5 tips for moving into IT management
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Moving from techie to IT management may well be one of the hardest transitions in your career. It demands a fundamental shift in the way you approach work. You’ll need to embrace new responsibilities, new ways of relating to co-workers, and new ways of looking at situations.
Some people make the transition and very quickly find that IT management isn’t for them. What they thought would be an exciting new challenge quickly becomes overwhelming. Others are disappointed when they find out that IT management requires a more hands-off approach.
Overseeing tech teams in high pressure environments isn’t easy. There are lots of moving parts that need to be taken care of. And to make matter worse, you may be thrown into the fray with minimal training, guidance, and preparation.
While it’s true there is no substitute for learning on the job, at the very least you should have a basic understanding of management fundamentals before taking the plunge. So in this post we’ll explore 5 tips to help you find your feet in your first weeks and months as an IT manager.
But before diving into the specifics, let’s take a quick look at some expert insight. Ilya Pesahovsky is Director of Software Engineering at Dailymotion. He previously appeared on an episode of Venturi’s Voice podcast offering advice for techies thinking of moving into IT management. He repeatedly emphasised the importance of people skills.
Ilya Pesahovsky, Director of Engineering, Dailymotion
“Coming from an engineering world, I noticed that some people were better with code, some were better with hardware, and some were better at game design. But there were others who were better with people. To manage well, you need a level of confidence in your ability to interact with all different types of people.
In any situation, you need to understand the person you are speaking with and adjust your communication style accordingly. No two employees are the same. Everyone has their own unique quirks and personality traits. If you can adjust your own behaviour to accommodate for those, that’s a huge advantage.
Requesting feedback is also very important. I like to ask members of my team “If you were in my shoes, how would you manage yourself?”. This can be really eye opening for both parties. Even if people aren’t doing their best, it’s important to show them that you are on their side. Your job is to help them improve their performance, not to bark orders about delivery dates and deadlines.”
Is IT management for you?
It’s a cliché, but communication really is key. So if you found yourself reading Ilya’s account and thinking “That doesn’t sound like me” – then it’s probably a good idea to reassess whether IT management it right for you.
But if you already feel quite confident in your people skills, then focusing on refining the quality of your interactions can help make a confusing road less bumpy. In addition, the 5 tips listed below can help make sure your transition period goes smoothly.
Avoid getting bogged down in technical work
Although it can be tempting, avoid getting involved with technical projects that aren’t your responsibility. Yes, you probably have your own view about how things “should” be done. But you’ll have to learn to let go of that and trust other people to get the job done.
It’s also much more comfortable to continue feeling successful doing something you know well. But that isn’t what management is about. Spending too much time hands-on with code will prevent you from progressing as a manager. Of course, you can still pitch in when you can, but make sure you’re prioritising management first.
Plan for personal growth
Some IT managers wait until a performance review to discover what skills they lack. Needless to say, this approach isn’t ideal. You should proactively work to improve your skills, especially when you are new to management.
As a start, it’s often helpful to sit down and draw up a list of your weaker areas. Once you’ve identified them you can immediately start working to improve these areas. After you’ve got some experience under you belt, get feedback from your team about how you’re doing. Encourage honest and open feedback and take all comments on board.
Learn one skill at a time
Acquiring a whole new set of skills for your new management position can be overwhelming. Don’t try to learn everything at once. Focus on one skill at a time, so that you can learn each skill well.
Find a mentor
Look for someone in your organisation who has already made the transition to IT management. A mentor can offer you some great advice on succeeding in your new role, and help you avoid some of the mistakes he or she has made. Speaking on Venturi’s Voice podcast, Charlotte Morris (CMO at SkinNinja), outlined how the mentoring programme at Microsoft helped her progress:
A good mentor should be there to ensure you are thinking about a problem in the right way, that you’re doing what you need to be doing, and what’s expected of you on a project. Having this guidance is particularly important in the tech sector as the pace of change is so relentless. New information is coming at you all the time. Having a mentor can help you bridge the knowledge gap.
Meet with every team member
Make it a priority to meet with everyone on your team personally. Find out what interests and motivates them, and check that they have everything they need to be happy and successful in their role. This shows that you’re taking an interest in them, and it helps you get to know the people you’re managing.