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Stay a Techie or move to Management?

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Stay a Techie or move to Management?

Listen65
I am interested in hearing the views of fellow techies and managers.

An opportunity is arising for me to move into a manager role. It would be managing the UNIX team supporting multiple clients. On the face of it, it seems to me to be a natural career progression and of course I would earn more $$. I believe I have the abilities and I would engage with the new challenges.

What concerns me though is that this would be purely management and very little techie work. I would be loosing my UNIX techie skills over time

My questions are:

Is one more employable as a UNIX engineer than a UNIX manager? Can one always move back to being a techie from manager? (would they have to move a few rungs down the ladder)

I get the impression that there are more work opportunities as an Engineer than as a manager. I wonder is this true?. Do you also think it is true that the earning ability of an engineer is just as good as the earning ability of a UNIX team manager?

Any views are welcome.
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    debuggist Staff

    Like everyone you're asking yourself what do you want to be?

    If you don't go too far up the management ladder, I think you can move back to engineering. As an manager, you'll probably still have opportunities to keep your engineering skills from atrophying.

    Management will broaden your skills into areas that you would never encounter as an engineer. You'll have a better idea of how the business works and understand how finance, marketing, sales, et. al. work with IT to power the business.

    If you can combine technical depth as an engineer and business breadth as a manager, then you will have no problem finding a job. Those kinds of employees are in short supply everywhere.

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    qamar.rizvi

    I suggest to stay techie. Management brings more stress and responsibility with limited potenital of further profrssional growth. As a techie you continue to learn and experiment new technologies and have little to no fear of loosing your marketability. This is also true that you have potential to make more money as a techie than a manager. I have hired many techies for more salary than mine, and if you ever decide to go for consulting jobs then there is no match in earnings potentail compare to management.

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    0 Votes
    qamar.rizvi

    I suggest to stay techie. Management brings more stress and responsibility with limited potenital of further profrssional growth. As a techie you continue to learn and experiment new technologies and have little to no fear of loosing your marketability. This is also true that you have potential to make more money as a techie than a manager. I have hired many techies for more salary than mine, and if you ever decide to go for consulting jobs then there is no match in earnings potentail compare to management. I switched back from Database Manager to DBA and making more money and feel more power and job security...

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    kristinafh

    Management is usually an entirely different ball of wax. So many times, technical folks make the leap into management because of the $$$.

    You talked about this being a natural career progression - but what I didn't see is - what really motivates you?

    There are differing motivational factors when your a manager vs. a technician. For instance, as a manager, one of your factors is the development of people on your team. As a technician, it's probably solving an issue. In both circumstances, you can make a difference but each draws upon a different area of you.

    Kristina

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    0 Votes
    kristinafh

    Management is usually an entirely different ball of wax. So many times, technical folks make the leap into management because of the $$$.

    You talked about this being a natural career progression - but what I didn't see is - what really motivates you?

    There are differing motivational factors when your a manager vs. a technician. For instance, as a manager, one of your factors is the development of people on your team. As a technician, it's probably solving an issue. In both circumstances, you can make a difference but each draws upon a different area of you.

    Kristina

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    0 Votes
    rhomp2002

    Just hope that the management position is a stable one.

    Many years ago I went to work for a hospital. The man who was second in line in the department had been a techie and move to management. A couple of years later he was released when the hospital had a reorganization. Since his tech skills were no longer needed and there were no management jobs available at the time he spent 3 years doing all kinds of other things while the market changed so he could get back into the field again.

    If the management position is stable and the market for other positions like it are good, then if you like management go for it. I always wanted the combination of management and tech so that I could be covered either way myself but that was just the way I was.

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    Ashby

    Hi,
    I guess we all come to this decision point in our careers. You really need to be sure what your long term objectives are. If you choose management, how far do you want to go? It's a long and winding road.

    One piece in your post gives me cause for concern - "On the face of it, it seems to me to be a natural career progression..." - it isn't - they are different roles, with different goals and rewards (not money - that's incidental, as another poster said).

    I moved to first line supervision once, on the same misguided idea - it was a miserable time.

