Project manager … process manager … development manager. The IT environment holds plenty of potential for moving beyond the workaday Java or .Net programmer, and into a new realm of responsibility and reward. If you’re interested in an IT management role, try these 5 tips.
1. Show Them You Deserve It
Lead by example – be thorough and forward thinking in your everyday assignments. Show you understand the larger picture. Volunteer for non-IT tasks, such as representing your manager or team in a meeting, or creating a budget spreadsheet or project timeline for your boss. Offer to run a training session in your specialty or become a mentor or job-shadow subject for interns. Put your managerial ambition into action and show the higher-ups you have a commitment to succeed.
2. Tell Them You Want It
Applying for a posted managerial position isn’t the only way to climb the corporate ladder. If you have regular performance reviews, be upfront and let your supervisor know about your management goals.
If your company offers a management training program, express your eagerness to learn by asking to enroll in it. If none of these things are available to you, you will have to be a bit more aggressive and sit down at an appropriate time to discuss your goals and thoughts. Floating the idea over a one-on-one lunch or coffee is ideal. You’ll see your manager’s reaction without it being in a formal setting like your review. Once you put the idea out there to your boss, be ready to be handed one or more management tasks right away – they might take you up on your offer immediately.
3. Have Your Manager’s Back
You never want to appear as if you’re gunning for your manager’s job. You can build credibility (and skills) by offering to work alongside your supervisor doing project research, participating in the hiring process of new IT staff, or producing documentation that makes their job easier and makes them look good. Show them you share common goals for the good of the company and that you can handle this level of responsibility.
4. Align Your Skills
As an IT manager you’ll have to balance the “hard skills” of a developer with the “soft skills” that help you efficiently run a team. Below are some necessary basics.
- Polished Business Writing: We’re not talking Pulitzer Prize, but every manager should be comfortable composing grammatical, concise text for email, usage reports, proposals, training, development processes, and even blogs. If you’re not confident in your writing ability, a workshop at a local college or an online business-writing course may be all you need.
- Public Speaking: An oft-cited (by Jerry Seinfeld) survey claims that even death comes second to public speaking in terms of what people fear most. While you probably won’t be speaking to large crowds, as a manager you must project confidence in your subject matter and be heard clearly at all times – whether you’re running in-house meetings or hosting WebEx training. The best way to strengthen this skill is by constantly putting yourself in situations where you have to talk and explain your ideas. Ask your supervisor if you can attend meetings, and contribute as much as you can and as articulately as possible.
- Business Data Acumen: As an IT pro, you’re probably comfortable with symbolic systems, so you should be able to transfer those skills to analyzing and summarizing the raw numbers that make up trends in key performance indicators such as ROI and gross margin. An online or classroom-based business course can help you get up to speed quickly.
- Microsoft Office: Even if you spend most of your day in Android SDK, in the world of managerial tasks you’ll need to rock Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint as well. Fortunately these programs are intuitive for even the novice user, but if the idea of creating spreadsheets, diagrams or presentations sounds intimidating, you might consider watching some training webinars or buying a really good “For Dummies” book. Mastering some of the more advanced features in these Office products will save you hours of time when you are under a fast-approaching deadline.
5. Stay on Course!
From juggling time to tasks to people, as a manager you’ll find an intriguing and rewarding set of new challenges. Once you’ve committed to this career path, stay committed, focused and educated – your employees will love you for it.