I work in IT, engineering background and now manager (or manager-to-be recently again). I’ll give you my point of view work-wise only, as other had already gave nice advice/perspectives on FIRE.
I was in a similar position as you, around your age as well. My conclusion was that if you want to stay relevant down the line, you have basically two options :
Specialized in one domain, or highly skilled in an area (i.e. Cloud, docker, Hyper-convergence, Storage, Network, whatever…)
You’ll might need to :
- show that your the real deal (mainly through certifications and Linkedin, nowdays),
- be ready to become more versatile, to move from client to client (to don’t look like you know only one environment
- stay on top of your field, and adjust if necessary : lot’s of area are changing more and more rapidly
- hope that the field you chose don’t become irrelevant too quick because of a technological revolution. Less probable, but you never know. If that’s the case you’ll need to be ready to adapt.
- Pursue a management position
Easier said than done. Things to consider :
Management is probably not be what you expect. You might like it, or not. You’ll never know before trying. More about it later.
Having the first experience is not easy. It’s not a position easily given, the first one. You need to find someone who will basically trust a junior or inexperienced manager (despite your experience, you will be considered a newbie in this role) with key position in his organisation. Finding this kind of position in a new company can be really, really tough. The best bet is to first promote internally in your current company, which is usually a combination of timing, luck, and interpersonal skills. Having an experience to lead a team on a specific project can help.
You’ll need to learn totally different new skills. The only thing your current technical skills can help with, is to gain respect from your peers or subordinates. A management entry position (Team leader, head of) required mainly interpersonal skills and good knowledge of corporate politic. When you climb up (Head of Departement, CIO, Directors…) then you’ll need strategy skills, but not before. You are still just an operative below a certain level. Just a “manager” operative
Size matter (the size of the company, obviously). It’s easier to climb up to a management position in smaller or medium company. The competition can be less intense, your skills can be more recognized and the opportunities more visible. In large or mega large company you might have more opportunities, but the competition is usually stronger and the political skill level required is usually way bigger.
People will need to see you as a manager first. It will not happen overnight, and you’ll have to work on it, especially within yourself. How you present, how you engage with other, how you face problems and social interactions, all that will need to change or adapt. It’s an interesting path for your inner self.
So what is it really to be a manager? I’m talking entry position (Team lead, Project Manager/Program leader with direct report) :
A lot of admin. It’s now really Word, but can even more painful. Timesheet, holiday validation, accounting/invoice validation, tons of emailing…
A lot (like A LOT depending of the company culture) of meetings. When you usually listen with one hear while doing your admin…
Some decision making. A good manager is a manager who know when to take decisions, even harsh, and followup. Bad managers are just here to show during meetings…
Constant politics. The more you navigate in this field, the more you realize that anything that his said and one is drove by hidden agendas of this one or this one. All the skills you need to develop is to identify quickly whose agenda is at play at a particular moment, and how to navigate between all that.
Leadership and interpersonal skills. For me it’s the most important and fascinating part of the job. Know to identify each personalities, how to deal with them, how to make them engaged, motivated, and give meaning to what they are doing. We all had in our career some managers you can jump into fire for (no pun intended), and others who can’t make you do extra work for shit. That’s what it’s all about.
What I’m trying to say is : don’t see “being a manager” like just another position. It’s a whole new world, tough to enter, that can be extremely frustrating or extremely rewarding depending of the context. So if you choose this path, be ready to go all in. It’s the only way (in my opinion) to have the dedication needed to be ready when the opportunity arise.
I hope it give you some food for thought. Feel free to PM me if you want to talk about it more in detail!