At the beginning of the year I returned to the world of individual contribution. For the previous 3+ years I had been in a leadership position. Leadership started simple enough. Managing one or two people, not too many meetings, still able to write code a good chunk of the day. But by the end of year three I was managing 9 people, constantly in meetings, and never had the time to do meaningful work.
Don’t get me wrong. Leadership can bring meaning. And I definitely got meaning out of working with and growing my team. What I mean here is that I didn’t have time to do deep work. THe kind of work that Cal Newport claims is “valuable, rare, and meaningful.” (I 100% agree with Cal on that.)
Now that I’m back in an IC role, I have found that deep, meaningful work again. I can spend an entire day - or days - without talking to a single person unless I want to. Dive into a problem with my whole self without distraction. And come out knowing more - sometimes much much more - than I did before I started.
I had no idea how much I’d missed this. When I first started this job I wasn’t quite sure whether I would stay an IC or move back into management. Honestly it was a bit of an experiment. A “getting back to my roots” so to speak, to see if I really wanted to continue to be a manager or if IC was the way to go.
And honestly, it took me over 6 months to figure that out. But now that I have enough context, in my role and in the company, I’ve had the opportunity to work on some really juicy problems. Having the space and time to pull apart those problems and get to the root has been incredibly fulfilling.
If you asked me right now “what path do you want to take?”, without hesitation I’d respond with “individual contributor”. I’m really really really enjoying the deep work.