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Introduction: Why Technical Supervising is Unique

Introduction: Why Technical Supervising is Unique

A growing nationwide training and development trend is under way. Organizations are recognizing that managing in technology is a unique and challenging experience for the new technical supervisor. The person who moves from the role of technical expert to supervisor learns this quickly. New technical supervisors, more often than not, discover that:

  1. Technical knowledge does not convert to “people” skills.

    Technologists (scientists, engineers and related professionals) develop sophisticated analytical and reasoning skills as a result of years of technical education. As new technical supervisors, they quickly discover that, while their education places them on top of the technical realm, they now need a new set of interaction skills to deal with people.

  2. “Nontechnical” is no longer “nonintelligent.”

    Technical education (such as for science, engineering, medicine and law) provides precise, perfect solutions to complex problems. Some technical experts have developed the unfortunate bias that “if it can’t be measured, it isn’t really worthwhile.” To some, “nontechnical” means “nonintelligent.” They ask, “Why can’t people be more like programs?” This mind-set must change quickly for technical experts to be good managers.

  3. “Letting go” early is necessary.

    Yes, you can do it faster and better than most—perhaps all—of your staff, and it is more gratifying to do it yourself. Your new role as a technical supervisor, however, requires you to gain satisfaction now in helping others do the technical work for you. You must undergo a “power conversion”—that is, convert your technical expertise (one form of power) to people skills (another form of power).

  4. Managing technical experts can be challenging.

    “Technical experts,” “knowledge workers,” the “new professionals” are individuals, like you, who often possess double or triple degrees. Their unique technical expertise is mirrored by their equally focused values, attitudes and personal styles. Each expert has a personal “performance equation.” Your job is to find it and manage it.

  5. Your technology framework quickly expands.

    The move from technical expert to technical supervisor is too often a “trial by error” experience. As a technical expert you often worked alone, or perhaps on a small team, reaching systematic closure to a long-term project. Suddenly your role is expanded. You are now managing concurrent projects and reconciling the often conflicting demands of people, technology and organizations. The logical has become chaotic. You need a new set of skills.

  6. Technical supervisors must become organizational realists.

    As a technical expert, you probably expected your manager to serve as a critical buffer, protecting you from the organizational politics and policies that prevented you from doing your job. Now, as a technical supervisor, you must not only look over your shoulder to take care of those technical professionals just like you, but also spend more time on political issues. “Who are the decision makers I must effectively deal with?” “Where are the champions who will provide support for additional resources for my department?” “How do I sell my ideas in competitive environments?”

This book will address other issues as well. In the meantime, here is the bottom line. While “technical excellence” and “quality assurance” remain critical to your success as a technical supervisor, people skills, supervisory competencies and political realities are even more important.

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