Making the step up: 5 ways to transition from technical implementer to leader

5 ways to transition from technical implementer to leader

You may be brilliant in your current role as a technical implementer. You routinely meet your KPIs, you're loyal, hardworking and add tremendous value to your business. A promotion should be in your reach. However, the leap from technical implementer to manager isn’t as straightforward as you might think. The truth is the skill-set that attracted attention from senior staff, isn’t necessarily the same skill-set that will make you a dynamic and effective leader. As Dr. Robert P. Hewes from the Camden Consulting Group acknowledges:

‘Technical expertise represents “what” the job entails. The shift to relationship management represents knowing “who” the players are for which the “what” is critical.’

And it’s not only the skills that might differ; your role will change dramatically from task-focused to one that is highly people focused. Therefore the question might not even be: Do I have what it takes? It might actually be: Do I really want to do this?

Is this what you really want?

Adriano Leite a business Focused Security & IT Risk Manager, made the step-up in his career. He found the process ‘a steep learning curve.’ While he ultimately enjoyed the change, he feels as though it’s not necessarily for every tech implementer. Before you make that next step, it’s important to not only to establish whether you have the qualities necessary, but also whether you are willing to sacrifice parts of your job that you really love. Leite suggests asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do I feel comfortable standing in front of a crowd of Senior Managers and presenting results/findings?
  • How skillful am I in influencing my team/peers to do the tasks required to achieve a goal?
  • Would I be happy giving up (partly, but sometimes entirely) my hard earned technical sharpness to become a leader?
  • Would I be able to cope with high-level report preparation instead of the hands-on activity I performed in the past?

If you feel as though, after some introspection, that you would be comfortable committing to the above criteria, then you need to look at your qualities in order to establish whether you have all the tools become a successful manager.

Build relationships

A critical part of making the leap into management is your ability to build meaningful and positive relationships. If power has been thrust upon you, then an in-house mentor can be invaluable in giving good advice, or even a sympathetic ear.

However, mentors (and relationships in general) aren’t just found within your business. In fact, creating relationships with others outside your industry can give you a unique perspective on what good management looks like. These relationships will also give you an opportunity to practice your communication skills. As Derek Lauber, co-founder of Lightbox Leadership suggests:

‘Use conversations outside of your specialty to discuss anything other than technology. “These new conversations are your opportunity to learn how to converse like the rest of the world.’

Back away from the technology

Even though the technology might be the reason you got into your industry in the first place, working on the tech should not be your main priority if you’re in management. A lot of tech managers make the mistake of spending more time than they ought to on the technical aspects of the job.

Not only does it detract on what’s more valuable, but by pitching in you aren’t empowering your staff to take ownership of a project. Even though it’s tempting to spend time on something you love (and that makes you feel confident) the project will be much better off if you stick to your job and enable your team to stick to theirs.

Think big

Getting away from the tech means that you now aren’t going to be thinking about a daily task, you will need to learn how to think about the bigger picture and identify how your decisions:
  • Will shape the organisation
  • Will impact on future initiatives
  • Fit with the wider strategy of the business

Or as Dr. Hewes sums it up, it’s about reshaping your thinking from ‘what’ and ‘how’ to ‘why.  

To move or not to move?

If you are considering making the step up, it’s important to consider whether you have what it takes, or will do what it takes to thrive in a more senior role.

Interested in learning how to lead your own business? Download our guide for tips on how to start your own start-up.

CeBIT Australia How to launch a start-up