As a 45 year old software engineer and manager I can definitely say that you can travel the path of engineer to manager/director and back to engineer without a problem. Some might say you are taking a step back in your career if you drop the management title, but I say that's bullshit! Your experience is your value. It's not that you know every in & out of a framework.
But I will say the experience you gain from managing others or projects adds to your availability to shape & convey a message. It also changes how you approach your work because you now understand the business side of the tech industry.
Overall follow your passion/heart. Don't be afraid to venture out of your comfort zones (many times your might not have a choice about it). But definitely if slinging code is what you love, don't ever stop no mater your current title.
Thanks for your comment, Ken. Indeed, that's something I discussed with another guy at the same meetup who has been an individual contributor, then a manager then went back to his solo role. He suggested me to read Engineering Management: The Pendulum Or The Ladder in this topic.
Just like you, Mipsytipsy also advocates for doing both at different point of your careers, not to be afraid of switching and make the most out of them in term of learning.
On my side, I still wouldn't like to move to a full-time management role, but I'm fine with roles where I can keep around half of my time for development.
Sandro, It's great to see & hear about more engineers navigating the careers path ladders & choosing what they enjoy most. I'll definitely need to check out the book you mentioned.
I fully agree that the best of both worlds can be had in a half & half role (technical lead, dev lead or managing engineer). The stress level is higher because of the ownership of the team or project but you still get to do what you enjoy and that is develop software & people.
What many people fail to understand is that as you develop software you are also developing or shaping the minds & thoughts of your fellow peers and the consumers of your creation. Software development is truly about people development and your efforts are impactful at so many different levels.
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