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The Road to IT Manager isn’t a Straight Line

After spending a few years in our careers, we start to our professional/career roadmap. For us techies, this is an easy process. After all, the natural progression for a great techie is simple:

Help Desk Network and Server Admin – IT Manager – IT Director – CIO

While this progression seems logical, it’s not a simple continuation. Jumping from a Server Administrator to IT Manager is more like changing freeways than continuing on the same one.

Defining IT Manager

While the job description for an IT Manager varies dramatically across companies. The basics should distill down to the same:

  • Responsible for the operations and support of the company’s IT technology needs
  • Manage a team of IT professionals

In smaller companies, you’ll often see IT Managers (or even IT Directors) with no staff. These are companies who pay IT Manager rates, so have labeled the position as IT Manager. The responsibility for the infrastructure is still there, but there are no leadership or management duties involved.

If we look at the same distilled version of a Server / Network administrator job description:

  • Support the company’s IT technology needs
  • Implement projects to improve the company’s technology capabilities

Leader, not (always) implementer

The two biggest differences between the two roles listed above should be clear – “responsible for” and “manage”. Notice that “implement” isn’t on the list. While there’s the expectation that an IT Manager is still very technical and sometimes hands-on, their primary responsibility is to manage and develop their team to ensure smooth operations and ensure execution of projects.

Doing this well requires a completely different skill set than Server and Network Administration. Instead of just focusing on how to implement technologies, the IT Manager has to add:

  • Managing and Developing Staff (Leadership and Delegation)
  • IT Road Mapping and Budgeting
  • Business Alignment and Prioritization
  • Compliance and Best Practices
  • Project Management

These are often skills not practiced until your first management position. Leadership skills take time to develop. This is why I say that IT Manager isn’t the next step for a Server / Network Admin – it’s a step sideways.

Help Desk – Network and Server Admin – Senior Admin – Specialist

IT Manager – IT Director – CIO

Making the Leap

If you’re considering making the leap to manager, consider carefully your skills and those you want to develop. Do you want to:

  • Be responsible for your team
  • Be less hands on and learn to delegate
  • Spend more time planning than doing
  • Spend more time in meetings and learning the business deeply

These are realities for an IT Manager and the leadership road. As you go down that road, you become less of a hands-on techie and more of a leader and “business person”.

It’s a very exciting path, as it can make you really change your point of view and understand technology at the most important level – where it impacts business. This is where you start understanding business value and really leveraging technology.

Great resources for IT Managers:

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