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Topic Title: Accidential Manager - Is it worth it....?
Topic Summary: Finding myself as a manager was an unpleasant surprise
Created On: 27 November 2008 03:04 AM
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 27 November 2008 03:04 AM
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medic

Posts: 5
Joined: 30 January 2003


Hi all,

As an individual contributor I have excelled with a proven track record of accomplishments and results. I am the preverbal 'go to guy'. As a result of my work I've been promoted several times and last February my manager took me aside and asked if I would be interested in 'mentoring' other engineers. Sure I said, be glad to help.

Next thing I knew the VP of Engineering for the Americas announces to the world that I will be managing a new group specifically focused in engineering applications.

10 months on I'm working 16hr days making up for the work of 7 of the 10 people in my group that cant do the challenging technical stuff and also 'managing' the group which includes product management, budgeting, performance reviews and all the other administration that goes with the job.
If that doesn't sound sad enough I didn't get a raise...

So in my own performance review recently I asked my manager why did he think I'd ever want to do this job? He said it was good for the company and I should appreciate the extra responsibility and visibility that the role provides.

Truth is I'm fed up with the endless administration whilst watching projects go down the pan as I dont have the time and the company does not have talented front line people to pull off the projects.
I'm caught doing both jobs wondering if I'm the one who will be fired if the projects fail as I'm responsible for everything. All the while I'm thinking that my technical skills are what made me employable and gave me job security. Another year as a manager and I'll lose those skills. Without knowing the value of my new management skills and seeing the technical door close behind me I'm concerned about my prospects for the future.

So I'd like a vote. Should I:

a. Embrace my managers role, learn people skills and enjoy the new challenges. As a manager my visibility will be higher and from this influential position I can steer the company, both in project management and hiring new people into the group. Over time I will delegate more and have time for my own professional development too.

b. Tell my manager I'd like my old job back. Continue excelling in my field, enjoy the personal challenges and continue to solve the problems at the coal face. Job satisfaction and security for the same money.

????
 27 November 2008 09:14 AM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

First thing I would say is that in my opinion/experience (having done both) you can either be a practising engineer or a manager, not both. This is because (as I expect you've found) they need a totally different way of working - as an engineer you need to get your head down to the work without being interrupted, as a manager you probably won't be working on any one job for more than a few minutes at a time.

Really it's down to you as to what job you want to do. There is a problem in that many companies do not provide an upwards career path for engineers, forcing them into management if they want to gain higher rewards or authority. And realistically it is hard to stay valuable as an engineer as your career progresses (i.e. as you get older!) But if you are really enjoying engineering and not management you do need to consider whose for whose benefit it is you are doing the job. Companies owe their employees very little loyalty, and if the company hits hard times you may well be dropped whatever your position is and however many hours you have worked. Then you need to think "what skills have I got to sell my next employer?" If you want your next job to be as an engineer but your last two years experience are as a manager you are going to have a big problem. And vice versa.

If the company value you as much as they seem to they are not going to want to lose you, as long as you do not actually start blackmailling them. If you were to (assertively but not aggressively) propose that your technical skills add more value to the company than your management skills, and particularly if you can propose a practical and valuable variation to your role to allow you to get where you want, you may be pleasantly surprised by your company's response.

BUT do not pass up the opportunity to gain any training/experience you reasonably can in your situation, you never know when it will come in useful! And do seriously consider what you want to be doing in, say, five years time. (NOT what you feel you "ought" to be doing.)

(Biog note: I spent about 20 years as a design engineer with brief and largely unsuccesful forays into team leadership; 8 years ago I switched, succesfully this time, to full time management.)

Final note re job security: A few years ago we had a major round of redundancies. I asked, as a manager, to be made redundant, this was turned down, however several of my engineers (who definitely did not want to go) were made redundant. You can never foretell which position has the greatest security.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert

Edited: 27 November 2008 at 09:19 AM by amillar
 29 November 2008 09:17 PM
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dlane

Posts: 690
Joined: 28 September 2007

Well I would pretty much agree with Andy's comments above.

It boils down to what you want to do and the direction you want your career to take. No one can tell you whats best for you....its your own choice I'm afraid!!

Two things I would like to add for you to think about.

1) If you want to stay as a manager then learn to manage your workload. Don't do the jobs that you used to do when you were an engineer, I know it can be hard to let go but you really do need to do it so that your workload is more sensible.
If people struggle with what they do then get them trained or coach them. If you do it for them they won't learn and will always come back to you for help as its the easy option for them.

2) I would be cautious about going back to my old job with the same company. You may find that although on paper you have returned to your old position you may actually still be doing some of the role of your management position.
It isn't unusual to get promoted and not get more money for it straight away. The company will want to see that you can prove yourself in your new role beofre handing out a raise.

