QUESTION: Climbing the management ladder is easy.
FACT: It is easier to climb the technical ladder because it is not so tightly coupled with the organization’s growth and team structure.
People in the early stages of their career aspire to become managers because they see that these positions have authority and power. They might find that managers are not involved in the projects full time, but spend a considerable amount of time in tracking, resources allocation- and risk assessment, which appear easier assignments. Definitely, this perception evaporates once the person gains experience in the workplace.
Employees see a clear hierarchy in management with well defined roles and responsibilities. The problem is that even though most of the companies have introduced what is known as the ‘technical ladder’, it is difficult to see whether any decision-making power lies there. Employees on this track would also like to be heard and to be accountable. Those on the technical ladder—especially if they are working as a consultant and are not involved in the full project cycle—do not gain respect from other team members. Even a well planned technical ladder can be ineffective if the division of responsibility is not well defined, as this leads to frustration among the employees.
Growth opportunities are always dependent upon business prospects, and management positions are much more tied into a pyramid structure, span of control and the factor of team size. The technical ladder is not so tightly linked, and if a person has acquired the skill to perform at a higher level, he might not have to wait long to move up. Sometimes, on the management ladder, one has to wait for a vacancy, which is not always true in the case of the technical ladder.
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS THE EMPLOYEE? Each ladder has its own challenges. The key for growth in your career- whether it is in the technical or the management field- is to adopt the right kind of behavior and work style consistent with the new position. For example, as an individual contributor, your should learn to place a high value on your own work. And when you become a manager, you must change
this approach to that of placing value on other people’s work (that is, your own team’s). On the technical ladder, you must change from being successful at owning individual pieces of project work to being able to contribute knowledge across multiple projects without necessarily owning the outcomes.
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS THE MANAGER? There’s a need for many organizations to take steps to ‘glamorize’ the technical ladder so that those who are fundamentally inclined towards it should not clutter management positions. You need to define roles and responsibilities clearly so as to provide visibility to each contribution. Most importantly, a say in their own work and a sense of ownership and accountability, wherever possible, should also be accorded