Is Skillset Overrated?
Eventually, almost all technicians come to the same crossroads in their career regarding the decision to either stay technical or move on to management. Some have the luxury of both but most do not. It's not management that is scrambling to troubleshoot and fix the issues when emergencies pop up, it's the technicians. It's not management that has to beat their head against a wall to figure out how to engineer a solution for the impossible demands of the customer, it's the technician and engineer. When things go wrong it's usually the upper managers (usually non-IT) breathing down the necks of the middle managers (usually IT), who in turn stress out the IT technicians to find the solution. This translates into technicians working long and late hours, getting called in from home, while the weight of the company falls upon the shoulders of the lowest paid individual in the management pyramid. Up front there is no question that technicians have to invest more time into their craft than managers. Not debatable (unless you have mediocre technicians so let's just assume we're talking about the good ones). Technology is always changing and Customers always demand the latest IT trends. So when a an IT Manager comes along with a degree and a few management certifications such as CISSP, ITIL, and PMP, getting paid more for working less and not investing nearly the amount of personal time into their trade as the personnel underneath them, it can get quite frustrating. So what did my managers do for me? They attended many meetings that I did not have to with the real stakeholders of the company building relationships and further engrafting themselves into the system setting up the next promotion. They relayed the desires of the upper management to us technicians for execution, and they relayed what us technicians did to the upper management.
Bad managers simply relay information up and down. They simply become information managers and receive and disseminate information. How does that justify a higher paycheck and less hours? It doesn't, and it gives management positions a bad name.
This is what John Maxwell calls positional leaders. Those who simply exist in a role but could be switched out with any person and nobody would know the difference. They have no impact and simply exist. These are the managers that have created such a barrier between management and technicians. Positional leaders hire other positional leaders. They just want things to flow as normal, no real shake ups, and the paychecks to keep coming. Whenever that flow is threatened by a real leader or a good technician they respond harshly and create a highly political and stressful environment. Conform or you will be outed! So what is a good IT manager? John Maxwell also defines leadership as influence. A good manager leads his technicians and inspires them to become like him. When technicians have a good leader they want to follow them, want to work hard for them, want to make them look good and go the extra mile. A good manager motivates his team to come to work everyday and love it. A good manager has a genuine care for the team and their collective and personal success. A good manager makes their employees feel as though he or she is their for the benefit of the employees, not the other way around. Employees who know they are better off for having their supervisor will respect them and perform better. It's hard to be motivated for someone who gets paid more and you feel as if they are no or little benefit to the team. However, it should never be mistaken, that even if they are not a good manager, that you could ever do better. Management is one of those things that you can't knock it or know what it's like until you've been in that position. A good manager is absolutely required in today's IT market. There is too much going on in IT to distract the technicians from the daily important task of proper implementation, the daily operation of an existing network, and the maintenance involved in keeping that network running and secure. Meetings, projects, and other non-technical tasks should be left to the supervisors who can better prioritize the schedule of the technicians in light of the bigger picture of the organization's goals. An awesome manager does not have to have the background of a technician, but the good ones do. My recommendation is that most technicians wouldn't be happy as a pure manager/supervisor. We love what we do as tech's and that is why we have so much time invested in all things "geek". Not everyone is management material. For those thinking of going into management I challenge this. Work your way up from being a technician first. The best place to hire a new manager is from your current pool of technicians. As a technician, you'll probably want to transition to the management side of the industry, but how do you do this? Along with your next Cisco certification try and get ITIL, CISSP, Project+, or even a certification from PMI. You should also never stop pursuing collegiate goals of a Bachelors or Masters Degree. Despite popular belief some colleges offer extremely useful curriculum to IT personnel such as Western Governors University at very affordable rates. Let's not complain about our supervisors. If we have bad supervisors it's because we have not done our part to fill those ranks. Who is an organization going to hire? The manager with only management credentials, or the manager with management and technician credentials? I've heard that Google has shaken this formula up and that is awesome. Word on the street is that Google pays more based upon performance and skillset regardless of position. Meaning that a technician who is valued as a technician can get paid significantly more than the supervisor appointed over them. Should we all be so lucky to have such a job. Let's be thankful for the supervisors we have as they do put up with a lot of mess we don't have to as technicians, and instead of complaining about not getting paid as much as our supervisors, let's instead do our part to become the next supervisor worthy of a skilled team of technicians that we can help take to the next level!