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Moving into IT management

By DHinIT ·
I?ve been in IT for several years and would like to move to the management side of the house. My problem is that my spouse is on active duty in the USAF and we move every few years. Just about the time I start to stand out ? we PCS to a new assignment. I earned my MBA from Arizona State in 1998 and have never had it out of the box ? as it were. At that time we moved to Germany for a 3-year tour and a new MBA with little recent business experience was a hard sell, so I reverted to IT there and fell into it yet again at the next assignment. Now we have moved once more (this is likely the last time) and I?ve landed a good IT job working for a government contractor that provides specialized IT solutions to the military. My initial review is coming up this month and I want to let management know that I have aspirations above the IT staff level. Through the years, I?ve owned my own business, owned a non-personal services company for the government, been IT Department Chair at a small business college, et al. My background is broad and deep (I?m not THAT old) and I would like to parlay that fact into a new career direction ? specifically departmental, network security, or project management. I know I will need to improve my skill set (current is MBA, BA, AA, MCSA, CCNA, MCDST, A+, CWP, and CWA [Web certs]), but I don?t want to put the cart before the horse, so to speak. Does anyone have advice or ideas on the best way to approach management without shooting myself in the foot?

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Government Contracting

by BFilmFan In reply to Moving into IT management

Frankly, government contracting is probably your best shot.

And most management positions are looking for some stability. They aren't going to want a manager that is going to move in a few years, even if that is the nature of the business anyway.

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Tread carefully

by Golfloon In reply to Moving into IT management

An MBA can be a double edged sword. Many senior managers and board directors feel uncomfortable having someone who can critically and credibly appraise their strategic decisions. Don't mention it just use the skills you've learned.

You say you want to move into departmental, network security or project management. Obviously you need to do some research into what skills sets are required for these as each one is different. I am a departmental manager and the skills I have are to understand my departments role and deliverables and manage a team and the processes necessary to deliver those within budget, A network Security Manager is a technical specialist who may or may not work on his own and a project manager is someone who is brought in to manage a project or projects, he may manage people or suppliers and will not take a technical part in the delivery he will also have a very high level of people skills particularly for change management projects.

Lots of people see management as there next logical step but my advice would be seriously question your motives. Do you want to be non technical? Do you want the hassle of managing people? Do you want the aggro of managing customers expectations? Do you want the fruastration of being asked to deliver something with half the budget you asked for?

Whilst I enjoy my job management is not for everyone. I have worked with many very good technologists who went down the management route and have either regretted it or had to retrain to go back to being a technologist.

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Manage this project and see how well you do

by DC Guy In reply to Moving into IT management

If you came to me and asked me to give you a management position, here's what I'd say.

First, I don't know you. I only promote people I know into management, I don't hire unknowns from outside. So you're going to have to pay your dues and work for me at a lower level, learning what it takes to be one of my managers and demonstrating that you have that.

Second, managers have strong people skills. That's a rare talent in IT so I screen my managers very carefully for their people skills. Too many people in IT get management positions as rewards instead of because they are right for the job. Again, I can only evaluate your people skills by working with you. But you can tell me something about your attitudes and your accomplishments to get a head start.

Third, my IT managers have to understand the business we're in. I don't take propeller beanies off of geek heads and replace them with manager hats, I want people who understand our end users. You have an MBA, that's a good start. Yet thousands of geeks get MBAs and it doesn't turn them into businesspeople. You have to prove to me that you have the temperament and desire to be a manager and work with people, business, and non-technical abstractions, rather than burying yourself in technology. Again, you have to work your way up through this, learning about my company's business and corporate culture.

Finally, your management style and my management style have to be compatible. Not identical, because there is strength in diversity. But we have to be able to relate to each other and be comfortable with each other's decisions and approach to problem solving. Again, I learn this by working with you.

If you'd already been a manager we could short-cut a lot of this by reviewing the ups and downs of your management career. But you have to start somewhere first. It's true that you have to already be a manager for somebody to hire you as a manager, but as you've already found out, life isn't fair.

You're going to have to settle in one place and one job long enough to be evaluated, given a promotion, and be successful in a management position, before you have the luxury of making another move.

You've made the decision to marry someone who doesn't stay in one place very long and also the decision to put your career subordinate to theirs in importance. You're not willing to stay in one place and pursue your own goals while you let them go off and pursue theirs, get together on holidays, and look forward to the day when your lives once again intersect. It's wonderful that you're this committed to your marriage, but you have to accept the reality that it's more important to you than your career and that is one of the biggest red flags on earth to a hiring manager. I don't expect my people to work weekends and dedicate their lives to me, but I surely don't want them handing in a resignation because of a decision their spouse's boss made. That's a couple of degrees of separation too many for me to be comfortable.

If this really is going to be the last time you're forced to relocate, then you just have to be patient, show your next boss that you're management material, and put in the requisite amount of time for them to take a chance on promoting you. You'll have to be tolerant if that boss takes a look at your record, sees that you've been hopping around from country to country, understands why, and doesn't share your optimism about this being the last move. It might take you longer to get that promotion than it would for someone who has been staying more or less in one place like the rest of us.

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IT Management and Govt Contractors

by mckinnej In reply to Moving into IT management

What you would plan to do is a start, but it isn't a guarantee of anything. Govt contracts are based on the work that the govt needs/wants done. This involves building a proposal where people with certain skill sets are boxed into positions defined in the contract. I used "boxed" for a reason. They are trapped in that position pretty much for the life of the contract. There isn't much upward mobility in the life of a contractor. You're stuck with the job you have unless you can smooze your way into a Site Lead or even Program Manager role. Both are difficult to achieve though.
Your chances of becoming a Site Lead are better when the contract is recompeted and a new company wins. Typically the old management is shown the door while the workers are retained. (Big RED FLAG there. Being a manager in govt contracting can be volatile work. You might find yourself relocating nearly as much as you did with the USAF if you want to stay with the company.) Seniority, your reputation, and your rolodex will go a long way toward successfully landing one of these jobs.
The Program Manager realm is tougher to break into. Most of those jobs are held by former colonels. They pretty much only hire their buddies or other colonels. You would have to bank several years of great performance and smoozing to land one of these jobs, but it can be done.
I know exactly what you're dealing with because my situation is similar. I retired from the USAF with an impressive resume, yet I have been struggling to land a job that fits my skills and goals. I too have been working on a project management certification, but I think experience is more important. Along that line I've asked my Program Manager to let me help in the development of any new proposals. The experience and capturing new business should be powerful bullets to bolster my resume and groom myself for a management role.
One poster mentioned that managers feel threatened by your MBA. That is somewhat true. A hiring manager might think twice about hiring someone that just might get promoted ahead of him/her. I've even left my MBA off of my resume in a few instances where I was certain that I was more qualified for the boss' job than the boss was. That's generally a bad idea though and I don't do it anymore.
My recommendation is to look companies that aren't spooked by MBAs or better yet prefer them. Booz Allen quickly pops to mind.

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