Geek Job Guru: Full Management Alchemist

Org Chart

It’s time we have The Talk.

OK, that admittedly isn’t clear, which is the point because this is a lame attempt at humor before a serious situation. This is The Talk about Management.

It’s probably not what you think. That, by the way, is my attempt to lure you into reading in case the lame humor didn’t work.

Let’s talk Management

The Importance Of Management

Now, let’s be honest, I am biased towards supporting management as I am management – Program Management specifically as of late, Project Management for about nine years before. True, that’s not “management management,” but still it’s the basic art of making sure stuff gets done. I like getting stuff done, and have been doing it for a decade, so, yes, I’m biased, but I also know good management works.

Yes, we may cooperate well individually, or in small teams. But once you get past a certain size, a team needs management. Oh, they may not call it that. They may invoke holarchy or flattened organization, but in the end some people’s are the folks that make the parts run together and manage progress and process. They may not even be formally recognized, they may not have actual power, but they’re there.

People are prone to bashing management because we’ve also seemed damned incompetent examples of it, which is rather ironic considering it’s necessity. It’s usually because someone is given a management position without he actual knowledge, ability, people skills, or any redeeming qualities. We’re used to management in hierarchy as opposed to ability.

Then again, the people that clean up after those “position managers?” They’re the real managers.

Some of you are nodding right now. You had to clean up. You had to get the team organized. Sure, you weren’t a manager, right? I mean . . .

Yes. That momentary chill up your spine is real, my dear reader. For the call of Management is coming from inside your own head.

(If there’s an echo? That’s your problem.)

It’s OK To Be A Manager

And know what? It’s OK to do management, to lead, to make sure things get done. It’s fine, it’s what some of us do. It’s a skillset. It’s a gift. Just look at how disordered people can get if they don’t have the ability to manage and remember that, perhaps, you have that skill.

As geeky as I am, I’m an organizer, a planner, a tracker. I got authentically excited over products like Trello and Wrike. I like to help things get done. I like to see people work together. I adore pressing the flesh and getting to know people and then making sure things happen.

You can enjoy it to. It’s OK. I won’t think any ill of you, and those that do can stew in their own disorganization until they cry out for help to be saved from the pit of chaos.

Sorry, got bitter.  That happens occasionally.

But anyway, it’s OK to be a manager. It won’t make you less of a geek, you won’t be any less cool, you won’t be any less of who you are. In fact . . . there’s a chance your hobby and your geekery are your first signs of entering the Manager State.

(That’s like the Avatar State, but you can call upon all the past manager’s knowledge to create charts. Also crazy guys from the Fire Nation are less likely to try and kill you.)

The Touch Of Management

So, it’s OK to be a manager, it’s OK to be the organized person, and it is OK to use it in your career. That’s how I got where I am, and all joking aside, it’s was and is a hell of a trip.

So, when you’re doing your geeky things, running cons, playing RPGs, you may note now and then you’re organizing everything. you’re planning things. You’re charting things. And, maybe, maybe you wonder . . . is your future some day going to be management.

These are the signs I’ve seen:

  • You organize things anyway, even when not asked.
  • You get asked to organize stuff anyway.
  • People actually listen to your ideas of how to get things done.
  • Around you things do get done.
  • You like using tools to get organized.
  • You actually get excited when someone says “here’s how I get things done.”
  • You get “a reputation” for getting stuff done.

Anyone you know like this? You’re probably nodding (right now I can think of several non-manager friends who fit these trats). Are you like this? You may be nodding as well.

And it’s OK. As noted, it’s fine to realize you’re good at organizing things – and wonder if it can be part of your career.

For me, I saw the signs early. I actually ignored them – indeed I once figured I’d never stop being a programmer and said so. Then one day of coping with bad code, watching a database melt down on a site I helpd with as a hobby, I asked “did I want to do this all my life?” The answer was no, and after the talk with a mentor he suggested Project Management – and he was right. That was ten years ago, and it was worth it.

Now even if I had paid attention to the signs I probably wouldn’t have moved much faster, but I think I wouldn’t have had to get to the “what the hell is this” state of my career. I also could have listened to people who noted I’d be a manager and get more of a leg up.

So, go ahead, listen to them. ┬áMaybe that’s where your career is going to take you.

Now Steve Notes He May Be Wrong

However, even if your hobbies point you to being management material, it may not be for you. You have to ask where the dividing line of hobby and career is and that line can mean several things don’t cross over – including management ability. Sure it tends to “bleed over,” but not all the way.

It’s also entirely possible that you have real management skill that you can use on your job but don’t want to use on your hobby. That’s OK too. Maybe you’re tired of being in charge all the time and don’t want to be in your recreations, that’s good – though in my experience it kinda creeps in either way.

Trust me, there’s going to be exceptions to the rule. But I have found that signs of “management types” show up a lot in hobbies, and can at least show you have the option.

Know what, it’s OK?

So, its OK if you want to go into management. Management is not the enemy, not the bad guy – if anything the reason management gets a bad rap is due to bad managers, wrong assumptions, and frankly the weirdly hierarchal idea that managers are somehow “better” than everyone (which many a manager goes on to disprove). I’m not quite sure how the latter came about, but I could probably rant on about it for awhile – fortunately I won’t

Really, management is a mix of skill and personality, the ability to organize and the ability to work with people to get things done. It’s not quite leadership (which is people skill and vision), but a leader might also be a good manager. It’s something that you just happen to be good at – and it’s not something that makes you better.

I find when you realize management is something that you’re just good at, it helps you see clearly if you’re really the type to go into it. This is where I’m thankful for my hobbies again as when I was reviewing my options it was clear as all get out that I was the manager ype. It was a skill, like writing, or art, or acting I could put to use to get thins done.

So it’s OK to be a manager if your hobbies and such point you in that direction. It’s just using what you’re good at – and that bit of humility you get from truly wondering “is this for me” is an good inoculation against becoming the type of manager that gets mocked in comic strips.

Give It A Thought

So, career-wise, I want you to think about if you’re manager materials, and what your geekery says about you. We could use good managers – and I say this very sincerely, especially when I see so many recruiters looking for good managers.

It won’t make you any less of a geek. In fact, the signs may be there because you are one and do what you love – and do it in an organized manner.

– Steven Savage