At some point, most tech pros have to decide whether to stay on a technical career path or transition into a management role. While choosing between the two different career options may initially seem very challenging, there are often telltale signs that indicate you might not have the interest, skills or temperament to succeed as a manager.
To help you make this critical decision (and avoid suffering a major career setback), here are a few ways to recognize that a tech-management job isn’t the right fit for you.
You Hate Meetings…
If you hate spending your days in back-to-back meetings, and your nights responding to emails and returning phone calls, you’re not alone.
“The problem is, if you really don’t enjoy speaking to people or listening to them more than is absolutely necessary, you probably won’t like being a manager,” noted Camille Fournier, managing director of Two Sigma and speaker on tech leadership topics.
According to the Project Management Institute, project managers spend 90 percent of their time communicating, while other types of leaders devote 70 to 80 percent of their workdays to communications. If communicating isn’t your thing, being a manager probably isn’t for you.
You’re Really Not a People Person…
You don’t necessarily need to be good at reading people to score your first management job, but having a high “EQ” sure helps.
“You’ll need to be seriously committed to raising your emotional intelligence (EQ) if you’re not a strong ‘people person,’” Fournier advised.
EQ is defined as the learned ability to recognize and understand what others are experiencing emotionally. It’s also the ability to manage your own emotions in ways that relieve stress, create empathy, facilitate communications and defuse conflict.
If you’re not passionate about developing your EQ, or are hopelessly introverted or struggle to get along with others, you might be better suited for a technical track or senior engineering role.
You Struggle When Navigating Gray Areas…
If you dislike ambiguity or are uncomfortable navigating gray areas, think twice before venturing outside your comfort zone.
There is no right or wrong answer to a lot of the problems you’ll encounter as a tech manager, and uncertainty can often fuel anxiety. Matrix organizational structures, multi-channel customers and competing interests—these all create thorny issues that are difficult to “solve.”
Whereas your former job might have been based on logic and best practices, you’ll have to listen, observe, consult and consider several scenarios before selecting the best possible solution if you become a tech manager.
You Have a Need to be Liked…
If you don’t like dealing with conflict, enforcing rules, or making tough decisions that may be unpopular, then you won’t be effective as a manager. “Management is not a popularity contest,” warned John McKee, a management and business coach and CEO of John McKee and Associates.
You Think Management is Easy…
Some tech pros move into management because it pays more and they think they can outperform their current manager. While it may look easy from the bench, being an effective manager is a lot harder than it seems, McKee noted.
For instance, decisions on projects, priorities, budgets or personnel assignments may be influenced by upper management. Plus, you’ll have to deal with office politics, staffing issues, pressure to perform and limited authority – all of which may impact your ability to get things done.
Worse, a recent study shows that companies do a poor job of preparing managers, with 87 percent saying that they wished they had some form of training before being thrust into their roles.
You’re Consumed with the Technical Details…
While having a technical background can help you understand the problems that project teams face, and make better decisions, managers who immerse themselves in technical detail often have trouble mastering their other responsibilities and fail to see the big picture.
As a manager, you’ll be required to set aside time for strategic activities, administrative tasks, hiring and relationship building. If you like digging into code and algorithms, don’t rush to accept a management job right away.
“Don’t let yourself get pressured into accepting a management role or become enamored with the title or money,” McKee said. “Bounce it off of some people and consider the impact on your professional, financial and personal lives.”