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From your experience, what must be taken or done to become a manager/CIO/CTO when your background is computer science/programming? Do I need to take a management degree (MBA) in order to become a manager or to have career in management level?

Anybody care to share?

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closed as off topic by maple_shaft Mar 7 '12 at 13:09

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Cultivating pointy-hair? – CraigTP Jan 16 '11 at 17:58
up vote 13 down vote accepted

Progressing you career to a management and then board-level role is determined by a number of factors, most of which depend on you:


What are your goals? If you want to become a super-hot programmer, then you're likely not in the frame of mind to advance up the management chain. You'd need to want to work your way into the business side to the point where your contribution can indirectly or directly affect the sales/profit of the company through product/technology decisions and strategy. 'Want' is an understatement - you need a fire within you to get where you want as there's plenty of competition.

People Skills

How are you with people? Can you communicate effectively with your peers to achieve results? Can you coach and empower talented team members to achieve their goals? Can you start conversations with people at the, e.g. coffee machine, and thus build a professional social network within the company? Can you work out who is a mover-and-shaker within the company, build interest with them and model their behaviour?


Just wanting to get to the top won't get you there - you need some results. These aren't just low-defect-count, high-code-coverage metrics, we're talking increased customer base, reduced support costs, successfully branching out to new markets via competitive/market analysis all while delivering projects. Time/budget/quality metrics will give way to profitability.


You don't need to have an MBA to get to the top - many CxO's do not - but it really helps you to understand what having an MBA would have taught you. An understanding of accounting, business laws, economics, operations, resourcing and business finance would help. You can learn these by yourself or go to night school, etc. Some corporations will sponsor a sabbatical year for you to go get an MBA, but there'd need to see the value of doing so.


Sometimes, it seems to come down to being in the right place at the right time and making sure that the right people know about it. I've seen people promoted to high positions because they heard through the smoking room/steam room at the gym that an opportunity was coming up. Of course, they had to deliver on the role, but they found the opportunity and took it.

I'd recommend as a great resource for building your management career. Their podcast series is excellent.

Good luck!

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Thanks heaps. This is very comprehensive and useful. – Joshua Partogi Jan 16 '11 at 20:39
Just the mention of the manager-tools podcasts itself deserves +10. – talonx Jan 14 '12 at 10:09

The answer, as usual, is: It depends.

The answer will be different if you're targeting Fortune 500 vs. Inc 5000 vs Main Street vs. Wall Street.

Look at the backgrounds of people whose job you want, and figure out how they got there.

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+1 for "Look at the backgrounds of people whose job you want, and figure out how they got there" – Geek Jan 16 '11 at 17:10

You don't necessarily need an MBA to become a manager, although an MBA from a reputed and practical experience oriented institute will certainly help. Alumni from such institutes should be able to vouch for the kind of learning environment they've been through.

Companies typically look for references about your capabilities, both in technical skills and leadership qualities, regardless of whether you have a management degree.

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A PMP certification is an added plus for project management positions. – Hippo Jan 16 '11 at 10:27

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