Transitioning From IT Professional to IT Manager

By David Niño

The promotion from being an individual contributor to becoming a manager can be one of most promising in any IT professional’s career. A move into the management ranks can lead to even greater levels of future responsibility and contribution.

Few may realize, however, that this transition is very challenging. In fact, as many as 60 percent of first-time managers struggle or fail in these new roles. Below are tips to help first-time managers prepare for, and be successful in, a new management position.

Take charge of your own learning and development.

One of the major reasons that many first-time managers stumble through this transition is that organizations tend to do very little to formally prepare professionals for these roles. This is especially the case with technical organizations, which tend to prioritize technical training and overlook the importance of investing in the development of management skills. But to succeed at managing, IT professionals need to become skilled in the social and emotional sides of work—areas where technical education usually falls short.

To take charge of your own learning and development, you can start by addressing some fundamental questions, such as:

· What do I want to contribute in my professional career, and why?

· What are my distinctive strengths and core values?

· How do I relate to others who depend on me?

· In what kinds of work environments do I thrive?

Answers to questions like these can open up a robust and personalized learning agenda for becoming a manager. They can also help you make important choices about the kinds of roles and environments that bring out the best in you.

Learn from your past, but don’t be trapped by it.

High-performing IT professionals are often promoted into management because of their technical achievements. This can serve an important purpose because having strong technical skills can grant much needed credibility that a first-time IT manager will need. But past achievements can also lead to a common problem among new managers. Here’s how.

If in the past a newly promoted manager had been consistently rewarded for solo achievements, that individual may have a hard time trusting others to deliver the same quality of work that he or she produced alone. As star solo performer, the worker has essentially learned, “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.”

This mindset often leads to the kinds of micromanaging we often see among inexperienced managers. The consequences are often negative for everyone: higher levels of stress, mistrust, underperformance, and people either quitting or actively looking for another job.

Managing involves achieving collective results rather individual ones. To succeed, newly promoted managers often need to adopt a whole new mindset toward working and performing.

So the message here is clear: Learn from your past individual successes, but don’t be trapped by them. As you assume responsibility for others, shift your mindset more toward developing, empowering and energizing other workers—not controlling them.