Technical Talent, Management and Projects
Technical Talent Move and it is bad
I would like to credit this blog post to Tony DaSilva, since his tweet a day or so ago. As I read it, I had instant reactions. That is right, reactions as I could see a range of ideas radiating from his post.
My first reaction, because I know him to be a person of significant capability, I agreed with him. Taking technical talent and moving them up into management or working them into management or project management positions can serve little to perpetuate the technical excellence in an organization. That was my first reaction. Followed closely by, if technical talent would like their compensation package to at least keep up with inflation, they will at some point have to leave the strictly technical path.
Technical Talent as Managers
Then I thought a little deeper about this. Perhaps it is not an anathema to technical excellence. Let us consider the manager position first, by defining manager. There are many different organization structure types and different manager types as well. For this post, let us consider a manager is the person responsible for overseeing the work in a particular area or discipline. These people are responsible for the work within the department, the quality of the output and any perhaps even associated processes. In some organization, the manager is responsible for coaching the team and the individuals to get the most out of their innate skills and cultivate even more skills and capabilities that will improve the department’s capability. If the department’s particular area or discipline is that of the technically prodigious person, then it is possible to see how this persons skill level can be used to transfer this capability in as much as can be done, to the employees of the department. In this way, we are building upon their talent by using it to build the other talent in the department – effectively growing the competency of the group. This is predicated on the instance where the technical talent, now manager, is moved into a management position commensurate with the technical talent. They must be able to disseminate their knowledge to the team or department members. That is not possible if we take say software or product testing talent and move them to a marketing management position. Then it is an anathema of technical excellence.
Technical Talent as Project Managers
Let’s consider the project manager role. We take technical talent, skilled well in some domain and then move them to a project management position. The skills required to be a good or successful project manager are varied. From the position of project manager, it would be difficult to build the technical competency in others, in a specific domain. The project manager must divide their time among the various disciplines that are in the project’s employ. If the technical expertise is in embedded code, there will be little opportunity to coach or build those remaining in the department. Additionally, we have seen project managers who were once technical hyper focus on their technical domain to the exclusion of the myriad other areas of the project.
It is not necessarily a technical sacrifice to move a person from the details of a technical domain to a management position. We can perhaps gain some benefit by careful consideration of where we employ the talents of the technical individual.