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Tech Or Management Beyond Age 39?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the when-you-come-to-a-fork-in-the-road-take-it dept.

Businesses 592

relliker writes "So here I am at age 39 with two contractual possibilities, for practically the same pay. With one, I continue being a techie for the foreseeable future — always having to keep myself up-to-date on everything tech and re-inventing myself with each Web.x release to stay on top. With the other, I'm being offered a chance to get into management, something I also enjoy doing and am seriously considering for the rest of my working life. The issue here is the age of my grey matter. Will I still be employable in tech at this age and beyond? Or should I relinquish the struggle to keep up with progress and take the comfy 'old man' management route so that I can stay employable even in my twilight years? What would Slashdot veterans advise at this age?"

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...and the pursuit of happiness (5, Insightful)

Panzor (1372841) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617499)

Do what makes you happy, man. If you wanted to do management like you said, then go for it. The only reason people want money is for happiness. Getting happiness out of the job is a bonus.

Re:...and the pursuit of happiness (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617503)

That was the lamest first post, like ever.

Re:...and the pursuit of happiness (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617795)

Yours was much better, fag.

You will have to know tech either way (5, Insightful)

five18pm (763804) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617565)

You have to know tech either way, whether you continue to be in tech or go in to management, you have to know the tech and update yourself continuously if you want to hold your own. With that in mind, if management does make you happy, go for it.

Re:You will have to know tech either way (5, Interesting)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617659)

You have to know tech either way, whether you continue to be in tech or go in to management

I want to work where you do. My company hires management based on management experience, not experience in the field I work in. Then they quit after two months because they don't know what's going on and all the working stiffs are making fun of them. Hire new manager, rinse, and repeat.

Re:You will have to know tech either way (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617827)

How long were you a tech. I generally have a postion for over a decade. In that time I get a new manager every year on average. Are you looking for stability or adventure?

Re:You will have to know tech either way (5, Insightful)

whowantscream (911883) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617873)

My company hires management based on management experience, not experience in the field I work in.

Unfortunately I'm going to have to agree with this - especially in the higher levels of management. Sometimes it is the organization's lack of understanding of IT and need to relate to the IT manager that leads to someone with limited tech experience being hired. Other times a once tech savvy manager ends up getting further and further removed from operations - instead being forced to spend their time politicking and worrying about bottom lines.

Ultimately you should make your decision based off of what makes you happiest - as others have said. Get an understanding of what your role in management will actually entail and determine the distance you'll be from operations.

Being 39 doesn't make you 'too old for tech'... being lazy, unwilling to change, inexperienced and out of touch does. On the other side - some people are built for management and some aren't. Unfortunately a lot of people who aren't still end up in management positions.

Re:You will have to know tech either way (4, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617953)

You must be at a good company. I know of several companies which a degree in physical education is enough to secure a mid level management position.

All those stories about the pointy hair bosses that could surf the interweb if you didn't show them how to didn't come from nowhere.

Re:You will have to know tech either way (5, Insightful)

samkass (174571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617767)

Slashdot generally seems to consider tech something that requires cutting-edge skills but management as something anyone could do. I haven't found that to be the case. Being a good manager requires staying up on the management skills, techniques, and tools. It also often requires some politics, budget skills, and decisiveness. It's not something anyone can do well, and it's not something you can sit back and relax in and expect to stay good at it.

Personally if I left tech I'd head for business development, but that's just me. You still get to play with all the latest toys that way. :)

Re:You will have to know tech either way (4, Insightful)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617845)

You can't sit back and relax and expect to be good. But you CAN sit back relax, be really bad, and not get fired.

Re:You will have to know tech either way (5, Insightful)

ojustgiveitup (869923) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617907)

Hi! (I'm trying to start with a friendly vibe because otherwise I'm afraid my comment might come off as sarcastic.) I think that the reason the slashdot community generally considers management to be a no-brainer (as evidenced very recently by your extremely underrated post) is that we all believe, often from first-hand experience, but also from hear-say, speculation, and exaggeration, that many of the "skills, techniques, and tools" that managers try to stay up on are merely bullshit to make them managers seem busy and justify their continued employment. I'm curious (seriously) what things you think managers need to keep up with that don't fall into that category.

Re:You will have to know tech either way (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617981)

I'd mod parent up but I'm too interested in this thread...

As far as I've ever seen being directly related to one and friends with a few other of those managers most of those "Skills, techniques, and tools" are just the stereotypical "inspirational" stuff with lots of buzzwords and very little substance that's mostly about taking up time and producing paperwork from nothing.

There ARE genuine skills a manager needs but most of those seem to be abstracts rather than actual book skills like a tech person needs more of.

Re:You will have to know tech either way (4, Insightful)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617951)

Slashdot generally seems to consider tech something that requires cutting-edge skills but management as something anyone could do.

I don't know about that - I'd say it's more that Slashdot just considers management as something not requiring cutting-edge skills. The problem is, of course, that tech doesn't have that much of a career path. You go from junior tech, to tech, to senior tech... and then if you want to go further, you go into management. Technical positions don't scale. Even in engineering, you'll be doing more management than design if you're in charge of something big.

Personally, I'm aiming (eventually) for IT security. From what I've seen, security scales well. You can be in charge of just your web server, or you can be in charge of a multinational corporation's WAN infrastructure, and you're still using most of the same skillset.

Re:You will have to know tech either way (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617971)

Being a good manager requires staying up on the management skills, techniques, and tools. It also often requires some politics, budget skills, and decisiveness.

