Moving into Technical Leadership Roles

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Introduction: Did you find yourself in a position of tech leadership and needed to step up? Do you actually want to get to that position? Let's share stories!

A few stories:

  • I'm not a software engineering but got involved in project development

in nonprofits. What kind of server are we going to get? What vendors? And people asked me! So I accidentally, and self-taught, I started getting more skills about it, to the point that now I manage a team of folks.

  • I worked in comms and found myself in the position to take decisions

of tech development. I rely a lot of asking for advice to devs.

  • I struggled to find my technical job in a nonprofit. Why nonprofits do

not put up requests for these kind of positions? Do they see IT only as a one-off urgent issue and not as something that needs a full time long term person (or more) dedicated to it?

  • I see that nonprofits struggle to cover the cost of a technical

manager/leader for their organization. Also, it is very difficult to find IT folks who understand the needs of social movements, civil society organizations. IT folks are usually trained to work for companies and private agendas. There is a huge opportunity to train IT leaders to work with social movements and organizations.

Key learnings:

  • Managing a team of developers in nonprofits is very much a work of

facilitation, not management. It is facilitation of a group of people who know technology to make something that works for users/beneficiaries. Your role as a leader is to bring these people together to have a conversation of what we want to build and how. Every case is different, but always start from talking with the users and understand what their needs are. Technical people are then excited to solve problems!

  • Organizational policies are one place where we can show our

leadership. Let's root our technical decisions on values.

  • Prototyping is also a great approach to solve an issue, especially

when developed with the users. Prototyping is the place where IT knowledge, management support and user needs meet. In our organization, we support beneficiaries to develop the prototype.

  • And rememeber: To be a technical leader you do *not* need to learn to

program