Corporate ladder advice

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Joeinfla
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Corporate ladder advice

Post by Joeinfla » Fri Nov 08, 2019 9:53 pm

Good evening to all!!
Thanks to this forum, I’ve learned a great deal of learning about finances, things that should be done vs things to avoid.

I’m currently in my mid 30’s. I currently am a mechanic at a MegaCorp. I have been slowly going to school pursuing a career as a mechanical engineer.

My question is, as all my superior managers are getting closer to retirement, I’ve been considered to begin training for management at my current employer (MegaCorp). I begin my training for leadership next month. I currently have been reading tons of books on leadership and such. I am aware that management can sometimes put that individual in more danger of job loss, etc.

My wife and I are debt free, and I see this as being a bit more freedom to continue my career, traveling/moving closer to corporate if the opportunity presented itself.

My question is, for those of you who have “risen” up the corporate ladder, is there any advice that you could share? Thanks

Dude2
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Re: Corporate ladder advice

Post by Dude2 » Fri Nov 08, 2019 10:40 pm

This is pretty generic and you probably know it already. Management is a slippery slope, not for everyone -- definitely not for me. As my boss recently put it, his job is to be liked and to make everyone believe that he is their friend. His job requires no specific technical skills. He just needs to be able to juggle a bunch of balls in the air. He must be available at all times to respond to situations. He has to glad-hand everyone and put up with umpteen different personalities and always kiss the ring of those above him. I honestly believe his job is infinitely more difficult than mine. It requires more dedication and commitment, and at the end of the day you could ask what did he really do that day. This is the problem with management, the results you show are really just the results of the people that work for you. How do you paint yourself as integral to the picture? You're always getting squeezed out by competing managers.

I prefer to work with the gear, not humans. I solve problems based on the laws of physics, not arbitrary business culture. It's all about personality. Are you management material? Are you a politician? Bottom line is that management is not a ticket to not having to do any work, i.e. having people work for you. You are always challenged to show your value. Some people have the talent. Most don't. Surely you know if you fit into that camp. Do what makes you happy. The journey up the corporate ladder is hard work, rung by rung -- very competitive. Just going down a management track is no guarantee of success.

KlangFool
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Re: Corporate ladder advice

Post by KlangFool » Fri Nov 08, 2019 10:50 pm

OP,

Why would you want to do this? This should be your first question. Unless and until you cross a threshold in the management ladder, you would not be making more money than a Mechanical Engineer. And, just because you cross that threshold, it does not mean you cannot fall off the ladder later.

KlangFool
Last edited by KlangFool on Fri Nov 08, 2019 11:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Annabel Lee
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Re: Corporate ladder advice

Post by Annabel Lee » Fri Nov 08, 2019 11:06 pm

Congratulations on the start of your leadership training!

I am a senior leader at a megacorp (top 2,000?) but not as senior as my boss (top 200) or his boss (top 20). Also mid 30s.

I probably have more questions than answers about climbing the corporate ladder because each level gets more and more complicated, and has to deal with many more problems/issues. For that matter I’m sure there are 10 people who want my job, 100 people who want my boss’ job, and 1,000 people who want his boss’ job.

Again, more questions than answers — but I’ve found the following helpful:

- As much as possible, be positive, energetic and visible. Don’t be the inverse of any of those things. Especially as you first step into management (but even as you go on), these qualities will take you a long way. The people you lead will also mirror your energy...

- As you step into management and get more senior, don’t assume that 1) anyone is going to tell you what to do aside from a broad framework, or 2) that someone more senior is taking care of something, even if you stumble upon a huge problem. Better to find it, communicate it along with your fix, and take care of it. Sounds simple but it’s not. If you’re the kind of person who says “whoa that situation is really messed up, hope someone else takes care of it” - I’d probably keep an individual contributor role. Solving challenging problems gets you promoted.

- Start (or keep) communicating in measurable facts - data, metrics, it will be done by X date, etc - vs. I think, I feel, we’ll try, etc... again, this will take you far, or limit you if you can’t sort it out.

Am sure I can add more value here but it’s been a long week. I wouldn’t fear job loss as your career takes off — I find you can control your own destiny better in this track. Good luck on your next steps.

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Re: Corporate ladder advice

Post by LadyGeek » Fri Nov 08, 2019 11:15 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Finance (Not Investing) forum (career guidance).
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market timer
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Re: Corporate ladder advice

Post by market timer » Fri Nov 08, 2019 11:24 pm

I find management to be a fascinating challenge. There are so many types of managers and employees, it is hard to give generic advice.

What I would suggest is starting with a problem that you want to solve that requires more manpower than you alone have. You can lead this type of project without formal management authority. This will give you a taste of the challenge of management.

Personally, I do not believe in a corporate ladder. In my career, I have tacked a series of problems that required me to lead teams with diverse skills. Eventually, the problem is solved, and the people move on to other problems. The business value of the problem is the force that binds us all together. It is my job to identify problems with business value, make a business case (similar to a startup pitch), build and motivate teams to solve the problem, and get other stakeholders to cooprerate if they are not in my reporting line.

All managers have different leadership styles and should soon realize their strengths and weaknesses. It is critical to be honest with yourself about your deficiencies, and either correct them or rely on others for those skills. In my case, I know that I lack empathy and am unapproachable, so make sure that everyone has an outlet where they can vent their true feelings, and those will get relayed to me. Another area I've had to correct is to make sure all stakeholders feel they have had some say in the conception of a new project. People are very motivated to give life to their ideas. Often, I"m the first one to come up with an idea, and I struggled in the past to let other people change the shape of my "baby." This led to lack of cooperation across reporting lines. To be a good leader, I believe you must be your greatest critic and constantly suppress your ego. This is especially difficult if you are surrounded by people who are trying to gain your favor.