    I'm assuming, by the way, that you mean managing people, as opposed to managing projects?

    In my experience, techies tend to be somewhat autonomous, getting their job satisfaction from their own efforts and solving challenges by their own expertise. The question you have to ask yourself is can you get the same satisfaction from the achievements of others under your guidance? If the answer is no, stay techie. If you believe the answer is yes, then go for it and try management.

    You might want to try project management first, that will give you an idea of half the job - work direction of others. But remember, they are individuals as well - they won't necessarily do things the way you would have done. Providing the task is completed satisfactorily, that doesn't matter but it can sometimes be frustrating.

    The other half of the management job is the administration- budgets, job appraisals, salaries, reports, etc. Be sure you can adapt to these.

    Most techies (gross overstatement based on subjective voew) don't make good managers, in the same way salesmen don't - it's the autonomy thing. But that isn't to say they can't. One of the best managers I've known was a former techie who became a manager because he wanted to manage, not because "On the face of it, it seems to me to be a natural career progression...".

    So my advice to you is to think very carefully what you want to do. Job interest is the overriding factor. If that comes from technical achievement, stay techie, if it comes from a desire to manage, go for it and good luck in your management career.

    Oh, and in case you were wondering, I resolved my supervisory problem by joining an IT company, where I reached a very senior level in technical product management!

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    0 Votes
    Observant

    There will always be several opinions on this decision as is beginning to be represented here. One of the things I agree with is that it is NOT a natural career progression. From your post, you are very articulate (better than many in these discussion boards and I read quite a few). This is a good thing for a manager. Many times I read posts from individuals that may seem very knowledgeable but they get into sloppy writing and it ruins their credibility with me on so many levels. Then the discussions go off on rabbit trails which again tells me that some are not destined for management.

    So, for you Listen65, I refer back to the title of the reply. A lot depends on you. As a techy, I'm sure you are very good at what you do. Do not take offense but this usually (not always) means you are a good tech but will rarely make a good manager. Some techs can make the transition but as has been stated, management gets involved in so many things like budget (especially as how it aligns with the corporate strategy versus locally within the department).

    Can you, as a manager, delegate tasks to less qualified techs? ... And step back to let them actually do the job even though you could do it quicker? Can you, as a manager, fire somebody without putting the company at risk from some silly HR related faux pax? Can you, as a manager, present fairness (as opposed to favoritizm) when relating to employees? Will you, as a manager, be willing to go to bat against upper management in defense of your team even if it means getting the left cheek bitten off?

    These questions, and others like them, are the type of things managers face on a daily basis. One must truely answer them from a deeply thought out mind set. It's easy to say "yep" and move on but picture in your mind that you've delegated a task to an individual and they failed. Now your boss is on you like a diaper. Can you accept the responsibility for the actions of your workers, bit the bullet, and tactfully get the job done? You may have to go back to the worker with hat in one hand, the other on your sore rump, and coach the employee on doing the task the right way.

    A true leader will subscribe to this philosophy: "When things go right, my team made it happen, but when things go sour, it's my fault."

    In some industries, the manager will actually make less than their employees so it may not end up being money as the motivating factor. However, everyone is always looking for a good leader and the job opportunities are fewer within management versus the worker bees.

    Let me close for now with this: Can you deal with personality issues that clash, cultural issues that conflict, scheduling problems, family emergencies for every possible thing under the sun, bad attitudes, bad hair days, vendor screw-ups, etc. and yet still somehow motivate your workers to show up and complete the tasks correctly and on time? Trust me, your upper management will not want to hear anything but "we got it done on time and on budget" The rest, you, as a manager, have to just swallow and keep working.

