Should Tech Managers Be Developers First?

The role of a tech manager is crucial in driving innovation and team success. However, a persistent debate surrounds the ideal profile for this position: should tech managers be developers first?

Pros of Developer-Turned-Managers:

1. Technical Acumen: Having a solid understanding of coding languages, frameworks, and best practices allows managers to:

  • Effectively assess team performance: They can evaluate code quality, identify potential bottlenecks, and provide practical guidance.
  • Make informed decisions: Technical familiarity enables them to choose appropriate tools, emerging trends & technologies, prioritize tasks effectively, and anticipate technical challenges.
  • Gain respect and trust: Developers appreciate leaders who “walk the walk” and understand their daily struggles.

2. Enhanced Communication: A shared technical background fosters smoother communication:

  • Common Language: Both managers and developers speak the same “language,” avoiding translation difficulties and misunderstandings.
  • Clearer Explanations: Managers can provide more precise feedback, explain technical concepts concisely, and answer development-related questions readily.
  • Stronger Collaboration: Sharing technical experience fosters a collaborative environment where everyone feels heard and understood.

3. Empathy and Mentorship: Having been developers themselves, managers can:

  • Empathize with team challenges: They understand the pressures, frustrations, and joys of coding, fostering a positive and supportive work environment.
  • Offer valuable mentorship: Sharing their own experiences and lessons learned can guide and encourage junior developers on their growth journey.
  • Identify and nurture talent: Understanding development skills at different levels helps them recognize potential and invest in talent effectively.

4. Streamlined Problem-Solving: Technical expertise enables managers to:

  • Troubleshoot issues quickly: Identifying the root cause of technical problems efficiently saves time and resources.
  • Offer alternative solutions: Having a wider technical view allows for proposing creative solutions beyond standard procedures.
  • Anticipate and mitigate risks: Understanding potential technical pitfalls helps proactive managers avoid them.

What qualifications do you need to be a technical manager?

Here are the must have qualification skills in technical manager:

1. Strong understanding of the relevant technology domain: This varies depending on the industry and specific role, but could include custom software development, data science, cybersecurity, etc.

2. Proficiency in key technical skills: Knowledge of programming languages, frameworks, tools, and methodologies used in the field.

3. Ability to stay up-to-date with advancements: The tech landscape is constantly evolving, so continuous learning is crucial.

4. Team leadership: The ability to motivate, guide, and empower a team of technical professionals.

5. Communication: Exceptional communication skills to articulate technical concepts to both technical and non-technical audiences.

6. Decision-making: Make sound decisions under pressure and consider the implications for the team and project.

7. Adaptability: Be flexible and able to adjust to changing priorities and requirements.

How do you grow from developer to manager?

Here are top 6 things to consider if you want to grow from developer to manager

1. Develop Leadership Skills: Take courses, workshops, or mentorship opportunities to understand leadership styles, team dynamics, and effective communication.

2. Learn Project Management: Upskill in planning, budgeting, risk management, and agile methodologies to lead projects effectively.

3. Mentor Junior Developers: Share your knowledge and guide their development, demonstrating leadership potential.

4. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses: Honestly evaluate your leadership potential, identify areas for improvement, and set specific development goals.

5. Seek Feedback: Actively seek feedback from colleagues, managers, and mentors to understand your strengths and areas for growth.

6. Practice Interviewing: Develop your communication skills and prepare answers to common interview questions specific to management roles.

Finding the Right Balance:

Instead of a rigid “yes” or “no,” the ideal answer lies in a balance between technical and leadership skills. While a strong technical background provides valuable advantages, prioritizing effective leadership development is equally crucial.

Alternative Approaches:

  1. Dual Leadership: Some companies utilize two leadership positions: a tech lead focused on technical decisions and a manager responsible for people management.
  2. Hybrid Talent: Hiring tech managers with a combination of strong leadership skills and relevant technical experience, potentially from non-developer roles.
  3. Continuous Training: Investing in leadership development programs equips managers with the necessary skills, regardless of their initial background.


The debate on whether tech managers should be developers first is multifaceted. While technical expertise offers substantial benefits, focusing solely on this aspect can hinder their leadership journey. Ultimately, the ideal candidate possesses a combination of strong technical understanding, effective leadership skills, and a commitment to continuous learning and development. By fostering a culture of open communication, collaboration, and skill development, tech companies can empower their managers to lead their teams towards success, regardless of their background.


Q: Is coding experience mandatory for tech managers?

A: Not necessarily. However, a basic understanding of technical concepts and processes is highly beneficial.

Should I become a manager or stay technical?

A: Both paths offer unique rewards and challenges, and the best choice depends on your individual strengths, interests, and career aspirations. If you have upper hand on Leadership, and strategic thinking you can stick to the manager role, if you have deep technical expertise, and passionate about various programming languages and codes, technical domain is for you.