How does one reach the VP level from being a senior software engineer in a company?

software engineers ←-----------------→ senior managers

You acquire a completely different skill set. Senior managers need to lead people by influencing their emotions and behaviors. Software engineers need to tell computers what to do in precise and mechanical terms. Senior managers need to meet strangers and make them feel comfortable so they can sell them stuff. Software engineers often get to ignore human feelings because computers don't care at all how you feel. Senior managers need to go to meetings where they have authority but almost no ability to make change, whereas software engineers are all about making the change, but have no authority at all. Senior managers are glad-handing, back-slapping ex-frat boys. Software engineers were the president of the science club, and also it's only member.

Bell Labs did a scholarly study to see what kind of managers software developers made. The result was they they were often a failure because of mismatch of skills to problems.

The intersection of the set of people with software engineer skills and the people with senior manager skills is very small. If you don't have all these skills, you probably won't make the transition.

There are 100 worker-bee jobs for every VP job. Unless you are extraordinary even compared to your colleagues, your chances are small.

The other way to get to be a VP is to start your own company and name yourself VP, and hope you don't screw up the VP job too badly.


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