In case you haven’t fallen victim to one of my in-person rants on the post, I’m a huge fan of Charity Major’s take on the Engineer/Manager Pendulum. I firmly believe that oscillation between the two roles can build enormous skill in both, and that’s one of the reasons I took an IC role when I made my last move (the other being that I was straight up exhausted and needed to change things up).

As I’ve marinated in the role, I’ve also started to realize that’s it’s (already) been an amazingly empathy-building experience, especially from the perspective of power dynamics. I like to think that I’ve always had a pretty good sense for the ways that structural power can warp interactions, and I’ve tried my damndest to not wield power callously. Switching away from a role with high structural power (engineering director with 3 levels of reports) to one with much lower structural power has done wonders to reinforce my views on the ways that structural power can influence even things that should be mundane interactions - using codified power just isn’t a tool I have in my toolkit at this point.

The same code review comment can cary very different subtext depending on who it’s coming from, and the presence of those with structural power in a conversation will almost always reduce the levity of the others in it. This doesn’t change in flat organizations either - they don’t lack structural power, just explicit power (the implicit power ends up being derived from relationships and standing, social or otherwise). Being ignorant of these dynamics can lead to a manager or leader being incredibly disruptive to day-to-day work and lead to people feeling really shitty about the work they are doing even with the best of intentions.

All in all, no regrets with this pendulum swing, and I 100% recommend it for those looking to broaden their perspective, and if you have power in your organization, I recommend occasionally throwing some away - it will give you some empathy if nothing else. Bonus points if you can get rid of it by raising others up!