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    zlitocook

    Do you mind being the person who is responsible for every thing your team dose? Even if it means you have to stay late, allot? Can you reprimand a friend or sit them down and tell them ether they start working harder or look for another job?
    Not trying to dissuade you but there are allot of hard things to look at when you want to move up.
    Yes there are great perks when you are a manager, director or what ever. But think about how you would be at that job and ask allot of questions before you take it.
    I was a manager for a year, I was over 60 people, and a lead tech. for two years. Now I am IT manager but the only person here for now! I just yell at myself. :)

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    aventer

    I can't comment on pay for the 2 roles. All I can say is that I have not seen any examples of people going back to technical - mostly due to the better pay. It's a non-return, so make sure you can work with people. If you can you should be successful (obviously applying all the common-sense management principles). Over time your management skills will be more valuable to the company (& your career) than the technical skills.
    ITManager

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    0 Votes
    kcikowski

    I was a techie for over 5 years. Made the transition to manager. Only lasted for 1 yr. and 10 months. For me it was a totally different ball game. I really missed the hands on and absolutely hated sitting in countless unproductive meetings. It also really sucked to ultimately be responsible for your entire departments mistakes and shortcomings. I went back to being a techie and have never been happier. For me the pay increase wasn't worth the hassles of being management.

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    0 Votes
    rhomp2002

    In my case I decided that I needed to balance my liking for the techie parts of the job and the managing parts. I was lucky enough to get a job that was in between and have a staff that really worked together.

    I was able to go high enough in management to make a difference in what went on and still maintain the more interesting part of the job. My staff and I worked together and I also made sure that everyone was involved in what went on. By listening to their ideas and balancing them against mine I got a happy medium that, I think, satisfied all of us and yet the business benefited from the fact that if anything happened to one of us the others could keep things moving along the same path. That was an ideal situation and it worked well, but only because I had the right staff. If I had been stuck with a prima donna, it would have been a disaster.

    As a result given the choice of staying a techie or going into pure management, I would stay a techie. Given my situation at the time with the right group, I would have considered moving up but only with that group.

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    0 Votes
    rhomp2002

    So much of the problem I had with the management was that they did not grow the tech side of the job at all. They lost sight of the fact that times change, jobs change, skills required change and the management did not. I have lost count of the number of times I really really really wanted to tell off the manager who thought he knew the skills required and made decisions based on that even after all of us who did keep up with the tech part talked to him about what was wrong with his decision. I ended up being stuck a year later having to make up for his bad decision in half the time I would have had if he had listened in the first place. After spending months working 12-14 hour days making things work so the schedule could be met (and for other reasons the original schedule was required - outside orgs were changing methods and we had to meet them) and all because a manager who thought he knew the business and did not need to listen to us, I finally left the company. If you can mesh your tech skills and gain the management skills, then go ahead but if not, forget it unless you have a lot more patience that I did.

  • +
    0 Votes
    debuggist Staff

    Like everyone you're asking yourself what do you want to be?

    If you don't go too far up the management ladder, I think you can move back to engineering. As an manager, you'll probably still have opportunities to keep your engineering skills from atrophying.

    Management will broaden your skills into areas that you would never encounter as an engineer. You'll have a better idea of how the business works and understand how finance, marketing, sales, et. al. work with IT to power the business.

    If you can combine technical depth as an engineer and business breadth as a manager, then you will have no problem finding a job. Those kinds of employees are in short supply everywhere.

    +
    0 Votes
    qamar.rizvi

    I suggest to stay techie. Management brings more stress and responsibility with limited potenital of further profrssional growth. As a techie you continue to learn and experiment new technologies and have little to no fear of loosing your marketability. This is also true that you have potential to make more money as a techie than a manager. I have hired many techies for more salary than mine, and if you ever decide to go for consulting jobs then there is no match in earnings potentail compare to management.

    +
    0 Votes
    qamar.rizvi

    I suggest to stay techie. Management brings more stress and responsibility with limited potenital of further profrssional growth. As a techie you continue to learn and experiment new technologies and have little to no fear of loosing your marketability. This is also true that you have potential to make more money as a techie than a manager. I have hired many techies for more salary than mine, and if you ever decide to go for consulting jobs then there is no match in earnings potentail compare to management. I switched back from Database Manager to DBA and making more money and feel more power and job security...

    +
    0 Votes
    kristinafh

    Management is usually an entirely different ball of wax. So many times, technical folks make the leap into management because of the $$$.

    You talked about this being a natural career progression - but what I didn't see is - what really motivates you?

