My first "tech" job was maybe 13 years ago, at a tiny startup in Wadsworth, OH called Quasimodo Interactive. There, we were developing interactive vending machines as designed and built by a group of arcade machine engineers. I don't even remember what my official title was, probably just "Software Engineer".
After that, I was hired for a dream job: I became an Associate Software Engineer at Collabora, Ltd, where I got to work on GStreamer. At the time, I was deeply involved in KDE Multimedia as the maintainer for Phonon-GStreamer.
I was originally hired to implement some fun GStreamer and Qt stuff for Nokia's Meltimi featurephone operating system. Unfortunately, this was shortly after the 2008 recession and by then the cascading effects finally hit overseas. Nokia quickly closed their entire Linux division, meaning the contract I was hired to do on behalf of Collabora no longer existed.
After about two years, Intel also let go of much of its own Linux engineers, which ultimately resulted in me getting laid off from Collabora.
Then, I moved to San Francisco and became a Senior Software Engineer at Ripple. This was perhaps my first "real" engineering job. I had an office in a city that I went to, we had employee benefits, more than 5 colleagues, and I eventually ended up as the unofficial head of our brand-new research and development divison. Before I could actually get the title that went with the roles, however, I quit. I got tired of the abusive environment, got tired of being treated like trash, got tired of having coworkers casually bring bowie knives to the office like no big deal.
Yes, that actually happened. The knife thing. I suppose I wasn't really treated like trash, but the knife really was the final straw.
And after that, I basically stayed as a "Senior Software Engineer" for the next few years, excluding my stint as Executive Director of CaRLA, my law nonprofit.
Now, here in Germany, only one year after re-starting my tech career as a Senior Software Engineer for MBiTION, I'm finally at the next level. Last week I received the official letter in the mail explaining that I am now to be called an "Expert Software Engineer", complete with pay raise.
The title is quite accurate as pertaining to my technical expertise, but truth be told, it doesn't accurately describe my job. I'm actually a Product Owner now at MBiTION, where my team's product is delivering KWin into our yocto-based operating system.
Nevertheless, my manager, mentor, and friend, G, wants me promoted once more. Next year, we're going to make me into an Engineering Lead. From what I can tell, the big difference between being a Product Owner or Expert Software Engineer and an Engineering Lead is that as an EL, I would now have direct reports. There would be people directly under me in the hierarchy, for whom I must mentor, develop their skills, and take a direct personal interest in their well-being.
Not to say that I don't currently take a personal interest in my team's well-being, but it would also mean that I'd actually be responsible for making sure they take their holiday times, that the PO I would hire to replace me didn't overwork them, that I would need to manage my department's budget so the company could pay for their professional education and growth.
To look at it another way, I would be something of a paid full-time moderator. If there's a conflict, I'm responsible for figuring it out; there's no real backstop there, should a situation arise.
Moderation, community management, community gardening, whatever you might call it. Its what I've done automatically for most of my life already, so becoming an Engineering Lead makes a ton of sense. In many ways, I already am in that role, just not officially.
When I retired from California politics, I didn't retire from community organizing. About two years ago I signed up to become one of the moderators of r/admincraft, a subreddit for Minecraft server administrators. I'm still there now; in fact, I recently returned from a several month break while I focused on becoming a better product owner at work. Its lovely to be back, and it never ceases to be amusing how little things change in moderation no matter what the context.
This morning I woke up to Peridot hacking up a hairball on my laundry. After cleaning it up, I did that one thing we all do to try and fall back asleep: stared at my phone's bright screen. This is how I learned about a particularly mad r/admincraft poster who decided to make a public call-out post against one of my moderation colleagues for some reason or another.
A totally disproportionate reaction to the situation at hand. They wanted my friend removed from the team immediately, because reasons. No attempt to contact the rest of us moderators in advance was performed, there was no heads up, no warning sign, no indication that this person was about to stir up some capital-D Drama in the name of self-righteousness. There was some interpsonal conflicct and the first tool they reached for was the big giant bomb that pisses everyone off and makes for a toxic space.
After some light scolding, they backed down, deleted the post, offered an apology, and that was that. Nobody seems to hold any grudges, because being a moderator means being mature and letting things slide when it matters.
There's nothing unique about r/admincraft in terms of community moderation. There's also nothing unique about becoming an Engineering Lead in terms of keeping my team happy and collaborative.