Software Engineering Manager Career Path


Build The Career Ladder Based On Your Values

Engineering manager vs tech lead – software developer career paths

We built our engineering career ladder on the back of these values, and we did many cycles of review. We launched the career ladder at a company off-site, a team building activity we do at Zenput.

We began the process from scratch in late November of 2019, and we implemented it in January of 2020. In February and March, we helped every engineer determine where they fit on the ladder. This gave everybody a clear focus for the next 6-12 months.

How Do You Want To Grow As An Engineer

If you intend to grow as a software engineer, here is how you can become successful in your software developer career path

  • Learn to listen because listening in the software development industry is more important than talking.
  • Understand that it may be tricky to catch all corner cases.
  • Accept that as a growing software developer, you dont know everything.
  • Be ready to embrace software engineering as a team game.
  • Accept that automated testing is not optional.
  • Obtain your bachelors degree and masters degree in computer science or software engineering

What Does The Job Ladder Look Like For A Software Engineer

Like most job roles, moving up as a software engineer entails going from individual contributor to leading a team. In other words, you shift from debugging software to debugging teams .

There are two types of management/leadership positions in software engineering:

  • Managing people and the work they do
  • Managing systems and services
  • Which path you take depends on your leadership style and preference: are you more inclined to help people grow in their careers, or do you prefer taking the lead on major projects?

    The below infographic shows which roles fall into each category: people and projects or systems and services.

    Below, well go into more detail on the general career trajectory of a software engineer.

    Get To Know Other Software Engineering Students

    Dave McConeghy

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    Continuing Education For Software Engineers

    States do not require software engineers to hold certifications or complete continuing education hours. However, obtaining additional credentials and pursuing continuing education can enhance career advancement opportunities. In a rapidly evolving field, continuing education ensures that software engineers remain up to date on cutting-edge advances. Candidates can pursue continuing education through organizations such as Devslopes, Coursera, and Udemy, described in the table below.

    Software engineers can find a wealth of information through resources like Core Intuition Podcasts, a software development series TechBeacon, a website full of information for software engineers and the Yalantis blog, featuring industry-related articles on technology, marketing, and design. Software engineers may also want to practice their skills with game-based practice resources like codewars.

    An online event for tech professionals, hack.summit is a free blockchain conference that encourages networking and mentorship. Pluralsight also offers an annual live conference, in addition to a full catalog of online courses for software engineers. Another popular course platform, Construx, offers courses for teams or individuals both online and in person, along with other resources such as coaching, organizational assessments, and a podcast.

    Where Can I Work As A Software Engineer

    What Success as a Developer Looks Like

    With strong demand across a variety of industries and corporation types, software engineers often enjoy an extensive selection of job choices. Software engineers may find work in large corporations, small startups, or as independent freelancers. While many work in computer systems design and related services, other popular industries include finance, software publishing, and manufacturing.

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    Who Is A Software Engineer

    A software engineer, also commonly referred to as a software developer, is hired to develop software, applications, and programs with the help of codes. They accomplish this by using programming languages to send messages to computers. This information in the form of a set of instructions and codes is interpreted by the machine.

    From messaging channels, various software, and tools to games, it is the hard work of a software engineer that is responsible for building powerful tools and applications that serve various purposes.

    Strengths For Modern Engineering Managers

    Engineering managers are trained to use their organizational and analytical skills to lead their teams in a variety of complex tasks. Their education and experience provides a foundation for problem solving, and by developing the following strengths theyll be better equipped to successfully manage projects and add value to their organization.

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    Guide To The Software Engineer Career Path

    Trying to better understand the software engineer career path? Want to know what your next steps are as an engineer as you make your way to CTO? We’ve got your covered.

    An engineering career can go in many different directions depending on your technical skill set and what you want out of a job.

    Software engineers have the option to stick to software development at higher and higher levels.

    Or they may decide to move into management later in their careers.

    Different types of software engineers work on different kinds of technical projects. For instance, some engineers may work to build out a customer database, while others may be focused on building self-driving car technologies.

    To make things even more confusing, junior or first-time developers may not understand the terms used at different companies to describe software engineering duties.

    With all this complexity, it may be hard to figure out what your next SWE career move will be!

    This guide will go over all you need to know about an engineering career path.

    We’ll cover the diverse job titles, average salaries, and the software engineer career paths in general enjoy that are typical in today’s tech industry.

