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The new breed of IT Manager

By deimos in Op-Ed
Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 02:32:41 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Welcome to the new breed of IT management. I find that as I meet more and more my peers in management, that more and more of them are hardcore hackers, in the true sense of the term, that have moved into management. These new managers have various motives for taking the promotion and moving on. Sometimes it's the inability of current management to effectively utilize technology, sometimes the absolute frustration with the classic "phb" screwing up their lives.

I, as one data point, stepped into IT management because it gave me a challenge. I grew tired of being a systems and network admin, always at the receiving end of projects and plans. This is not to say I was the best ever and didn't have any growth left in me, just that I saw that things could be run a heck of a lot better than the current crop of "phb"s were doing. I am now able to shape a design as I see fit; taking input from my team, being conscious not to force ideas on the unwilling. I also find that I understand and can empathize with the sysadmins or dbas, having been there myself.

I know first hand what it's like to be forced to do a project you don't want to do, and one that involves inferior technology. Especially if that technology was acquired based on a slideware demo and the promises of a salesman. I get to get involved at a management and a technical level with projects, figuring out the best solution to the problem, rather than simply throwing technology at it. Using the management title to help change stupid or broken processes and workflows is awesome. The ability to visibly see that someones job is easier because of my efforts is one of the best joys management brings to me.

However, I'm also able to frag the hell out of most of my co-workers. I still spend hours playing games online, reading technical books, and yes, some management books, and finally staying up with the sysadmins helping them out at night.

Perhaps you feel I'm deluding myself thinking I'm technical when in reality I'm "just a boss". I started to think that at one point too. Then I met the others....

Granted, not all IT Managers are like this, most have forgetton more than they ever thought they knew about technology. "Magazine management" was a favorite term at past employer amongst the sysadmins. It cracked me up that whatever new technology was pimped in eWeek (former PC Week) InfoWeek, etc would be brought up at staff meetings by our boss. I hated that crap. Learn what the technology can do, and the best way to utilize it before shoving it down on unwilling people. I didn't need yet another network management package, thanks for not asking and buying this crappy product though.

I've met a number of other IT managers with similar ideas. We all still build our own PCs, hack our own networks, I, for one, love to decode packets, and still do so for fun. I love to figure out what information is passed in the online games, or other programs and OSes.

Yes, I am your boss. I still work with the other business units to get things accomplished. I fully understand the role of technology in relation to the business objectives. It helps me better utilize technology to make my employee's work lives better in the long run. I can also flip the knife around and kill stupid projects that solely existed for technologies' sake. Sometimes I'm corrected as well and enlightened to the business reasons why we need this crappy software from this crappy vendor.

In the end, I'm happy to see that I'm not alone with my ideas and practices. However, at some future level of managment, I'll be forced to become more of a manager vs. more of a tech. When that time comes, I'll probably turn down the position. :P


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The new breed of IT Manager | 9 comments (9 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Refreshing perspective (2.28 / 7) (#1)
by jabber on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 12:34:25 AM EST

God bless you sir. Are you hiring?

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

yeah (2.00 / 4) (#2)
by eries on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 12:49:11 AM EST

where do you work?
Promoting open-source OO code reuse on the web: the Enzyme open-source project
management (4.16 / 6) (#3)
by yonderboy on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 01:42:03 AM EST

I see an alarming trend towards micro-management these days. I personally have 4 bosses. 1 team manager, 1 department manager, 1 "technology" manager (I still have no idea just what he does), and 1 director. Of course, these are just the people that work on the same floor as me. If I wanted, I could have no less than 7 people raining fire upon my cube.

Didn't people see the problem with micro-management in the 80's? Do we really need that many people managing a group of hackers? Most hackers I know don't need much in the way of happy-fuzzy-touchy-feely management to get the job done... In fact, I think we could get more work done if it wasn't for so many managers coming in to assign me more projects.

We need more managers that understand concepts like over-management. If all managers could be as understanding as you are, when it comes to being a hacker, things would be a lot better. ;)

projects and management (4.00 / 5) (#4)
by infinitewaitstate on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 04:12:04 AM EST

I recently became a manager by default, for a small ISP's (15K users) NOC, and one lesson I've learned already is that, often, managers do not have a choice in assigning projects.

Some projects are long term wishlists that are quickly becoming needs, others are immediate problems that need resolution, and still others are past due, often due to other managers delaying things because something more interesting came up.

