Hypothesis Testing - what to do if you're thinking of becoming a manager

Cover page for the Research Computing Teams Considering Becoming A Manager eBook

Congratulations — you’re someone from the research or academic world considering becoming a manager!

It’s a job which will take advantage of all the advanced collaboration skills you’ve developed, and then some.

But it’s a tough job, and not everyone enjoys it. It means a career change; rather than being the resident expert doing the hard work yourself, you’d be transitioning to focussing on the people doing the work. It means moving away from doing the work to creating the environment where people are thriving while getting the right work done.

Luckily, you can find out if you’d enjoy the work first before making big job decisions. Test the hypothesis that you’d enjoy being a manager.

Here’s a quick guide (PDF, epub) to testing the waters before making the jump. Look for opportunities to try out manager-relevant responsibilities by:

  • Mentoring juniors
  • Supervising interns
  • Talking with clients and other stakeholders
  • Coordinating project work that involves multiple people.

This is the sort of work which managers spend much of their effort on. If you enjoy and start doing well at this work, you have what it takes to be a good manager!

Other Resources and next steps

Some other resources which might help you:

  • The Manager’s Path by Camille Fournier is an extremely well-thought of book describing the path of management and leadership in tech companies in particular. The lessons described there, especially in the earlier sections, are quite general.
  • re:Work new manager training guide - Google’s new manager training gives an idea of what they expect from new managers.
  • The Leader Lab Book by Tania Luna and LeeAnn Renninger PhD is a casual and well-thought out introduction to some foundational manager skills, and how to combine them in different combinations.
  • Rands Leadership Slack is a 20,000+ strong community of people who are technical managers or leads, or interested in becoming leads or managers. There are always very interesting discussions going on from which you can learn a lot, on any topic.
  • Pat Kua’s article Maker vs Multiplier describes the difference beetween being an individual contributor (maker) and being a manager (multiplier).
  • This article from Charity Majors is all about the different job satisfaction of being a manager.
  • Practice active listening and paraphrasing while testing outthese manager tasks.
  • If you’re managing or supervising someone, one-on-ones are an important way to keep lines of communication open. You may find the RCT guide to One-on-one meetings useful as you practice holding them.
  • Similarly, giving feedback, whether for product work or to someone you’re supervising, is an important skill. It’s not hard, but it’s not done well as often as it shouldould be. The RCT guide to feedback will help.
  • Finally, you might find the Research Computing Teams Newsletter valuable; the core of this ebook, for instance, came from issue #138.

You can also watch my 10-minute talk, Help, I’m a Research Software Manager!, which talks about how we in research already have the advanced skills to become great managers - we just need the basics to become good managers, first.

And a 20 minute talk, Technology Isn’t the Hardest Part gives a slightly more expansive view of what being an RCD manager in particular entails.

Finally, you can always email me or even arrange a quick free call. It is very important to me to support those who have stepped up or are considering steping up to the responsibility of managing teams.