Transitioning into Management – Part 1

This week I had one of my connections reach out to me with this question:

I am an SDET and would like to have the opportunity to try a new line like Program Management, but companies don’t usually give you the opportunity if you have not done that work in the past. I know very well that if they give me a chance in a few weeks I will learn the trade and will be able to deliver.

So, how can you transition from an individual contributor role to a management role?

First, you need to decide what type of management role you are seeking. There are several different types of management. What are you more interested in managing: the software development life cycle, products, or people? With each type of management position you could take different paths.

Let’s first break down each type of management role and its key ingredient to help you remember:

Program Management – Process Focus

  • Manage the software development life cycle – Design, Build, Test, Release
  • Consider scope, time, cost as you manage the process
  • Work towards creating a desirable outcome

Program_MgmtProduct Management – Customer Focus

  • Spearhead the creation of a product with the end-user in mind
  • Plan, forecast, define requirements, and create products
  • Identify customers/consumer market

product-management-Methodology-wheelPeople Management – Employee Focus

  • Supervise employees during work hours
  • Provide oversight and direction to the employees
  • Maintain employee work schedules including assignments


Now, not all roles will be as clearly defined in the real world. In fact, a job description can be labeled program management but truly be a blend of program and people management. Chances are most roles will be a blend of these tasks with one being more heavily weighted than another.

So, why is it so important to understand the exact role?

Knowing what role you wish to transition into reveals what skillset you need to develop/enhance. If you would like to go into people management, then you need more experience with supervising employees. If you want to go into product management, you will need to have a better understanding of consumer trends. For program management, you need to get a handle on the process.

These are the basic building blocks to get you started. Stay tuned for my next post (Transitioning into Management – Part 2) that will go into more detail with specific examples for gaining experience for each type of management position.


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