A role as a Development Manager is an excellent source of experience and an outstanding career goal whether as an endpoint or as part of a career path.
Why Do You Want to Be a Development Manager?
The first step to becoming a Development Manager is understanding why it would be an important transition for you. It is an exciting role with lots of growth opportunity, but it is important to understand what you want from the experience. Think about your reasons while you create your promotion plan. They can make the difference between success and failure.
Reasons for being a Development Manager vary, but here are a few that you might relate to:
- An Increase In Responsibility: You will have a team looking to you for leadership. Understanding the needs of upper management and moving the group in that direction will be your main goal.
- Opportunity to Influence Direction: If you enjoy collaboration, engaging discussion, and are willing to be both right and wrong then you will enjoy management.
- Learning to Lead Others: Leadership skills are useful both inside and outside corporate life. Leadership skills can be useful in hobbies and other organized social activities.
- Leaving the Constant Technology Churn: You like coding, but staying abreast of the rapid change in frameworks and language minutiae is losing its luster. It’s not that you can’t keep up, but your interests are shifting elsewhere.
- Attracted to Higher Levels of Abstraction: Code pieces fitting together to make structures has become more fun to work with than the individual pieces. If you want to start considering the system from a higher point of view, then Development Manager might be a good course.
Some reasons to be cautious of moving in this direction:
- It Is the Next Step: There are many opportunities for a coder to expand their role without moving into management. Moving into management shouldn’t be done for a lack of options. See our article on Tips For Advancing Your Coding Career and later in this article for ideas.
- To Dictate Down: Good managers leave their egos at home. Being a good development manager means listening to the team and choosing a direction based on their needs and the project’s needs. A manager won’t be successful forcing their team into a path. Dictatorial management can create friction and a hostile work environment.
- Bored: Everyone finds themselves getting bored from time to time. Striving for something new is a natural way to relieve that boredom. Moving to management can provide exciting new opportunities but make sure you have more reasons than just boredom for doing so.
Expectations of a Development Manager
A Development Manager’s core role is communicating and strategizing with people above and below them in the hierarchy. It doesn’t mean leaving technology behind entirely. Rather, technology becomes a tool that you need to learn about from a high level and how it applies to the department’s goals rather than implementation specifics.
A Development Manager will be expected to handle responsibilities similar to:
- Strategy: Development Managers spend much of their time on strategizing. This is usually accomplished by meetings with different stakeholders throughout the company. The number of meetings can be a shock to someone used to a mostly coding role, but meetings are crucial. It is an opportunity for everyone in the company to ensure they are working together for the same outcomes. It is also an opportunity to give the company valuable insight into your team’s accomplishments.
- Coordinating With Upper Management: It is the goal of upper management to guide a company towards its corporate vision. The Development Manager has to be able to understand the corporate vision and to communicate that vision to those below the manager in the corporate hierarchy. It also means describing the success and difficulties of the details from those roles below into a terminology that upper management understands in the scheme of the existing corporate vision.
- The Health of the Group: The efficiency and effectiveness of a group can depend on its ability to function as a unit. Morale is important, and the Development Manager can have a direct impact on that. Setting goals that the team is comfortable with and getting team buy-in will be an important aspect of group cohesion.
- Guiding Individuals to Success: You will be able to work with the individuals under you to set goals for their future, and to encourage their personal growth. It can be incredibly rewarding to watch those you assist grow into new roles and responsibilities, especially if it means you have the opportunity to promote them inside your group.
- Setting Boundaries: Setting boundaries during your transition will allow you the space to make important leadership decisions. Being a manager means facing hard decisions that you will need to be comfortable making. Tough decisions can include having to shut down projects you know everyone was looking forward to, hiring one person from a pool of candidates, and being able to let go old colleagues or people you brought on board.
- Results: Most importantly, your group needs to produce the results the company needs. Responsibility will lie with you as the group’s leader. Although it may seem intimidating, it is actually an awesome chance to see your team’s hard work made real.
