Do Developers Want to Become IT Managers?

There’s a funny article in the CIO online magazine about “5 Reasons Why a Developer Might Want to Become a CIO” – with a follow up article with 8 reasons why they might not want to do it.

To summarize writer Meridith Levinson’s points on why developers might want to become CIOs:

1. Money.
2. Boss perks.
3. CIOs don’t get outsourced.
4. Golden parachutes are handy when it is time to jump.
5. At some point, even developers get tired of fixing bugs.

But the real question is “should developers become IT managers?” As it stands right now, most shouldn’t, unless they work for the kind of employer that can provide the training for transition. Good programmers are not necessarily good decision-makers. It’s not their fault – CIOs are made, not born.

To help more developers transition into management, the universities and colleges that offer training to computer programmers could consider offering more courses teaching the link between technology and business needs.

These courses might include:
1. Case studies in implementing IT solutions for business from both a technical and management standpoint.
2. Measuring return on investment for IT solutions.
3. Project management techniques.

To those who would counter that it seems like a waste of time to provide this kind of training to developers who have not expressed an interest in IT management, I would pose the following question: how many full-time programmers over the age of 45 do you know? How about over 50? Many have moved on to management, if they haven’t burnt out and shifted into other careers.

For those programmers hitting their later years, it's time for them to transition into something else that makes use of their skills other than programming code for their next career -- and if they haven't been picking up those skills along the way, then it's time to get on it (or if you're their manager, it's time to help them on that path). Believe me, I've been there. Changing careers is a tough thing, but if people think they can keep learning new programming languages into their autumn years, they better think again.