Evaluate your strengths before moving into management

The decision whether to aim for managerial roles or remain as a technical specialist is one faced by many ambitious IT...

The decision whether to aim for managerial roles or remain as a technical specialist is one faced by many ambitious IT professionals.

When and how do you decide to make the move into management? Can people who are technically excellent become effective managers? Making the wrong career choice can be bad for both employer and employee.

The first step is to be clear about the attributes needed to become an effective manager. In simple terms it involves good communication. You might be able to code in isolation, but IT management requires a much more intensive level of interaction with staff. You need a good grasp of what influences your business and you also need personal resilience - you must be able to handle the fact that the buck stops with you.

The second crucial area is understanding what drives you. Are you really looking for more responsibility, or is money the primary motivator?

Within the IT industry, the management career path is not necessarily the only way to earn more money. Often, senior technical architects earn more than the IT managers they report to.

Do you want to be hands-on? If you love the "doing" side of IT, then moving away from that is clearly not going to fulfil you in the long term. You need to be realistic about your career aspirations and abilities.

Assessing your strengths and weaknesses is never easy, so it is often good to get third-party advice, for instance talking to recruitment consultants or your human resources department. You may even consider taking psychometric tests.

Once you have made the decision, the most obvious entry point into the managerial ranks is through project management.

Ideally, you should start with a small assignment within a large organisation, because larger companies will usually work within a structured environment.

Training is key. Although most IT staff have lots of technical certificates, these usually do not include management. Formal training options include business diplomas or an MBA.

However, no training can give you a thorough knowledge of strengths, weaknesses and motivation. IT management is a high-profile career, but if money is your prime reason to work, you might be better off seeking fulfilment elsewhere.

Caroline Edwards is a director at consultancy Harvey Nash

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