, don't worry about your people skills when making this choice. Those can be improved and do not stop you from being effective.

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