I've done some management, though on a very small scale. So I can agree that it requires some politics, budget skills, and decisiveness". However, "management skills, techniques, and tools" are all just bullshit, as far as I could tell. The only management tool I used was a Lotus spreadsheet to do the monthly budget. Looking at the crap that MBAs come out with is nauseating, meaningless jargon. While it helps them get by in the short term, it usually is counter productive for whatever the company is actually supposed to be doing. And if the boss buys into it, it can be fatal.

Re:You will have to know tech either way (4, Insightful)

pudro (983817) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617785)

If all other things are pretty much equal, I would consider these two things:

1) If you aren't already including it in "how happy you are with either job", consider how much you have to put up with other peoples crap. Since you say that you enjoy management, do you really already understand how much more other people's ignorance and attitudes you will have to DEAL with (as opposed to just LIVING with it as non-management)?

2) Where are you more needed? Often times management has more underqualified individuals in it. Or just people who are otherwise qualified but just lack the management skills. Or are you that good at the techie stuff that you are the one that really makes stuff happen most of the time? How many others are there that easily could fill your spot in either position, should you not take it? I don't mean this in a "for the good of the business sense" way, but rather in the sense that making a bigger difference in either role could add additional "happiness" to the basic aspects of the jobs themselves.

Re:You will have to know tech either way (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28618051)

I think this advice is spot on. You will be a more successful manager if you continue to have a grip on the issues at hand, more than just manpower and schedules.

I went into management at age 34, and enjoyed a number of satisfying jobs, always in the middle of something technically exciting. I assigned myself small parts of the projects to do, nothing on the critical path, and kept my tech skills somewhat sharp. When I was VP of engineering for a public company, I assigned myself bug-fixing tasks to keep my hand in. In later years, I found myself yearning to go back into more hands-on work, and did that successfully until I retired at 63. I was not a super tech designer type, but I could hold my own as a coder.

You can do both.

Re:...and the pursuit of happiness (5, Insightful)

bigbird (40392) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617893)

Good advice. Spending 8+ hours getting paid for doing what you love will help your life to be a happy one. Doing stuff you don't like for half of your waking hours will make life a misery.

And it is hard to succeed if you don't love what you are doing.

If you love coding, stick with it - there will always be a job for you. I'm in my 40's and have been coding for many years. There's nothing like getting paid to play, and there's no end in sight yet!

Re:...and the pursuit of happiness (5, Insightful)

los furtive (232491) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617905)

Getting happiness out of the job is a bonus.

If getting happiness out of the job is a bonus, you've got the wrong job. Worse yet, your boss has the wrong employee.

Re:...and the pursuit of happiness (1)

fooslacker (961470) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617943)

Certainly do what makes you happy and I don't think the age thing matters at all. I know plenty of over 40 architects and developers who are more effective than they ever were when they were younger. All things being equal on the happy front, here is a question I might ask to help you decide. As a disclaimer I'm an under 40 architect at a fortune 100 for what it's worth.

Are you going to be an independent contractor? If so I advise tech with heavy expertise in a niche specialization if possible. The tech part makes you an easier hire for clients. Management contractors have to be ridiculously high level for a most companies to invest in them for serious periods of time given the fact they don't want to source what they see as a strategic position with a temporary resource (not saying it's accurate but it's perception). As for the expertise this makes you more resistant to trends such as offshoring/outsourcing. Trends that go after cost and try to take a lowest bidder approach go after the common skills in order to be valuable. Niche tech skills and high level expertise are much harder to replicate with low labor cost models.

Are you going to be a perm employee at a single medium-large company for more than the next 5 years? In this case I would suggest management as those positions tend to have better career paths at larger companies and offer more opportunity if you're good at your job. Additionally these types of jobs are usually viewed as more strategic by upper management (oddly enough most people view jobs similar to what they do as strategic ;)

Just my 2 cents...your mileage may vary.

Re:...and the pursuit of happiness (2, Insightful)

tuxgeek (872962) | more than 5 years ago | (#28618069)

The only reason people want money is for happiness

Bullshit! you can't buy happiness with money. I've known lots of millionaires and they are all miserable people and nuts to boot. It's all proportional, the more money someone has, the closer they get to complete asshole certification
Makes me glad to be an average working stiff, but I'm happy.
Happiness is doing something you enjoy.
When you get out of bed tomorrow morning, rise with the thought that this day will be a great day, that's pretty much how happiness starts
Just my $.02

Do what you like the most... (1)

Vandre (828567) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617511)

You should choose the job that you enjoy the most, because a) A job that you enjoy is a pleasure, not work b) If you don't enjoy your job your performance will suffer, and hence you would be more likely to be laid off

Take your chances with Carousel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28618041)

It makes life worth dying. You are already way too old. We now come for you.

Do both (2, Interesting)

starfishsystems (834319) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617517)

Cover both bases. Why not? I have. I'm 53 and it just keeps on getting more interesting that way.

Cheers.

Re:Do both (1)

Aphonia (1315785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617545)

Also, if you cover both bases properly, you will know a good / bad idea when you see one. Let your skills (and thinking) stray too far / out of date, and you might just turn into a PHB.

management (5, Insightful)

Zork the Almighty (599344) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617529)

Ageism in tech is very real, and even if you're not seeing it yet, you will in another 10 years. By that time it will be too late. Get on the management track while you can.

Re:management (3, Insightful)

scubamage (727538) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617593)

I don't think that's entirely true. I would never, ever argue anything technical with Andrew Tenenbaum, for instance. If anything, most of the older techs I've had the joy of working with know their stuff extremely well and their experience makes them a tour de force in any sort of technical emergency. However, I think their experience also tends to lead them towards management - if only because young unseasoned techs constantly come to them with questions.

Re:management (5, Insightful)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617677)

Thirty-nine was so twenty years ago...

