By Matthew D. Sarrel | June 2006
So youÂ¿ve been working in your technical position, maybe as a developer
or a network engineer, for a year. Perhaps youÂ¿ve advanced beyond
entry-level and taken on more technical responsibility, yet youÂ¿re not
entirely satisfied with your position. ItÂ¿s time to start exploring
options for career advancement. Many times making the transition from
technology worker to technology manager is what your career needs to
get its second wind.
At some point in your career youÂ¿re going to have to choose between
developing your technical or your managerial skills. The two paths
diverge from a common point of a desire for advancement. Many times
there is only so far that you can go as a technologist, only so high
that you can rise within an organization on technical skills alone. In
order to break through to a position of leadership youÂ¿ll need to
cultivate managerial skills. But how do you know if you even want to be
Why Not to Be a Manager
Not everyone is destined to be in management.
One indicator that you might not want to be a manager is if you would
rather work alone than in a group. Many techies want to go to work and
essentially be left alone as they do their jobs. TheyÂ¿d rather be
surrounded by technology than by people. If you are content sitting in
your cube and solving the puzzles presented during the course of
writing code, then management isnÂ¿t for you. Likewise, if you want to
fly under the radar then management isnÂ¿t for you.
Would you rather nail your hands to the keyboard than go to a meeting?
If so, then management probably isnÂ¿t for you because managers spend
most of their time in meetings. Many times a manager will lead a
meeting rather than be a mere participant. Would you feel comfortable
leading a meeting? ItÂ¿s not easy to build consensus in a group with
disparate opinions. Another aspect of being a manager involves guiding
employees through their projects. If you would rather lead neither
meeting nor project, then management is probably not for you.
Are you ready to shift away from your technical skills and towards your
people and project management skills? If you still get a rush from
writing clean code or locking down a firewall, then stick with the
techie stuff and leave the management to others. This is perhaps the
hardest decision to make, but if you love the technology more than the
business then your talents are better utilized by remaining a techie.
Why To Be A Manager
Similarly, there are a number of reasons why you might want to go into
management. You probably already have a few in mind or you wouldnÂ¿t be
reading this article.
Do you crave leadership? In truth, there is a difference between a
manager and a leader, but each manager must have some basic leadership
skills and the desire to influence coworkers. A good manager is not
only responsible for himself, but also for his team. Leadership is
something that youÂ¿ll have to be comfortable with if you want to be a
manager. The ability to make decisions and the capacity to carry them
out are essential management skills.
Do you want to help others develop their technical and professional
skills. Many techies want to go to the office and work in solitary
confinement. However, if you want to mentor others and guide them
through their tasks, then you may very well make a good manager. Being
a manager and accepting responsibility for those under you by
definition places you in a high profile position. I find that
developing my employeesÂ¿ skills and seeing them advance in their
careers is the most valuable part of being a manager.
Do you enjoy working with other people? This is a big one. A manager
doesnÂ¿t necessarily have to be a people person, but it helps. Managers
spend most of the day working with others so itÂ¿s generally a good idea
to have strong interpersonal skills. Managers have to solve people
problems and it helps to feel a sense of accomplishment after doing so.
A good manager has to understand group dynamics and how best to
facilitate employees working together. If you see a challenge in
interacting with coworkers and their personalities, then management
will provide you with those challenges on a daily basis. It takes
patience and understanding to be able to guide employees and to build
consensus during team meetings. A good manager knows how to bring out
the best in his team and that usually requires maintaining a delicate
balance between team membersÂ¿ personalities.
Do you want to be involved in planning and reporting on the status
of projects? Would you rather lead a team through developing an action
plan, or would you rather work quietly to execute the plan? Becoming a
manager may mean that the status of a project becomes more important
than the technical nuances of that project. ItÂ¿s going to be a
different focus from what youÂ¿re used to so youÂ¿ll need to prepare
yourself for it. One change that the shift to management will bring is
that you will now represent your coworkers when interacting with your
boss. Your boss may not want to hear every technical detail and may be
more focused on whether the project will be completed successfully and
on time. YouÂ¿ll need to start thinking like a manager before you can
act like one.
How to Make it Happen
One book that may help you explore the option of becoming a manager is
Â¿What Every New Manager Needs to Know: Making a Successful Transition
to ManagementÂ¿ by Gerard H. Gaynor.
Making the shift to management may be the best way to advance your
career, but unless you prepare yourself for the move it may be
frustrating and simply not right for you. You need to ask yourself some
tough questions before transitioning from a technology worker to a
technology manager. Adapting and enhancing your people skills will
provide the essence of your managerial skills. The ability to see the
big picture when managing a project is key so prepare yourself to move
beyond every technical detail and learn how to see projects as a whole.
Above all, prepare yourself to shift away from the technology thatÂ¿s
gotten you where you are in your career because itÂ¿s time to emphasize
people and projects.
There are no right or wrong answers, just personal preference. A
decision that you make today can always be reversed tomorrow. Give some
serious thought to the questions posed in this article and then choose
your career path wisely. The most important assets to manage correctly
are yourself and your career.