Technology or Management?

Engineering until IT came into India was completely *technical*. I have not seen any engineer of my fathers generation doing *only* managerial work. There used to be project managers then too, but they used be part time managers and full time technicians.

With IT boom in India, we got a new breed of managers. IT-Managers or so called PMs, SPMs etc. I am not going get into their job profile or their job description but all I want to say is they were different from previous managers we had seen in *technology* field.

In this setup, natural progression for every developer was to, turn into manager after x years. But there were anomalies in the system all the time. They were always confused..

Thejesh, Good morning, this is Sathya, I am a frequenter to your blog, well, i think i can pose you one question which has been boggling me from the past one year...of course don't be particular about that one year. any way, my doubt is , while opting for a career, should we chose technology or domain.
hmm, let me make it clear, i have 4 + exp development related exp in Java platform, and basically i like technology, find pleasure in coding. But off late, i often hear people say, coding or technology can be laid hands by anyone, if u need to grow up , u need to learn the domain. And now i am confused, while opting for a job, should i focus on the domain or functional aspects of a job or the technology involved in it?
Hope u got my confusion...
awaiting ur reply

Reading this message I went three years back in my life. I was exactly at the same position. I was not sure of what to do. But after few sleepless nights I decided to be an engineer of my father's generation. I am not really sure from the career point of view if my decision was correct or wrong. But I am happy.

What makes it a successful career?
I equate success with happiness. Hence what makes you happy at work? Is it the money? growth? day today work? or the challenges you enjoy to face?
Just make sure you are clear on this. You might have to make compromises on some of them for your main objective. If you love technology then go for it but if you love people management then that's the area for it. Where ever you are remember, happiness brings success. I was dead sure that my *day to day* work, means to me a lot than growth or money. So I choose my happiness - programming.

"technology can be laid hands by anyone"
That somebody is absolutely wrong here. Don't listen to the view of the mob they are usually wrong. Programming just like any other skill can be practiced but to be the best, you need something more than practice. According to me programming is a mindset. How not everybody can become a musician? not every can become a programmer. So don't worry about becoming irrelevant.

At the EOD choose the field were you will be happy on everyday basis. Success, money, growth, I am sure will follow it.

I guess this pretty much applies to any body in any area. What say?

14 Responses

  1. Dinakaran says:

    Agree . There is some stream called Consultant – business or technical consult which is also one prospect and fits the managers of the yesteryear’s I suppose .

    I guess , in the forth coming days , every one will be expected to perform both tech roles and managerial roles with due diligence.

    Programming is some thing which can be done outside the work , we can have our passion for it during the weekends and after work hours. Hence I would suggest any one to try and venture into new areas of work which might even interest you more.

    I don’t choose my career path based on my interest but on the trends of the industry. When you grow out of experience , you are required to perform more mature tasks which may require less of programming but more of mastering a vendor specific technology or tool.

    Many consider managerial job is all about sending mails and excel sheet and aspires not be become one , but there’s more it.

    But it’s rare to find good managers.

    So at EOD , learning the unknown is some thing that interests me :)

  2. I couldn’t agree more Thej!

    There are many, many options available today, and you can be successful in any one of them. One of my first managers 20 years ago is now a Java programmer and couldn’t be happier. For myself, the best way for me to be a generalist is with my own firm. And I know people who write COBOL for a healthy living!

    Many people feel there is either only one way to go. For example, people have questioned me why I still write code, and why I don’t offshore programming. The answer is because I don’t have to, and I am able to find people locally as well as reconnecting with colleagues across the US who I am working with again. I am not saying offshoring is wrong, I am saying it is an option among others, and I have chosen others.

    This is something people need to keep in mind, especially in these tough times. There are options, you just need to expose yourself to them!


  3. Couldn’t agree more with this

    “At the EOD choose the field were you will be happy on everyday basis. Success, money, growth, I am sure will follow it.”

  4. Balaji says:

    “No matter how hard one tries, one cannot perform above his genetic limits”

    I feel one should not try too hard its not worth it. Just go by what you feel like doing.

  5. Hariharan says:

    You are correct. A person need to decide what makes them,what will make them happy and then choose.
    Immediately after choosing, you mgiht become doubtful of your choice(by fear or by mob saying), but you should get past that.