I look at management - and consultancy, which is the same thing without the head count - as simply playing with lines of code that are much bigger. Bigger building blocks, if you will. Instead of data structures and algorithms I put together DBA's and network people and infrastructure agreements, and match people and tasks.

The need for correct syntax and error correction applies at any level. But it certainly pays to have learned everything up to that point; there are fewer places where gremlins can hide & catch you unawares if you're not quite that easily fooled.

Technology teaches you to think. The other stuff teaches you to value thinking correctly.

Re:management (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617955)

They also tend to get locked in and sometimes tend toward superstitious. A friend of mine in his 30's still thinks mdadm is guaranteed to fail after six months and $1000 hard raid cards are the ONLY way raid can avoid decreasing reliability.

Re:management (4, Funny)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617613)

I hear the irony in your comment: just trying to weed out the competition by sending them over the cliff that is management, ay? Pretty fiendish...

Re:management (1)

TechMinds (1593355) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617881)

It's unfortunate but true, having recently been asked to leave along with 10% of my former co-workers. Let's just say that the age distribution of those let go was not even.

Re:management (1)

hemp (36945) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617977)

Ageism in tech is very real, and even if you're not seeing it yet, you will in another 10 years. By that time it will be too late. Get on the management track while you can.

If he is not seeing it already, he is not paying attention.

Maybe. Maybe not. (2, Informative)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28618015)

I'd say if you were trying to stay employed at some hip web design house or a game development company that may be true, but where I work there are lots and lots of older people still doing highly technical things.

I completely changed track and got a masters in CS last year at the age of 46 and managed to get a great job doing technical work at a very cool place, so don't tell me ageism is so pervasive that you can't do what you like.

Not a greybeard.. (2, Interesting)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617531)

But if you enjoy both, the choice is clear; go with what will keep you employed longer. If you feel you can't keep up with the day to day in tech anymore ( a common concern ), then by all means jump to being the PHB.

Depends on what you're good at (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617533)

Being about the same age, I too am starting to approach this crossroad. The choice for me comes down to one question. Which side am I better suited for? Technologically speaking, I find it easy to keep up so long as I'm willing to put in the effort. On the other hand, my lack of patience with the paperwork and seemingly endless meetings (not to mention a serious lack of people management skills) will probably doom any ambitions to pursue management positions beyond anything past a tech/project lead role.

So I don't have to think very hard to come to my decision. Techie I will remain and let others travel the manager role.

From the way you describe your choices, it almost sounds like you would prefer going management. I say if you're good at it, why not?

Follow your passion (5, Informative)

mzungu (316073) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617539)

Over the long haul, following your passion is the way to go.

I have been at a similar crossroads, and went the management route. I am currently re-eavluating that decision since I get much more joy out of being hands-on and much less joy out of the routine administrivia that comes with being a manager.

If you get more joy out of managing than you do as a tech, then that's likely the way you should go.

Re:Follow your passion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617927)

Amen to that. Just turned 39. Spent the last 5 yrs in management. I'm enjoying not having to make the "decision", then having to explain to the VP why we can't write one million lines of code with two interns in 4 weeks, then having to tell marketing why they aren't going to get the feature because just one customer wants to integrate cobal as the scripting language engine in the product, and then feeling like I'm constantly selling out to the developers when we have to think beyond "the code"...

go for management (5, Insightful)

davidone (12252) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617543)

Think about how many young people are being graduated all over the world today.
Think how are they eager to work for way less than you get.
Think how faster than you they are at learning new things.
Now where'd you put the only asset you have, i.e. experience?

Re:go for management (5, Insightful)

jhoger (519683) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617819)

Think about how many young people are being graduated all over the world today.

Lots of green recruits that think they know everything but don't. Welcome to Software.

Think how are they eager to work for way less than you get.

Commensurate with the quality of their work (where quality includes correctness, time to completion, and maintainability at least) since they have no Experience...

Think how faster than you they are at learning new things.

Umm, Bullshit. You're telling me that after 25 some years of learning within this field I'll have a harder time learning new tech? There's really not much new under the sun, Son. Did you know C# just got Lambda expressions?

Now where'd you put the only asset you have, i.e. experience?

Pretty high... apparently you haven't read any job listings, since HR drones do too.

just say no to management (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617867)

You're too young. Wait until you are 5-10 years out from retirement before you wind down your career.

I'm 45 and I manage a pretty sizable network. From time to time a 20 yr old know it all will try to come in with the condecending attiude and try to push the old woman out of the way. That all ends pretty quickly when I'm not around to coach them, something melts, a thousand users are screaming, the CIO blasts them, it's all command line (and those boys hate command line), and they can't dig themselves out of trouble till I show up. They soon decide to take up a career in writing word templates for the clerical staff or something.

Middle aged, IT middle managers are a dime a dozen. They get laid off whenever the political environment changes. They have to resort to backstabbing and replusive kissing up to stay afloat.

Re:go for management (3, Insightful)

Divebus (860563) | more than 5 years ago | (#28618033)

Now where'd you put the only asset you have, i.e. experience?

Interesting, that. I got laid off a few months ago because I got kicked from pure tech up to management in a growing company. After a while, I was managing a lot but my tech edge was relatively dull and expensive. I was expendable.

Now, I'm getting back into tech on my own. That's the place to be. I'm hooked up with two independent tech groups tired of the cheap/eager people with no experience. Both groups said they don't want "kids" making big decisions without the likes of me (56 yo) with my experience holding the ship's wheel.

Manage if you must but keep your hands deep in your trade.

What you can do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617555)

Can you work people?
Can you lead people?
Can you fire someone?
Can you listen to everyone and make them get back to work afterwards?
Can you increase the productivity of your team?

ok, then go for management.

