I didn’t come up with this notion, but I think it’s the correct way of looking at things and worth elaborating on a little.
Individual Contributor is the term that is widely used to refer to a member of an organisation who is not on the management track. And so it follows that they will have more time throughout their career to dedicate to their craft and specialising in whatever domain they work in. Design, engineering, and product people come to mind for me, but the definition is really broad. I will be using engineering as a reference point throughout this article because it’s what I understand most.
The fact that Individual Contributors are a thing is great. It indicates that there is acceptance that these types of people are really valuable and that they should also have a realistic path to leadership roles in an organisation. Awesome.
The term isn’t bad — it can just be improved. By emphasising the individual, this term differentiates these contributors based on what they don’t do instead of what they do do! Team Contributor puts a more positive spin on this, as it tells everyone what they are doing and doesn’t define them as just being not-a-manager.