Transitioning from Technologist to Manager

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Maker:S,Date:2017-10-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

FountainBlue’s March 9 When She Speaks event was on the topic of Transitioning from Technologist to Manager!  We were fortunate to have an experienced and passionate set of panelists speak to their technical and management experience. 

We were in agreement that the technologist-vs-manager choice is highly dependent on the circumstances – the type of project, team, role and company for example – as well as personal preference.

Our panelists advised us to know ourselves first – our strengths, our aspirations, our goals. From there, we can decide what you want to do and do it well, whether as a technologist or as a manager. 

It’s all about being credible, and having a solid reputation for delivering on projects, for being kind and helpful to others, and for being bold and hard-working. 

Once you have a track record and built your credibility, be open to the opportunities ahead, and invite the support of influential others. You can plan-fully do that, or it may just serendipitously happen for you, provided you have that solid track record for delivering on challenging projects. 

The caveat is that when you deliver on key projects, it’s important that the right people know that 1) YOU are achieving great results (so someone else doesn’t take credit for your work) and that 2) they know that you’re OPEN to more challenging and different opportunities, whether that be as a technologist or as a manager. (They may otherwise assume that you’re happy doing what you’re doing.) If you don’t make that clear to people around you, you might feel stuck and frustrated with the same types of projects and little growth opportunity. 

The question came up about whether to stay in technology or go into management. The response was that some people like getting into the details with the technology, and might want to grow and learn about doing other types of functions or technologies. Management is an extension of technology, and asks for a larger, more strategic vision beyond single technologies. In tech companies, management might still be tightly tied to the technology, even requiring management at times to get into the code or the architecture. But ultimately, it’s about people and market and product challenges beyond the technology.

If the opportunity arises to do something beyond your comfort zone, err toward taking that chance, with the knowledge that you can switch back to another role or opportunity if it doesn’t work out. That opportunity arose because somebody believes in you. Find out why they do, and honor them by trying to make it work. 

Whether you choose to continue to be a technologist or to go into management, surround yourself with the positive and supportive people who can help you succeed. Know where you need support and who can provide that type of support for you. Be humble and open enough to accept that help.

Along those similar lines, be a positive and supportive person to others in your network. Have the mindset that the more people who succeed in different ways, the better it is for everyone in the ecosystem.

We concluded our conversation with a work-life question from a man in the audience. The responses are below.

Kudos to the powerful, centered man in the audience for asking the question. His wife is fortunate to have a spouse with that mindset!

It depends on the circumstances – the role, management, opportunity, etc., will vary. Proactively do what’s right for YOU.

With that said, your life circumstances will certainly impact the choices you make around change. 

Don’t make the assumption that management needs 1) an MBA, 2) more time, 3) less or more money, 4) more or less opportunity, etc. 

Know your priorities first, and interface your options ranked by your priorities. Family and friends are generally high priorities for each of us, so factor in their needs as you make the technologist vs manager choice.

Our parting thought – Embrace that Growth Mindset: Err on the side of embracing opportunity, and learn about yourself and your interests and gifts.  


Please join us in thanking Western Digital, our gracious hosts for FountainBlue’s March 9 When She Speaks event, on the topic of Transitioning from Technologist to Manager, and our panelists:

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue
  • Panelist Cynthia Dote, Director of Engineering, Pure Storage
  • Panelist Lakshimi Duraivenkatesh, Sr. Director of Shopping Experience, eBay
  • Panelist Maitreyee Mahajani, VP of Production Planning, Memory Technology, Western Digital
  • Panelist Preethy Padmanabhan, Director Of Business Strategy & Operations, Global Accounts, Nutanix
  • Panelist Bhavya Vaidya, Director Supply Chain at Lam Research, Lam Research
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