Essential Qualities for Tech Managers Navigating The Realm of The Unknown

Image licensed from Shutterstock

In the rapidly evolving tech industry, managers often face unpredictable challenges, shifting priorities, and an ever-changing technological landscape. To thrive, they must possess a unique set of skills and qualities that will enable them to navigate in the fields of the unknown with confidence and poise.

Regardless of their specific roles, be it engineering team leads, tech leads, DevOps managers, or group leaders, I am convinced that fortifying these skills will not only enable them to lead their teams through uncertainty but also cultivate a resilient, adaptable, and innovative work environment.

In this article, I’ll explore some of the key skills that I’ve found to be most impactful for both myself and others during my years as a manager in the industry. While there are numerous ways to make a positive impact and various management styles suited to different individuals, I consider the following attributes as fundamental qualities that every manager needs to harness in order to excel in this dynamic field and successfully steer their teams toward success.

Embracing Change: The Crucial Role of Flexibility

Image licensed from Shutterstock

One of the most important attributes a tech manager must harness is flexibility and agility.

The rapidly changing technological landscape, evolving project requirements, and shifting deadlines require managers to adapt quickly and efficiently to new situations.

There are countless examples of that. Here are 3:

  • The solution that seemed like pure genius yesterday can easily become obsolete or even completely wrong today, given new circumstances and changed terms.
  • That cutting-edge tech we wanted to adopt and postponed for a long time is now irrelevant due to new developments in the field.
  • A feature we worked hard to plan and design for a major client just got redundant due to this client pausing activity.
  • A shift in the organization’s strategy and resource allocation calls for managers to adapt by modifying their team’s structure, objectives, and priorities.

This list can go on and on, and it emphasizes how crucial managers’ flexibility can be. It allows them to embrace changes, sometimes on a daily basis, and reprioritize tasks as needed. It allows them to plan ahead, but always be ready for changes, should things go south. It directs them to never over-commit to an idea, and always challenge it with the current set of terms and circumstances. It empowers them to make swift decisions and pivot their approach when new information or challenges arise.

By keeping flexible, agile and dynamic, managers can effectively lead their teams through uncertainty, promote a culture of continuous improvement, act and react to an ever-changing environment and ensure project success in the complex and unpredictable nature of this industry.

Bridging the Gap With Effective Communication

Image licensed from Shutterstock

Flexibility alone though is not enough. a good manager must also possess crystal clear communication skills, both inward (team members) and outward (team’s clients and stakeholders).

Good inward communication lets managers effectively convey their expectations, goals, and vision to the team, helping to align everyone’s efforts and minimize misunderstandings. It also facilitates better collaboration and teamwork, enabling team members to share ideas, provide feedback, and address concerns openly and constructively.

Additionally, managers that actively and consistently communicate the bigger picture and underlying motivations behind their team’s efforts, ultimately empower team members to make informed decisions, become more independent, engage and connect better to the business, focus on what matters, and deliver improved and more accurate results.

Good outward communication, on the other hand, can bridge gaps between technical and non-technical stakeholders, translating complex concepts into conceivable and easy-to-understand messages, thus fostering a shared understanding of a project’s objectives and progress. This skill is especially crucial when coordinating cross-functional teams, leading multi-discipline task forces, and managing client relationships.

Another important role of a manager, which is enhanced by effective communication skills, is serving as a focal point in meetings — ensuring focus, clarity and efficiency.

This responsibility includes guiding discussions, summarizing key points, looping in the key individuals within the organization, and maintaining a clear agenda to keep the conversation on track. By effectively steering meetings, a manager can help prevent misunderstandings, reduce wasted time, and promote a more productive and collaborative environment.

A Trusted Partner: The Impact of Strong Stakeholder Relationships

Image licensed from Shutterstock

Another crucial aspect that is enhanced by effective and transparent communication is the ability of managers to serve as trusted tech partners to their stakeholders, such as product and project managers, business and marketing personnel, and higher-level management.

A good tech partner can be incredibly beneficial to stakeholders, providing, amongst other advantages:

  • Highly accurate ETAs
  • In-depth knowledge of projects’ status, challenges, and unique features
  • Expert advice on the feasibility and costs of requirements
  • Suggested modifications of plans & specs for optimizing ROI and time-to-market

By maintaining open lines of communication, tech managers can address concerns, provide valuable insights, minimize uncertainties, and ensure that all parties are on the same page. As a result, strong partnerships with stakeholders enhance team performance, giving the team a bit more room for independency and self-development, thus contributing to the overall success of the project, and ultimately driving the organization toward its goals.

Quality Decision-Making by the Power of Critical Thinking

Image licensed from Shutterstock

Furthermore, to truly excel as a tech manager, it is essential for one to exhibit a considerable degree of Critical thinking.

From Wikipedia:

Critical thinking is the analysis of available facts, evidence, observations, and arguments to form a judgment by the application of rational, skeptical, and unbiased analyses and evaluation of factual evidence.

Put in other words, the manager’s role is to be that individual who takes all relevant factors into account and delivers well-considered responses based on a comprehensive understanding of the situation.

Some ways to incorporate critical thinking as a manager can be:

  • Encouraging open dialogue
  • Asking probing questions
  • Questioning and challenging assumptions
  • Embracing diverse perspectives
  • Analyzing and reflecting on past experiences and results

These methods can be applied in various situations of a manager’s daily routine. For example:

  • Assessment of New Tech — When considering the adoption of new technologies into our stack, a critical-thinking manager will weigh its pros & cons, its maturity and eco-system, its long-term sustainability, and the overall impact on the team and organization.
  • Project Risk Management — When embarking on a new project, some uncertainties and unknowns may be faced, accompanied by associated risks. By applying some of the methods mentioned above, a manager, in collaboration with their team, can optimize the identification of potential risks, evaluate their likelihood and impact, and create contingency plans to enhance risk mitigation and ensure readiness.

By utilizing these methods, a manager can significantly improve decision-making and problem-solving capabilities, which, in some cases like the examples mentioned above, can save the organization a considerable amount of time and resources, ultimately leading to an increased quality of the team’s products and better overall performance.

Wrapping Up

Image licensed from Shutterstock

In this article, I’ve explored 4 qualities I believe to be indispensable and crucial for a manager to possess in order to truly shine within the ever-evolving tech cosmos.

  1. Exceptional flexibility
  2. Effective communication skills
  3. Trustworthiness as a tech partner
  4. Highly critical thinking

While technical expertise and “hard” skills are often emphasized for tech managers, I’ve found that these “soft” skills carry equal, if not occasionally greater, significance in the long-term quest of guiding a team toward its desired objectives. Ultimately, to truly thrive in chaos rather than merely survive, a well-rounded manager must possess both the hard technical skills needed for this position, along with the soft skills mentioned in this article.

Investing time and effort in sharpening these skills will not only elevate individual managers to new heights of success but also fuel their organizations’ growth and prosperity in the relentless pursuit of excellence.

Read More