Career Advice Tuesday – Technical Security Pros Forced Into Management Roles

August 18, 2009

Dear Mike and Lee:

I’m at the point in my career where I’m being asked to consider a management track (because I’m technically really good).  How do you forward your career technically without moving into management?

Signed – Technically Talented

Dear Technically Talented:

You ask a question that is echoed by many other information security professionals.  Many info sec professionals work in environments where management is the only way to earn additional pay and increased responsibility.  Unfortunately, this does not allow technical information security professionals the ability to advance their career in a direction that aligns with their personal career goals. 

If  this is the case, your are left with a few choices.

The first is to speak with your manager about your career desires, and see if they have an avenue to pursue this direction.  

In a perfect world, you would have made your manager aware of your career aspirations prior to being faced with this situation.  (This is your responsibility, noone else’s.) If you have not, do not assume.  It is customary for people to believe  that everyone shares their own personal career goals. Since your manager most likely began their career as a technical professional,  they may believe that the path they have chosen for themselves  is the best one for their top performing team members. 

Second, you can give management a try, and see how you like it.  This could turn into a great opportunity for you, and may recognize (after trying it) that you are a good manager and enjoy the challenges that this role presents.  However, you should come to an agreement with your employer that if you do not enjoy the managerial role, then you could return to your technical individual contributor capacity, without penalty.

The third choice could be to look for employment elsewhere.  I would only suggest this after exploring the first two options that I outlined.    When searching for a new employer, I would look for one that has a clearly defined  career path for technically focused professionals.   The company should value professionals that are able to advance and contribute to the company’s mission by their technical contributions alone. Traditionally, these will be environments where technology contributes to their market advantage and competitive posture.  Many of these organizations will have a research and development capacity whose funding and success is core to the business. 

In order to advance your career and maximize your professional potential, it is critical to work in an environment that understands your talent and value.

Hope this helps answer your question.

 Lee and Mike


Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Career Advice Tuesday 


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