    There are differing motivational factors when your a manager vs. a technician. For instance, as a manager, one of your factors is the development of people on your team. As a technician, it's probably solving an issue. In both circumstances, you can make a difference but each draws upon a different area of you.

    Kristina

    +
    0 Votes
    kristinafh

    Management is usually an entirely different ball of wax. So many times, technical folks make the leap into management because of the $$$.

    You talked about this being a natural career progression - but what I didn't see is - what really motivates you?

    There are differing motivational factors when your a manager vs. a technician. For instance, as a manager, one of your factors is the development of people on your team. As a technician, it's probably solving an issue. In both circumstances, you can make a difference but each draws upon a different area of you.

    Kristina

    +
    0 Votes
    rhomp2002

    Just hope that the management position is a stable one.

    Many years ago I went to work for a hospital. The man who was second in line in the department had been a techie and move to management. A couple of years later he was released when the hospital had a reorganization. Since his tech skills were no longer needed and there were no management jobs available at the time he spent 3 years doing all kinds of other things while the market changed so he could get back into the field again.

    If the management position is stable and the market for other positions like it are good, then if you like management go for it. I always wanted the combination of management and tech so that I could be covered either way myself but that was just the way I was.

    +
    0 Votes
    Ashby

    Hi,
    I guess we all come to this decision point in our careers. You really need to be sure what your long term objectives are. If you choose management, how far do you want to go? It's a long and winding road.

    One piece in your post gives me cause for concern - "On the face of it, it seems to me to be a natural career progression..." - it isn't - they are different roles, with different goals and rewards (not money - that's incidental, as another poster said).

    I moved to first line supervision once, on the same misguided idea - it was a miserable time.

    I'm assuming, by the way, that you mean managing people, as opposed to managing projects?

    In my experience, techies tend to be somewhat autonomous, getting their job satisfaction from their own efforts and solving challenges by their own expertise. The question you have to ask yourself is can you get the same satisfaction from the achievements of others under your guidance? If the answer is no, stay techie. If you believe the answer is yes, then go for it and try management.

    You might want to try project management first, that will give you an idea of half the job - work direction of others. But remember, they are individuals as well - they won't necessarily do things the way you would have done. Providing the task is completed satisfactorily, that doesn't matter but it can sometimes be frustrating.

    The other half of the management job is the administration- budgets, job appraisals, salaries, reports, etc. Be sure you can adapt to these.

    Most techies (gross overstatement based on subjective voew) don't make good managers, in the same way salesmen don't - it's the autonomy thing. But that isn't to say they can't. One of the best managers I've known was a former techie who became a manager because he wanted to manage, not because "On the face of it, it seems to me to be a natural career progression...".

    So my advice to you is to think very carefully what you want to do. Job interest is the overriding factor. If that comes from technical achievement, stay techie, if it comes from a desire to manage, go for it and good luck in your management career.

    Oh, and in case you were wondering, I resolved my supervisory problem by joining an IT company, where I reached a very senior level in technical product management!

    +
    0 Votes
    Observant

    There will always be several opinions on this decision as is beginning to be represented here. One of the things I agree with is that it is NOT a natural career progression. From your post, you are very articulate (better than many in these discussion boards and I read quite a few). This is a good thing for a manager. Many times I read posts from individuals that may seem very knowledgeable but they get into sloppy writing and it ruins their credibility with me on so many levels. Then the discussions go off on rabbit trails which again tells me that some are not destined for management.

    So, for you Listen65, I refer back to the title of the reply. A lot depends on you. As a techy, I'm sure you are very good at what you do. Do not take offense but this usually (not always) means you are a good tech but will rarely make a good manager. Some techs can make the transition but as has been stated, management gets involved in so many things like budget (especially as how it aligns with the corporate strategy versus locally within the department).

    Can you, as a manager, delegate tasks to less qualified techs? ... And step back to let them actually do the job even though you could do it quicker? Can you, as a manager, fire somebody without putting the company at risk from some silly HR related faux pax? Can you, as a manager, present fairness (as opposed to favoritizm) when relating to employees? Will you, as a manager, be willing to go to bat against upper management in defense of your team even if it means getting the left cheek bitten off?

