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Viewer II

Management track to Technical track

I'm interested in moving back into a more technical career track from a management position, and am curious if anybody has advice. I'm still identifying the specific direction that I want to go in, but here's the background of where I'm at now...apologies if too many details!

 

  • Worked for 5 years as an administrative assistant at a college, then earned my BA in computer science at that college. 
  • Worked for 4 years in web development after that but was never really into it. 
  • Decided to take an entry level IT job 3 years ago at a small non profit to get some more varied experience. The department was just me and a manager (who didn't have a tech background) when I was hired. I didn't have access to guidance or mentorship, and the IT infrastructure at the org was virtually nonexistent.
  • I loved the job - I liked getting to troubleshoot computers, learn how hardware and operating systems worked, make patch cables, and figure out wiring. I taught myself how to set up a Windows 2016 server for hosting Quickbooks remotely. I also started teaching myself as much as I could about networking and security in order to make recommendations to upgrade our network and secure the server. I decided that I wanted to get my Network+ cert and go in a network admin direction. 
  • After a year, my boss left the org. I stepped into her role despite having no management ambitions because somebody had to, and I figured I might as well try it out.
  • I've been Director of Systems there for 2 years now. We got a grant to upgrade our technology infrastructure, which allowed us to work with a consulting firm. They upgraded our network with new access points and a firewall, built a new server, set up a VPN, and helped me move the entire org from BYOD to domain-joined company laptops. I was sad not to be able to do the primary hands on these projects any longer, but enjoyed getting to collaborate with and learn from experienced professionals.
  • I enjoy some parts of my job. I'm working now with our consultant and COO on a comprehensive information security program (getting to work on both policy and implementation). The problem is that infrastructure is only a tiny part of what I'm responsible for. I also have to manage complicated Salesforce and web development projects *and* work the help desk. (We're a two person department who are spread unrealistically thin, but that's another story). I find meetings and project management incredibly draining, and if it was up to me, would get to spend all day focusing on network, security, and/or sysadmin projects.
  • I started studying for the SSCP because the material is interesting and useful for the project I'm working on now; I don't have the 5 years of security experience for the CISSP; and I figure that whatever role I transition to, an SSCP can't hurt.
  • Given that I really enjoy hands implementation, I think I might be suited for a role as a network, security, or system administrator. I'm not sure which path to focus on, since the dabbling I've done in all of those areas has been equally interesting to me, and I'm not really sure what the day to day is like for IT departments at bigger organizations.

Anybody have thoughts or advice on what kinds of things to consider when making a transition like this? Places beyond Google where I can learn more about the field outside of my org? Or ways I can be leveling up my skills when I'm doing more management than hands on work? I know it's an incredibly broad question, and very much appreciate any input at all!

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2 Replies
Contributor III

Re: Management track to Technical track

@atosca it sounds like you really miss the hands-on technical aspect of networking and security. The SSCP is a really good fit for you in that regard, but I see lots of potential in your ability to manage technical projects. Wouldn't you love to become a Technical Program Manager? They are in high demand by Google, Microsoft, and AWS. You'll still be able to dive deep into projects, have great technical discussions, and enjoy guiding others with your implementation knowledge.

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Community Champion

Re: Management track to Technical track

Remember there is nothing that says you have to give up the technical aspects when you move into management, you just have to be careful not to micro manage everything. I have always been hands-on, even when I moved into management. I also know when to step back and let my employees grow without my interference. I am always ready to roll up my sleeves and get back in the trenches to help out when needed and I am also quick to know when to get out of the trenches when my "assistance" is no longer needed. There have been several scenarios where I have had to do this by either staff shortages, staff with no drive or initiative, staff without the requisite skills and sometimes just more work than the current team could handle.

 

I also have set up labs at every job I have been at. This allows me to retain my skills while providing a learning opportunity for my workers. I am also continuously learning, going to be sitting for my CCSP later this year.

I also share my knowledge with my staff through training sessions.

 

There are many possibilities for you. If you feel like you would just rather do the IT stuff without the management hassles then by all means, go for it. It will be a learning experience if you allow it. One of the best management lessons I learned was early in my career when I was promoted into management when I wasn't ready. I went from employee to manager and then back to employee. I chose to be "demoted" because I could get more hours as an employee. (TLDR version; I was 18 years old, it was fast food business, 4 managers left and they needed managers really bad, 2 months later 3 managers returned and they didn't need me as a manager as much.) When I looked back on the experience I realized that I had been a horrible manager. My perception of what managers did (sat around and did paperwork) and how they acted was way off and my managerial performance suffered because of it. When I went back to being an employee I saw the error of my ways and it helped me later in my career when I was ready for a management position.

 

There are many things to learn by going back to being a  non-manager.