Moving from Technical Lead to IT Manager

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Moving from the player/coach type role of Technical Lead into an IT Manager role moves you from technical leadership to a position of department stewardship and technical mentor.

Moving from the player/coach type role of Technical Lead into an IT Manager role moves you from technical leadership to a position of department stewardship and technical mentor. What I mean by this statement is that as a Technical Lead, you direct those working for/with you through your technical strength and competency by:
• Teaching technical skills to less experienced techies
• Designing application architectures that are then filled/built out under your supervision
• Defining and explaining variable, function, and file naming conventions and then instructing others to follow your design
• Evaluating and selecting software tools based on your intimate knowledge of the software being built and the tools being marketed.

This all changes when you move to an IT Manager role. Certainly you will have input into the tools selected, you may even be the ultimate decision maker on which tool is purchased, but as time passes you will no longer be the most technical person in the group. By accepting your promotion to IT Manager you have also passed the torch of “head techie” to your successor.

This fall from technical grace doesn’t happen overnight, it may take months or years. Over time, however, new technology trends appear, new versions of software are released, and the software tools you know and love are pushed aside by newer more innovative products. As the IT Manager, you dutifully send your Technical Leads and key programmers to classes to learn these new technologies while you are negotiating for additional training dollars with the Finance group so you can properly train your staff. They gain the new technical skills and you learn how to run an IT Department, manage a staff, craft a budget, give performance reviews, and perform other managerial duties.

When I was an individual contributor I thought that becoming a manager meant giving up my hard earned technical skills to simply tell people what to do and push papers around my desk. While I must admit that there is a little telling and pushing, what I didn’t realize is that I would slowly be trading off one skill set for another. As my hands-on technical skills became less current, my leadership and management skills increased. Should you decide to take the career plunge from Technical Lead to IT Manager, you, like all the techies turned managers before you, will most likely experience the simultaneous loss and growth.

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