As a hard-working and ambitious IT professional, the day may come when becoming an IT manager is a real possibility. And when it does, you will have a decision to make. Do you transition into a managerial position? Or is there another route you could take instead?
Throughout our careers, almost everybody would like to progress upwards in some way. Whether it be more money, more responsibility or, more commonly, both; we want to feel like we’re going somewhere. But for some, being promoted into an IT manager position isn’t exactly what they had expected.
The reasons for this we will come on to later, but first, let’s look at what makes a good IT manager.
What Traits Do Successful IT Managers Have?
Before looking in more depth at whether or not you should become an IT manager, let’s look at what goes into being a successful one.
IT managers bridge the gap between the IT team and senior leadership. They must have a foot in both camps. And they achieve this by:
Having Strong Communication Skills
The ability to dialogue effectively with both IT staff and senior leadership is an essential aspect of being an IT manager.
Being Committed To Delivering Results
Senior leadership will be less concerned with the way things are done, within reason, so long as what’s being done is working. For this reason, a commitment to achieving results is crucial.
Having A Solid Knowledge Base And Continuing To Learn
The IT sector is constantly evolving, so a good IT manager should always be willing to continue learning and update their knowledge. Not only does it keep them well-versed in what’s going on in the IT sector, it also means they’re likely encourage their staff to do the same, strengthening the team as a whole.
Being Authentic And Having A Sense Of Humour
Morale is an important factor when ensuring a team is effective, happy and productive. By being transparent and nurturing an environment that staff enjoy working in, a successful manager will ensure morale is kept consistently high.
Making Decisions And Solving Problems
When a quick but strategic decision is needed, the IT manager will be on hand to provide it. They should have the tools to solve problems; whether it be by themselves, if they’re a natural problem solver, or by delegating effectively to somebody who has strong problem-solving abilities.
Creating A Collaborative, Safe-To-Fail Environment
An effective IT manager should encourage their team to be just that; a team. They should also allow people the autonomy to make mistakes when trying new things, as this is where true innovation lies.
How To Know If An IT Manager Role Is Right For You
Do the traits above sound like you? Are you willing to work towards having these attributes? Then perhaps being an IT manager is a good move for you.
Becoming an IT manager will often mean taking a step away from more technical aspects of working in IT. You will move away from the hands-on elements, in favour of leading and guiding your team. Are you happy to make this compromise?
You will need to be comfortable working closely with senior management and stakeholders, and be able to see your team’s work from a ‘bigger picture’ perspective.
You will need to have a commitment to getting the best out of people and will do this by being communicative and delivering crucial guidance where it is needed.
How To Know If An IT Manager Role Is Wrong For You
Alternatively, does the above description sound unappealing to you? That’s fine. Managerial positions aren’t right for everybody. And that will in no way hinder your career prospects. There are other routes, which we will come on to in a moment.
So when might becoming an IT manager be wrong for you? Well, if you’re all about the technical aspects of working in IT, then that might be an indicator. If you prefer to be involved in the nitty-gritty of programming, for example, and view that as your craft, becoming an IT manager will take you away from that.
With that said, some IT manager roles, especially at smaller businesses, will require you to remain hands-on. This could give you the technical edge you’re looking for, while allowing you to get some real managerial experience.
However, the people-focused part of being an IT manager is vital. If you’re somebody who doesn’t possess leadership or communication skills, and has no intention of working on them, then perhaps a different route will be more to your liking.
But what are these other options? We will explore them now.
Alternative Options To The Management Route
So, let’s say you’ve decided that taking the management route isn’t right for you. It doesn’t suit your character and that’s absolutely fine. What are your options going forward? Of course you will want to progress further in your career, but what alternative routes can you take? Here are a couple of suggestions for you to consider.
Technical Consultant / Architect
The first is to become a technical consultant or architect. Although different titles, both of these roles are relatively similar, and there is a great deal of crossover between their responsibilities.
Within these roles, you will be an individual that a business looks to for guidance on which direction they should take their IT systems in. You will be ahead of the curve when it comes to emerging technologies, with a knowledge of what hardware and software is available, and how it could benefit the client. Taking into consideration budgets,costs, and the capabilities of the technology, you will be able to advise on whether certain software or hardware is a smart, strategic step for the company.
The consultant or architect will generally oversee the integration of new systems and test them once they’re in place. As well as this, they may help to train the end user on how to use the technology.
Another option is to become very specialist in a niche area of IT and offer your services as a contractor. This is quite an uncertain path currently, as a result of changes to IR35 legislation. But, in spite of that, there are still many contractors enjoying fulfilling careers.
As a contractor, you will enter businesses on a temporary basis, with the understanding that you will be able to come into the business and hit the ground running. With this in mind, it’s important that you’re extremely knowledgeable in your specialist area and can deliver on-demand results for clients.
As a contractor, you will have greater control of when and where you work, but it does come with some unique challenges that you wouldn’t encounter when working in-house.
And there we have it. Perhaps becoming an IT manager is something you’re suited for. But perhaps it’s not. And whichever route you choose, there will be exciting opportunities for your to pursue.
Being an IT manager can be highly rewarding but it isn’t for everybody. And if you’re more technically-minded, a role like a technical consultant or contractor may be more to your taste.
It’s your career, after all. Take it in a direction that works for you.