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Can you be a technical manager of a development team, without knowing the technology they work with? I'm very technical, having been a tech lead for a while, now I'm a manager, and the new team reports to me now, administratively and technically. Problem is, a big part of the technology being used is old and archaic (delphi). Is it possible for someone with 'zero' experience in that to lead that team? What are some of your experiences?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Aug 3 '11 at 15:16

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Yes - absolutely - it sounds like your crossing a career bridge - it shouldn't be your responsibility to aid with code bug fixes - that's what your dev team are for. Ensure you have a good balanced team and work practices and you'll be fine. Have faith in yourself - you wouldn't have been moved into management if someone didn't think you capable.

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Thanks for you vote of confidence :) However, if I am not upto par with the technology, how can I judge whether the estimates and issues they are running into are valid/invalid, etc? –  M.R. Aug 3 '11 at 15:15
We got bumped (you knew that was coming) - Obviously I don't know you - but from your question it sounds like you've got plenty of dev experience - consider estimates in your known choice of language - if you ask a developer to estimate how long to create a form with a few text fields, a grid and some validation and the answer is 3 months and you know you could it in your chosen skills inside a week then there's your answer. Just consider any issue against the backdrop of your own experience - and double it for junior devs ;-) –  Barry Aug 3 '11 at 15:22
@M.R. - you are the manager. You no longer judge their estimates and issues (you can challenge them to provide detail, but you can categorically NOT overrule), you trust your devs and make their job as easy as possible. –  Joris Timmermans Aug 3 '11 at 15:24
Thanks barry... thats a very helpful and smart way of looking at it.... –  M.R. Aug 3 '11 at 15:26
@madKeithV: but if programmers are not giving the right estimate, how would I know unless I am to put this in context with something I DO know? And if I know I'm being bamboozled, I have to speak up, no? –  M.R. Aug 3 '11 at 15:29

My experience has been that a very technical manager with zero experience in the technology is a lot better than a non-technical manager. And from your question you have the advantage of knowing what you don't know. Remember what you wanted from a manager when you were a tech lead, and try to do that.
You can't solve technical issues yourself anymore like you are used to doing (unless you have a chance to catch up on the technology) so you're going to just have to help them do the best they are capable of.
They won't be able to bamboozle you beyond a limited amount, and the only thing you can do to prevent that (unless you have a chance to catch up on the technology) is to not give them a reason to do so.

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You guys at programmers.SE and pm.SE are ultimate managers. Your perspective of looking at issues just blows me off. I think anyone with interest in this area with a little bit of experience can rise in hierarchy by just reading Q & As at these sites provided that their company offers them opportunity. –  IsmailS Apr 12 '12 at 12:14
@iSid - I'm not familiar with "blows me off". So I'm not quite sure how to interperate the whole comment. –  psr Apr 12 '12 at 16:48
I'm not good at using idioms. So forget about right interpretation and just read it positively. –  IsmailS Apr 13 '12 at 4:15

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