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Introduction

Main message

  • In today’s work culture in Israel, we think that becoming a manager (and then a higher manager) is a promotion, and therefore becoming an individual contributor is a demotion.
    • You can find infinite articles about moving from IC to manager, but very little information is out there about the other way around. And almost no information exists about doing this in a cycle.
  • This blog post aims to correct this תפיסה and suggest alternatives
  • A leader who is a perfect fit for one project could be less fitting to lead another project
    • Less passion / interest
    • Less capable (knowledge, experience)
  • A leader is working for his team, not the other way around
  • Leadership doesn’t really require the title. But usually you need to have the title at least once to truly understand that.
  • Personal growth:
    • By trying both managing and IC intermittently, you grow in both. I argue that after managing 3 projects and being an IC in 3 projects, you’re stronger at both than if you’d have specialized in just one of the roles. Perspective and fresh starts are important.
  • Organization view:
    • Give more people the opportunity to lead (because it’s accepted that it doesn’t have to be forever)
    • Give leaders the opportunity to rest and catch up on their technical capabilities
  • Not every

Proposal

Advantages

As an IC:

  • You improve as an IC because you understand the big picture, and you understand what your boss and team needs to run efficiently
  • You can be a leader as an IC
  • You have cross-company connections
  • You’ve probably improved your soft skills and your time management

As a leader:

  • You remain relevant at the technological level

  • You understand what ICs need to perform best (e.g. long chunks of focused work)

  • You have a more “equal” and personal connection with your team

  • You have time to reflect on your leadership philosophy and execution, and multiple opportunities for a clean start, to try different things

Everyone understands that soon the situation might be the other way round.

Disadvantages

  • Leaders build a cross-organization network. While they can still use it as an IC, the ties between the team and the organization take a step back

Bottom line

As long as being a manger feels like an upward move in our carreers, and switching back feels like a downward move, both employees and organization will suffer because they’ll be stuck in a bad equilibria.