In our articles and courses we talk about managers’ soft-skills a lot. Let’s look at the other part of the job – hard-skills. To be precise, we are going to talk about balance between these two topics. Every managerial position demands the skills and knowledge far beyond tech competence. However, can we go without this knowledge? The correct answer depends on your position and responsibilities. Surely you can manage people beyond IT division, however, you wouldn’t need this knowledge then. So, we are going to talk about IT management exclusively.
It’s clear that the knowledge CIO/CTO possess with 150 subordinates may be a bit different in comparison with Team Lead managing 5 people. The more people or departments you manage, the more higher-level you should be. You should choose technology for the whole company (sometimes compromising the best for one of the departments). You should think about methodology and build up departments. At this level the quantity of technology an employee should deal with is so high you cannot look into details (and don’t need to).
However, the closer you are to the practical tasks solution, the higher your knowledge of this area should be. Why do you need it? There are several reasons.
Understanding the specifics
Firstly, you will speak the same language with your employees – and that is important. You will work closely with people, take actions. So the better you are understood and are generally good at the topic, the more people will trust and support you. Surely you do not need to be better than everyone in your team. You should know the nature of what you are dealing with. You should know what your employees do so you could understand their problems and solve them.
Secondly, you need to control the working process and accept your employees’ work. For the higher-level receipt (like “push the button and the lights are turning on”) there are other people. You should understand whether your product develops correctly, whether the quality is right or the deadlines are correct. Even though there is a Tech Lead in your team, you cannot transfer your knowledge and skills to control the process completely to him. You are accountable, so you should distinguish the right from wrong. You should also include others into the result reviewing process – it’s always useful to have a second opinion. The most important here is that you should always know how the things’ are going and if the work is done well.
Single person work quality control
Thirdly, and the least pleasant sometimes, you should not only control the working process, but control how good or bad at work every single person. You are in charge of his/her promotion or letting go. So you should know how to evaluate correctly (including the tech skills) in order to make a complex decision.
To conclude, IT leaders should know IT area and have enough IT skills. The amount of such knowledge and skills depends on the position. It varies whether you are a Team Lead/Tech Lead or more higher-level title. In this case you should know either all the details of possible integrations or general methodology and IT according to your roe.
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