If you have to ask (1)

The A-Team (1426761) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617559)

then you're management material. (Not completely true, but you mentioned that you see yourself doing this the rest of your career... and that you LIKE management... so...)

What motivates you (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617573)

...always having to keep myself up-to-date on everything tech and re-inventing myself with each Web.x release to stay on top. With the other, I'm being offered a chance to get into management, something I also enjoy doing and am seriously considering for the rest of my working life. The issue here is the age of my grey matter.

That looks like some fear of what happens if you stay in tech. I've seen and worked with plenty of older workers in IT- if you are at a level where you feel like you can be on the level of a systems architect, you can do that (and possibly also some management at the same time). But if management truly interests you now then free yourself to move on.

But the grey matter thing... it seems like the best way to keep the grey matter grey instead of musty is work that makes you think. Is management going to be enough of a challenge for you? Will you enjoy solving those puzzles more?

What is the end of the path? Do you want to run a company someday? Linger in middle management in comfort? What's the steady state of each possible path before you?

Diversify (5, Informative)

madcat2c (1292296) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617575)

Diversify to stay alive. Move into management, but keep current on tech. You will be much more valuable and more employable.

Run Like Your Hair Is On Fire... (5, Informative)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617577)

... back to the Technical Side. Management is a task that has no upside. If you suck at managing people, they're fire you. If you're great at managing people, they will increase your responsibilities, inching you closer to your Peter Point. (See "The Peter Principle" for context.) If you handle the heightened expectations, they will raise you to a higher management level, thereby eliminating your chance to contribute in your old way, or they will reassign you to fix some ailing project.

If you have made it this far in the technical world, it means you are competent at it. If you were a bozo, they wouldn't be discussing an alleged promotion. By all means get into management if you hate the technical stuff. That is your choice. But I would say--if you're hankering for management--that you take the safe road: become a software architect. This involves so much politics and human engineering that you might as well be a manager.

Re:Run Like Your Hair Is On Fire... (1)

bdo19 (992170) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617733)

Management is a task that has no upside. If you suck at managing people, they're fire you. If you're great at managing people, they will increase your responsibilities, inching you closer to your Peter Point... If you handle the heightened expectations, they will raise you to a higher management level, thereby eliminating your chance to contribute in your old way, or they will reassign you to fix some ailing project.

If you suck at tech, they'll fire you. If you're great at tech, they will increase your responsibilities, inching you closer to your Peter Point. If you handle the heightened expectations, they will raise you to a management level, thereby eliminating your chance to contribute in your old way, or they will reassign you to fix some ailing project.

That last part is sometimes called "career growth."

As others have said, the OP should do whichever he'll enjoy most. There's nothing wrong with trying new things and taking on new challenges.

Re:Run Like Your Hair Is On Fire... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617743)

Heh heh. He said "Peter Point".

Re:Run Like Your Hair Is On Fire... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617751)

I don't know about this. As a manager you work with different tools. Instead of a text editor or soldering iron, your staff is your tools. Still need technical knowledge, but nobody can be expected to know every little detail anyway (bad for disaster recovery if nothing else. what if the guru and master of all knowledge, seen and unseen, gets hit by a bus or lightning).

Your first management job is the hardest, because you'll want to get down and dirty with the details, and you be, *gasp* micromanaging.

Re:Run Like Your Hair Is On Fire... (4, Funny)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617839)

...your staff is your tools...

Yeah, I felt that way about some of mine too. But there were a few good ones.

Re:Run Like Your Hair Is On Fire... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617915)

If you are actually a "Nebraska Writer" I'm surprised you have a job in said field. Your post is embarrassing in its errors.

You need to find an exit strategy (4, Insightful)

adamkennedy (121032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617597)

It's nearly impossible to maintain the energy and volume of coding that you do in your 20s.

As you get older, your energy and raw intelligence is going to fall, but your experience and wisdom is going to increase.

If you can, you need to find some way to channel and adapt to this change.

On the pure technical side, that is going to mean heading up from coding into higher level design and architecture, solving the conceptual level problems (with a reliably high level of correctness) of how a big system will work and then steering teams of people for the implementation. You'll still be coding semi-regularly, but if you're lucky you will only have to step in to solve the REALLY hard/interesting bits that the lower level people can't handle. Sometimes this means picking a specialisation and sticking with it, certainly.

If you aren't one of the technical elites in this way, management can be another way to utilise your experience and wisdom. This is especially the case if you've worked a lot with medium to large teams on projects, and you've gained an understanding of how to set up effective development teams. Management also carries with it a political/social/personality requirement. If you've got enough geek cred to know your field, but you can hang out with the sales and marketing people and be comfortable, then perhaps that is your direction.

Check your pulse (5, Insightful)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617763)

What sort of books do you prefer to buy? Does your buying strategy include more "Minimal Perl" than "Blue Ocean Strategy? Do you prefer to spend on "The Definitive Guide to MySQL" or "Good to Great"? Which ones do you prefer to read nowdays? The answer to that question could point to the answer to your larger question.

Re:You need to find an exit strategy (1)

hemp (36945) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617949)

It's nearly impossible to maintain the energy and volume of coding that you do in your 20s.

Pahlease...typical stereotype.

An someone not in their 20s any more I am twice as productive as I was fresh out of college. Sure, when I was in my early 20s I wrote a lot more code. Now I write a lot less code, but it is far and away much better, tighter code.

Re:You need to find an exit strategy (2, Insightful)

Smithy66 (1230222) | more than 5 years ago | (#28618005)

It's nearly impossible to maintain the energy and volume of coding that you do in your 20"

Isn't it the quality of the code not the quantity. Surely 20 years of hard won experience as a coder learning how to do it properly trumps a brain with maybe half the age but none of the wisdom.

