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The Journey to Manager

A few years ago if you asked me if I would ever go into management I would have probably laughed in your face. In fact, I can clearly recall a conversation I had with one of my former managers on the topic.

Daniel: “You have leadership qualities and you’re strong technically. Do you have an idea of which path you’d like to take? Management or Technical?”

Me: “Daniel, I honestly don’t know how you put up with people’s bull sh*t all day long.”

Daniel: “So… technical.”

Man how times change!

A few years ago I started having what I’d like to call the “career mid-life crisis”. This started while I was a Lead Software Developer at USAA. I was currently leading the Innovation development department, RevDev, and transitioning back to the Application Infrastructure area to lead the OAuth 2.0 development and migration. I had plateaued in the technical track with the only advancement opportunity being architect. The vision of the Chief Technical Office (CTO) and the expectations of its architects was not something I was aligned with. I was willing to give it a shot and “make it my own” but the opportunity didn’t present itself…. What, I wondered, would be my next challenge?

This lasted for about 2–3 years before I finally took action and left USAA. I was 34 at the time, had an amazing offer in front of me with the potential for career advancement, and a chance to learn a different business model. If I didn’t do it then, I was never going to do it. So I left.

Farewll USAA

Despite my research and connections it didn’t take long for me to realize that Rackspace and I were not copasetic (maybe I’ll write about that) but I was committed to giving them my all for at least a year minimum.

Around the 13 month mark my manager left to find greener pastures and I was offered her position. Leadership is something I’ve always been comfortable with and good at but I’ve generally preferred the technical arena over the political one. Still looking for that “next challenge” I took the position. Surprisingly it was a good transition to management with very little hiccups. I had a great repore with my team and established a strong network within the department which helped. All that said, I was still putting out feelers and looking for other forms of employment.

Thank the Lord for good friends! I had been in conversation with a few USAA buddies about a possible comeback and what that might look like. After a lot of discussion with my boss (wife) and prayer I accepted the position as an Engineering Manager in the Auto Experience department. It’s been a great few months, not without it’s challenges and rewards, but overall it feels good to be back. The struggle of not doing the “fun technical” things as much as I’d like to is real but I do get my hands into code every now and then. Thankfully I’m surrounded by great friends and mentors that have been down this road before. Time will tell if this is the right path for me or not but until then, full steam ahead!