So You Want to be a Manager: Part One – Bad, Maybe, Good

(See SYWTBAM: Prelude)

So you’re a software engineer now, and you think you want to be a manager, huh? Bully for you. Let’s figure out why.

Bad Reasons

  • I want more money/a fancier title/a promotion. If you’re working in an engineering organization where the only way you can see career progress is to move into management, get out of that organization. Organizations that value engineers provide them technical career paths – multiple engineering levels/compensation brackets, technical architecture or advisory roles, etc. They also provide opportunities outside of engineering if you want to grow other skills – product or project management, for example. If your organization doesn’t promote engineers (consistently, not theoretically), it doesn’t value them or doesn’t understand them. Find something else.
  • The code/design/whatever would be better if I was in charge. Yes, you’re 1337, I get it – you really are a better engineer than your peers (they see it too), but they don’t do things your way, and things would be better/faster/cleaner if I could tell them what to do.

    If this sounds like you, then management isn’t the right role – a good software manager doesn’t dictate technical direction to a series of monkeys, or keep their innovation box so small that they go somewhere else. You need to find ways to increase your influence over technical direction – mentoring, discussions, examples – by skills, not dictate.

  • My manager stinks and I could do a better job. Maybe so, but even if your management chain agrees, this is a blinking red light. You have no management experience, you’re going to move from being a peer to a manager, and you don’t have a good role model or someone who can help prepare you? Tough gig.

 Maybe Reasons

  • I don’t want to program anymore. Here it’s the “because” that matters. You want to learn new things or have more influence on product direction? Great. You’re tired of the drudgery of debugging and are sure that management has no such busy work? Not so good.
  • I’m ready to increase my sphere of influence. You’ve nailed your current job – everybody tells you that, too – and you’re ready to take on a bigger piece. That’s great – what you need to know now is if the best way to do that is through management. This means understanding your organization in more detail (we’ll talk about that more later), but for today, you should be thinking about who the influencers and connectors are, and if most of them are in management.

Good Reasons

  • I’m motivated to lead a great team. Three parts here: “motivated” – excited about and ready to work to new challenges and required skills; “lead” – your team will depend on you to set direction and give guidance, and you’ll be responsible for a larger goal; “great team” – ready to mentor, hire, and build relationships between great individuals to make a strong unit.

… and that’s pretty much it. The good reason is a prerequisite – if you don’t buy into all three parts, either you’re not ready for management or the management jobs you’re seeing aren’t quite right.

Did I miss something? Other reasons that come to mind?

(Breaking Blogger Rule #X – posting late Friday afternoon. Aah well.)


One Response to “So You Want to be a Manager: Part One – Bad, Maybe, Good”

  1. So You Want to Be A Manager: Part Two - The First Management Job « ScottRu Says:

    […] You Want to Be A Manager: Part Two – The First Management Job (See SYWTBAM: Part One – Good/Maybe/Bad Reasons, […]

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