I’m a very experienced Sales Engineer working at a fairly small company. I want to take my career to the next level by moving into a management position rather than continuing to follow the technical path. However given the size of my company there are only two SE Manager positions held by two strong managers. Other than pushing my boss under a bus, what can I do?
Nigel Ottawa – Canada
Pushing your boss under the bus is not the recommended course of action – although maybe you need to convince her to let you drive the bus instead. Here are some ideas for a small company situation where there are no formal leadership training programs in place.
First of all, you should obviously discuss your career aspirations with your direct manager. Given the company size it’s also worth letting the other SE Manager and the Sales leader you work with know about your plans as well. Be upfront about it, and certainly don’t go behind your manager’s back.
Next – the key to moving up in the organization is to start acting the part. Ask your boss if you can stand in for him at meetings, run his staff meeting once a month, or represent the entire SE team on some intra-company task force. This kind of on-the-job training is invaluable and if your boss is truly the strong leader you believe he is – then he will jump at the chance to delegate some of these activities to you.
Then work with your boss and the HR or training department to get access to some external management/leadership training. I’d suggest the American Management Association, the Harvard Manage mentor online series and classes at the local business school. The Telfer School of Management right there in Ottawa is internationally rated. (There are similar types of programs in almost every country and language)
One advantage of being a Senior SE working in a small company is that you regularly have access to executives within other departments. Utilize your contacts and see if one of these executives would be willing to mentor you and provide you with advice and guidance as you seek a management position. Don’t just restrict yourself to a SE manager role – your first opportunity may come in Support, Services, Alliances or even Product Management. You may even need to create your own position by proposing an organizational change to overcome some problem your company is facing.
Then, and only then, if all else fails, start looking outside the company – but it rarely comes to that.
(See “You Really Want To Be A Pre-Sales Manager on our Leadership page for even more ideas ..)
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