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I’m a long time programmer (15 years), who likes his work, but I see that a lot of people have changed their career after few years and moved to management. I never liked management, and most of all I think I don’t have any skill at all to be a manager. Is it possible to improve management skills in a short term or should I give up and stick to the keyboard?

migrated from productivity.stackexchange.com Aug 6 '11 at 1:09

  • Why do you think you don't have any skill to be a manager? – LewisLin Sep 20 '11 at 3:18
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If you never liked management, question strongly why it is you want to move into it. A lot of management is skill based, and as such can be learned and, with practice, improved upon. Then there's the percentage that is down to your own personal charisma and abilities of persuasion that can't be learned (imo). You also need the intrinsic interest and joy in management, just as you do to be a great developer.

Sorry if this sounds harsh, but the world is full of bad managers. If you still think you have little interest in management, then I'd stick to your technical work. The world needs good technical people that want to remain technical and there should be no stigma in doing that.

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Two quotes:

I never liked management

I think I don’t have any skill at all to be a manager

Why would you ever think about becoming a manager? Because other people around did the same?

You might be a great engineer, a tech enthusiast, someone who's always amazed by sit in front of a computer and make amazing and complex programs working when no one else can. So, why bother?

There's a similar question HERE that may help you out about your internal personal discussion.

I believe you need to know why would you think about moving to management.

  • Is that about work? (definitely not, as per your comments).
  • Is that for money? A great engineer can be well payed as a great manager, IMO
  • Is that because of environment? If you're pushed to become a manager, is a whole new story
  • Is that for routine? Believe me, managers also work overnight...

Once you know this answer, I believe the answers you'll have here will help you further.

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First there is nothing wrong continuing doing what you like (you can consider yourself lucky since there are lots of people stuck in jobs they hate), and you shouldn't do something just because you see others do it (as this would likely get you into work you don't like!). So I would advise you to do the following:

  • be honest with yourself and clarify your goals and what you want out of your career (and if it's to go on programming that's perfectly ok), what you like and what you don't.
  • list the reasons you want to improve your management skills (eg. to get into a management role, to make your current job more interesting, to help you perform your job better, to get more money, etc.).
  • list which specific skills you believe you are lacking (eg. Project management, communications, financial management, team leadership, etc.): try to get feedback from people you work with (your manager especially). Perhaps the company you work at has an HR department that can help you with this. If you are working as a freelance, there are career/professional development advisors you could consult with (they can run skills assessments and evaluate your specific needs).
  • investigate options for you to get these skills (in-house training provided by your company? external courses? Self-study, etc.).
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Don't move into management if it's not something you actually want to do. You'll hate your job and wish you could be a developer again. But you can certainly improve your management skills, and this will help you as a developer too (because even as a developer, you need to present, influence, plan, budget and estimate - all management skills).

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Many good points have been already mentioned - the why is really important. Especially that you seem to have mixed feelings on the whole matter. Perhaps a new challenge would be sufficient (i.e. new work environment, new project or platform)?

One thing comes to mind though... If it is to be management, the basic question is pretty simple:

Do you like people?
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When you said you want to improve your manage skills you made it clear that you believe that you have management skills. That's what my answer would target on- To be positive and trust yourself.

It has been said that person with will can do anything he/she really wants. Word Skills itslef indicate that it can be developed or improved. Yes, on the other hand I agree on the fact that management skills can't be developed overnight.. you need to pay attention and don't stop learning both from your success and failures.

You have ample experience in programing and it's always being an advantage for a project manager to have a technical expertise. Don't afraid to jump to the next level.. :-)

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Although there are lots of great books that you will find useful I think that Setting the Table is one of the best (http://www.amazon.com/Setting-Table-Transforming-Hospitality-Business/dp/0060742755). The whole first half is more about this guys life and restaurant philosophy but second half really encapsulates much of what it means to manage and lead.

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I has a similar question and I wrote down everything I liked about my past managers and everything I hated. I reversed the things I hated to make them positive and this is the list I use to judge good managers. Hope it helps.

A Good Manager ...

... is respectful, consistent, trustworthy, honest, direct and a mentor.
... has a vision, a positive attitude and a sense of humor.
... is respected, smart, organized and a good communicator.
... doesn't micromanage, waste time, assign busy work or share personal problems.
... gives good advice, good feedback, good training and good compensation.
... sets clear expectations, appropriate priorities and reasonable deadlines.
... solicits help, ideas and suggestions.
... makes plans, makes decisions, protects the team, plays politics with integrity and maintains team morale.
... expects his team to communicate honestly, strive for success, learn from setbacks and work together.
... will be flexible with personal time, praise in public, correct in private and be intrested in the teams work.
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Yes, management skills can be studied, learned and applied. (In fact, the definition of project management, according to the PMBOK, is the application of tools, techniques and processes to projects.)

To be effective, though, you have to want to learn them and apply them.

Peter Drucker's work provides a constructive and positive light in which to view management.

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