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Techie / manager mutex in growth

Hi all

I have difficulty making a decision here. Stay techie? Become manager? (Can one grow while staying technical, career and otherwise?)

A bit of background to the setup:
- I am a young (7 yrs experience) programmer mostly, working 3 yrs for current company.
- I work as a consultant for a body shop (company that pays me a salary, and I get placed at our various clients)
- I have been offered a different post in this company, financially better (but not "my idea of my future")

The company I work for does more than just being a body shop, we do shrink-wrap development (1), a lot of custom solutions at clients (2), we have a few contractors and consultants that get placed on other people's custom solutions projects (3), and we sell and support a specific (rather specialised) product developed by another company (let us call this Product A) (4).

I am involved (or have been) mostly in 1, 3, 4. The idea behind 1 has always been to "one day" developing shrink-wrap software. This has never worked out.
The guys with the big sticks have always killed any possibility of this, because they misunderstand what shrink-wrap software must be. What has happened (no exceptions (yet)) is we do a custom dev for a client. It has nice features. So management comes along and says: "go forth, take the project, remove the client logos, and this will give us a shrink-wrap version of it". Apparently sloppily repackaging someone else's requirements as a *Product* satisfies the "business requirement of not re-inventing the wheel".
Out of frustration I went away from the app development to go work at clients - where we at least have some say.

(3) (Consulting if you will) is what keeps me going. I get placed at brilliantly interesting projects, there is serious personal growth, and in general is *fun*. BTW I am currently at possibly the most interesting thing since I have started working for this company.

(4) Flogging the product. This is a recent thing. It is not technically challenging, it is basically a sales / support job. The product IS good; we just need to sell it. If a client calls, we pass their problem on to the guys who built the product, who fixes it, and we help the client again. No Tech input is needed for this. I have been involved with this, as the deployment especially can be tricky.

What has happened now: I have been offered the position of moving from my consultant position to the position of (a, not the) technical manager. I will oversee 2, 3, 4. Shrink-wrap dev has mostly fallen away now (wonder why?).

Now, as I have mentioned, I am rather young. Even so, I have had to develop a lot of non-tech skills to better my technical ability (you can be technically brilliant, but inability to work with the end-users makes you useless). I have grown away from being a coder to a higher-level position in the *technical* food chain. This growth has been organic and not (I hope) simply my job title. For some reason this growth has been interpreted by my company as "he is becoming a manager" and not "he is becoming a technical leader".

The new position (should I accept) will have very good effects on the salary and other benefits front.
But: my plan was always to become a technical leader rather than a manager (I don't even know what side is up when looking at a golf club ;-)
During talks with the company it has also become quite clear that I will need to develop our product flogging more than anything else - I can think of nothing worse to spend my days on.

So should I neglect my tech growth, get the lobotomy (joking OK), and become a manager for the money, or wander off in search off something nice with lots of challenges (tech and human) (and hope you can get somewhere organically without becoming "just" another manager?).


Thursday, April 29, 2004

Go for it, the worse thing that can happen is you figure out that you really don't care about people's personal problems and like to stick to the technical side of things but at the same time you gain knowledge immense knowledge of the business side of things.

Thursday, April 29, 2004


I am trying to get myself to start liking that solution. I do wonder about "getting out of touch" technically if most of my time is spent on management tasks, because god knows, it is difficult enough staying up to date now.

I am scared that I might lose a lot of time trying out managing, and that it might be enough to make coming back too tech work extremely difficult.

BTW what kind of specific business knowledge can I expect to gain (have you done the same in other words, and what did you learn)?

Thursday, April 29, 2004

I tend to look at it this way: the goal of a business is not to crank out reams of code. The goal is to sell software.

To do this you need to have developers, you need to have people who understand the business problem, you need people to sell the software. But you also need someone to make sure the whole thing doesn't go off the rails.

There seems to be plenty of developers, but fewer good managers who can keep a project from going off the rails. Look at it as expanding to fill a need.

Thursday, April 29, 2004


Does your consulting work give you insight into the requiements of a lot of customers?

Might that help you tweak one of these "custom solutions --turned-- shrinkwrap soultion" so that it captures more requirements?  Give you a better view of the "market" that the shrink wrap sw is trying to please.

Also, I echo the sentiments above:  try it. You can always fall back to technical work.  But remember: the greatest challenge you'll face is that you can't hire more people as comptent as you are. (It's always been my challenge. My wife, who was in management at a hospital for years, had the same problem)

Mr. Analogy
Thursday, April 29, 2004

You are exactly the kind of person who should go into management. Otherwise you leave it to all of those people who fail technically and see management as an escape route.

How can you loose ? I can see that with 7 years experience this new role seems to stretch far into the future. It won't, and you will have management experience even if you decide to backtrack. That's always useful on a CV. You don't need to loose your technical skills, its up to you to maintain that or not and your basic technical aptitude never goes away. You will never be able to influence the company if you don't take the responsibility.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

From my perspective, managing is a completely different job but it can be equally rewarding.  Unfortunately, I think a lot of technical people think they can have it both ways, but in most medium/large project scenarios, the manager needs to focus on managing not dabbling in the code for part of his/her day.  If you want to stay technical, stay technical... if you want to manage people, manage people.  Either way you can be very successful both personally and financially, but only if you are doing what you enjoy.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

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