Tech Or Management Beyond Age 39?
I have been an engineering manager for the last 3 years or so (38). When I was promoted, I was never given the option of declining, which in hind site was probably a good idea on their part. I felt the same as most other /.'ers in the fact that Management is a slow rotation down the flushed toilet of corporate IT.
I decided that I didn't want the job to be that way. I continue to study and stay on top of cutting edge tech, ensuring that I won't get left in the dust, even while embarking on the long learning curve related to capital project planning, operating expense budgeting, roi, dealing with HR, etc... I do my best to spend approximately half of my time focusing on both of my core objectives, balancing tech with management.
In the end I found that I was able to work with my engineering staff to keep our company on the right track. We work together as a team to ensure that we keep leading edge technology rolling into our data center. What's cool is that since my team and I are on the same page, even though they spend more time implementing than I do, we are able to get really cool stuff rolled out without hitting the brick wall known as "management" - since I'm the "management". I am able to take our ideas and lobby for them with the VP's and Directors, get budgets passed for cool stuff that we want to do, and ensure that we get those things implemented. I'm also smart enough to roll with the deepest technical discussions and am more than capable of calling "shenanigans" if necessary. By understanding and spending equal time working in both environments I believe that I have had the opportunity to work with more technology than I could have otherwise.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that, even as a manager, you are working with a team of people. I have told my staff that I consider them my peers, and that together we work to help the company stay afloat and make more money. I do not consider myself any different than they are, and am more than happy to work on problems/issues that arise right along side any of them. The cool thing though, is that I can keep heat off of them, empower them to implement changes, and ensure that their backs are always covered. In turn, I get a team of people who circle the wagons and ensure that we put our best efforts forward all the time and truly respect each other. I also spend the time letting them know that I appreciate their work and acknowledge a good job when I see one.
Management is not giving one thing up for another, it's the ability to affect change, both positive or negative, in your environment. You can choose which way you want to take it, which is what makes a good or bad manager. I would have declined the promotion if I was asked, however in hindsight, I think I learned a lot from it.
Hope this helps you make up your mind. BTW - between 30 and 40 is when most techs get the bump. You are right on schedule.
How Do I Talk To 4th Graders About IT?
I did the same thing for 4th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten. I did the usual explanation of how servers run all the web sites includgin cartoon network, nick.com, pbskids.com, etc... What I also did was bring in an old 4U HP DL380 server that we had decommissioned, a newer HP BL25p blade that we had decommissioned, and an old dell c400 laptop. I explained to the kids what each component of the 4U server did in kid language, and passed them around. Example, the CPU was the brains of the operation and did the homework, the hard drive was how it could remember all the stuff it had learned in school(yes I took the HD case off so they could see the platters), and the memory helped it find the right information quickly so that it could finish it's work on time. Then, we took apart the blade and explained that 6 of those giant servers could now fit inside this little blade, and we analyzed how much different it was than the big server. It's not important how new the servers are - the kids will have no clue. You could be in there with a 12 year old Compaq white box and it wouldn't matter.
The best part, as far as the kids were concerned, was when I took the laptop out of the bag. It looked normal to them at first, but I had already taken all the screws and fasteners out of it. I passed around the laptop and the kids were able to lift up the keyboard, pull out the hard drive, see behind the screen bezel, etc... We discussed how the components were no different in the laptop than they were in the server. All the kids were proud to have seen the inside of laptop, especially since most of them are constantly told to be so careful around the ones they have at home. Once again, a 7 year old broken laptop is fine - the kids won't know the difference.
Finally, I gave the teacher some candy to hand out (always give it to the teacher). Every time I did this, even in classes without my kids, my demo was voted best. I think it succeeds simply because the kids got to touch things, and interact with them. Approach it from this angle and you'll hold their attention - guaranteed.