It depends (1)

n4djs (1097963) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617607)

Do you like children? If you don't, don't become a manager. A *lot* of the job is getting people to act like adults..
Similarly, do you have control over budgets and people? Who would you answer to? What would be the expectations from your boss over the next 6 months?
Is your boss competent? If not, trouble.

Re:It depends (1)

n4djs (1097963) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617625)

In addition, staying technical is in a lot more demand than managerial skills....

The working class and the employing class. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617609)

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. Don't sell out.

Do you have a good reason to be in Management? (1)

dreadlord76 (562584) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617619)

Being in management means you have to exercise your soft skills a lot more, and need to be dealing with people, inherently less predictable than code.
To be a good manager, just being an old techie isn't enough. If you are not a good manager, then it may not last as long as you like.
So, what is your reason to become a manager? What is your goal once you become a manager?
Just liking it, or thinking it will extend your career, is not necessarily enough to ensure your success.
Good luck...

Go the management route (5, Insightful)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617623)

Same age as you, and firstly I should say how fortunate you are to have this choice in the context of the current economy. Nice position to be in :)

My perspective: there are definite niches in tech, and if you find one you can become virtually irreplaceable. But if your skills are more generic (no matter how good), then ageism is a very real danger, as your experience and longevity become more expensive.

Most people on /. seem to have a different problem. They have someone trying to push them into management and they have no desire to go that route. But you say you enjoy it. So, in your position, I'd be going the management route. With a strong technical background and some management skills/business knowledge, you become a very valuable manager, and that will only increase.

One final point: if you try management full time for six months and find it's not really what you expected, will your company let you go back to the technical track? If so, then I'd say the choice writes itself. What have you got to lose?

Easy. Management. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617655)

The way you've framed this question makes it trivial: Management.

There are serious problem in keeping a solid career as a developer as you age. First, you DO age and get less agile. Second, there will always be entry-level hotshots who are as good as you after a couple of years work and that pushes your salary and employability down. Finally, even if you stay top of your game and you really are light-years more productive that a 21-year-old MIT or IIT graduate (or self-developed hacker) there is the discrimination angle.

I'm in this exact boat, but I hate management. I'm not good at it but if I pushed myself I think I could do ok, but never superbly and never with pleasure. But you *like* it? I envy you so, go to it!

The standards are looser too, since management is so hard. My belief is that 75% of securely-employed programmers in the US add zero or negative value to their organization, but in terms of direct programming managers this number has to be higher still. It's really, really, really hard to be a good manager. Good news though, if you are not good, fewer people will call you on it :-)

Basically, managers also have a career "track". Programmers do not, by and large, and oversimplifying just a bit. Programming is well-paid from the outset if you are good, and is a stimulating career, so it may not matter to you (I've decided it doesn't matter so much to me), but keep that in mind.

It is pretty simple: Ask yourself two questions (1)

drfreak (303147) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617657)

Are you still a geek? Do you still enjoy studying and reading everything tech with the resources to try them out? Then IT/Development is still probably where you want to be.

As a manager, you will still need to keep updated on new technology, but you will probably start taking a different (bird's eye) view to necessitate the distillation of all the new tasks you will need to juggle. Eventually, your ideas of implementation details will drift away as others will worry about them.

So you really need to look at yourself and decide what your goals are; and we aren't just talking career-wise. If you intend on raising a family, chances are you won't have the time to dedicate anymore to geek studies.

It's not the age of the grey matter, (1)

Enuratique (993250) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617683)

but the quotient of its deliciousness that counts...

If you've been on Slashdot long... (1, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617691)

... you'll realize that, as soon as you take that first step into management, you're going to start being the butt of jokes.

Unless you're my manager, of course. I never make fun of him, nor of his lack of technical acumen.

If you're interested in expanding your horizons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617697)

Most will despise with a passion, but do the management stuff. It's the right age (40-ish) Take a mgt class, become a people person.

.

Do for 2-3 years, i.e. get a couple of successful and unsuccessful projects under your belt....

then go independent, or start your own company. Then you'll get to choose exactly what you want to do, find a path to retirement and find a better balance between coding and business in general. Cause basically, you can't rely on corporations anymore... well unless your running it

Make the jump or... (1)

kolbe (320366) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617699)

While technical personnel are considered overhead, managers, especially middle managers, are even more so. As such, I personally feel that as a techie, you have the ability to maintain a higher level of job stability than in a management position, at least in the foreseeable near future considering the way the economy is.

At 35 and 15 years put in as a *NIX admin, I too am curious about going into management. However, I'd rather wait to ensure my employer is going to give me a better chance to grow as a manager without the pressure of worrying about losing my job due to cuts or the trimming down of departmental budgets. If you have that level of comfort with your employer, seize it and move to management as I'm sure you don't want to be servicing a downed server/network on a Saturday at the age of 60. Otherwise, I recommend you take some Business courses, perhaps get a degree or a business level certification that may help you manage better in the future, when the time is right.

Good luck!

Go with your gut (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617703)

If you're good at tech, stay with it. The economy is changing. Developers are increasingly able to go directly to consumers. If you don't have the creativity to take advantage of that, then by all means go management. It is the place for those that can't do. But if not, there's no reason why a good tech creator can't make his way in this world. This question always comes up, "management or development?". Personally, I'm both. I code, I consult, I manage consultants...you an actually do all of those and people will respect you more for it. Besides, we all know that once people get out of the game, no matter how good they were, they get out of touch fast and their decisions reflect that. Anyway, go with your gut. Go with what you're really best at.

