Not Drawn to Management? Here’s How to Advance Your IT Career

Jul 2, 2019

You’re looking to advance your tech career, but climbing the ladder into management isn’t really your thing. You’re not alone – the 2019 Stack Overflow Developer Survey shows at least 33.3% of developers are uninterested in pursuing management roles.

But if you’re a “doer” rather than a “manager,” is there still a way to advance your IT career? If you find yourself asking that question, here are a few ways to grow without becoming the boss.

Embrace Your Role as a Leader

There’s a subtle but important difference between management and leadership. Managers coordinate people in tactical pursuit of specific goals and objectives. Leaders, on the other hand, are focused on influence and innovation, striving to motivate the people around them through their expertise and mentorship.

True leadership is an attitude and mentality more than anything else, but the good news is that it can translate into specific career advancement opportunities. Leading a project, for example, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have direct reports – instead you’d be collaborating with your team to drive innovation while potentially being the key decision maker and subject matter expert.

Immerse Yourself in Cross-Training Opportunities

Tunnel vision limits innovation – and that’s exactly what can happen when you’re overly focused on one specific niche in your field. Sure, you can be a star performer in your technology-of-choice, but that alone doesn’t set you up for advancement – nor does it give you the big-picture perspective that is key to making a bigger impact within any company.

Immersing yourself in different technology niches or even different fields can help to transform your opportunities. This is especially true in the healthcare sector. Let’s say your tech field of choice is cybersecurity. An understanding of HIPAA and HITECH gives you a whole new perspective and understanding, transforming the way you approach your work. It also allows you to provide greater value to healthcare businesses that are striving to prioritize the issue of data breach threats. This opens the door to potential projects and opportunities you may not have had before.

Pursue the Hottest IT Skills

Some companies want to show off the shiniest toys on the block. Others jump on the bandwagon later when the value of new tools and technologies has been proven by the trailblazers. Either way, when you know how to work with those technologies, your skills will be in high demand, resulting in numerous opportunities to advance your tech career.

The biggest opportunities are in the hottest technologies. What those technologies are vary from field to field, but the salaries companies are willing to pay for those skills is a good indicator. The following skills are just a few examples of the highest paying IT skills on the market (for more, check out the w3r IT Salary Guide 2019).



Make a Lateral Move

Unfortunately, there are positions that simply don’t offer too much career advancement, no matter what extra skills you pick up or how much you strive to be a leader. In those cases, it may be worth considering a lateral move that opens up more future opportunities. A lateral move may not seem like an advancement today, but it might put you on a faster track to get there.

This is particularly the case if your current specialty is in a technology that is growing dust or becoming progressively more obsolete. Perhaps you’re a systems admin with an organization that is still operating in a highly siloed, hierarchical environment. Making a lateral move to an organization that embraces DevOps gives you an opportunity to develop new skills, learn new principles, and position yourself for greater innovation and advancement.

Make the Jump to IT Consulting

Why not call your own shots? For those who want more authority over how they approach technology puzzles – without the burden of managing direct reports – consulting is a fantastic opportunity. It comes with a variety of work, diverse challenges, and a vast network of people to collaborate with. It lets you do what you do best while also challenging you to be strategic and consultative. Plus, consulting may be a chance to boost your salary – IT consultant salaries are often significantly higher other more typical tech positions.


Ultimately, there are many opportunities to advance your IT career without moving into a management position. What your path looks like depends upon your existing skill sets, future ambitions, willingness to learn, and the resources available to you.

Want to find more opportunities to expand your career? View our w3r IT Salary Guide 2019.


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