I often encounter professionals wrestling with the question: “Should I transition into a management role?” Today, I’d like to shed some light on this topic in case you are also wondering if management is for you. Choosing a career path is a deeply personal decision and, while it’s thrilling to consider new possibilities, it can also bring up a lot of uncertainty. My hope is that this post will help you gain clarity and make a decision that feels right for you.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using these links.
Is Management for You?
The first point I want to emphasize is that management is not the only path to growth. It’s a common misconception in our industry that to influence decisions and progress, you must take on a leadership role. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are plenty of opportunities to shape technical decisions and wield influence as an individual contributor (IC). At most companies, you can continue to grow into principal and distinguished roles without ever taking on management responsibilities. This path allows you to focus on sharpening your technical expertise and making significant contributions without the managerial obligations.
On the other hand, management is a rewarding path if you’re drawn to developing people, building strong team cultures, and facilitating success. A managerial role often requires stepping back from hands-on technical work to focus on team dynamics, performance, and growth. It requires a different set of skills, like empathy, strategic thinking, and effective communication. If these activities energize you, then a management role might be a perfect fit!
What must be true first?
Once you’ve determined that management aligns with your career aspirations, there are typically three conditions that should be met for a promotion. Interestingly, these conditions apply to almost all promotions, not just to management roles.
Firstly, you must be ready. This doesn’t mean meeting 100% of the job description, but ideally, you should demonstrate competence in around 70% of the responsibilities. This proportion mirrors what you’d find in an external hiring scenario. If you’re not quite there yet, don’t worry! You can seek opportunities to grow and acquire the necessary skills and experience. If your manager understands your aspirations then they should be helping you seek out those opportunities.
Secondly, your team must be ready. Simply put, there should be a need for an additional manager within your team. It’s about ensuring the right fit for the current team structure and requirements.
Lastly, the business must be ready. Promotions generally come with increased compensation, and the business must be in a position to support this.
If these conditions aren’t met yet, patience is key. Opportunities will arise, you and your manager can help you be prepared to seize them.
Navigating your career path can be a complex process, filled with self-reflection, patience, and strategic planning. Whether you choose the path of an individual contributor or venture into management, remember that your value is not defined by your title but by the impact you make and the person you become through the process.
Moving beyond the mechanics of promotion there are a few invaluable resources that I often recommend for aspiring managers. These materials cover a wide range of topics essential to successful management, from understanding your work, communicating effectively, staying at the peak of your performance, to navigating the transition to a managerial role.
- The Phoenix Project – This book uses a relatable narrative to illustrate the concepts of DevOps and effective project management. You’ll gain insights into managing work efficiently and handling complex IT projects.
- Crucial Conversations (Book link) – Mastering tough conversations is a crucial skill in management. This book provides practical strategies for navigating high-stakes conversations with grace and achieving positive outcomes.
- Peak Performance – This book combines the inspiring stories of top-performers with scientific research to teach you how to perform at your best consistently. It also addresses avoiding burnout – a critical aspect to consider for yourself and your team.
- The First 90 Days (Book link)- A classic manual for any new leader. It provides structured guidance on how to effectively navigate the transition into a management role, ensuring a successful start.
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Book Link) – A leadership fable that delves deep into the subtleties of team dynamics, offering insights on how to build and sustain high-performing teams. Essential reading for those wanting to cultivate an environment of trust and collaboration within their security engineering teams.
- The Manager Tools Basics Podcast Series – This series covers the first few things every manager needs to know: conducting effective 1-on-1s, providing feedback, coaching team members, delegating tasks, and more.
- Effective Manager Value Chain Fixing Deliverables – Another gem from Manager Tools, this episode provides insights into understanding and fixing deliverables, a key aspect of managerial responsibilities.
- Leaders Intent – This episode dives into a critical aspect of leadership communication – expressing intent. It guides you on how to set clear expectations and align your team with your vision.
- Manager Tools Effective Manager Conference and Effective Communication Conference – These comprehensive conferences cover everything from the basics to advanced managerial communication strategies.
- Mental Health First Aid – An invaluable course that equips you with the skills to support someone who’s dealing with mental health issues. As a people manager this is something you’ll encounter. The course will help you build a supportive and understanding environment on your team.
- Pragmatic Marketing Foundations Training – If your role has an engineering or product focus, this course will provide you with key skills to understand and market products effectively.
Whether you decide to read a book, tune into a podcast, or enroll in a training course, investing time in your professional development is always worth it. So, choose a resource that speaks to you, dive in, and let the learning begin!