Last week it was four years ago that I started at SeeBeyond. At
SeeBeyond, I managed products (the JMS server and J2EE
application server in Java CAPS), technology and people. The latter was
part of the culture at SeeBeyond: the only way to have influence on any
product was to have a team of people reporting to you.
Having responsibility for a team has been interesting. Over the past
four years, I've seen people grow. I've seen
people "turn around" on whom I was ready to give up. This was very
satisfying. With them and through them, I've grown as well. However, in
the past year I
felt it was time for me to move to the next level. Also, with the
increasing number of people in my team (two originally, eight at one
point, and six lately), there was less and less time to
stay involved with technology at a deep enough level.
When Sun acquired SeeBeyond last year, I was classified as people manager because of the fact
that I had people reporting to me. As it turned out, Sun's culture is
quite different from SeeBeyond's: there is a dual career ladder with
appreciation and growth opportunities for both people managers and
individual contributors. But unlike SeeBeyond, people managers primarily manage
people and are less involved with technology. 11 people per manager is
seen as the norm. It are the technical individual contributors that manage
and shape products.
Moving up to the next step on Sun's career ladder, I requested a
"diagonal promotion": up one level and from the people management track
to the technology track. This week I got my promotion: I'm now a Senior
Staff Engineer. Does this mean I'm now a heads-down techie? No, of
course not. Sure there will be no more managing reports, but I'll now
devote more time influencing people in other teams even outside of the
organization. And yes, hopefully there'll be more time to dive a little
deeper into a piece of technology.