Dear All,

First a quick feedback to Mark and Mike: when you post such great casts here what happens:

- I feel really lucky to able to enjoy and learn on all the topics you guys are covering in both career and manager tools.
- the casts are so fully loaded that I listen to them several times, not in a row, but I often come back to older casts.
- it makes me be willing to improve myself as a manager

What can you do differently ?  Nothing, keep it on !


Back to my question:

I manage a small team of 3 people in a university semiconductor lab. I really enjoy the operation side as well as the managing side especially using the trinity. What I like in my job is the ability to be a manager and at the same to have some lab related tasks so I can stay in contact with the ground and with student. I make a point to go several times per week in the lab to do a specific task because it is really easy to get lost in administrative stuffs that could be not that relevant for the purpose of the lab.

Now I'm thinking of the future and wondering how I could make my career evolve. I'm not sure yet what are the possibilities inside my organization so the is something I need to find out of course.

My goal is to slowly climb the ladder toward executive positions in my organization or elsewhere. 

As a scientist, I'm wondering what's the best path to take to reach executive positions while keeping a hand on technical stuffs. Can anyone share experience where coming from a technical scientific background you slowly made your way to executive positions?





Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

to keep your hands in tech stuff and continue to get executive level leadership.  There are roles in many org, like yours, which allow growth toward executive level RESPONSIBILITY but don't involve management.  Often, these jobs are called "Fellows" or something similar.  But they are individual contributor roles.

Usually, at some point you have to choose.  If you want to be a great executive, USUALLY you're going to have to get your technical joy by keeping involved through your people.

You may not have to choose now.  I'm not saying that.  Enjoy both now.  But be aware a bifurcation is coming.


afmoffa's picture

This happens in my field (graphic design) all the time. Younger designers are often better at drawing, or layout, or Web design, than the art director who spends most of her time on people, budgets, and deadlines. People who pride themselves on their technical skills (legal research, cell cultures, Photoshop) get caught up in management and worry that they've lost their touch. Particularly because so many people think of leadership as a personality trait and not a learned skill, these managers feel they've let a professional skill lapse in favor of a personality trait and a nicer office.

One of the best things Manager Tools does is assert, proudly, that management is a skill, that it can be taught. But most of the world still hasn't caught on.

Someday I'll write a book about how Raphael was the first great agency director. He was a staggeringly talented painter, of course, but once he made his name as a painter he opened a big studio and hired assistants to take his sketches and turn them into masterpiece paintings. He ran the business, cultivated relationships with clients and sponsors, and got really rich. Plenty of art history PhDs have earned their spurs by debating which of Raphael's paintings are really "his" and which were done by his team. I imagine a Manger-Tools manager would say those arguments miss the point: all of the paintings are "his," because a good manager gives his directs the resources, feedback, and leadership they need to do their best work.

My best friend since forever was an All-State musician in high school on both saxophone and French horn. Years later, he became a conductor of a major university orchestra. He still played French horn now and then during the off-season, but when school was in session he was selecting music, writing programs, auditioning musicians, running rehearsals, and raising money. I asked him if he missed playing the saxophone, and he said: "I play the best instrument in the world: I play the orchestra. The orchestra is the best instrument on the planet. Don't tell the first chair violin I said that, or she'll try to take my job."

If you want to be a manager (and it's fine if you don't), you have to ask yourself if you're going to like playing the whole orchestra. Even if that means your saxophone gets dusty in the closet.