IT Manager Qualifications and Advice
Learn what it takes to be an information technology manager from All Star's IT team round table.
IT Management at All Star
All Star, which brings you this website, has a team of hard-working IT technologists ensuring your access to our online directories.
We asked the top information technology managers at All Star about their backgrounds, thoughts on education and IT manager qualifications, opinions on the role of IT, and advice for future technology managers.
The technology management team at All Star includes:
- Jason Meredith, who directs the technology department
- Dawn Niemela heads up the Product Management group
- John Gruender is in charge of Web Development
- Chris Auzins runs the Quality Assurance (QA) team
- David Gendel manages IT Operations
How did you get into information technology management?
Jason: I studied business, accounting and IT in college. After my internship at McCaw Cellular (now AT&T Wireless) I was hired into the technology organization there, and was later promoted to technology manager. From there I moved into project and program management, and then managed a team of four business analysts in business operations. After that I held other management positions, and finally found my current position at All Star as VP of technology.
Dawn: My background is actually in technical writing, which eventually led to business and systems analysis, and then to project and program management.
John: After serving three years in the Army, I obtained a BS in Computer Science. I started out as an analyst, but over the last eight years I have been fortunate enough to work in project management, program management and team management (of analysts, developers and testers).
Chris: I first got a BS in electrical engineering, then worked in R&D for a medical equipment company before becoming a tester at Microsoft. I've had several different QA jobs since then, and worked my way up the ranks to QA manager.
David: My background was initially management, and technology entered my career path afterwards. While technology has always been a passion and part of my life, management and leadership skills have always led my career.
What is the best way to earn IT manager qualifications?
Jason: I strongly believe in a combination of on-the-job experience and formal management/leadership training. You're taught the functional areas of technology in college, but there is very little or no focus on managing or leading teams. Once in a full time position, look for lead opportunities. These lead roles will give you experience providing leadership. Finally, combine this experience with formal management training.
Dawn: Experience is by far the best teacher. While I think education can be really helpful to enhance your career, nothing beats going out there and actually doing it.
John: I have found four areas of training and education for the management aspect of the job: mentorship, books, company sponsored training, and on-the-job training.
Chris: More important than education for testers is their personality traits: an unending curiosity, tenacity, and the maturity to know when to let go. Once you begin your career in QA, you can work up the ladder within the testing department, and if management interests you, specific management education would be beneficial.
David: Much of this type of knowledge is not gained in any university or course, but rather through experience and exposure to the subject matter.
What's the best way for people to get promoted?
Jason: Be proactive and volunteer to take responsibility or to solve problems. Seek opportunities in projects or "fires." Lead by example and be a positive influence to motivate peers and naysayers. Seek professional training in areas of career interest.
Dawn: Be proactive about offering help and advice, working as a team player.
John: Display job mastery, which often includes competencies such as leadership; display the passion and ability to grow into the next role; and be well respected by peers.
Chris: First ask questions, but do your homework so you don't make others do your work for you. Then earn the respect of developers by finding real problems.
What advice would you give to new people in the field?
Jason: Pick an organization that has a higher chance of supporting a lead role. Look for large projects where there's an opportunity to be the lead developer, lead analyst, etc. Or pursue a position in project management. This will provide immediate management experience and great exposure to the many facets of technology.
Dawn: Try many different roles in a few different companies before deciding on a career as an IT manager. This will provide you with good insight into how other teams think and also help round out your critical thinking abilities in different situations and scenarios.
John: Find a mentor.
Chris: QA personnel needs curiosity and tenacity to cover a project thoroughly, courage and integrity to maintain high standards in the face of deadlines and ship dates, and maturity to know when to defer to the needs of the business.
David: I would recommend having a solid understanding of the business and leadership side of things. Technology is a specialty; however, pure technologists typically make bad managers.