Kind regards

Donald Lane

Edited: 29 November 2008 at 09:20 PM by dlane
 01 December 2008 12:29 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

Very good points, to amplify a bit more

Originally posted by: dlane
1) If you want to stay as a manager then learn to manage your workload. Don't do the jobs that you used to do when you were an engineer, I know it can be hard to let go but you really do need to do it so that your workload is more sensible.

If people struggle with what they do then get them trained or coach them. If you do it for them they won't learn and will always come back to you for help as its the easy option for them.

Probably the biggest trap for the responsible engineer: the "they won't do it right/it's quicker to do it myself" syndrome. Your time is better spent putting in and managing controls that will prevent any errors or delays getting to the outside world. After a surprisingly short (and, admittedly, nervewracking) time you will find that you are not having to spend time on this any more, and that everyone is much happier. As an engineer one of the worst things that can happen is to feel that your boss has taken over your work because they don't trust you.

Incidentally, a cautionary tale on this: many years after I moved into management one of my engineers admitted that he had come close to thumping me in my early days because I kept asking what he was doing. Actually the reason I was asking was because I honestly didn't understand his area of work and was trying to get my head around it, but that was obviously not the way it came across!

2)...It isn't unusual to get promoted and not get more money for it straight away. The company will want to see that you can prove yourself in your new role beofre handing out a raise.

Very true, six months in my case. I frequently go through this with staff "why should I take on more responsibility if I'm not getting paid for it?" The problem is that demoting people is incredibly difficult (for a whole range of reasons) so the company is likely to really, really want to make sure that they have the right person first. BUT what you should negotiate is a definate timescale and targets for a promotion, and also there is no harm in asking whether it can be backdated when it does occur.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 02 December 2008 12:00 PM
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phillip.kearns

Posts: 8
Joined: 18 January 2003

It all depends on what you enjoy, where you want to be and most of all having a good work-life balance. Working 16hrs a day isn't good for anyone. I certainly couldn't sustain that type of commitment, especially without the proper reimbursement.

The initial transition into management is always difficult, and 'talent management' is hard without a good support network around you.

From what you've said your company hasn't given you the support you need to do the job effectively, and Andy is right the company will show you little loyalty when they are hard against it. This can be a very expensive personal lesson to learn.


Edited: 10 December 2008 at 08:38 AM by phillip.kearns
 02 February 2009 06:46 AM
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sweet224

Posts: 1
Joined: 02 February 2009

Originally posted by: medic

Hi all,



As an individual contributor I have excelled with a proven track record of accomplishments and results. I am the preverbal 'go to guy'. As a result of my work I've been promoted several times and last February my manager took me aside and asked if I would be interested in 'mentoring' other engineers. Sure I said, be glad to help.





Next thing I knew the VP of Engineering for the Americas announces to the world that I will be managing a new group specifically focused in engineering applications.



10 months on I'm working 16hr days making up for the work of 7 of the 10 people in my group that cant do the challenging technical stuff and also 'managing' the group which includes product management, budgeting, performance reviews and all the other administration that goes with the job.

If that doesn't sound sad enough I didn't get a raise...



So in my own performance review recently I asked my manager why did he think I'd ever want to do this job? He said it was good for the company and I should appreciate the extra responsibility and visibility that the role provides.



Truth is I'm fed up with the endless administration whilst watching projects go down the pan as I dont have the time and the company does not have talented front line people to pull off the projects.

I'm caught doing both jobs wondering if I'm the one who will be fired if the projects fail as I'm responsible for everything. All the while I'm thinking that my technical skills are what made me employable and gave me job security. Another year as a manager and I'll lose those skills. Without knowing the value of my new management skills and seeing the technical door close behind me I'm concerned about my prospects for the future.



So I'd like a vote. Should I:



a. Embrace my managers role, learn people skills and enjoy the new challenges. As a manager my visibility will be higher and from this influential position I can steer the company, both in project management and hiring new people into the group. Over time I will delegate more and have time for my own professional development too.



b. Tell my manager I'd like my old job back. Continue excelling in my field, enjoy the personal challenges and continue to solve the problems at the coal face. Job satisfaction and security for the same money.



????

==================
hi dear so sad but don't worry you have alot of experince plz trust on god, god bless you
============================
sandy
Job Search
 02 February 2009 09:46 AM
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iie13351

Posts: 36
Joined: 19 May 2006

Hi
There seem to be two obvious answers to your problem. First, you should not be doing two jobs, which your message implies. You should consult with your line manager and get it clear which role you should be filling.

Second, if it is just mainly the management role, you should grasp it with open hands. Speaking from experioence, I practised as a very senior engineer over 25 years,until promoted to a management position, from which I progressed up the management tree for a further 13 years in an industry where only 2% or thereabouts were managers. I have to tell you that dealing with staff, with many engineers equally as qualified, if not more than me, was the most rewarding time in my career. Dealing with HR problems and motivating staff, is much more satisfying that dealing with bits of engineering - and they thank you for it!

I was always asked how I coped with my position which was also very demanding, involving considerable out-of-hours and weekend work, often away from home for days and also abroad. The answer is simple - delegation.

