How can I avoid turning into a pointy-haired boss?
The pointy-haired boss is a manager who doesn’t program. So the surest way to avoid becoming him is to stay a programmer. What tempts programmers to become managers are companies with old-fashioned corporate structure, where the only way to advance in salary and prestige is to go into management. So if you want to avoid becoming a PHB, avoid such companies, and work for (or start) startups.
I never had to manage anyone in our startup, even though I was the president. The other hackers were my peers, and would have given me the raspberry if I’d tried to “manage” them. We operated by consensus. And the rest of the company reported to our experienced COO, who was also more of a peer.
Why be a manager when you could be a founder or early employee at a startup?
One thing about school applications: No-one will tell you if what you say in your letter of intent doesn’t actually match what you’re proposing to do, nor whether what you say in your letter of intent — which is, of course, written to get you admitted — is what you intend.
Making sure those things match — letter, intent, and the program’s capabilities of satisfying those intents — is the applicant’s responsibility. Ideally the applicant discovers this prior to applying, let alone enrolling. But even then the earlier the process occurs the better.