Easy choice (1)

neiras (723124) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617707)

Both of those options give you the opportunity to keep learning new skills and applying them. Either way, you're going to have to keep up. In one case, you'll be starting something of a new career; in the other, you'll be honing your technical abilities and working on moving from Journeyman to Master.

Are you a people person first, or a technology person first? Is the team you work with the part of your day that matters most to you, or the challenge of the work itself?

Do what makes you happy. There's nothing wrong with a change. Just don't approach management as an easy way out. It's not, and the problems you'll encounter tend to be far more personal in nature than the average programmer/system admin type likes to think. You can't write a test suite and write the code to make it pass when you're dealing with people.

Life is short and you're about halfway through it. Choose wisely. It might not hurt to consider salary potential on either side of your decision as well.

Management means comfy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617729)

You seem to imply that if you go into management, you won't have to stay on top of tech or have to re-invent yourself as much.....hmmmmm. When you manage people you have to know what you are talking about. You have to earn respect. You have to know enough to work with the person who knows more than you. You have to be flexible. (re-inventing) Glad you think management means comfy...I think you should try management. You may have a different opinion of management after you do it a couple of years. And that will broaden your horizon. Good luck.

Joining management doesn't mean you can't learn (1)

popstar_dave (1588063) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617745)

Don't think that you'll be giving up on all the tech learning if you enter management. It's just that the pressure to learn to the same extent won't be there. I'm guessing that you'd be moving into managing a team/department in the tech area given that's your background. So having someone in that position that can relay the intricacies of "each Web.x release" from the individual tech staff to the other managers around the boardroom table will be invaluable.

I might be bit biased, coming from the management side myself. But I know how valuable a manager with tech skills can be.

So that'd be my tip, look long-term and think about the management angle. You'll still be able to stay on top of the info side, but you're not going to get fired if you don't read up on the latest API release the weekend it comes out.

Re:Joining management doesn't mean you can't learn (1)

gpburdell (514193) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617847)

I agree with this post. In fact I think I have learned the most in mgmt. The most in that I can learn about more things to a level of detail that is necessary, without have to learn every nat's ass about a subject to build it, code it, etc.

I get to play technical without having to do technical.

About management.... (1)

jhcaocf197912 (1430843) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617777)

Management is not comfy. You need to lead people AND keep yourself updated. Just don't bite off more than you can chew, otherwise, your employees will hate you for being incompetent management.

Captain or Admiral? (1)

mixmasta (36673) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617783)

Which do you want to be?

Please be a competent manager (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617789)

Make my life as a lifelong technologist: provide technical competence in management, with knowledge to help you explain things to me and to tell when I'm seriously confused.

Isn't there an old addage? (1)

CodeMonkey22 (861014) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617801)

Those who can do, do... those who can't do, manage!
(or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cushy Job)

Like many others.... (4, Insightful)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617807)

I am in your age group. Having turned 50 recently, I look ahead to what is the next Big Thing for me. I did the management tour early on in my late 30's and found it distasteful since it involves trying to motivate people to get the job done and coddling upper management.

As one poster said, It is trying to get adults who act like children to act like adults, and dealing with squabbles between developers, one who is is bound and determined to use Ruby and another who is just as determined to use something else, and trying to make everyone happy and productive and satisfy the sales weenies.

Although i hate to say it because it makes me sound like more of a gray hair then I am, it is really time to sit back and take stock. I don't know if you have a family or not but this is a crucial decision and they have to be taken into account since your decision ultimately effects them as well.

There is no pat answer for this, the answer has to come from you and your desires for your future. Although I am not sure I recommend it, if you are well known enough and have the hutspa to really sell yourself, do the ultimate sell out and become a consultant, it has worked for me.

Join the Dark Side and become a Manager (1, Informative)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617823)

Why?

#1 More pay, most techies have a "salary cap" for their position and can only reach a certain level, managers go all the way to the top aka CEO. Also when the company starts having losses the first ones they downsize are techies.

#2 You already have techie experience which will make you a good IT manager and become VP of IT or the CIO later.

#3 As you age it becomes harder and harder to understand new technical trends. Younger techies will oust you for jobs and promotions. Might as well switch to management and quit the IT ratrace.

#4 Managers have better benefits and the "golden parachute" clause in that if they fire you or lay you off, you get a nice severance package.

#5 Any company that is willing to promote a techie to a management position is a valuable company to work for, that way managers can do their jobs better than a manager without techie experience.

You'll have to take Darth Vader as a role model, but the "force choke" comes in handy to keep your underlings in line, and your new battle armor will protect you from assassination attempts by your underlings. :)

Become a consultant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617825)

Why don't you become a consultant? I mean the good kind, that still does technical implementations, on top of design. As a life long geek in my thirties, I've found that to be a good fit.

Good techs can make good managers (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617829)

Many of the skills that make a good technical worker can make a good technical manager. You need to pay attention to details, keep track of a lot of different tasks, break up problems into manageable pieces, quantify risks and benefits, deal with unreasonable folks on occasion.

Some people claim that a good manager does not need to know much about the industry being managed. The idea is that a good manager can find the proper people that understand what they need to do and do it. I think this is true in an ideal world, but a technical manager who can dissociate himself from the technical aspects can make an exceptional manager.

There's an incremental financial benefit to management, but in the right organization you should be able to progress quite well in the technical track too.

All that said, I just saw this article:
http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/23800/ [technologyreview.com]

Personally the thought of managing more than a couple people is unpleasant to me. I could probably do an adequate job, but it would not be something that I'd relish.

