Three Questions About My Experience
Q. The experience listed on paulwicks.com includes graphic design, leadership and executive skills, and front-line programming skills. Are you an artist, a manager, or a software engineer?
A. Yes. The distinction isn't meaningful, in my estimate. What is meaningful is their combination.
Creativity and organization are essential components of software engineering. Software is at least as much art, as it is science, and couldn't be accomplished without organized teams.
Not only do each of these skill sets enhance the others, they allow me to see and represent the different points of view. Among teams with varying perspectives, mutual understanding is a rare and valuable thing.
Q. You've lead teams and been a manager. Why would you want to take a position as an individual contributor? Wouldn't you grow impatient after the first year or two?
A. No. I started my career as a manager, and specifically asked to switch to the technical track as an individual contributor... not because I didn't value my role in management, but because I wanted to enhance that value.
Consider Facebook's hiring practices. Throughout their first several years as a company, no one was hired as a manager. To become a manager, you had to start as an individual contributor. While this policy is no longer strictly abided by, it does illustrate a principle that served them well: You should to know how the work is actually done, and be able to do it well, before you assume the responsibility of directing that work. While this isn't always practical, it's always been my preferred approach.
Does this mean I would expect any position as an individual contributor to eventually lead to a management position? Nope.
Programming skill has a shelf life of about 18 months, after which it's usually stale, or in the way. Languages change steadily, frameworks change abruptly, libraries get replaced by better solutions, and entirely new approaches to programming sweep away less efficient models and patterns.
Learning, applying, and improving software is my lifelong commitment. Leadership roles may be offered or not, but the processes of building things, faster, stronger, and smarter, will always come first.