Transitioning From a Technical to a Management Role

When we AMTs first enter the workplace we may think we are in the location and position where we will work for a considerable period of time, if not our entire career. Not necessarily so for those AMTs that consistently demonstrate dedication, loyalty, and excellent performance in the workplace.

Some will have the opportunity to decide if they want to move into a management position. The decision to move from a technical position into management is significant and should be taken only after abundant research, careful deliberation, wise counsel, and appropriate preparation. Like many of life’s challenges the opportunity to move into management comes as a surprise or most often at an inopportune time. There are waypoints in your career when you can expect to have this opportunity to move into a management position.

One is when your company is in flux. Modern companies are dynamic entities that change continuously. These changes often result in adjustments or additions to the management staff. The other opportunities will come when you have been with your company between five to 10 years, and when you feel that you “want more” in your personal and work life. The truth is that the opportunity to move into management can come on any given day and you need to be ready to take advantage when it arrives.

Make the decision and be prepared to make the move

Understand that management is not for everyone. This is as it should be because we need and want to work for, and with, effective managers. If your skills and personality profile are not a match for the requirements of the management position and you go after it anyway, the consequential failure may cause you and your family long-term grief. The stress of being ineffective will diminish you and your direct report’s quality of work life and waste valuable company resources.

Many AMTs readily choose the path to management and are very successful and satisfied with their choice. The successful ones will tell you to plan on getting the opportunity, and trust your instincts and those of your manager’s, especially if they have recommended you for the position. Both of you will know when you are ready and you will find the courage to take on the challenge.

How can an AMT prepare beforehand for these challenges and requirements? Conduct a self-assessment that will help you determine your personality type, communication style, and capabilities. Conduct an organizational and management analysis to determine if this is the company and the management staff that you want to build a future with.

Take this input and build and implement a flexible self-development program to address all your limitations. Apply your knowledge and seek practice opportunities that will build your personal confidence and help develop the required management competencies.

Assess skills, experience, and maturity level

Taking a personality test is a great way to determine if you are a match for a management position and critical input to your self-development program. Human resources (HR) departments and management search firms often use a personality test to identify the best candidates for their open management positions. Take an objective look at your test results and if you think you have the personality to manage and lead then begin your organizational assessment.

Conduct the organizational assessment

This is a very important step because moving into a management position is like a marriage. It will be a long-term commitment and a move that will impact your life, your families, as well as your direct reports. Therefore choose wisely.

You want to know how your company has performed in the past, is currently performing, and the prospect for future growth. In particular, are there mergers and acquisitions in play? Review the posted goals and mission statements and consider the spoken value and ethics. Observe how that flows down through the management ranks to front line employees and customers. In other words, does your company walk the talk? Clearly determine if your values and ethics match or are different from the corporate and management culture. If you do not want to be part of or support that culture, consider staying in your technical position or move to another company.

Self-development plan

You have completed your analysis of the company goals, strategies, financials, organizational structure, management culture, and have a good idea of the roles and responsibilities of management. After your personality test, you know your personality type and communication style. If it appears that everything lines up, or is close enough that you are willing to move forward, begin socializing your decision. If you are married, have an honest discussion with your spouse and children. Carefully explain what you want to do and if you get a position in management, what the expectation will be and what changes to expect in your work and home routines. Ensure that you discuss the probability of longer hours, weekend work, emergencies, home work, travel, and social commitments.

The next step is to craft and implement your self-development program. This may feel overwhelming and the effort a bit arduous. Consider a linear time frame and it will be more manageable. Recall that self-felt “need to be more” or the opportunity to move into management usually comes in that five- to 10-year range. You will have about five+ years to prepare.

I strongly argue for the long-term self-development approach for several reasons. Today’s companies are lean and operate with as few front line and staff employees as possible. Opportunities to move into management can be few and far between so when one is presented, you should be ready to make your move.

Competencies you develop for a career in management will serve you well in your personal life and can be leveraged in careers in other companies. Front line employees and senior management expect managers to be prepared to do the job and are mature enough to lead. This may not be your reality but it is their expectation. Ready or not, on your first day as a new supervisor or manager, you will have to supervise, manage, and lead day-to-day operations in whatever scenario is presented to you.

What should you include in your self-development program? Courses, training, and practice activities that will address your limitations and help you become an effective manager in the shortest amount of time. I suggest that the most efficient management development path is a degree in Business Administration. This degree will open doors, put you ahead of the competition, and serve you well as you move up in your company or another.

The preferred path is an Associate’s Degree from a community college first and then a bachelor’s from a four-year college. Many community colleges will give you credit for work experience and your A&P training. Another great reason is that many community colleges have adjunct instructors who have day jobs in industry and local companies. Most night classes will be populated by adults like you. Interacting with your peers is very effective development activity.

Ensure that your degree or other self-development program contains course work and development activities in economics, business administration, finance and accounting, computer science, organizational development, communications, quality control systems, and decision making. In addition you must develop strong interpersonal communication skills. Managers must be effective communicators and decision makers.

People managers need training and practice in public speaking, report and proposal writing, working with spread sheets, and building and defending budgets. In order to do this you must be proficient with computer technology, personal communication devices, and Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point, and data base applications. Above all else, take practical courses in project and time management.

Get management experience

As you progress through the education and training part of your development plan you need to apply your knowledge in practical ways. The easy and much appreciated method is to get experience in the nonprofit sector.

Churches, amateur sports, development organizations like the Boy Scouts, environmental groups, and part-time jobs in the hospitality and retail sectors will give you many opportunities to gain management experience and develop your soft skills.

Reasons, risks, and rewards

Transitioning to a management position can be a challenge for many AMTs. Anguish, fear, and failure wait for the unprepared. For those with the proper training, education, and determination, the success rate is much greater. Taking a position in management can address your need to do more or be more. You can take the position for a higher purpose like wanting to make a larger contribution, helping others succeed, being part of the decision-making group, helping the company be more effective, influencing the direction the company grows, or providing better products and services to the customers.

Regardless of when or why you make the move, be assured it will be because of your work ethics and commitment to your team, company, and customers. Working in a management position will be a rewarding experience and it will give you the chance to one day give another qualified AMT the same opportunity.


Field Editor Charles Chandler has a Masters of Science Degree in Adult and Occupational Education with a major in Human Resources Development. He began his aviation career as a junior mechanic for American Airlines and retired after 27 years of service. After leaving American he held both line and staff positions in six other major companies. His positions with those companies included curriculum development specialist, manager and director for organizational development, management and leadership development, and maintenance training operations departments.