If you’re looking to move into IT management, be sure you evaluate both the upsides and any potential downsides. Here are some questions to help you determine whether this is the right path to pursue.
In 2014, CareerBuilder conducted a survey and found that more than one-third of employees had no aspirations to become a manager. Reasons varied, but high on the list were concern about long hours, the inability to work and fulfill family responsibilities at the same time, and a general dislike for conflict management, which inevitably occurs whenever people are involved.
Still, companies (and the way they construct career paths) are skewed toward rewarding those who climb management ladders more than rewarding accomplished technical experts. Because of this, many employees in IT decide to pursue a career in management.
But is management right for you?
Here are five questions that IT professionals aspiring to become managers should ask themselves.
1. Can you give up being a techie?
Unless you’re operating in a two-person shop, you’ll have to give up configuring servers and networks or coding applications if you become an IT manager. You’ll be asked to do many more things, such as managing people and projects, negotiating budgets, and mediating conflicts. For a long time before I chose to go into IT management, I kept trying to place myself in positions where I could build my application development skills—but every time I landed an app developer role, I got pulled off the assignment to manage a project. I finally gave up trying to develop apps as a career.
2. How comfortable are you with difficult people?
You’ll encounter many kinds of personalities as a manager. Among the most difficult will be peers you went out to lunch with who are suddenly your subordinates. Newly minted managers have lost friendships over this, because it is difficult for peers to suddenly accept subordinate roles. Other people challenges involve overdeveloped egos of technical gurus who don’t want to take orders from a “pencil pusher” who is “practicing his buzzwords in his office.” In still other cases, you may run into powerful end-user managers who want projects done their way, even though their way will make projects fail. Then, there is the “good person” who tries and tries but just can’t do the job. You’ll be faced with having to reassign or fire them. All of these are challenging people issues that managers face.
3. How will you keep up with technology?
Even if IT management takes you away from the day-to-day business of configuring networks or developing apps, you still have to find ways to keep up with technology so you can be in a position to evaluate project progress and have meaningful conversations with your most technical staff members.
I once worked for an IT director who refused to get out of his office and really examine what was happening in a major project. The project manager was telling him that all tasks were complete and on schedule, but they weren’t. As staff members, we finally went to the director and told him that the project was in trouble. By then, it was too late. The director lost his job and most of our staff were let go, too.
4. Can you take the heat and the hours?
All projects develop snags. When they do, it is up to the management to work late and get them resolved. The onus is placed on the manager. Be prepared to take the heat from your end users—even if what has happened isn’t anything you could have known about. This accountability goes with the job of being a manager.
5. Will you get job satisfaction?
As a manager, you get more autonomy in your job and are also in line to receive raises and promotions. All of these contribute to job satisfaction but not everyone is satisfied with being a manager. A Harvard Business Review article said that that men were more satisfied with their management positions than women were. Some of the reasons were the glass ceiling and the subtle challenges to leadership legitimacy that women continue to experience in their organizations. As a woman CIO, I felt these challenges as well—but it didn’t stop me from wanting management. In the end, I realized that it was most important for me to feel I was doing the job I was best suited for. In my case, it was management. Ultimately, this is the decision all IT’ers who aspire to become managers must make: Is management the best way for you to express your individual talents and feel good about what you do?