Let us admit first – technical skills are essential to start a career. A young professional is hired by organizations to perform a set of tasks as per the standard operating procedures using the technical expertise. We can see this across industries – IT, pharma, engineering, BPO and so on. As one grows, the young professional starts experiencing greater degree of freedom as the organization begins to trust the technical competence and sees no need for close supervision. In this process, the young professional gains greater proficiency, confidence and freedom. What next?
We see some of these proficient technical professionals aspiring to go deeper in the technlogy and become ‘experts’. Which means they continue as ‘individual contributors’ and they are respected as experts. They are expected to bring in cutting-edge technology and advanced thought-leadership as they grow. That is only path of growth in career; or else, one can continue to play the IC role with notional growth.
At this stage, it is prudent to consider two practial dimensions:
1. What is your readiness to bring in such deeper technical thought-leadership? In case you don’t, are you ready for a stable IC role with notional growth?
2. Will organizational need as many senior individual contributors without technology thought-leadership?
To address the question (1), one needs to be a technical wizard to constantly add value as a technical person and that justifies the seniority as one grows in the career. By doing the ‘familiar’ technical job, one cannot aspire for handsome growth for too long.
To answer the question (2), it is important to understand the talent needs of a growing organization. For scaling up and to drive growth, organizations need brilliant innovation (which can come from technology thought-leadership) or by brilliantly managing people and getting the best out of them. The second option necessitates ‘people management’ skills for a technical person. If we see across the organizations, there is an increasing need for people managers at middle levels of the hierarchy.
So, if you are a techie, you can introspect on the above aspects – do I have the aptitude and expertise to constantly stay ahead of technology and grow as a thougt-leader? Remember – there will be a handful such roles and not too many. Alternatively, can I quickly learn people management skills and grow in career while getting the best out of the teams? Demand is certainly more here if you have the right attitude to manage people.
If you miss these two, then the default option is to stay as techie and be happy with notional growth – so long the organization has the need for your technical skill.
Note: If you wish to know more about our experiences of how we helped many managers develop their people management skills, and about our Certified People Manager (CPM) program, please do write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 9000177207.