Kubler-Ross model for engineers turning into managers

Jan 5, 2019 Tags: #management

Having quickly jumped position ladders in the past, I always had that scary stare in the mirror: “I am not supposed to build new great stuff with my hands anymore”. In my own life, I was lucky to be facing the need to build companies — which is even more challenging. But for many, life turns into endless position hopping in the Dilbert comic.

Many of my peers struggle to the very day, so here you go:

Kubler-Ross cycle for senior engineer turning into the manager.

  1. “It can’t be true that doing stuff myself isn’t the most beneficial for the company”, terrible discomfort, “lemme show you how it’s done, son” syndrome.
  2. “Why do I have to deal with all these boring business chores instead when my folks are pushing these amazing features!”
  3. “I can carve myself some low-effort honorable engineering responsibility” to contribute to and keep feeling like an engineer. People around go ¯_(ツ)_/¯ at weirdo boss but merge PRs.
  4. “I’m never going to be an engineer again, damnit, everything is meaningless, I will make no real impact” (departs back to engineering after long depression).
  5. My technical background’s impact on the organization is having the engineering skills and making business decisions that are sane from the engineering standpoint to make engineer’s lives less hell along the road.

I saw it way more times than I’d like to, I did roll through this cycle a few times myself, but there’s a shortcut for jumping from 1 to 5. And it’s not a pet project (though it helps). It’s gratitude.

One can realize that any environment which contributed to their own upbringing as awesome engineers was managed by someone sane. And every engineer dreams for sane environment, mentorship and boss that digs stuff. You can say “thanks” to those who helped you grow and those who work for you by contributing to environment where others can get better and get their job done well without getting slightly insane. And as a personal benefit - it teleports you directly into acceptance, with no suffering attached.

All of the suffering come from crisis of identity, while all of the perks come from realizing the opportunity to serve others better, this is the only reasonable shortcut I’ve learnt through the years.