I’ve heard tech managers say lately that they think there’s some mysterious fallacy in the industry, that tech management is often strange (or bad) because technical management comes from the technical ranks. That good engineers don’t make good managers. While that’s fine for people to say, here are my thoughts. (Note: I sent a version of this as an email to someone, and I thought “hey, why not blog about this, despite not being a manager?”)
A few weeks ago, Camille Fournier had a really interesting Twitter conversation that I watched (blog post out of it: http://whilefalse.blogspot.com/2014/08/on-charm-skills-and-management.html) on being in engineering management. I am interested in this, for it is likely I’ll end up there eventually, because time.
I find it interesting that folks in engineering management think that “good engineers” being groomed as managers will, or even just should, change, but at the same time I don’t think it ever will, because it’s just like the situation of majoring in biology to get into medical school.
Counselors sometimes tell students “you don’t have to major in biology to go to med school! In fact, not majoring in biology can help you stand out!” This leads to some (spoiler: misguided?) students to spend lots of energy majoring in philosophy, or music theory, or whatever, and then applying to medical school.
Except then you take freshman biology (this happened for my husband, true story), and are lucky enough to have a professor who says “that is ABSURDLY bad advice. Of COURSE you should major in biology [note: bias evident from fact of biology professorship]. It’s the one major that gets you all your pre-reqs, and then you don’t have the distraction of having to do pre-reqs and another major. If the MAJORITY of med students majored in biology, wouldn’t that make it a good idea?”
So if the majority (all?) of engineering management come from the ranks of the “good engineers” … why would that ever change? And if you wanted to go into management … isn’t your best bet (because math) to be a good engineer?
Thoughts, management folk? People who like to rant about management folk?