In a nutshell, compared to techies, managers depend heavily on boss relationship. Techies rely more on self-effort.
Grandpa pointed out that
- A) as an aspiring manager (at least in China), your boss’s opinion is the overriding factor;
- B) as a techie or a academic/researcher, you have the right to seek promotion based on merit and technical achievement. If you don’t get it you can try elsewhere.
I feel A) has 2 levels.
- A1) at the mid-management level, I don’t have much insight, so I guess that unlike entrepreneurs, most managers are not more capable/intelligent then other managers, so I agree boss’s opinion is the #1 factor on your career progression.
- A2) at the entry level, I actually observed many tech managers including tech leads (or architects), application owners, dev managers, support managers. I think competence level is visibly different. Some (example?) show very high technical capability. This is most relevant at the lowest level, but across the levels, technical capability is not always the #1 or #2 factor. Why?
- High-level design, technical foresight, persuasion (on tech front) are not always “innate” to these guys.
- Communication with users, team members, and manager could be equally important aspects. The Mdaq CTO singled out “listening to team members”. Not every leader is good at that.
- The most technical guy may not be a suitable leader and may be best in another role in the same team.
- Luck seems to have more impact on managerial than technical track
I think Yihai would have more to add.
- since you clearly know you are not good a management, don’t ever compare with the high-flyers (and invite the self-hate).
- know the many people who are less fortunate.