Geek to Manager

The geek to manager chapter was really interesting to me.  I think that the book correctly points out that the sequence of events leading to a new manager goes something like this:

  • They did a great job as an engineer
  • They did a great job on their last project
  • Their boss quit and someone needed to step in
  • They volunteered

It really is quite accurate, and while that does not seem like a good way to do things, it is the way that things work.  In the business world, we value experience highly when promoting and hiring, sometimes regardless of the obvious, glaring negatives about hiring or promoting someone.  For example, if there is a technical person working for a company that does well and has been there for a long time, the company will promote them 99% of the time before looking too deeply into what that person being in a managerial role might look like, which is sometimes wrong, in my opinion.  Of course, there are certainly situations in which people with good experience absolutely deserve a job.  I do not want to make any blanket statements.  However, millennials with recent college degrees make up 40% of the unemployed in the US, according to a Newsweek article.  The reality is that businesses are highly valuing experience over education or even worth.  In many cases, someone MUST have years of experience in a certain field just to apply for a job, which certainly does not allow recent college graduates to get that job.

Not only are companies not hiring people right out of college, they are sometimes hiring the wrong people.  The reality is that just because someone is good at a technical job, it does not mean that they will be a good manager.  Promoting from within is absolutely not a bad thing, but I think that many companies would be better off if they would at least think about hiring from the outside for managerial positions.  Many people that have been working at one place for decades and are great at their jobs just couldn’t cut it in a managerial position (of course, it depends on the field).  For the past three summers, I have worked in camping ministry for 11 weeks per year, and I have seen this firsthand.  I was a counselor my first and second years, and I was promoted to dean of camp, which is a middle management position, for my third year.  During my second year, the person promoted to dean of camp was also previously a counselor, and he was great.  He was definitely one of the top two or three best counselors that the camp had in recent years.  However, when he was promoted to dean, he really struggled.  He was disorganized, emotional, and he micromanaged.  Toward the end of the summer, we had to hold back from having a full staff mutiny, it was getting ridiculous.  He is my friend and a great guy, but management just wasn’t his thing.  I think that it was a poor hire for sure.  He was great at the technical side of things, but not the managing.  Another great example would be from The Office (sorry for all my references to this, it just always makes sense) when Dwight Schrute is promoted to acting regional manager on a couple different occasions.  Dwight is a great salesman, the best at the company, but he struggles in management.  The following clip is of Dwight applying to the open regional manager position, after he accidentally shot a revolver that he bought to “assert dominance” when he was the acting regional manager.  He also ordered a huge marble desk, and he painted the walls of his office black.  He just doesn’t have the people skills.

If businesses keep hiring people based just on experience and not merit, then maybe they had better follow this advice from Mind Tools.  I don’t believe that hiring from within is always a bad thing, I just personally wish that businesses would take a closer look at who they are hiring and promoting and quit playing office politics.

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