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Techie-to-Manager Tips

Techie-to-Manager Tips

While management positions are increasingly open to techies with business skills, competition is intense. To land one, you'll need to stand out, so follow these 12 tips to put yourself in the lead:

1. Expand Your Vision

Techies sometimes have a narrow worldview, says Bruno Zerbib, director of product management at InfoVista. To move into management, he says, you need to "acknowledge the value and skills outside of your organization." Unless you recognize the roles of marketers, sales professionals and others, you will struggle to move beyond your role as a techie.

Start thinking macro rather than micro, says Allison Gross, vice president of staffing and consulting firm Comforce. "The higher up in an organization you are, the broader your vision has to be."

2. Think Outside Your Company and Industry

"Look externally for solutions," counsels Andrea Michalek, president of consulting company 1-800-CTO. "By bringing external ideas and best practices to their manager's attention, you can quickly establish a reputation for being in the know."

Zerbib agrees. Reading leading-edge business books -- and discussing their ideas -- can lead colleagues and higher-ups to recognize you as someone with interests beyond technical issues.

3. Be a Motivator

Management requires you to motivate others, but learning this skill isn't easy. "We learn to motivate by watching others," says John Baldoni, author of Great Motivation Secrets of Great Leaders. "Look to the examples of good teachers, coaches and managers."

4. Solve Problems

Techies must translate their passion for problem solving into a management context. "By moving into management, they will have the opportunity to problem solve in a team format, in fact, guiding the team to solve problems," says Baldoni. "They will also have the opportunity to teach others not only technical skills but also problem solving ones, too."

5. Get in Front of Management

Unless you make your interest in management known, you may not get a chance to move up. Seek out opportunities -- presentations, meetings and even email -- as a way to demonstrate your knowledge of industry as well as your facility with more than just technical concepts.

6. Network

Aside from helping you meet others, Gross says, networking organizations provide a forum to gain leadership and communication skills.

7. Wield Influence

Managers need to exert their influence, and techies can demonstrate this ability on team projects. "You need to get others to work with you, to do what you want them to do," says Robert Monroe, visiting lecturer at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. "One of the best ways is to have good ideas, but you need to be diplomatic and political in how you present those ideas."

8. Stretch Yourself

Businesses want to see would-be managers step up to the plate, even if it means seeking out projects at the edge of their abilities. "Take on assignments that take you out of your comfort zone," suggests Monroe.

9. Be a Communicator

Would-be managers, says Gross, "have to embrace the idea of learning how to write, learning how to speak and learning how to behave within meetings." Even emails should be crafted with care and sensitivity in order to demonstrate your intelligence, knowledge and thoughtfulness.

"The earlier you pick up those skills, the better the career trajectory you can set up for yourself," says Monroe.

10. Dress Up

If you want to be a manager, you will need to stop donning slackerwear. Gross's advice: "Always dress the part for the position you want, not for the one you're in."

11. Get an MBA

Don't discount your education. Standards vary from one industry (and company) to another, but the MBA is widely valued among those moving into management.

12. Determine If Management Is for You

Techies must also consider whether management is the right choice for them. "Most engineering, research or IT folks love what they do," says Baldoni. "They have been recognized and promoted due to their technical expertise. Moving into management means giving up what they love best."

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