Background: I have a very strong web technology background. I worked my way up from Jr Web Dev to Lead then to Scrum Master and then now IT manager.

Questions: Since I am a new IT manager and I recently got overwhelmed by the things assigned to me by my boss, such as asking me to setup the company network, security (firewall), etc. Although I have strong knowledge on web tech, I have zero knowledge on network/infrastructure.

  • How important is it for a new manager to have in-depth knowledge on specific technologies from the larger field (for example, as an IT manager knowing about networking)?
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    Hi LArcenCiel, I edited this slightly to make it a bit more on topic here. Feel free to edit if this changes your intent much! – enderland Sep 11 '15 at 2:01
  • Do you have anyone in your group who has strong knowledge on networking? A manager is not a tech lead. A manager manages people. – scaaahu Sep 11 '15 at 4:10
  • Did your boss ask you to do it or ask you to get it done? Two very different questions. The current IT manager here has little to no IT background. He basically first asks the employees if they can do something, and if not, hires outside consultants. – Andrew Whatever Sep 11 '15 at 18:32
  • @enderland , ^^ thanks for making my questions more clear and more specific – LArcenCiel Sep 14 '15 at 5:52
  • @scaaahu , not so much tho. He is a technical support person. I came to the conclusion that i will outsource the whole thing and hire a guy ( network engineer ) in the future to maintain the system ^^ – LArcenCiel Sep 14 '15 at 5:53

There is a common mistake made that management is a career path, and often people who are good technically move up into more management roles and crash and burn as the skills are different.

It can be useful to be technical as a manager, be it Scrum Master, Project Manager or IT Manager, but is it required, no. One of the best PMs I worked with came from a cookie factory, one of the best SMs was a school teacher (french), best IT Manager had been a retail manager before. It's about managing people and resources at this level, tech skills help you understand the issues, but as you've seen can get you embroiled in the nitty gritty of implementation which you need to avoid.

When you were assigned the network job, your task was to find someone internal or external who could provide the tech leadership required. Your job was to ensure the project met expectations on budget/delivery etc, and had the right people allocated, nothing more. If you were anywhere near the firewalls you were too involved.

  • Wandering Dev Mana, Hi ^^ thanks for the input. Recently i implmented Scrumban here in my office , i really got overwhelm with tickets and task until my own team mate created their own backlog which i think is bad ,but ya i'll try to catch up and focus at my work – LArcenCiel Sep 16 '15 at 5:47
  • So you are saying that a bad manager overall won't be a decent technical manager. That is, technically training a bad manager won't help unless their management improves? Makes a lot of sense. – SaltySub2 Sep 12 '18 at 11:23

Short answer: It is not normally the function of an IT manager to have a deep technical expertise in every facet of the department that she manages.

When you reach a management level, you are expected to be able to delegate certain tasks to domain experts that you manage. So rather than having that in depth knowledge, you know which person you manage does have it, so you can direct any specific questions to them through you.

Having said that, an IT manager needs to have a very clear high level understanding of each of the facets that she manages and to be able to understand what your staff are saying in regard to any risks that may impact either your team or the business.

  • Hi @Jane S , thanks for taking time to explain and comment here :) , ya after reading all the comments here really help me alot by giving me better understanding what the job scope / direction should be ^^ – LArcenCiel Sep 14 '15 at 11:06
  • What I don't get is how then would the manager verify the quality and outcome of the work without the technical expertise themselves? Ostensibly because the manager cannot no everything in-depth? – SaltySub2 Sep 12 '18 at 11:25
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    @SaltySub2 A manager's role is to ensure that their staff are working to capacity and that their tasks are structured such that nobody is waiting for anyone else. The manager confirms quality with testing from the QA team; if the product fails testing from bugs or not matching the specification/design, then the team is not performing well. A manager focuses on the "what", "who" and "when", not the "how". – Jane S Sep 13 '18 at 0:07
  • @JaneS Got it. As you noted the key part of your answer is "clear high level understanding". – SaltySub2 Sep 14 '18 at 11:30

You have fallen into the trap of just looking at a job title.

In IT in particular, the specific job responsibilities for a role vary widely. An IT Manager (or in some cases, even a director or VP title) may have no or few subordinates and be expected to do technical work. I am a senior person with a lot of management experience, and I've learned to ask close questions about the exact responsibilities of a job. "VP of Engineering!" "Oh really, how much of this role's time do you expect to be coding?" "60%!" -> (Either a startup, or just a place with bad managers.) Some things I can't do, other things I could but I'm not interested in individual-contributor technical roles any more.

"IT Manager" at many places, especially small shops, is "the one person who knows everything about the network, PCs, phone system, etc etc." At some places, it is a pure management role with largely personnel management/project management/financial responsibilities. There is no "right answer" to what an IT manager is and thinking that way will lead you into a lot of problems.

You don't know unless you ask very specific questions about what the role does. A good question is "what does the average day look like," "what hands on technical tasks will this person be doing..." Then match your abilities and interests with those responsibilities.


How important is it for a new manager to have in-depth knowledge on specific technologies from the larger field (for example, as an IT manager knowing about networking)?

It varies from company to company, and role to role. In some shops the IT Manager does almost everything him/herself and delegates little (if any). Sometimes the "IT Manager" doesn't even manage anyone. In other shops the IT Manager manages a large enough and well-trained enough team that the manager does very little hands-on work.

You almost always need to know enough about the technologies to understand the work requests, and to find a way to get the work done.

For a manager, that usually means knowing enough to effectively communicate, prioritize, understand potential issues, hire, sometimes bring in contractors, etc. But for a manager, the real in-depth knowledge often comes from folks working on your team.

You usually don't need to be the super-technical-know-it-all. You do need to know enough to delegate the work properly.

  • thanks :) i think i'll need to catch up some server skill in order to communicate well with my vendor :) – LArcenCiel Sep 14 '15 at 11:07

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