While an IT career can be very fulfilling, it may become a dead end, depending on your career aspirations. There may come a time when you will have to take a serious look at the possibility of moving into management.
Why? You may feel that you have hit a glass ceiling. You may think you can do a better job than some managers you’ve worked for. Maybe someone has come to you, offering you the opportunity to move into management.
Is a management role right for you?
Being a supervisor or manager requires very different skill sets than being a programmer or developer. Some of the questions you should ask yourself before making the move:
- How comfortable am I in directing the work of others and dealing with conflicts?
- How skillful am I at influencing others to do the tasks required to achieve a goal?
- Do I feel confident about standing in front of a group and presenting results/findings?
- Would I be interested in doing high-level report preparation instead of the hands-on activity I performed in the past?
In short, can you be a people person? And what you used to call a paper pusher? Some IT veterans may find it hard to change their focus.
On the other hand, try to imagine a professional with a non-technical background becoming an IT manager. This person may already have the soft skills mentioned above, but how easy would it be for him or her to grasp the technicalities of your department? It takes several years to build a solid technical foundation, whereas the managerial skills can be implemented more quickly, with experience.
Furthermore, as a technical person moving into management, your can effectively bridge the gap between those involved in the business aspect of the company and those holding down the IT jobs.
So are you ready to make the leap?
Here are some tips to help ease the transition:
- Get a mentor Look for a mentor who has been in your position for a few years. These people have learned the ropes but are still close enough to the transition to remember what it was like.
- Go to training Attend management and team leadership training on topics such as effective team leadership, conflict resolution, negotiation skills, and helping others succeed.
- Get to know your team Even if you’ve worked with these people for years, get to know them better. Meet with each person one-on-one to discuss their career aspirations, their likes, what they are currently working on, what they’d like to work on, and what they expect from you.
- Improve your time management skills As a manager, you’ll be pulled in many different directions. Develop your time management skills to balance the increased load.
- Find a way to keep your technical skills sharp As you become more involved in managing, you will have less exposure to the activities that keep your technical skills up to date. Look for ways to stay involved on the technical side, like taking on a minor project aligned with your team’s goal. Keep it small so as not to overload yourself.
- Be humble You are in a new situation where you are bound to make a few mistakes. Take them in stride and learn from them.
- Learn to let go You may feel the urge to jump in and help your team with every issue. Don’t micromanage. Sit back, let your people do their jobs as long as they are performing them effectively, and interfere only when you absolutely have to.
Moving into management requires proficiency in a whole new skill set. Your job is now about people and how they work, instead of computers and how they work. If you can learn and master these new skills, you can become just effective in management as you were in your previous position.