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Sam E. Lawrence
Sam E. Lawrence

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3 nuggets of advice for mid-level engineers who don't want the management track

The Setup

I was recently having a conversation with another QA Engineer who is seeking greater clarity for their career path ahead, and I wanted to share some notes from our discussion in case they are helpful to anyone else.

This person works in both manual and automated testing, but really prefers the automation side and is even open to moving into a full developer role at some point in the future. They said, no matter what, they wanted to remain in a technical role for the next several years, but didn't have any interest in management or team leadership. I understood them to be asking me for advice on how they could progress through a mid-level career into a more senior position without having to side-step into a management track. It's true that being a lead isn't the same as being an individual contributor, and that shift in responsibility isn't for everyone.

The advice I gave them was off the cuff, and I can already think of better things I wish I'd said, but I'll share here what I told them - a slice of the sorts of conversations we should all be having with each other to help each other grow and manifest our career goals.

Read books

Reading is telepathy, it is straight-up telepathy. It allows you to read the thoughts inside another person's head, verbatim. Reading helps us develop language skills, which are critically important to supporting a healthy career, and this is even more true if you work with people who speak a different native language than you. Reading in the native language of others can help you better understand how they think and grasp the nuances of a language you might still be learning.

Give it a try

Even for an engineer who isn't interested in pursuing a management path, as you seek to rise through mid-level into senior roles, you will still have to take on leadership roles of different sorts. Whether mentoring teammates or having to fend for a touch technical decision - knowing how to lead a meeting or organize others is an invaluable skill. I suggested to my friend that they organize a meetup of other QA Engineers in their area who use the same testing tools, and at least see how the experience of trying to organize something like that is for them.

Simplify your online presence

The person I was talking to has worked with a lot of different tools in their career, and has a good broad range of skills as a result, however the way this looked in their resume and LinkedIn profiles, at least in my opinion, was a bit scattered. I've run into this problem in my own career, trying to highlight everything I knew at least a little about, and ending up looking like I didn't have any focused skills.

In truth, this is actually the case for a lot of junior engineers, they really don't have a focused set of skills, but inevitably we gravitate toward toolsets and methods, and it can be helpful to identify with your strengths by narrowing down your online persona to a few key areas. Rather than listing every tool they'd ever worked with, I encouraged the person I was talking with to highlight the tools they wanted to work with going forward, and which they felt they were moving toward expertise with.


This was a quick, casual conversation held between two engineers, and these answers were not well thought-out, but hopefully by sharing them here, someone else might gain some insight. If you found this useful, let me know on Twitter!

Top comments (1)

jmosley profile image
Judy Mosley

Love the idea of simplifying your online presence!