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ktuluorion

the "bosses" in technical jobs

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I am just curious whether your bosses (for people that are coders) are technical people who rose up the ranks to being in a more managerial position, or simply people who came in with MBA's (or other business degrees) and went straight into managing techies. The reason why I am asking is I will be going back to persue a second degree (CS) shortly, and I was just curious whether it was worth getting the MBA as well to get ahead.

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Quote:
Original post by ktuluorion
I am just curious whether your bosses (for people that are coders) are technical people who rose up the ranks to being in a more managerial position, or simply people who came in with MBA's (or other business degrees) and went straight into managing techies.

The reason why I am asking is I will be going back to persue a second degree (CS) shortly, and I was just curious whether it was worth getting the MBA as well to get ahead.


I'd say no. A MS in your desired field is nice, though. It's what I did.

I've worked at several small companies since they're more laid back than the big guys. The real boss is either the owner/CEO, or in my current case a managing directer (the owner was happy delegating all the work). These people were not technically inclined and gave a lot of latitude on developent, and had a lot of input and feedback with the IT lead.

My current business card says "Lead Programmer", and I report directly to the owner and general manager. [grin] The owner was a database admin several ages ago and owns a few companies. I have a huge amount of input as to what gets done and how it gets done. I have a little less input on prioritizing, but still a significant amount of the decision based on my research of the work involved. I also get to help with scheduling of two others, but an MBA would probably not help with that.



The manager over programmers was the programmer with the most experience at the company. At one company we were given the opportunity to "hire our own boss", since the programmer with the most experience didn't have the backbone to stand up to the owner. He was a 40-something guy moving out of programming in to management.

I worked with one large company where my boss was the team lead, their boss was a former programmer, and I have no idea who their boss was.

frob.

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The trend that I have seen with my bosses (in general IT, not the gaming industry) is that in the smaller companies, they tend to be ex-techies themselves. It seems that they almost rise into the position of managing others by default; as the company grows, they simply become more senior.

In the larger companies, I've had a mixture. Some are those with MBAs, but I'd probably say that most have some technical background. However, a lot of them are 'failed' techies; they started with the company in a junior role, didn't like the technical route and so moulded their careers to be managerial. So even though they usually have some technical experience, it's often in a completely different area to what they are now managing, and they often weren't very good at it.

Whether an MBA is worth it for you probably depends on what you want to do when you graduate. If it's going straight into management, then it may be beneficial. If you want to start with a technical job, perhaps not. Another thing to consider is that many companies will sponsor employees to do MBAs, which isn't something to be sniffed at.

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My situation is similar to frob.

Not only is my boss the founder of the company but he is also the lead programmer. The good thing is that he pretty much gives me free reign to develop my portions of the project however I want. This is a very small company since my boss and I are the only two programmers. Everyone else is involved in sales, marketing and operations.

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Mixture, from what I've seen and heard about personally - people from Sales background often find themselves going up the ranks in to management, even tech management when they really don't know much about what they are doing. Then they start making timescales and things that are completely unrealistic and project plans that have no basis in reality.

I think the thing is that techs aren't as visible to the management team (only when things go wrong are they, otherwise someone higher up takes credit)... and often lack "soft" skills. That and Salemen are easier to replace then people with the intimiate knowledge of the technical and how that works with the flow of things.

Seems if you can play hot potato, use power point and blag, you can get to places people with more talent and actually engineering skills + understanding can't.

The reverse is true too, if you have a tech ahead of you in a business role and he's not representing you to the management above him very well - then that effects you too.

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As far as game development goes, I've only expereince with independent sudios (ie not a branch of EA) and they ALL have an MD who was originally a coder. Now this is probably not ideal and in larger software companies I wouldn't expect the top levels to have ANY technical knowledge. For instance a MD can move between different types of company because their skills are people-management.

If you are looking to move in that direction then Lead Programmer or Technical Manager are probably as high as the route normally goes without you starting your own company.

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The vast majority of lead programmers, technical managers, technical directors/CTOs in the games industry have worked their way up through the ranks with a solid 10-15 years of hands on work experience (a handful with as little as 3-5 years experience though...)


The very few "fast track" exceptions I've ever known of and heard of (in roughly 10 years in the industry at and with various companies) have been:

a) people who started their own companies (which an MBA come in handy for);

b) people who've joined companies where friends/family were in management positions;

c) people with outstanding academic qualifications (i.e. PhD) hired into companies/projects who's founders were originally from academia rather than industry OR where the company had trouble recruiting people with lots of industry experience.


Whether that's right or wrong is debatable:

I'd say experience of the actual job is essential for technical management if they're able to give valid advice and guidance to more junior staff. However there are a number of technical managers in the industry who are amazing technically and have vast experience but have bad people management skills.


As for who manages the technical managers, that's an interesting situation:

In games, that tends to be "Producers"; a large number of producers worked their way up from jobs in QA testing - so they're used to dealing with different disciplines, know about gameplay and how a finished game should be; dealing with publishers, etc

Unfortunately, formal management training in the industry is only a pretty recent thing (very few "qualified" project managers), so amongst the excellent producers out there - there are a number of producers who have scant knowledge of the disciplines they're managing or effectively managing software projects (waaay too many game software projects are managed by squeezing tasks into what formats easily in MS Project and project progress reports rather than what what is best for the timely delivery of the software...)

The number of formally trained production managemers is growing in the industry as development costs increase (when one person has the power to p*ss that $10 million up the wall, people start to care about how competent they are) - though to be effective IMO, the best production managers need that rare combination of formal management training as well as extensive industry experience.

[APAC[wink]]

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