Career Advice Tueday – Follow Up -Technical/Management Career Connundrum

August 20, 2009

We received a closely related question to this week’s Career Advice Tuesday segment – we believe that they two are closely intertwined and are on topic.


Dear Mike and Lee:

How do I become a technical leader without heading down the path of management? It’s been my experience that every time I start managing, I begin forfeiting technical skills for people issues. 

Signed – Career Crossroads

Dear Career Crossroads:

Technical leader and people manager are two different skills and should be treated as such.  One of the biggest (and most common) career misconceptions that people have is the belief that solely because they excel at the technical components of their information security position, they will automatically excel in a management capacity.   The truth of the matter is that to be good at anything, you have to develop and cultivate the skills required to be successful.  

It appears from your question that it has been recognized that you have a solid technical background, and possess attributes that could make you a good manager.   Your fear of losing your “technical edge” is a real one.  As a manager, your time is diverted to other issues, and it is only natural that your technical skills will lapse, due to these demands on your time. 

The only way to become a successful manager and maintain your technical skills is by hard work, professional dedication and sacrifice.   This is the difficult part.  It requires a time commitment that usually falls outside of your regular work responsibilities.  Most people choose not to do this, because of the sacrifice that it entails.  Lets be clear,  it is much easier to choose to neglect the development of any skill.  

At some point in your career, it is most likely that you will either receive the reward or  face the consequences for the choices that  you make in the development of your skills. 

Choosing to continue to develop your technical skills should act as your “unemployment insurance” policy.  When company’s downsize, the area that they usually cut is middle management.  Being a manager with strong technical skills should shelter you from this type of career incident. 

Managers that choose to keep their technical skills sharp traditionally make better information security leaders.  The fact that they have an understanding of technical information security issues, provides them with a level of respect from their team members, that their non- technical management counterparts have to work harder to attain.   Having a motivated and effective team, is one of the most important factors in determining a manager’s success. 

The information security market place of the future will become increasingly competitive.  Information Security professionals who have competency in both technical and managerial disciplines will have a competitive advantage over others. 

It will be hard work.  But if it wasn’t, everyone would do it!

Hope this helps,

Mike and Lee

Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Career Advice Tuesday 


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