A Technology Manager is usually perceived as someone who overseas networks and servers. This is not what I do, nor what this post is about.
I am going to talk to you about how to transform your thinking and outputs to become a leader and technology manager of your choice. That could be in strategic innovation, virtual reality, applications, software, design. It is endless. This post is meant to talk to individuals of all ages. I will use examples of how I aspired to become a leader and how I chose to be in the technology space. From there, I will talk about how to excel and become a technology manager.
High School: Education and Internship Opportunities
I am a natural born leader. When I was younger I didn’t say to myself I want to lead, but I knew I had a spark in me to want to drive others. I was shy and quite introverted for some time because I was always thinking of the future and how I can get there.
One of my sisters worked for Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America a program catered to high-school students around the United States who have low income and want to get into top colleges. They provide SAT preparation courses, trips to visit colleges and a summer leadership program. I decided to join the program and was able to attend a 7-week Aspects of Leadership program in Princeton University. We actually stayed in the dorms, took courses, wrote papers, debated and met with Cornel West. This was a wonderful opportunity for high-school students who are not privileged but want to pursue a top education and learn leadership skills. There are many programs out there for students, so do your research and do not limit yourself. Organizations want to help and empower students.
In high-school I was nominated to be in a program through the Center for Arts Education. They assisted me to apply and obtain two internships and one project. The project was to create an animation film using clay and Stop Motion Pro. One internship was at Silverstein Photography and the other was at Videofashion News. I love organizations that provide opportunities such as these. Look out for them in your community!
If you do not have these types of programs around you, a way to start becoming a leader is to start a club in your school. I started Amnesty International. You do not have to limit yourself! Just ask and start something. It will not hurt!
College: How to choose a major?!
I had a major in Economics and two minors in French and Information Technology. One thing to note is do not limit your vision for the future to be based on your major! Have fun in college and try out different subject areas. They will not dictate your future.
I decided to minor in Technology because I had a sister who had computer science major and I saw how fast the world was moving in adopting the technology. She encouraged me to take some courses and I loved it. She also started a successful technology company. I saw how hard she worked and it inspired me to look up to her.
My two favorite courses were in Graphic Design and Artificial Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence was highly complex but began teaching me that we have yet so much to learn from the tech. I put together a small robot using Lego Mindstorm and worked on developing programs to understand bacteria’s behavior of petri dish using Avida Digital Evolution Program, and worked on a program on fire and wind simulation using NetLogo. We also worked with a chat bot that responded to us. These programs were so simple compared to what is available now, but so inspiring because of their mystery of their capabilities and advancements.
This is where my love for tech and design started. I didn’t quite understand all of it, but I knew it will change the world one day and wanted to be part of it.
Professional Work: How to find your voice and brand
I joined Booz Allen Hamilton in 2012 right after I completed a course for Microsoft SharePoint. This really helped get the attention of recruiters when I added it to my resume. If you are looking for work when you are out of college, find internships or additional courses that apply to the real-world. I was able to incorporate my passion in design and technology by becoming a SharePoint Designer and Developer within our Innovation Team. Once you find a job here are some tips to excel in becoming a leader and manager.
- Network: If you are coming out of college, it is highly important you participate in events within your organization. Whether it is holiday parties, volunteer work, forums! Also, do not be afraid to start your own group. I started a Microsoft SharePoint Branding Working Group with my colleagues
- Find your Brand: Find your strength and use that during your networking time. You need to become a Subject Matter Expert (SME) in an area. My area was branding a SharePoint site. Since I created the working group, I had people across the organization ask me for sample code, estimation of work and examples of work. I was also a co-chair for the Middle East North Africa (MENA) forum, so when people needed to transition to the MENA offices or had questions about the business strategy they would come to me!
- Take Initiative to Find Work: There are always plenty of opportunities within your organization or client site. Ask your managers if they need help so you can take off workload from them. When they see you take this initiative, you can be exposed to the work they do and you can be considered a leader in the future.
- Stay up-to-date in Tech and Management: While I was at the firm, I took a 1 year program in Cloud engineering and received several certifications. In the meantime, I did not stop to read, read, read and network with other technologists. It moves so fast so do your best to keep up to date and bring topics up in conversations to get other people’s thoughts. Work doesn’t always have to be just about work. Think of it as an exploration! I also subscribed to a daily feed from Harvard Business Review (HBR) on management tips of the day.
Graduate Work: Education never stops
While I was working full time, I was in an accelerated graduate program for Technology Management at George Mason University spending an additional 20+ hours a week on course work and classes. I had the opportunity to attend the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas and meet technology business in Singapore! I took so many different courses from Venture Capital, IT Investment, Enterprise Architecture, Leadership and Change Management, High Performing Teams. My team and I also won our capstone project (disclaimer: picture can be found on banner- $1M award is not real unfortunately)!
This program really helped shape us through various activities, workshops and case studies how to work with your team and organization in various technology scenarios. Find your program and apply! I did take out a major loan but it has paid off. As soon as I finished my Masters, I became a Task Lead for an 8 person systems development team and then moved on to another company to become a Project Management for multiple commercial clients adopting Microsoft Office 365.
Team Leader: How to inspire
If you are a technology manager and want outcomes, you have to understand that humans are humans. Here are some tips I found useful when leading a team:
- Get to know your team on a personal level. A lot of people are going through divorces, marriage, deaths, personal conflicts. Understand that everyone has a life and you must know your team. Set up one-on-one time whether that is weekly or daily. I read a book on High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove where he talks about the importance of this.
- Set up a Community of Practice with your team. We had an Agile Community of Practice where we shared articles and discussed them. This helped the team think about other things outside of their deliverable which would ultimately drive the team to get inspired by new ideas and find ways to improve their work.
- Have a clear vision and communicate: When meeting with your team, remind them of the project scope and schedule but also talk to them about their blockers and sit down at their desk to actually see what they are working through.
Just know there is an opportunity for everyone in the technology field! Do not think you have to be a programmer. As a project manager, I do think you should take courses on coding so you understand your team, but do not be discouraged. Lots of organizations are adopting ideas of User Experience, Design and Innovation as well. Find your passion and test it out!