    Working For A Startup As A Software Engineer

    The Career Paths in Software Engineering

    Working for a startup can give you a much broader range of experience, including problem-solving, project management, and other soft skills because unlike in large companies, there is no one else at the organisation to do these things for you. You can gain a strong understanding of the entire development process as well as general software engineering principles.

    Startups often have a culture that encourages creative thinking and resourcefulness. This can be particularly good experience for working in small software-focused nonprofits later in your career.

    However, the experience of working in small organisations varies wildly. Youll be less likely to have many very senior experienced engineers around to give you the feedback you need to improve. At very small startups, the technical cofounder may be the only experienced engineer, and they are unlikely to provide the level of mentorship provided at big tech companies . That said, weve spoken to some people who have had great mentorship at small startups.

    You also gain responsibility much faster at a fast-growing startup, as there is a desperate need for employees to take on new projects and gain the skills required. This can make startups a very fertile learning ground, if you can teach yourself what you need to know.

    Many startups exit by selling to large tech companies. If this happens, you may end up working for a large company anyway.

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    Define Roles At Every Level Of A Career Path

    Turning this roadmap into a document, we can start by defining three roles junior engineer, engineer, senior engineer and list the key requirements and responsibilities for each. We can then illustrate how someone could go from one level to the next by highlighting the increased visibility and responsibility within the team. An engineer seeing this document would then be able to immediately identify where they stand and what they need to do to get to the next level.

    Similarly, you can create journeys for other functions on your team, such as quality assurance and release management. You can even define how an employee can move between loosely related roles if you so desire, e.g., going from QA automation to DevOps. Mapping all this out depends heavily on how your team is structured internally and how it operates. Because each teams situation is unique, we wont cover this topic in depth here, but it remains a question you should consider.

    Returning to our example of a generic engineer, lets say that Sarah has been with us for four years, and shes now a senior engineer. Whats next for her on our team? At this point, problems start to arise.

    Interview Prep For Software Engineering Roles

    Now, before you can start moving up the corporate ladder, you’ll first need to snag a software engineering position.

    Not only that, software engineering interviews will likely follow you throughout your career. That means it’s always helpful to prepare well and improve your interviewing skills.

    Luckily, here at Exponent, we have a variety of interview prep resources you can take advantage of to help you ace your software engineering interviews:

    ð¬ Practice with sample Software Engineering interview questions

    ð Read through our Software Engineering interview guides

    ð¯ââï¸ Rehearse your behavioral and interpersonal skills with our interview practice tool.

    ð¨âð Take our complete Software Engineering interview course.

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    What Is The Difference Between Engineering And Software Engineering

    Understanding the difference between engineer software engineers and computer engineering can be confusing. With the software engineering field continuing to grow, there are a lot of opportunities based on your engineering career path. Computer engineering is often focused on hardware, software, electrical engineering, and how design and development. Software engineering focuses on designing, analyzing, and maintaining software. Both career progression requires a bachelors degree or masters degree in computer science or sometimes electrical engineering. A software engineer salary and computer engineer salary per year are very similar and often follow the national average.

    The 3 Software Engineering And Development Career Paths to offer a clear career path to every engineer

    Does this mean that someone who starts out as a software developer cant pursue a career as a software engineer and vice versa? Not at all. There are many complementary and transferable skills across these disciplines, but its also good to bear in mind that each one has specific requirements in terms of skills and specializations.

    Another important thing to keep in mind in terms of career paths is that there are generally three tracks that software engineers and developers can pursue:

  • Independent Contributor : Independent contributors focus on deepening their skill sets and acquiring a wealth of knowledge over the course of their careers, sometimes in multiple subject areas. Independent contributors often value being makers and taking on more hands-on roles in projects. Dont be fooled into thinking that this role doesnt require leadership, though highly skilled independent contributors are often relied on to champion and mentor their peers as well as set a good example of work ethic and execution.
  • Freelance/ Contractor/ Advisor: Once theyve amassed a certain amount of experience and skills, many software engineers decide to fly solo. Think of it as the ultimate independent contributor track. If youre self-motivated and enjoy working on a variety of projects, gig work can allow you to have greater flexibility in terms of your work hours and level of contribution.
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    Becoming A Software Engineer

    While the fundamentals of computer science often start with, Hello World, the software engineer career path is a bit more complex.

    Hiring a software engineer is the first moment where the software engineer career path and your business intertwines.

    But becoming a software engineer is in itself composed of several different enterprises.

    While many high-paying occupations usually require formal education, software engineering is first and foremost a technical skill.