A good manager realises that he can't do everything himself, or herself, and must delegate and then, most importantly, stand back and let the person get on with it without interference, unless advice is sought, or a decision beyond the other person's role is needed.

Howver, get your role more clearly defined first. Good luck

Conrad
 03 March 2009 04:29 PM
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jkn

Posts: 1
Joined: 01 November 2004

Hello all
I came across this thread with much interest. By way of introduction, I'm a MIET and CEng with a background in embedded computer systems, and also management. This topic of the relationship between technical skills and the managerial roles is one close to my heart.

I also have training in some 'softer' disciplines which use, amongst other things, modern findings about brain function, learning, and neurological action to help a person become more effective at the things they actually want to be doing.

I am currently engaged in tying these areas together to provide a 'wholebody' coaching/mentoring service for people skilled in engineering who, accidentally or more purposefully, find themselves moving from the more closed system of technical excellence, to the more open and non-deterministic world of managing projects and guiding others.

As part of this I'm keen to talk with others who have successfully made such transitions, to learn more about their specific experiences.

As this is a bit off topic, I hoped to email the various participants to this thread separately. However the IET forum SW doesn't seem to allow me to do this (I'm happy to learn if this is not the case...). So if you (ie. Andy Millar, Donald Lane, 'medic', or anyone else) would be amenable to having a short e-conversation with me about such things, could you email me so that I can reply to you directly? I can be contacted either on

jon.nicoll@theiet.org

or

jkn@nicorp.co.uk

Thanks a lot. I will be happy to make the distilled results of this work available on the IET forum or elsewhere.

Best Regards
Jon Nicoll
 05 March 2009 05:00 PM
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Frank Peacock

Posts: 61
Joined: 29 August 2006

Sweet 224

Re So I'd like a vote. Should I:

Quote

a. Embrace my managers' role, learn people skills and enjoy the new challenges. As a manager my visibility will be higher and from this influential position I can steer the company, both in project management and hiring new people into the group. Over time I will delegate more and have time for my own professional development too.

b. Tell my manager I'd like my old job back. Continue excelling in my field, enjoy the personal challenges and continue to solve the problems at the coal face. Job satisfaction and security for the same money.

Un-quote

I cannot vote on your life choices as we all make our own decisions and I don't want to make a vote that screws your life up.

I will pass on a piece of advice I got when I moved from doing work to managing work and people.

The man I worked for told me I was making a common mistake in trying to do my old job and the new job and was suffering the consequences.

Don't try to do the work of the people below and learn the job of the person above you by doing it as you are trying to do three things at once.

Work exists at 3 levels.

Doing work.
Moving work around the people who do work.
Changing the people around to do the work.

I hope this helps.

Regards Frank
 07 March 2009 08:59 AM
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greenpasture

Posts: 1
Joined: 07 March 2009

This does sound like quite a predicament, as I'm in a similar situation myself. I notice it's been a while since you've made your post Medic. Just curious as to how things have been since, and what choice you made?

Regards,
Lauren
How To French Kiss

Edited: 07 March 2009 at 09:00 AM by greenpasture
 05 August 2009 06:55 PM
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dvaidr

Posts: 519
Joined: 08 June 2003

I've been maintenance manager, engineering manager and facilities manager. Thankfully, I was made redundant and returned to a Discipline Engineer position, still with 'management duties and responsbilities'. Personally, I hated being a manager - very boring and you have to put up with contrived comradeship and that awful management speak. It's so not me! Although, perhaps I'll leave the last comment on the hillside overnight and check for teeth marks in the morning. It's so nice to touch base with you guys.
 09 June 2010 01:10 AM
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protos

Posts: 14
Joined: 14 June 2003

Well I would pretty much agree with Andy's comments above.

It boils down to what you want to do and the direction you want your career to take. No one can tell you whats best for you....its your own choice I'm afraid!!

Two things I would like to add for you to think about.

1) If you want to stay as a manager then learn to manage your workload. Don't do the jobs that you used to do when you were an engineer, I know it can be hard to let go but you really do need to do it so that your workload is more sensible.
If people struggle with what they do then get them trained or coach them. If you do it for them they won't learn and will always come back to you for help as its the easy option for them.

2) I would be cautious about going back to my old job with the same company. You may find that although on paper you have returned to your old position you may actually still be doing some of the role of your management position.
It isn't unusual to get promoted and not get more money for it straight away. The company will want to see that you can prove yourself in your new role beofre handing out a raise.

Kind regards

K. Bagheri IENgBEngMIET

-------------------------
Do not confuse activity with achievement

-------------------------
K. Bagheri
 09 June 2010 02:53 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

This is an exact copy of Donald's post above (29/11/08) with just the name changed.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 09 June 2010 09:06 PM
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dlane

Posts: 690
Joined: 28 September 2007

You'd have thought that the least they could have done would have been to correct the typo...

Kind regards


Donald Lane
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