Managers Are Technical

When I became a manager, I was worried my ‘technical skills’ would wane.

Even now, I still often hear people talk about ‘technical skills’ about software engineers and ‘soft skills’ concerning managers. This can make it seem like being a manager means no longer being ‘technical’, and somehow the skills required are more accessible or of less value.

So let’s define what we mean by technical skills:

‘Technical skills refer to the specialised knowledge and expertise needed to accomplish complex actions, tasks, and processes’

Being a great manager is exceptionally challenging and technical. Very rarely is a team successful without a skilled manager present. Yet, software engineers may be paid more than the managers they report to in the current hiring world because many companies do not recognise this. This often leads to many problems that I could easily write another blog post about.

As managers of software engineers, we want to command respect and make it clear that we can empathise with the struggles of being in those roles that report to us; otherwise, it can be very challenging to do our jobs.

Great teams are built, enabled and nurtured by great technical managers.

Managers need specialised knowledge and expertise and often deal with ambiguous, highly complex tasks. This is especially true with engineering managers, who often deal with the same highly complex domain as software engineers. For this reason, these roles often require people from a software engineering background - not only do they need the technical skills of management they also still need to use a lot of the knowledge they gained in their hands-on software engineering roles.

When I became a manager, I decreased my hands-on programming skills to gain my coaching, management, and leadership skills. I was not reducing my ‘technical’ skills in general. I still use a lot of the knowledge and skills I learned during my hands-on software engineering career. Managers are technical, too.