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Joseph B.



How to balance technical work with management at a large company?

Asked Bayonne, New Jersey

I have noticed when applying to large companies (nationals or multinationals for example) that it seems you cannot both be involved in technical work (deep mathematics, physics, or engineering) and have a role in management. It seems that the two branch off rather early and because I like the technical aspect of my work so much, I was wondering if anyone had any advice about how to transition from one to the other in the workforce, or how forced a move into management is later on in anyone's career. Thanks! #career-path #career-development #engineering

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3 answers


Adding to what Bonaparte said in his comment, while it is common for technically-oriented people in a professional organization to move onto management, this is not always true. Some stay focused on the technical work their entire career. The opportunity for transition requires a fair amount of experience and typically does not occur until year 5-10 in your career, if you are so-inclined. As stated above, it often begins as you assume responsibility for a portion of a team project and, if successful, you can progress to project manager of increasingly large and complex projects. During this period, you can enhance your chances to "move up the ladder" by taking management courses. These can be day or week-long courses or you can go to school (or night school) and earn a Masters Degree in Management.

This professional recommends the following next steps:

  • Nothing, if you are early in your career. Work for a few years and see where your interests take you.
Last updated Feb 14 '18 at 11:53 AM


Often times, in a larger organization there are both technical and management tracks. It seems that being a technical manager may be something you may want to explore. As a technical manager, you will have to have some detailed awareness of what your team is doing such that the efficacy of your management style stays high. But in that Tech Mgr role, you will also have to devote time away from your day to day technical problem solving and spend time ensuring your team has resources, is provided development/growth opportunities and is always informed and challenged.

I do appreciate your knowledge per an excellent question where you noted "at a large company". I have worked at companies from very small to very large and the potential to do hybrid and crossover roles are more apparent in smaller organizations. But I do recall an experience years ago at a large company as a Program Manager on a very 'time sensitive' program. I was responsible for deploying teams, providing resources, knowing the proper dispersion required on our fiber, the backplane speeds of our routers, how early I could erect a telecom structure on 'green' concrete et al. In other words, being a Program Manager on a highly technical program may also be an option for you as you progress in your career. (Note: Per Peter's comments, being a project manager precedes being a Program Manager)

Last updated Apr 04 '18 at 11:57 AM

Hi Joseph,

It's true that in most large companies there’s a point in the career progression where you spend less time doing technical work and more time managing it. It starts as a technical leader, leading a small technical team and can grow from there.

This progression stems from the need to move beyond what is referred to as an 'individual contributor'. You can only do and learn so much as one person. But as a manager, you increase your contribution by leading teams of people to achieve the goals.

How quickly this transition happens is solely based on the company. Many people are happy in staying purely technical, as they still get to spend their days working on technical challenges. But to keep progressing beyond that, it's on to becoming a manager.

Hope that helps.

This professional recommends the following next steps:

  • Try speaking with someone who has made that transition and can talk about the pros and cons.
Last updated Feb 08 '18 at 05:12 AM
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