Some tech pros are ambivalent about becoming managers. Sure, management responsibilities often come with more money, and having responsibility over a cool project is fun. But oftentimes, management features its share of hardships—teams aren’t always easy to handle, and you have to deal with things like budgets (not fun!).
For those who pursue the management track, though, the moneyispretty good, according to the Dice Salary Survey. The average salary for high-level tech management (i.e., CEO, CIO, CTO, VP, etc.) is $142,063 per year. Product managers, who often have to deal with teams, can pull down $114,174 annually—just ahead of project managers at $110,925.
These high salaries are often a side effect of managers’ many years of experience in the tech industry; for example, all tech pros with between 11-15 years under their belts earn an average of $96,421. That’s right when many slot into management, career-wise, if they’re inclined to jump onto that particular track.
Or to look at things another way, here’s a breakdown of average salaries by responsibility:
Of course, not every tech pro wants to end up in a management role, and that’s okay. Some people simply don’t want to deal with people every day; others would like to focus exclusively on coding or building products.
But for those who want to pursue a management course, there’s one thing they need to master: soft skills. Good managers know how to communicate, collaborate, and delegate as needed. And fortunately, those are the kinds of skills that anyone can master, given enough time. Find a mentor who can guide you through decisions and how to best interact with colleagues; at the very least, this mentor should give you the opportunity to observe interactions with other teams and stakeholders, if not participate yourself.
The key to many soft skills is communication. Managers spend a lot of their time trying to effectively communicate (often complex) ideas to stakeholders who don’t necessarily know anything about technology. Practice breaking down concepts into simple, straightforward language; take the time to listen to others’ questions, and figure out how to respond in helpful ways.
Soft skills, when combined with tech know-how, can make you a powerful manager. If you take on a middle-management role and succeed, you can use those successes in order to climb the ladder higher and higher. Being a CTO might not be your ultimate dream, but for many tech pros, a seat in the C-suite is a life goal.