Do What You Enjoy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617831)

Do that which is most likely to get you up in the morning. If you enjoy doing the technical and addressing technical issues, then do that. If you enjoy doing the managerial and addressing business and personnel issues, then do that. If you are energized spending the day on technical follow that path, whereas if you you energized by spending the day on managerial follow that path.

Being a few years older than 39 (I am 42) and having (1) been an individual technical contributor, (2) been a technical lead of large projects and (3) been the head of a fortune 500 hundred company's R&D division, I know that at the end of the day I am happier having spend the day on technical issues rather than people/management issues.

Keeping up on the latest technological advancements can be challenging, especially when it means evolving your area of technical expertise. If you enjoy the management as much as the technical and you are good at both, then I would say that it would be easier to go into management. However, do not be deceived. You will need to continue learning in order to remain useful. On the management side you need to have a broad understanding of recent technical (not to mention business) issues. In contrast, on the technology side you need a deep understanding of as subset of technical issues. If you want to stop learning and continue to be employed, then start practicing "do you want fries with that".

Where are you most effective. (1)

gpburdell (514193) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617837)

I have always been told I am a damn good technical person, but I knew I was even better at making other people more effective through leadership. So my only question would be, "Where are you the most effective"? That is where you should be.

Increasing breadth (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617843)

A lot of people here have assumed you're a coder. However, without specifying what you do, or the type/size of company that you're at this can be a tough answer to accurately provide. Either way, if you want to stay technical, then I would suggest increasing your sphere of influence. Now if you enjoy banging away at the keyboard all day, there's not much in the areas of expansion for you. But let's say that you want more influence than just some aspect of a product.

Can you move from a design/task based position into a more architecture based role? I know plenty of engineers that are very technical, but have evolved their roles into a architectural position and leave the coding/designing/layout to their lieutenants. I'm at a midsize IT consulting company and while I used to handle any size engagement, I now have a team of 12 engineers in which the junior consultants handle the easy stuff, while I handle the larger datacenter-wide architectures. As they junior engineers can easily handle the "what vlan # should the customer use, or which switchports layout strategy should be used..."

My position is more of a 'hybrid' between the two that you have described. I'm more like a captain or a player/coach than a manager. I don't handle raises/promotions/reviews or the like, but I handle the training programs, lab budgeting and setting the technical roadmap for the team. I do have to assist the pre-sales efforts, but it's still technical as my role is one of convincing the customer of our value as well as the soundness of the design/architecture that has been put forth before them.

This role isn't officially in our job matrix, but I too wasn't 100% sure about going into management or remaining in the trenches.

Go for management (1)

89cents (589228) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617849)

If you enjoy management, then I would try for that. You will benefit from your experience and age much more than trying to keep up as a tech. Personally I like dealing with computers over people as they do what you tell them to (most of the time!) and don't have special needs or quirks. I also don't want to go to a ton of meetings.

It depends on your work environment. Where I work, the average age of the coders and sysadmins is over 40, so older techs fit in and it's generally a good place to retire. If you work for lets say, Google, like my fiance does, you will struggle to keep up as a tech as all the people are generally very young and don't give much respect to the older crowd.

your choice is simple (1)

wonderboss (952111) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617871)

At some point you will realize, you have two options to be mismanaged, or to mismanage. Until that time remain technical.

When you reach that point you can make a rational decision.

Do what makes you happy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617879)

Personally I'd rather spend 8 hours a day rolling around on a bed of rusty cans and broken glass than enter management, but that said, we *need* managers who have a clue about tech, so if that's what you like then go for it.

Two words: (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617889)

Ownership Stake.

Don't take any position that offers no path to owning all or part of the business.
Directors and C-suite execs don't get there by promotion; they get there through investment -- taking an ownership stake.

Any other labor situation just makes you a wage slave.

A question near and dear to me (3, Insightful)

eyrieowl (881195) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617891)

I have wondered the same thing. I'm not yet at a decision point about it, but when I think seriously about the future, I worry about whether staying in hardcore development and architecture is going to be sustainable or not. There seems to be so much less room in the world for "senior" technologists than for equally senior managers, and I am not sure what that will mean for my career. I can not imagine how I would get on not being able to get my hands in there and solve the really hard problems, but I wonder if I'll have to step back from doing that simply to be able to stay in the game. As much as I would have a hard time contemplating a career in management, I would have an even harder time being an old, unemployed developer who can't get an interesting job b/c he's too "senior". Aging sucks. At any rate, for myself, I think I'm pretty committed to trying to ride the technical path as far as I possibly can simply b/c I care so much more about it. Here's hoping....

I'm 40, and tried management (3, Insightful)

PinchDuck (199974) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617901)

15 years ago. Ick. Now I'm back in tech and loving it. If you love management, and are good at it, than go for it. God knows, there are too few good managers. I was one of the bad ones, which is why I went right back into coding. I wasn't PHB bad, but I hated doing project management/personnel/fighting for resources. If you have the talent for that and want to do it, go for it. I wouldn't be too worried about your age when it comes to coding, however, as long as you love to learn new things you'll be able to stay current for your entire professional life. It isn't lack of intelligence that does in people, it's getting locked in their ways and refusing to accept new ideas.

Choose what you can do the best (1)

kinsoa (550794) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617913)

I go in management five years ago and i'm pretty happy.

But be carefull, it's a job, and it requires skills. You can't just "go for it" without any skills. Managing 2 or 50 people can be very hard. Be prepared to be a psy, to organise, negociate, managing informations, communicate, moderate, motivate, and sometimes to deal with heavy relationnal problems (and it's not exactly like a relationnal database).

I woudn't come back in technical area.

