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I am currently a sole contributor working on a team within an enterprise software company. I have been here approximately a year.

I foresee a new team being created in a brand new market/category within the next couple of years. I am the only engineer in the company with significant experience in this field.

My question is: how can I convince my boss to groom me/train me for this position before the team is actually created, rather than hiring someone on the outside when it does become important?

Non-generic example that actually applies to me:

I'm a fairly new software engineer that is interested in management eventually. I have fairly extensive experience with mobile application development, and I believe that we are going to have a need for that in the future.

  • Care to comment on downvotes/close votes? – Codeman Jul 19 '13 at 22:35
  • Being the most experienced engineer doesn't remotely imply you'll be any good as a manager. The only way to convince your boss that you'd be a good manager is to show those skills on the project(s) you're currently involved in. Also, what does the term "manager" mean anyway? Coordinates features? Coordinates people? Bridges the client <> developer communication? Documents the features? Invents the features? Good managers are like good developers - if your boss is any good at his job, he'll choose the best person to be the manager. – N.B. Jul 20 '13 at 9:51
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    Whatever you do, please don't end up causing this problem. Simply having most experience does not mean you will be the best team lead. – enderland Jul 20 '13 at 11:53
  • My question is how do I ask my boss for guidance/mentorship to ensure I am the best person, not that I am the best person right now. – Codeman Jul 22 '13 at 17:38
  • @N.B. - he wants to get the job, not be the best manager. Who knows what qualifications this company wants? This wouldn't be the first company to use "manager" as a justification to pay an experienced developer more money. – user8365 Jul 22 '13 at 21:59
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I think your message is good, but rather than just asking for his opinion on what you should do, do some research yourself and come to him with a plan to put you in that position.

Don't sell yourself short.

Say you want to be the Lead of that new team - and why. Don't agree to do all development, but you want to manage the standards, practice, and be the one they go to for input. You won't do all development on it, but things should come by your desk for advice. You want to be the expert on it at that company - what makes you an expert?

For a lead position you should aim to possess the following skills:

  • Communication
  • Design Methodology
  • ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library)
  • Project Management (initiating, Planning, executing)
  • Business Development (Opportunities, Bid/Proposals)
  • People Management (Performance, change, coaching / mentoring, resource planning)
  • Budget

You should also be able to drink coffee while skipping and juggling multiple hats, and remain confident the entire time.

Prove you can do this - show him how and why you deserve the job. And if they say one doesn't exist, then convince them to make one.

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My question is: how can I convince my boss to groom me/train me for this position before the team is actually created, rather than hiring someone on the outside when it does become important?

You don't.

You act like you're the leader of your team (of one). As new people are added in, show that you can get them on-boarded and work well with them. Show that you can keep them working together cohesively, and volunteer to do leadership sort of tasks.

Essentially, do the job you want to do. Companies make hires based on need. If you show that they don't need a manager, then they won't hire one. Companies give promotions/raises for employee retention. If you show that you're doing a good job and hiring a new manager is way more costly than just paying you like a manager, you'll quickly find yourself there.

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    +1 for asking for the responsibility first and not the position. Do the job you want in addition to to the one you're assigned. "The world is run by those who show up." -author unknown (And no, it's not originally from The West Wing.) – Wesley Long Jul 20 '13 at 17:42
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    Just a warning on this. "Acting like a leader" and "Thinking you are the leader" are two very different things. You need to show skills of a leader which do not include delegation/orders, unless you are already in the position to give them. – Simon O'Doherty Jul 22 '13 at 6:50
  • @SimonO'Doherty has a good point. Make sure you fully understand the difference between leadership and authority. – Wesley Long Jul 22 '13 at 17:48
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Every company has slightly different requirements for programming managers. The more programming experience they require, the better-off you may be. You need to identify what they are looking for, then you can work on ways to demonstrate those abilities. This may require you to volunteer for some things. If there is an opening you may want to recommend someone or get involved in the interview process if you're going to be required to build a team. Voice your ideas for improvement. You'll learn what it takes to have influence in the company.

Solidify your relationships with coworkers. They may be involved in the selection process informally. You want more from them than just, "He's all right."

Also, try to identify what are the strengths of the existing managers. Not that you want to be a clone, but this may give insight into what they really want as oppose to what they post in the job description.

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