Development Manager Skills
If you have decided that becoming a Development Manager is the right path for you, and you are excited about the prospects of responsibility and greater collaboration, then it is time to start learning those skills you will need. You need to sharpen skills that revolve around working with others and working with project-level considerations. Based on information provided to Paysa by job seekers and professionals, these are the main skill sets for a Development Manager:
As you can see, being a Development Manager is going to mean:
- Managing: Understanding the needs of upper management and project management is important. You will be coordinating how different projects use your team’s resource. In this scenario, managing is going to be about people, budgets, timeframes, forecasts, and resources.
- Leading: Leading a group should feel more like a team moving together than one manager pulling people along. A successful leader makes those under them excited to be a part of the venture.
- Leaving Coding Behind: Notice that coding is nowhere on the list of useful skills. Transitioning to a development manager almost always means leaving coding behind to be replaced by strategy, planning and managing. There are good reasons for a manager to keep code skills fresh. If you want to continue coding, then consider making it a hobby or finding passion projects to work on.
How to Learn Management Skills
Project management and leadership are learned skills. Take your time to learn as much as you can before, and during, adopting your new position. Training is especially valuable for anyone moving to a managerial role from a non-managerial role. The way in which you approach your work is necessarily different.
- First look internally for training programs. Companies can reap significant benefits from having well-trained managers something modern HR departments are well aware of. Many companies have created plans to help those looking to improve management skills.
- If your organization doesn’t have management training, then there are a mountain of options in the outside world. Training possibilities range from free online resources to college extension courses to in-person classes with a trainer. Getting training from any of these sources will usually fall under an education reimbursement plan. Visit HR to see what educational reimbursement options your organization can provide.
- A third option is to change companies. Find a company with a healthy educational reimbursement program or management training program. If you are clear with a prospective employer that your goal is to enter management, then you can make that growth part of your hiring package. Use the hiring process to negotiate inclusion in your potential employer’s management training program or to receive extended educational reimbursement benefits.
Whether you can enter a training program or not, consider finding a mentor inside or outside your organization. Mentoring provides a crucial human element to your management development path. Mentors can provide advice on how to act, as well as help you deconstruct your decisions to understand better the impact of a decision you have made.
The opportunity to enter a management position can sometimes develop naturally over time. Coders can use the constant technological growth inside a company as an opportunity to organically grow into management. Get involved in the planning process for new projects.
Consider Non-Management Alternatives
Development management can be an excellent career choice. However, some might want something between coding and management that provides experience with both. There are several titles between Developer and Development Manager that can let you participate in experiences from both sides of management.
If your organization does not have these roles, it might be time to move on. Alternatively, it can be an opportunity to be a trailblazer and work to have those positions created. Officially adding these modifiers to your title might give you enough of a taste of management to be satisfying:
- Technical Lead: Being a technical lead is like being a development manager on a small scale. You have the opportunity to make decisions that influence the direction of a project and to collaborate with others. Rather than responsibility for overall department direction, responsibility focuses on specific projects or features. Coding responsibilities shift from specific code implementations to exploring coding patterns and best practices. A lead might explore different coding directions, and then pass the particular implementation work to a developer or junior developer.
- Architect: Architects spend their time strategizing on the high-level patterns for a project. If you are coding as an architect it is about solving highly specific complex problems or to break ground on an implementation that is new to the project. Architects have the opportunity to influence direction by engaging in focused explorations.Architects do not participate in the management side of technical leadership. Unlike a technical lead, who is guiding a team and its members, Architects create patterns for others to follow and rarely manage a team of people directly. Architects are expected to have very broad yet also very detailed understandings of the technology required for a project’s success.
- Research and Development: This is more of a focus shift than an increase in responsibility. Research and Development (R&D) teams have hierarchies of their own. However, if your goal is to get away from the day to day coding responsibilities of project development, then this might be a good direction. R&D teams tend to spend their days in the unknown, wrestling with new ideas on which they have little knowledge. The code written by an R&D group will rarely survive implementation in reality, but this can be an excellent way for coders who want greater challenges to stay engaged.
Moving from a strictly coding position to a new position higher up the chain of responsibility is a rewarding experience. A Development Manager is the opposite end of the development spectrum from a Developer and can provide a whole new world of experiences. You will spend your days strategizing and collaborating with others. The results of your hard work will be a source of pride for the rest of your career.