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Techie, Which Career Path is Right for You?

by Steve Knutson on September 29

Tech jobs are multiplying nationwide, up 7.3 million from last year. The strong majority of those jobs (6.9 million) are at technology companies – like Marco – but a growing number also are within other companies in other industries such as healthcare and banking, according to a recent analysis by technology association CompTIA. Jobs in software, cybersecurity and cloud computing are leading the pack. The expanding digital economy has propelled the growth with no expectations of slowing down.

iStock-653870162.jpgWhat I have learned over the years is that those jobs can take two very different paths. 

I remember my dad saying his career goal was to never manage a person. He loved being an engineer. He retired at age 62 as an electrical engineer achieving his goal. Instead of climbing the management ladder, he focused on technical certifications. He became a distinguished member of the technical staff, holding the highest position without managing people.

I love the technical side of the job, too. But I gravitated toward the times I could connect with customers and work with teams to solve problems. So, I chose management. It still requires a level of technical competence so I can effectively talk about the products and solutions and identify new opportunities. But the farther up you go, the less technical and more financial you need to be. 

At some point in a highly technical career, we reach the fork in the road. We need to choose if we will pursue management or the technical track of certifications. We cannot be both. This is not unique to engineering or technical careers. We see the same in sales. The best sales professional does not necessarily equate to the best sales manager. The skills and passions are different. 

I’ve found many technical people become managers because that is the natural career progression – not necessarily the right path for them. Too often they should have drawn a line like my dad did. They’d be happier and more successful. A desire for both technical and management skills often leads organizations to pursue Marco’s Managed Services. They get the team of qualifications and services – without having to hire it.

How do you know which path is right for you? Consider these key questions:

  • How do others rate your communication skills?
    It’s important to understand how non-technical people describe your communication style when considering the management path. When we surround ourselves with technical people, we can talk differently. Management challenges us to adapt our style and have the ability to break down complex concepts in easy to understand language.

  • How well do you get along with people?
    On the technical path, you can be more isolated, working on projects more independently. The management path is the complete opposite. You explore and solve problems collaboratively. Which do you prefer? Where do you thrive?

  • Why do you want to be a manager?
    Too often people may choose management for the money when it should be about the people. While people can earn more in management, highly technical team members can make just as much in many cases because their specialized skills are in growing demand. Being a manager is completely different than being an engineer or technician. It requires a different set of skills and most of them are people-based, like the ability to handle conflict, motivate and measure progress.

Neither path is better than the other. They are different and you’re probably more naturally gifted for one than the other. Our world will continue to need a rising amount of both types of professionals.

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Topics: Hiring, Technology Trends

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