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Assessing The Training Of Technical Professionals Moving Into Management

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.93.1 - 4.93.8

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Paper Authors

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Phillip Farrington

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Mel Adams

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Mary Spann

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Dawn R. Utley

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session number: 2242

ASSESSING THE TRAINING OF TECHNICAL PROFESSIONALS MOVING INTO MANAGEMENT Dawn R. Utley, Mel Adams, Mary S. Spann, Phillip A. Farrington University of Alabama in Huntsville


Even undergraduate engineering students want to become managers. In fact, statistics indicate that the career aspirations of 50% of all engineering students include moving into a management position within 5 years of their graduation 1. Moving from a technical professional to a tech-manager requires a different skills set. Technical professionals are required to be task-centered specialists while managers are asked to be people-centered generalists.

This paper reports the results of a study of a large, multi-site sample of managers who began their careers as technical specialists. Specifically, we investigated how much management training these managers had before and in the two years after their first management position. Finally, we conclude with recommendations to help improve the technical specialist’s transition to manager, as well as suggestions for further research.

Conceptual Background

Organizations have recognized that some engineers want to be managers because management is often the only available avenue of advancement for them. Technical professionals have reported difficulties in transitioning to management, but their immediate supervisors consistently underestimated the difficulty of the transition 2. Several reasons exist for these difficult transitions. First, the technical professional loses control over direct work and must learn to work through others 3. Secondly, the work itself undergoes fundamental changes as the emphasis shifts from content to process issues 4. Thirdly, skills must change from task-oriented skills to people-oriented skills. Technical professionals have reported that the greatest difficulty in the transition is acquiring the skills needed to navigate the systems of their own organization 2.

Technical professionals enter graduate programs with the expectation of enhancing their promotability yet get little encouragement, help or recognition from their employers. A majority of employed engineers in an MBA program reported that they had no discussions with their employers about future growth opportunities after completing their MBA. These same engineers also reported that their employers did little, if anything, to recognize employees for degree completion. Perhaps as a

Farrington, P., & Adams, M., & Spann, M., & Utley, D. R. (1999, June), Assessing The Training Of Technical Professionals Moving Into Management Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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