Corporate Tech Functions, Embrace Your Inner People Managers

fdu’s guest blogger, Julia Warrack talks about the importance of the People Manager in the corporate tech function. Julia is an inspiring Interim CIO, highly experienced business leader and entrepreneur with a proven track record across a range of industry sectors, including Financial Services (both Investment and Retail Banking), FMCG, Hospitality, Manufacturing and the Public Sector.

The rise of the Engineer, the introduction of Technology Guardrails and recognition and eradication of Technical Debt within corporate environments are creating a new breed of tech professional.  A rather more career-oriented, innovative corporate technologist has emerged within bigger businesses, bringing with them new practices straight out of the inspiring FinTech world – which these larger firms can then capitalise on as ‘fast followers’ without the risk associated with ‘first movers’.

These exceptional individuals bring all the energy associated with innovation and entrepreneurialism into the larger corporate arena and often make a big initial splash – but who is looking out for them and making sure they don’t burn bright and fade quickly, becoming disillusioned with the larger and more cautious corporate environment?  Who is helping this cadre of corporate technology innovators consider their longer-term career potential and identify their goals along the way? Where are all the People Managers?

All too often in tech teams I see focus on technical prowess (or in corporate speak – competency) which is obviously important – just as it is for someone in Finance to understand company accounting practices and financial frameworks. For many of these tech savvy individuals, technical curiosity will be instinctive and simply needs some direction to ensure it is mutually beneficial for themselves and the firm they work for. However, understanding their contribution to the wider company strategy and how they could navigate a number of roles to create a sensible career path may not be quite as obvious within a corporate environment as it might be within the ever-tempting world of the technology start up. This is exactly where we need great People Managers – but they are currently few and far between.

The role of the People Manager is especially critical within technical teams in larger corporates to help manage recruitment, retention and progression as it is not always obvious to colleagues how to navigate the corporate ladder. This should not be seen as the role of HR – it must be a skillset championed within the corporate technology function.  A quote I heard a long time ago suggested ‘People leave managers, not companies’. How true! How often have we heard the phrase ‘My manager doesn’t understand/care/listen…’.  Imagine if corporate technology functions were peppered with tech savvy People Managers who really connect with their teams and create the conditions for their techie colleagues to succeed? It seems so obvious – but it is not happening.

In today’s technology-driven world, it is great that larger corporations are now valuing technologists and that engineering teams are celebrated for the contribution they make and about time too. But for techies to achieve their total potential, to be the best they can be and for organisations to compete in the ever more digital arena, we now need to celebrate the People Manager who can have real conversations with these gifted technologists, to help them connect to their colleagues and their companies’ purposes and to devise their own unique path through the corporate maze.

Let’s hear it for the People Manager!