Why did I work in management in the first place?

sheets of paper with corporate stuff

After my introductory article, some readers told me that the reasons behind my transition from a management-related job to a development job were not clear. But before explaining why I transitioned, you need to understand how I ended up in a management position after my Master’s degree in software engineering.

During my 2 first years of university, called “Classes préparatoires” in French, we were introduced to all the major science and engineering subjects, allowing us to then choose a any engineering specialty. My favorite classes were without a doubt math and computer science. I felt that the logical reasoning required to work on math and software problems came pretty naturally to me. When I spent many hours trying to solve a math or algorithm problem, I really enjoyed it most of the time, so much so that it didn’t really feel like working. I thus naturally chose software engineering as my major for my Master’s degree.

However, something weird started to happen when I reached the computer science department. In some tacit ways, many teachers were encouraging us away from becoming technical experts in development practices. I started to feel more and more that merely becoming a developer wasn’t a worthy goal. These were the things that we could easily outsource to India or Morocco, right? Why bother about the source code when we could be managing international teams or being high-end consultants to large corporations?

I even remember having a discussion with a senior executive at Accenture (a dream company for me then) where he told me: “You know, we’re looking simply for two things when hiring junior consultants: they need to be smart and nice.” And how did they evaluate “smartness”? Well there was a simple proxy for that: the engineering school from which the candidate graduated (of which mine was considered as shipping “smart” graduates). In other words, he was telling me: “Don’t worry, the only thing you’ll need to do to join us is to graduate!”

I thus started to gradually lose my interest in programming. Why bother becoming really good at building software when all I needed to get my first job was to graduate and be nice? Graduating wasn’t a big deal (I may tell you in a future post about how shockingly little work is required to simply pass the class and be an average graduate, even in top universities), and I felt already pretty friendly as a guy.

To have a successful career, I thought I had to mainly focus on the soft skills required for top-managers: written and oral communication, team work, conflict resolution, key performance indicators, management techniques, productivity hacks, etc. I thus started to follow sites such as the Harvard Business Review instead of websites like HackerRank…

So upon graduation, when I was in contact with my current company, it felt much more natural to candidate for a technical support engineering position, where I would be using and honing my communication and management skills, rather than candidate for a developer job, where I would be spending my day in front of a screen and ship code (which, I thought, any decent programmer from a country with cheaper labor costs could do!).

And this may have been a good choice at first: I thoroughly enjoyed my job. I learned to work in a team, to turn angry customers during crises into even more loyal customers, to communicate effectively with most of our company’s services (marketing, sales, sales administration, production, R&D, etc.), etc.

And after less than a year and a half in this position, this choice seemed to have paid off: my team elected me as their “scrum master”, whose role was to be a servant-leader to the team and make sure it had everything it needed to be successful. Without having the official title of “manager”, my days started to be filled with management-related activities: organizing the team’s planning, leading meetings, resolving conflicts between team members and services, hiring, firing, reading and sending countless emails, etc.

And being a people person with a desire to climb the corporate ladder in a management track, I just loved it. I learned so much everyday. I felt that I was finally putting into practice all the tricks and hacks I learned in publications such as the Harvard Business Review. And meanwhile, my team was becoming very effective and started exceeding previous expectations, setting new standards for our company (hard to say how much this was due to my input, but I got the chance to be an active witness of that and it was thrilling!).

However, exactly a year after having started as scrum master, enjoying the role and being pretty good at it, here I am writing to you as a developer.

So… what happened for me to take such a radical turn?

Well, I already wrote too many words for today. I’ll answer this question in a future post.

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