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A week after my boss, the IT Manager of a highly automated manufacturing plant, and I had a conversation about the future plans for the Software Development Unit (me) regarding training, junior dev hiring, etc., he announced his resignation out of the blue, with a 4-day notice, and Management unexpectedly appointed me to take his place at a near-manager level, instead of offering the position to the Infrastructure Engineer (the only other employee in Plant IT).

Three months into this role, I have mixed feelings about the position. Being a developer, I feel overwhelmed by the amount of non-programming related technical issues I must oversee, such as network, server and telecommunications infrastructure. Needless to say, the 4-day knowledge transfer was nothing compared to the amount of knowledge required to keep everything running. Add to this that this "manager/quasi-manager" position's responsibilities include about 60% hands-on, high level 7x24x365 application support (i.e. guess which one of the 3000+ corporate-developed applications is not working properly), which I despise to do, and the outlook is not very bright.

I've never heard of a Developer being promoted to IT Manager before. Has anyone had a similar experience? Did you ever went back to development, was it difficult to go back? What did you do to ease this transition? Notes, blogs, books you recommend?

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3 Answers 3

The social context and technology context of problem solving are quite different indeed. I found it helpful to learn more about the social context in order to improve in technology development. I found the book "from good to great" by Jim Collins a very nice foundation in order to see and communicate better the business goals of an organization. Especially, the ideas on "Stockdale paradox" (see Stockdale POW) and the Hedgehog concept (Jim Collins) are good tools for transforming the social context.

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+1 for Good to Great (and Built to Last) - these are great books if you're starting or running a company. But if you're a neophyte manager below C-level, I don't think they're going to help much. –  Steven A. Lowe May 30 '11 at 18:12

happens all the time

here's the difference: developers do things themselves, while managers organize and delegate

really good managers lead, but that is another (long) post for a different question

so, either learn to organize and delegate, or ask the executives to find someone else and let you go back to being a developer

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First thing congrats on the promotion.

Now that you are the IT manager it is your head on the block. The first thing to do is to identify and document the systems already in place in terms of servers, routers, applications and in particular business critical applications. Obvious candidates for Business critical systems/applications are the phone system email, manufacturing systems etc.

You need to have an associated business contact for each system. You also need to identify external dependancies i.e phone company for the external phone lines.

Once you have these identified you need to agree Service Level Agreements with the relevant business people. These SLAs should be reasonable i.e. 2 hours to fix the phone system, immediate response if manufacturing stops. Of course with multiple applications you may need extra staff.

You should also implement a ticketing system to allow users to report issues and fully describe the issue. You should have user trouble shooting guides for the most common problems.

Weekly meetings between you and business and you and your IT team are vital.

A wiki or a note book is a good place to document everything.

As for doing development while managing it is possible but you may need to set aside some portion of the day for development work.

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