    These questions, and others like them, are the type of things managers face on a daily basis. One must truely answer them from a deeply thought out mind set. It's easy to say "yep" and move on but picture in your mind that you've delegated a task to an individual and they failed. Now your boss is on you like a diaper. Can you accept the responsibility for the actions of your workers, bit the bullet, and tactfully get the job done? You may have to go back to the worker with hat in one hand, the other on your sore rump, and coach the employee on doing the task the right way.

    A true leader will subscribe to this philosophy: "When things go right, my team made it happen, but when things go sour, it's my fault."

    In some industries, the manager will actually make less than their employees so it may not end up being money as the motivating factor. However, everyone is always looking for a good leader and the job opportunities are fewer within management versus the worker bees.

    Let me close for now with this: Can you deal with personality issues that clash, cultural issues that conflict, scheduling problems, family emergencies for every possible thing under the sun, bad attitudes, bad hair days, vendor screw-ups, etc. and yet still somehow motivate your workers to show up and complete the tasks correctly and on time? Trust me, your upper management will not want to hear anything but "we got it done on time and on budget" The rest, you, as a manager, have to just swallow and keep working.

    +
    0 Votes
    zlitocook

    Do you mind being the person who is responsible for every thing your team dose? Even if it means you have to stay late, allot? Can you reprimand a friend or sit them down and tell them ether they start working harder or look for another job?
    Not trying to dissuade you but there are allot of hard things to look at when you want to move up.
    Yes there are great perks when you are a manager, director or what ever. But think about how you would be at that job and ask allot of questions before you take it.
    I was a manager for a year, I was over 60 people, and a lead tech. for two years. Now I am IT manager but the only person here for now! I just yell at myself. :)

    +
    0 Votes
    aventer

    I can't comment on pay for the 2 roles. All I can say is that I have not seen any examples of people going back to technical - mostly due to the better pay. It's a non-return, so make sure you can work with people. If you can you should be successful (obviously applying all the common-sense management principles). Over time your management skills will be more valuable to the company (& your career) than the technical skills.
    ITManager

    +
    0 Votes
    kcikowski

    I was a techie for over 5 years. Made the transition to manager. Only lasted for 1 yr. and 10 months. For me it was a totally different ball game. I really missed the hands on and absolutely hated sitting in countless unproductive meetings. It also really sucked to ultimately be responsible for your entire departments mistakes and shortcomings. I went back to being a techie and have never been happier. For me the pay increase wasn't worth the hassles of being management.

    +
    0 Votes
    rhomp2002

    In my case I decided that I needed to balance my liking for the techie parts of the job and the managing parts. I was lucky enough to get a job that was in between and have a staff that really worked together.

    I was able to go high enough in management to make a difference in what went on and still maintain the more interesting part of the job. My staff and I worked together and I also made sure that everyone was involved in what went on. By listening to their ideas and balancing them against mine I got a happy medium that, I think, satisfied all of us and yet the business benefited from the fact that if anything happened to one of us the others could keep things moving along the same path. That was an ideal situation and it worked well, but only because I had the right staff. If I had been stuck with a prima donna, it would have been a disaster.

    As a result given the choice of staying a techie or going into pure management, I would stay a techie. Given my situation at the time with the right group, I would have considered moving up but only with that group.

    +
    0 Votes
    rhomp2002

    So much of the problem I had with the management was that they did not grow the tech side of the job at all. They lost sight of the fact that times change, jobs change, skills required change and the management did not. I have lost count of the number of times I really really really wanted to tell off the manager who thought he knew the skills required and made decisions based on that even after all of us who did keep up with the tech part talked to him about what was wrong with his decision. I ended up being stuck a year later having to make up for his bad decision in half the time I would have had if he had listened in the first place. After spending months working 12-14 hour days making things work so the schedule could be met (and for other reasons the original schedule was required - outside orgs were changing methods and we had to meet them) and all because a manager who thought he knew the business and did not need to listen to us, I finally left the company. If you can mesh your tech skills and gain the management skills, then go ahead but if not, forget it unless you have a lot more patience that I did.