So, You Are a Tech Manager Now…

** I want to start by saying that this is nowhere near a comprehensive list of things that can help you better manage, but simply a sharing of my personal experience and meant to help people step back and think about things a bit. **

 

So, now you’re a manager. You got that promotion that you probably either dreaded or worked very hard for. The question is, what now? Your whole career you’ve been a tech guy and now all of a sudden you’re a manager. First thing to remember is, don’t panic! (and perhaps carry a towel just in case)

While this can be a very spooky time, it’s also a great step in your career. You are going to have to look at things a little differently though. For one, instead of waiting for somebody to tell you what to do, you’re going to have to do the telling. That means now, all of a sudden, you are responsible for figuring out what needs to be done and assigning someone to the task. This may be new to you, but if you keep a cool head, it’s not that bad.  Remember that when you’re in management, the responsibility falls to you. You can delegate the work, but you are still responsible for the results.

 

Budgets

Being in management means looking at the big picture. You need to understand what it really cost per unit of XYZ, and you are going to need to start thinking about how much available labor you have versus how much you need to spend. It’s like budgeting with money, only with time instead.

Something to remember here is that unlike money, where a dollar is worth a dollar, labor varies in its value. Some folks are 85% efficient, others hover around 12%, some can even cause an efficiency/oxygen deficit by dragging others down (<- we all know that person, right?). Labor is generally referred to in a unit of measure called an FTE (Full Time Equivalent) which we consider to be a body working 40 hours per week. Don’t ever try to calculate projects based on straight FTEs though as this can result in much wailing and gnashing of teeth. You have to remember that just because a person is burning oxygen for 40 hours a week, they are not producing 40 hours worth of work. On the flip side, sometimes a person can be working on 2 things at once that overlap, so you have to consider that. For example, if it takes 2 hours to image a workstation, you can figure that much of that time can be spent doing something else while data copies, so it may only take .5 FTEs (30 minutes of actual labor) to do the job.

 

When it comes to financial planning, if you are going to have a budget or be a part of budget planning, learn about the difference between CAPEX and OPEX. Understand that in the technical word, a lot of CAPEX also requires significant OPEX. Likewise, you can move some CAPEX expenses to OPEX, for example by moving to that cloud thingie that is so popular with you youngsters.

 

Language

Another hurdle you may face is a different language used by leadership. They tend to speaking dollarese where we speak in techenese. In a truly cruel irony of the universe, these two languages have very little in common, and those words that are similar in pronunciation, mean polar opposite things. This can lead to anything from minor misunderstandings to World Wars.  To get a handle on this I recommend you spend a little time with some online management courses, maybe somewhere like Lynda.com, that can help you understand management basics and semantics.

 

Personnel 

This can be truly difficult if you were promoted from within the ranks. You may be dealing with folks that are jealous that they did not get the promotion, folks that were peers that you did not get along with, or even the feeling that you “sold out” to management. Regardless, you have to change the relationship. This doesn’t mean you can’t be friends, but what that means will probably need to change how the friendship operates or is perceived. The days of partying after work with the team, sleeping in the parking garage and coming to work to hear stories that start with, “I can’t believe you did that!” are over. If that’s what you want, resign your leadership role now.

 

The best advice I can give when it comes to becoming a manager is to be humble, but firm. You are there to help the people you manage succeed and grow, and make the business a success. This is not about power, it’s not about bossing people around, it’s not about you, it’s about leading. That means getting your hands dirty as well and not just giving all the garbage jobs to the team. On the flip side, that does not mean you should do everything yourself. You have to allow others to do new things so they can grow, but don’t try to use them as your personal slaves. This may take some practice, but if you are honest with your team and humble about your role, people tend to respond well. You may have some folks push boundaries, this is normal as they figure out where your limits are. Don’t take this personally, listen to their suggestions, consider the argument, but remain firm in your decisions unless there is a compelling reason to change.

 

There are other things you may not have had to do, such as performance reviews for your old team members. This gets a little weird when you are managing people that you used to be peers with. It may not be easy, but this is one place where you really earn the title of manager. You may find yourself reviewing a person that you don’t like personally. Set the personal issues aside and judge them on the job requirements. It’s not always easy to do, but just because they shared that embarrassing picture from the Christmas party after a few too many eggnogs, it doesn’t mean they aren’t great at the job. You need to be honest about it and fair to everyone. Don’t be afraid to say, “Tom, we haven’t always got along, but you are a great here.”

 

Check Your Pride at the Door

Embrace feedback from your leadership and your team as well. Be open to criticism and be willing to learn from it. You are doing something new and uncomfortable and you will make some mistakes along the way. Mistakes are OK if you own the goof up, learn from it and don’t repeat it. Apply this to your team members as well.

 

Dress Code

I decided to add this after just having lunch with a friend. You might need to dress differently. Embrace it, love it, live it and SUIT UP!  😀

 

 

 

TL;DR

You are responsible for people now, and you will need to act like it. Embrace the personal and professional growth, get serious about things and enjoy seeing your team grow. It will grow on you, and one of the most rewarding things I have ever experienced is watching a person I led excel in their career and personal life.

 

 

 


Erich Kron, Security Awareness Advocate at KnowBe4, is a veteran information security professional with over 20 years’ experience in the medical, aerospace manufacturing and defense fields. He is the former security manager for the 2nd Regional Cyber Center-Western Hemisphere and holds CISSP, CISSP-ISSAP, MCITP and ITIL v3 certifications, among others. Erich has worked with information security professionals around the world to provide the tools, training and educational opportunities to succeed in InfoSec

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