As to management technique...

Yes, hackers don't react well to micro-management, maybe. There might a subtle difference between micro-management and over-management, IMO.

Micro-management, to me, means checking (either in a simple e-mail or verbal manner) for progress of any sort (detail optional), simply because the hacker is unlikely to tell you boo about their progress unless prompted, or else they get sidetracked by a shiny "new" problem that, while related to the problem at hand, is optional, and all the while forgetting the main goal (I could site examples from my own office, but it would be insulting to those concerned).

Over-management would be demanding detailed written reports daily. While this might look good to the CEOs, both the hacker and the manager end up frustrated in the end. The hacker because (s)he's being pestered for details where there may or may not be any yet, the manager for the apparent lack of closure on the problem, and both because of the lost man-hours.

The big key, I think, in the original post, was that a manager has to be able to pull their techinical share, and if they can't know enough to trust,and support, those that can. Or maybe that's just me daydreaming about how it should be.

... but then again, what do I know?
[ Parent ]

Tech managers are not always perfect. (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by Merekat on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 09:40:05 AM EST

Everybody else is busy extolling the virtues of techs as managers, and if they actually wrap their head around the management bit, they are pretty damn good. But too often I've seen them overconcerned with getting down with the guys that they don't do what they're supposed to - manage.

The other half is miserable in his sysadmin job because his IT Manager won't manage. Instead, he does bits 'n pieces of everybody elses job, leaving them with nothing to do, and doesn't stand up for the department in a company wide setting to the point that when a new company direction was announced and employees were asked to talk to their managers about it, he didn't know anything about it. Interfacing with the rest of the company is a very important part of being a manager, but this guy couldn't let go of the tech for long enough to do this, to the detriment of the deptartment.

This guy is only the current example I have of this. Some of my friends have tried the management path and fallen flat on their faces. It does not work unless you are willing to bend a little and realise it is a different job to your previous one and you cannot continue as you did then. You don't have to turn into a phb overnight or anything, but if you are taking this path, please realise, like the author of this article does that you have to actually *be* a boss.
I've always had the greatest respect for other peoples crack-pot beliefs.
- Sam the Eagle, The Muppet Show

Soft management skills (2.00 / 1) (#7)
by edoloughlin on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 12:08:50 PM EST

please realise, like the author of this article does that you have to actually *be* a boss.

Absolutely. There are a whole set of 'professional management' skills that you need to be a good manager. I would see these as mostly interpersonal skills, such as coaching, leadership (choosing the right style based on the people you're leading), providing feedback in the right manner, communication skills and many more.

These days, with a tight labour supply, companies can't afford to annoy employees - too much of a company's value is in the heads of its employees. A disgruntled employee can withhold knowledge, which really affects the bottom line these days.

[ Parent ]
Its a hope right..? (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by Malachi on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 11:28:29 AM EST

In Charlotte, where I am at, all my friends in the tech sector all complain about their managments deficiency in managing technology. If its not the mass web house of iXL who just introduced new tiers of non-technologists, to the banks who are so confused and convoluted its a chaortic organization that survives by means I don't understand.

I, like some of these other souls are curious how to find such jobs. I've been the Director of our Internal systems now for a year, while its truly just a label on me for investors, I am our network engineer, or administrator, and at times a physical plant builder. I want to be one of the new IT managers. I know what the language is, I know how a project should be run. What I do fear is going into management where the whole hierarchy is screwed and even in that position you can't move without even more bureocratic tape.

oh well.. I'm glad we're going through business technology iterations.. for every dotcom that fails, its people are hardened a bit more which makes for a better people the next go. I am oh so tired of people who because they have money, think their opinions are worth something just because of it.

Keepin it real,
We know nothing but to ask more questions.

Is there a point? (1.00 / 1) (#8)
by sl4ck0ff on Thu Nov 16, 2000 at 06:22:38 PM EST

Was there something you wanted to get across in this message? I see no questions, or concerns. All you proceed to do is talk about yourself, you know, that's why kuro5hin has diaries.
/me has returned to slacking
Management decisions (2.00 / 1) (#9)
by cadfael on Thu Nov 23, 2000 at 04:46:44 PM EST

I stepped into a position that screams for me to manage fairly short order. I decided it was better to be in the front leading the charge with a clue rather than suffering from the leadership of the clueless. No regrets so far...

People who get between me and my morning coffee should feel insecure.
The new breed of IT Manager | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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