A few weeks back I was having a conversation with one my ex-colleagues. The guy had done project and programme management for sometime. He had seen the various hardships and shipwrecks. Eventually he changed the course of his journey. I often talked to the guy asking for his opinion. He would listen to me and offer his opinion. But this time the conversation was a little different, as he asked the following career based question to me .

Why are you so involved in management ? You were a technical guy , so how did you aspire to be a project manager ?

Well to be honest, I was bowled-out at the question. So I spent sometime in charting out my journey so far. Trying to figure out how I reached here.

A few years back, I was a hands-on developer doing mostly individual contributions. I was so the called Surgeon, working with text-mining and analysis. I worked with many open sources systems and worked with some communities. I was happy doing my stuff. But then we always look for increments and variable payouts, so in one of those performance reviews I was told that my performance is just satisfactory. I can no longer just code. I will need to lead a team. I raised the benefits of being an IC. The satisfaction in the role. But then I was given a choice of having a smaller team.

I started leading and building solution with 2 more people. We delivered the required solution. It worked fine. I kept my interaction limited to the application solution development. Thus, in other meetings with-in the organisation I used to send back one of our team-member, so called delegate. Apparently, I got the feedback that as a I lead I am not doing good. I can not delegate most of the time and I must join organisation meetings. Take part in stakeholder discussions. The organisation also asks project improvement plans for me. My first response was WTF! We have delivered the project in time with the asked quality. I thought this was the primary ask and I do not want to do the other stuff.

I neglected these things for until my next change, where similar story happened. It looked apparent that being only IC will not help me any longer. So I agreed on the above listed KRAs. I tried to work with my team. I was taking my entry in management. Finally after pushing myself against my dislikes, I made it in my appraisal cycle. But soon found the next dislike, now I am asked to be a junior manager and take more of the management tasks. Since I loved development, so I made a bargain for Engineering Manager. I have listed my journey of being an EM and then this was followed with a Project Manager role. I am still trying to leap back into technology but the PM role is very demanding.

In summary, I never wanted to reach these levels of organisation hierarchy. I was just doing my responsibilities. I still do application development, but for mentoring. I have been taken away from my primary skill. I have experienced Peter Principle.

Employees are promoted based on their success in previous jobs until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent, as skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another. Thus, people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their “level of incompetence”.