    Atlast there is lot more to life than the decision u make in 20-30 years of age.Agree that determines how comfortable/successful/happy at later stages, but not thinking about options and goin with what u have currently also doesnt pormise a comfortable/successful/happy life later.


  6. Thejesh GN says:

    @Dinakaran : Agreed that you have to update with trends in the market but you don’t have to change the field itself. New things keep happening in every field, be it technology or management.
    @Mike Maddaloni – The Hot Iron : Good point. It will be great if you can be a manager who can program too. I have met few of them here. They are really inspiring.

  7. Ruchi says:

    I believe both of them are linked in this kind of a dynamic world and after the introduction of IT , it has really got mixed.

  8. Bharadwaj R says:

    This question has haunted me for long. Quite long.
    I style myself as a techno-manager. Being an IT-manager one can don the true-blood engineer role but vice versa wouldn’t be that easily possible.
    Am a manager by role; technology is my hobby !

    Over the years this dual skill-set has helped me immensely in performing my tasks and I opine that probably, perhaps, this was how the role IT-Manager was originally meant to be !!

  9. Lavanya says:

    Agree.. we are becoming more of generalists than specialists and it worries me all the time.. I have made some compromises too for a ‘main objective’ as you said and that is what keeps me going.

  10. Prats says:

    My two cents on this-

    1- I totally agree that programming is not something that can be done by anyone. Programming like any other communicating language its easy to speak for basic communication. But if you are planning to write a book on literature you need to be really good.

    2- One thing that is very great about Sathya is he knows what he loves and that is technology. People spend their lives trying to find what they really love to do

    3- The point where the question of Technology & Management is concerned. You need both of the skill sets in an organization and personal life. One needs to appreciate the requirement of the other. If you are totally into technical and not feeling comfortable with the management part of it. You will always find people with the contrary skill set. The combination always creates unparalleled synergies. Point in Case Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak, Bill gates & Paul Allen.

    So be comfortable and ensure that you do best what you do best. Trust me I am yet to meet a person pursuing excellence who has worried about how and where his paychecks would be coming.

  11. Manoj says:

    I do agree with Thej on the point that do what keeps you happy as that very feeling keeps up the drive to perform and money and growth are just the end results of your effort. I have acquainted with “Director Engineering” in my last org who was a firm believer of being grounded with fundamentals all thru. He was a good people manager so much so that people would give anything to be apart of his team but also he was a pure bred programmer and nobody could take his trip. People thought thru many times before putting up their hands on any problem because he would sit in your chair and solve the same problem in front of you. Though I am not a techie, I actually took notice that true managers/leaders are these kind of people. But there is a caveat, these kind of people could be head strong, know all done all kind of guys with attitude….least we could do in these circumstances is ignore the bad and take away the good.
    Another thing I agree with thej is keep away from the “Mob” when you are taking decisions personal to your life. Till u complete 24-25yrs everything is predecided (very few get to do what they are interested)and then you are surprised that ur interests were different. Some take it in their stride and continue to do thinking its destiny a very few reinvent the wheel.

  12. Thejesh GN says:

    @Bharadwaj R : Great input.
    @Prats : I guess even Bharadwaj has written the same.
    @Manoj : Agree
    @Lavanya : :)

  13. It is the unprecedented success of the middleman in the early days of IT outsourcing industry that has caused this craziness. It was labor arbitrage that got most of the Indian IT companies here – not innovation or process as they claim it to be. So in order to manage the labor, you really don’t need any technical knowledge of the business. So the It was easy to become a manager in an industry which just did what they were told to do by the western counterparts. Because being knowledgeable in the domain wouldn’t go very well with the outsourcing companies because all they wanted to do was say yes to everything. So the yes-men and the not-so-capable grew up in the chain and with them many of the incapable ones also became big.

    All said and done, any profession is mostly looked at as a way to make money in this country – so it is natural that people gyrate towards positions that can get them more. Things are changing a bit, but only a bit – the damage has been done in many places IMO.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Jayadeep, exactly my thoughts! I have been struggling to find a “programming” job where I can be an engineer. When I started my career, I was starry eyed about my job. But few years down the line and I am struggling to find my place. Every road points towards “growing” by being a manager. The alternative is to rot at the same position, doing the same eyewash “programming” to get money from the client.