Lateral Moves - AKA Delusions of Grandeur

Almost daily I hear "You're it, man!","If something happens to you we're screwed", "You're the man!", "You're doing a great job!", "We really want you in more of a leadership role." While I enjoy the praise I've gotten the last year for my work it's also starting to get on my nerves.

3 years leading a team, 2 years as a manager and now I'm still working like a grunt. That's not to belittle the work that I'm doing, because the work is great, the project is game changing, and I have almost ultimate control of my work. The problem is that at 37 I shouldn't be here. If my work is so great, if I'm the guru and so prized and everyone wants me in a leadership role, what's changed?

Just a couple of years ago my being in a leadership role wasn't working out. I wasn't a team player, I was abrasive and inconsistent. Now I'm a star, a collaborator, a UI ninja.

While I feel like my work has a higher quality now than it did then, I don't feel like I've changed much. I think the difference is that I have control over my work more so than I did before. I also think that there's an emphasis placed by management on developers to defer to me on UI design and development decisions. This didn't used to happen even when I managed the UI team. Back then there was a lot of conflict because developers wanted to do everything themselves and didn't care about code reviews or UI design standards. Outside of my current organization that still seems to be the norm.

I fear going back out there to that. There's an opportunity for me to move to another team, to influence the larger organization. My fear is that it will end up just like my role as manager which was largely just a figure head with no real authority to make change or make demands that people adhere to any rules. At the end of the day that role did nothing but cause constant escalation and friction between teams. I don't want to be in that role again.

At the end of the day I need more than lip service. If I'm great and necessary to the future success of the organization then put me in a position that reflects that belief and give me the authority and time to make positive change. Otherwise it's time for me to look elsewhere and do what's right for my career and family.

I want to be Senior Manager or Director of User Centered Design. Delusions of Grandeur? Maybe! But I certainly don't want yet another lateral move. Up or out, I say! If I am producing a great product and I am inspiring others and I am doing the job the right way and I am mentoring others to do the same, then great! Let's run with that! Let's make it official and I'll spread it throughout the organization. What I don't want to do is move to another organization and play politics and try to gain friends and influence people and maybe, just maybe three years from now bring about change. I need an executive champion OR to be promoted to become my own executive champion.

Do I have a sense of entitlement? Absolutely! Not that my shit doesn't stink. I have plenty of flaws. But just looking at my work over the last 12 years I think I have an enviable track record. I was the sole UI developer on a homegrown CRM that served 3000+ concurrent users both internal and external to the a Fortune 500 (then, now Fortune 50) company. I directed UI development for a redesign for a website that received 50-60,000 hits per day and serviced 55 million potential users. I collaborated with teams outside of web app development on how to best interface with users, such as Identify Management, Knowledge Management, and IVR/Telephony. I led a team of UI developers that continued development of that same CRM and continued to contribute to several key projects creating core functionality in that CRM that helped drive sales and conversions. I hired and lead a team that expanded from just developing for that one product to having influence over half a dozen or more applications. I was hand picked by the VP of our IT organization and Sr. Director in Operations to lead UI design for a crucial new product that directly impacts our bottom line. I've been asked to guide multiple other projects in best practices for user centered design and development techniques.

When our VP wants a project to be successful there's only a handful of people he goes to, I'm in that handful time and time again. It's an honor. It's also a curse, because I feel like I'm stuck in a niche that I can't get out of.

At the end of the day I don't have it so bad, all things considered. But I need new challenges, new territory to explore.