    Some developers choose to seek out a computer science degree in a higher education institution.

    But a fair amount of software engineers also take numerous online courses, dive deep into every available resource, and fully dedicate themselves to self-study.

    Likewise, a big chunk of software engineers learned to code at coding bootcamps intensive, largely short-term software development programs for skills training.

    The reality is that being a good coder is less about a paper certificate and more about practicing and refining hard-earned skills.

    Problem-solving and critical thinking are some of the most important soft skills that a software developer can have. And they cant be acquired through memorization.

    This is why the hiring process for software engineers may look a lot different than in other fields.

    Typically, a job applicant must complete a technical interview where they show their technical expertise in all things computer science, and particularly that of the technology they specialize in.

    Working For A Large Software Company

    The best way to develop software skills is to practise writing code and building software through years of experience. Direct one-on-one mentorship is extremely valuable when developing skills, and this is often provided through software engineering jobs at large tech companies.

    Top firms are particularly good at providing training to develop particular skillsets, such as management and information security. After talking with people who have experience in training at both tech giants and elsewhere, we think that this internal training is likely the best way to develop knowledge in software engineering , and will be better than training provided outside of these big tech companies.

    However, its important to ensure that your role provides you with a variety of experiences: five years of software development experience is not the same as having the same year of experience five times over.

    For example, it can be harder to gain full-stack or transferable front-end development experience at a large company. Many large mature products have a large front-end team making many small tweaks and analysing their performance in experiments. This provides good training in experiment design and analysis, but often isnt very transferable to the sorts of front-end work youd do at smaller companies or nonprofits, where youll often be working in a much smaller team with a focus on developing the experience as a whole rather than running experiments on small changes.

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    How Do I Plan A Career In Software Engineering

    Pursuing a course in computer science can help lay a strong foundation for software engineering and development-related roles. Additional certification courses in a specific area of your choice can help you develop role-specific skills. Finally, try to learn as much as possible by exploring operations outside your responsibilities as a fresher.

    How To Predict Your Fit In Advance

    Career Paths for Software Engineers

    The best way to gauge your fit is to try it out. You dont need a computer science degree to do this. We recommend that you:

  • Try out writing code as a complete beginner, you can write a Python program in less than 20 minutes that reminds you to take a break every two hours. Once you know the fundamentals, try taking an intro to computer science and programming class, or work through free resources. If youre in college, you could try taking CS 101 .
  • Do a project with other people this lets you test out writing programs in a team and working with larger codebases. Its easy to come up with programming projects to do with friends you can see some examples here. Contributing to open-source projects in particular lets you work with very large existing codebases.
  • Take an internship or do a coding bootcamp.
  • It seems likely that a few software engineers could be significantly better than average. These very best software engineers are often people who spend huge amounts of time practising. This means that if you enjoy coding enough to want to do it both as a job and in your spare time, you are likely to be a good fit.

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    Software Engineer Career Ladder Example

    As we said earlier, the software engineer career ladder can be more or less complex, depending on the structure and needs of the company. Here are some examples of different types of career frameworks for software engineers.

    We will give examples of different types of software engineer career frameworks. When building your own career framework, it is important not just to copy existing models, but to focus on the goals and values of your company, as well as discussing its structure with the team at the formation stage.

    Engineering Managers Need A Technical Background

    In my experience, the best managers have a deep understanding of their teams work and how its done. They have deep empathy for their teams and can help guide them, eliminate blockers and understand the programming language theyre using.

    In my opinion, you cant be an engineering manager without engineering experience.

    In some organizations, the engineering managers are disconnected from the technical aspects. These managers only need experience in project management and people leadership.

    Our current software engineer career ladder has six levels:

  • Software Engineer 1
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    How Do Software Engineers Keep Growing

    To continue growing as a software engineer, say from a Software Engineer to a Software Architect, begin by sharpening your communication because you will speak multiple languages. Additionally, upgrade your tech know-how and get a mentor or become a mentor. Remember to surround yourself with better web development professionals because there is always someone better at software engineering than you. When a software engineering project comes along, be ready to set up for the challenge and software architect responsibility.

    Should I Become A Software Engineering Manager In 2021

    Will software engineering be the right profession for me?

    If you like working with people to bring projects to life, then yes. Software engineering management wont be easy, but it can be one of the most rewarding positions at a company. Youre responsible for developing talent, leading teams through successful builds, and much more. It can be taxing, but if you like a challenge, this position could be right for you.

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