It is obviously ... (1)

Sepiraph (1162995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617921)

It is obviously a personal choice, but the fact that you are asking here means you haven't really make up your mind. Personally, at the age of 39 (currently I'm 29) I'd be seriously looking at management. Not necessarily because you love it or for the money, but for the simple fact that staying on top of technology requires A LOT of time on self-study. As you get older, you have other priorities assuming that you are married with children (if not I suppose all bets are off, do whatever you wish :) ). But yea you have to keep in mind with ageism also. At the end of the day though, if you hate management or simply can't do it, don't force yourself doing something you hate (you don't have to LOVE your job, just don't hate it!).

Another selfish response... (1)

mightyscotchpine (779354) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617935)

Other's have already said it, but I'm adding another vote to the pile: go into management so we techies can have *one more* manager who knows his ___ from a hole in the ground. (My boss can't keep the concept of bits and bytes separate in his head. He's always asking me how many Terabits of space we have available on our SAN. I've politely corrected him maybe a dozen times.) Sorry for the selfish response. :-)

Technical managers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617961)

I have run into a slew of people who are in management positions because "I'm just not technical". These people are placeholders who screw over their teams, their projects, and their company because they have no idea WTF is actually going on. Don't get me wrong, I'm one of those techs who would be a -terrible- manager and I know it. There are ALOT of us out there who make great techs but even we wouldn't want to work for us.

There is a tremendous lack of -good- managers who have the tech expertise necessary to know a good project plan and techies from the BS artists and a pipe-dream. These are the folks who have a general idea of what it takes to complete a project, the skills (team) necessary for that project, and the business sense to build a project budget and justify it. On top of all that, they can manage people. If you can do that, and do it well, you are set.

If you are an HR person, BEWARE the IT manager who "isn't technical". They will cost you a fortune, drive off your best IT talent, and then demand a raise because they made so much progress despite the high turnover. "progress" being the fact that they spent tremendous amounts of money.

Do you _really_ enjoy management? (1)

timpaton (748607) | more than 5 years ago | (#28617973)

How secure is your job, employer and industry? How transferable are your skills?

I'm 5 years your junior (in a different industry, on a different continent), and I made a considered jump out of tech a few years ago. I regret doing so. I found myself in a specialised technical niche of a declining industry. I made a push to get into a project management role, where, if nothing else, I could get a few more generalist skills to write on a resume. Now I'm in a dull administrative role which I don't enjoy at all.

I've come to acknowledge that I get job satisfaction from solving problems. Now if I do my job properly, I don't see problems... and if I do, they're long-term problems that can't just be sat down and worked through. To run projects in a resource-constrained organisation, I need to be shameless in pushing people to do my work ahead of the other work they've been given... and that doesn't come easy to me.

The reasons for making the shift are still there - I could still be the tech guy with no transferable skills. Now I have some of the skills I would need to bluff my way into a comparable job elsewhere... but no interest in doing a comparable job elsewhere.

I don't have a good answer. Just don't burn any bridges unless you're pretty sure you're doing the right thing.

Use it or lose it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617987)

I made the decision to stay a techie when I turned 47. At 59 I have no regrets. The techie path is about discovering were your brain is and learning how to develop it. Management is about discovering where your ass is and learning how to protect it. My old fart techie friends are still coherent and sharp. The ones that went up the management ladder seemed to lose brain cells and IQ the higher they climbed. When I bump into these guys now, they always get around to asking if I can fix their windoze box.

whoa! you're still alive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28617993)

holy crap?! you must be the oldest nerd ever.

There is no safe path. (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28618003)

You could be the tech guy they need while they cut "mid management" to save money.

I quit being a tech guy because after chemo, it hurt my hands all the time because of the nerve damage.

OTH, over the years, I've seen tech people cut and replaced with cheaper idiots (often after a request to "document everything you do").
OTH, I've seen people who documented everything (including myself) promoted.

It's a gamble.

Spend less than you make, and work at something you enjoy. I love helping people and tolerate/enjoy grinding process. I came to dislike "spend all your time learning, use it 2 years, then it's obsolete so do it all over again for a new skill".

This is easy in your case (5, Insightful)

istartedi (132515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28618027)

Just read your own post as if it were written by somebody else. You can tell by the tone that you want to take the management job. A techie who is expressing reluctance about "having to keep up" is not going to be a happy techie.

If you aren't going to be happy doing it, you won't be successful.

Take the management job. It's plainly what you want.

I am almost his age... (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 5 years ago | (#28618055)

... I can't imagine doing management. I just like doing tech stuff and it doesn't help if I have speech and hearing impediments. :(

Do what you can do well. (1)

n2rjt (88804) | more than 5 years ago | (#28618057)

You're still young, dude!
When I was in my 30's I had the same decision, and found it to be a choice between doing something I did well (technical) and something I did kind of poorly (management). Easy decision. I have spent the next 20 years keeping up with various technologies. I have done well, but recently discovered the secret (for me) of effective management. I have discovered that, even though I can outperform ten normal individuals, I can manage a team of ten that does about three times what I could do by myself. That's pretty cool. I'm ready to let go of having to keep up with every new technology, and teach my team how I did it so well for so long.
So, my advice is to do what you think you are best at. If that is the technical path, don't worry -- if you really are good at it, you'll certainly have management chances in the future.
On the other hand: the management "ladder" rises faster.

I want to say one word to you. Just one word. (3, Insightful)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 5 years ago | (#28618059)

being a techie for the foreseeable future -- always having to keep myself up-to-date on everything tech and re-inventing myself with each Web.x release to stay on top

COBOL

To be blunt about it --- (1)

Bork (115412) | more than 5 years ago | (#28618063)

If you were management material, you would have thought this out for yourself.

Your indecisiveness has shown through. You do not plan ahead.

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