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patrick013
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Re: Corporate ladder advice

Post by patrick013 » Sat Nov 09, 2019 1:59 pm

Apart from the technical skills (engineering) what are you trying to manage ? Project management, research and new products, marketing, or just plain theory x - theory y management with other designers. A good management principles book should cover topics you need. Some cover project management better others cover personnel management better etc..

Should you delegate assignments or work on a specific schedule or deadline for tasks to be completed.

Usually it's a little of each and who can manage that well.
age in bonds, buy-and-hold, 10 year business cycle

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mrspock
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Re: Corporate ladder advice

Post by mrspock » Sat Nov 09, 2019 2:38 pm

I think what each company values is probably a bit different, and as a consequence the road to senior leadership slightly different, but with that said, here's my advice:

1. Soft vs. Hard skills - Hard skills might get you to a certain point in leadership, but it's the soft skills which will take you into the high leadership ranks. At some point you'll need to still maintain as much of your technical skills as you can, but be intentional about improving your soft skills.
2. Empathy - Speaking of soft skills, practice empathy everyday and get good at it -- the art of seeing the world through somebody else's eyes. This doesn't just mean things external to work like politics, it means engineering decisions, work-life balance choices, career path etc.
3. Leadership style - Lead in a manner where people follow you because they *want* to, not because they have to. Influence vs. authority. Measure your leadership skill by how often you have to invoke authority or top down decision making -- the best leaders lead by influence and are masters of consensus building.
4. Consensus Building - Speaking of which, get good at this. And no, doesn't mean "design by committee", it means leveraging the talent/experience/wisdom of many individuals to determine an optimal approach, having the ability to help others see the optimal solutions they might not be seeing themselves, and in doing so align engineers on a given approach. Measure your success by how much cognitive dissonance (I believe X, but I'm being asked/forced to do Y) you leave in your wake when you drive a project.
5. Mentorship - Become a mentor to junior engineers, pass on what you have learned expect nothing in return -- don't make it transactional. Often you'll get all sorts of things as a benefit of being a mentor (trust, new knowledge passed to you, improved empathy skills, stronger team, more workplace harmony), but it's important that these are bonuses or dividends, not expectations of a mentee.

You'll notice I didn't mention large projects, creation of new tech or anything along those lines. The lack of the above skills are often what keeps people from succeeding in driving large x-org/x-company projects.

FWIW, I'm in the top 2% at a my megacorp.

Arpanet
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Re: Corporate ladder advice

Post by Arpanet » Sat Nov 09, 2019 3:47 pm

Dude2 wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 10:40 pm
Management is a slippery slope, not for everyone -- definitely not for me. As my boss recently put it, his job is to be liked and to make everyone believe that he is their friend. His job requires no specific technical skills. He just needs to be able to juggle a bunch of balls in the air. He must be available at all times to respond to situations. He has to glad-hand everyone and put up with umpteen different personalities and always kiss the ring of those above him. I honestly believe his job is infinitely more difficult than mine. It requires more dedication and commitment, and at the end of the day you could ask what did he really do that day. This is the problem with management, the results you show are really just the results of the people that work for you. How do you paint yourself as integral to the picture? You're always getting squeezed out by competing managers.

I prefer to work with the gear, not humans. I solve problems based on the laws of physics, not arbitrary business culture. It's all about personality. Are you management material? Are you a politician? Bottom line is that management is not a ticket to not having to do any work, i.e. having people work for you. You are always challenged to show your value. Some people have the talent. Most don't. Surely you know if you fit into that camp. Do what makes you happy. The journey up the corporate ladder is hard work, rung by rung -- very competitive. Just going down a management track is no guarantee of success.
I think this is the best answer in this thread so far. OP, if you enjoy being a mechanic, I'd say there's a good chance that being a manager is not for you. As you climb the never-ending rungs of the management ladder, you'll get further and further away from actually Doing The Thing you've spent a lifetime getting better at. Your performance will judged on factors you can't fully control to a much greater extent than it is now. You will have to sublimate your actual personality in order to maintain an appearance of objectivity, likability, and credibility. The days of casually shooting the breeze with your coworkers or engaging in some good-natured bellyaching about the latest screwup by the braintrust in senior leadership will be over.

I'm a software engineer, and a few years ago, I decided that management was the logical next step in my career. I enjoy leading teams, I pride myself on being a good teacher, and frankly I have much better soft skills than most of my peers. I also assumed - perhaps like you - that I'd make more money and would set myself on a better career trajectory. I made the jump to engineering manager, and when the excitement of the new role and new responsibilities wore off a few months in, I realized I was miserable. I was spending every day cleaning up the latest mess that my manager had made, or a client had made, or a problematic employee had made. After about a year, I went back to writing code full-time, and I've never been happier at work. I also make significantly more money than I did as a manager, and I feel way more secure/indispensable in my role.

I took two big lessons away from that experience:

1. As a manager, your job is to make it easier for other people to do the thing you love and are good at. Some people find that the satisfaction they get from that more than fills the hole that's created inside you when you stop doing that thing. I didn't.
2. Being a leader does not require being a manager. The former is a natural role for any experienced tradesperson to grow into, and can be immensely satisfying and rewarding, not to mention remunerative. The latter is a recent creation of modern capitalism, designed to coordinate the efforts of many people across a large organization.

There's only one way to know if being a manager is right for you, and that's to try it. I'd just urge you to keep close tabs on your emotional health and job satisfaction as your experience unfolds.

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