How have you stayed on the individual contributor path without getting pulled into principally management duties? Something I've noticed is as programmers get more senior, they get a team, then they manage the team, and the stakeholders, and the project and before they know it, they are a manager and not really a coder.
Also, what do you find works for staying fresh and up to date?
I have managed to avoid the management duties thus far. I do have to devote more of my time to knowing what my team is doing now than I used to and making sure that they all have a stream of work to do. But that has impacted me only a limited amount (perhaps a day a week has been traded off for lead duties).
I've found over the years that there is no substitute for building things to stay current. I simply cannot learn from videos or reading without actually having a real project to try out the things. The reason I put the emphasis on the "real" there is that I feel like having a project that actually has to do something and which people could use forces you to solve problems that you might get stuck on and abandon if there was no reason to power through them to get to a finish line.
For example, my current project is over here: madgameslab.com/
If you click through the various lists aren't going to make a lot of sense to you if you're not really into board games, but it's effectively a spot for people to see what others are selling/buying before going to a convention together. I'm currently working on improvements to it that will add user accounts so that I can then ask for donations to my favorite charity (Extra Life - extra-life.org/index.cfm?fuseactio...) so donators will get extra features on the site. Doing stuff like that gives me the incentive to finish. Don't finish; non-profit children's hospitals don't get money. That's enough incentive :)
But when I do one of those, I'm often using tech that I'm trying to learn. In this case, more Polymer, JS modules (and some webpack), and Mongoose.
I just realized that I had done a poor job of answering your first question, "How have you stayed on the individual contributor path without getting pulled into principally management duties?"
Ultimately it came down to turning down several opportunities to change jobs. Twice it has come up in the last five years that I could move in that direction. One time I was sure I didn't want it unless I had no choice, I was given the choice and turned it down. The other I briefly thought I wanted a different position but when I really sat and looked at it dispassionately I realized that someone else I knew had a very similar job and I never ever envied him. I knew he got a better payout when it came bonus time, but other than that his job just seemed like a drag to me. So I dropped the attempt to change.
Fortunately, they know I'm interested in advancing and the possibility of another move up within the tech track has been floated recently so I don't appear to be stuck at the very top rung on the tech side just yet. At a lot of places, they just don't bother trying to nurture the technical side and offer a corresponding set of advancements for that side. So you can end up unable to move up after a certain point. I don't have that here, so that makes my choice a reasonable one.
Thank you, I appreciate the clarification. Very helpful!
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