This is sort of difficult to explain...

I am currently a software engineer, and have been for about 10 years. I would like my next job to be the start of a new career in management. I have given this much thought and have researched different management techniques over the past year (Peopleware ftw!). I have good reason to believe that I would excel at developing, motivating, and jelling a team of software developers. I want to introduce enlightened management practices to a software development effort.

Anyway, since I have no management experience, I would like to start "building a case" that I would make a good manager so that when I apply for these types of job openings, I can refer to actions I have taken in my current role that show off certain aptitudes as evidence that I could be an effective manager. I don't foresee the opportunity for me to grow organically into this type of role at my current company, so I will most likely have to apply for an open management position in a different company.

Is there anything I can do in the workplace, in my current role as an individual contributor, to build the case that I would make a good manager?

Note my manager and I are the only software developers at this company, so having conversation about that with him would be a bit awkward and would sound like "I want your job". Note also, I don't foresee any growth of the software development group. I am aware that I will have to leave for my career to advance, but I could possibly be here for another year or two. During that time, I will do my job and do it well, but I'm looking for ideas on how I can also build management skills via particular actions or behaviors in the workplace. Does that make sense?

  • 9
    why would anyone petition to close this question, it's a great question? +1
    – amphibient
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 20:31
  • Well, my manager and I are the only software developers at this company, so having that conversation with him would be a bit awkward and would sound like "I want your job".
    – anon
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 20:39
  • 1
    @CFL_Jeff - Well he probably wants the CTO job... which would create an opening for you Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 20:56
  • @Chad I don't foresee any growth of the software development group.
    – anon
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 22:01
  • 1
    Bottom line is that you need to lead something. If nothing is work related then volunteer to organize the company super bowl party. You may find that managing isn't it's all cracked up to be with that simple task. Maybe ask your manager if they could start teaching you managerial duties. Find something on your project that isn't getting done that probably should be by your manager and step in and do it. There's a reason that some people advance and others don't. Usually it boils down to initiative. Some people always seem to create good leadership roles for themselves out of nothing. Most dont
    – Dunk
    Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 21:25

4 Answers 4


First move to a company where there is the possibility of growth. First line managers are most often promoted from within (At least this is as I have observed it) unless they have management experience.

To be a manager, you have to be aware of the issues that managers care about and not just code. So at this new job, you want to get a reputation for delivering a good product on time and on budget. (it is generally easier to get promoted if you are good at what you currently do.)

You want to ask to make presentations at meetings about your project. Managers have to attend and present at a lot of meetings, the more you do this, the more people will think of you in terms of being a manager and half the battle is won.

You want to make suggestions for change and couch them in business terms not just technical terms. So make the case for why you should use technology X or buy technical toy Y by showing how it will reduce manhours, cost less, etc. Managers are concerned with profits and budgets and customer satisfaction and it will help if you tend to talk about those types of things when you suggest changes to how work is done. Even if you don't change jobs before applying for a management position, being able to show how you drove a postive change in your organization will help you get considered.

You want to volunteer for special projects especially those that will get you known to higher managers. Ask to be on the hiring panel when hiring new developers.

You want to show that you are thinking beyond the code. You want to get company awards for your work. Get known as someone who has domain knowledge of your business not just programming knowledge. If you have the opportunity to talk to users, clients, etc., take it.

  • 3
    Applying will work in some companies, in others it's also quite smart to talk to your current management about your ambitions. Not only should the help find openings, but they can counsel you on any skills you may want that are important to that corporate culture. Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 22:34
  • I'll second HLGEM's answer - it's exactly what I would have written. I just wanted to add emphasis that over the last 10 years I've kept an eye specifically on first line management opportunities in SW in the US, and I can state pretty confidently that they are rare. Find a growing company and get promoted from within. Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 22:36
  • +1: I think the only thing missing from this answer is the consideration of people with respect to evaluation, promotion, coaching, feedback, etc. Going from software engineering to management will mean a complete change in thought space and "tool set". Commented May 4, 2021 at 19:03

Here would be my couple of suggestions:

Pursue leadership opportunities. It can be seen as part of the progression to be the person that will asked to take on some collection of tasks and bring it to completion.

Pursue mentor-ship skills/opportunities. How well do you pass on what you know? How well do you mentor new people to the team or organization?

Given that you are in a department of 2, here are a few other ideas to consider since the mentoring idea would work better in larger places:

  1. Bring in solutions. This is where you have taken some time to plan out how long it would take to take some new technology that may be useful for the organization and actually have a pilot project be done. For example, if the company wanted to build a mobile application, how would this be handled from start to finish? Another idea is to consider if there are systems to be updated or replaced and make a pitch for what should be used based on various bits of research and estimated costs. This could be seen as an extension of the first idea I posted above though in this case you are the initiating things.

  2. Keep track of the details. While your manager is also likely doing this, it can be helpful to be known as the person that doesn't let things slip. There can also be something to be said for knowing what is being done now, what is to be done soon and trying to see what are the big priorities. Is it sticking to the budget? Is it handling growth? Is it fixing a bunch of broken systems that weren't formalized but now should be? There are lots of things to look here in terms of how does the business run and what are they expecting from a couple of developers. Are you customizing 3rd party software or building in-house apps?

Something else to consider is when your manager does take vacation, who takes over his stuff? How well do your manager and you work together? It could be worth considering to see what aspirations does he have. Perhaps he wants to remain more technical and not get into a role that may deal more with office politics.

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    +1 for pursuing leadership opportunities. At my workplace, it often seems that management opportunities are offered to team leads, team lead opportunities are offered to tech leads, tech lead opportunities are offered to those who demonstrate both technical skill and leadership on a given project. Lead something and they'll notice you have management potential. Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 17:16

The biggest "impedance mismatch" that you're going to be confronted with as a manager is that your control over the project's outcome and direction – although you are now personally responsible(!) for it – is strictly indirect. You are no longer the person doing the work. Instead, you must step back and not only allow other people to do their jobs, but work to create an environment that supports them, enables them, and benefits them.

You're also going to from time to time be required to "go and take the heat" for something that you did not do – but that you are responsible for. Knowing that you might actually lose your position, or your job, as a consequence.

Management is not for sissies, and most technical people who enter management ... wind up going back to some flavor of their original, non-management role. My wife is a second-tier software manager who has 25 people reporting up to her. She's extremely good at it. But, what she does is not what I am cut out for. I wouldn't trade places with her, and she wouldn't trade places with me.


I'm totally inexperienced and obviously not as important as you but, from the bottom of my heart, if I were you I'd prepare by looking for another job where I don't have to manage anything except myself. Managing people is terrible and I'm not sure who in their sane mind would wish that curse upon themselves!

Also (and I mean this in the nicest way possible so don't take it the wrong way) "...excel at developing, motivating, and jelling a team of software developers..." is cliché job-speak I would prefer to avoid altogether. Might as well just tell them you're a perfectionist. I'm sure they never heard that one before.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: Please don't 'name a weakness that's actually a strength' and tell them you're a perfectionist. That's what every single person they interview says and they can see right through that BS.)

Here's me as the interviewer:

*sees interviewee walk through the door

"Oh look! Here comes another one of life's little perfectionists now!" he said in an unimpressed tone.

(...and that's why they never let me be the interviewer...)

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    Just because you don't like managing other people (which is a fine choice, I don't like managing other people either), you shouldn't assume it's a bad choice for other people. Everybody has different preferences and skills. Commented May 5, 2021 at 6:38

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