The transition from a developer role to a management position can be a difficult move to achieve as it takes an IT professional out of their comfort zone and brings fresh challenges. 

A programme director is the ultimate IT manager and is, quite simply, an individual that manages a company’s portfolio of programmes. A programme is a temporary flexible company structure that is created to coordinate, direct and oversee the implementation of a set of related projects and activities in order to deliver outcomes and benefits related to the organisation’s strategic objectives. Definitions may vary from company to company but, simply put, a programme is likely to have a lifetime that spans several years and works across multiple organisations whereas a project has a shorter duration of a few months and is usually the domain of one organisation. 

If you have aspirations to become a programme director then here are 10 steps to set you on your way:

1.  Become a team leader

Ambition is a valuable asset but do not try to walk before you can run. Try working as a team leader before you become a fully fledged manager, then maybe project manager and, eventually, a programme director. Climbing the career ladder in small increments will give you the best breadth and depth of knowledge and experience to reach the top.

For example, if you are a web developer then go for the head of web development role so you have the comfort of still working on the technical side of the business while building your managerial skill set. Under the team leader role you can easily volunteer to manage projects or to take responsibility for some project requirements previously beyond your scope to help build your managerial experience, but within a familiar environment.

2.  Make the break

When you move to a new position make tiny breaks to reinforce this transition. It could be as simple as moving your desk or attending a training course but these small acts will send a signal to your peers and also remind you that you are embarking on a new role. Another method is to hold a workshop with your team to gather ideas, discuss strategies and review what has been done before. This could be done offsite and will help with the team’s rapport and morale, as well as presenting you as a manager to the team.

3.  People management

As a programme director you will work with confident and highly qualified individuals. You will have to deal with and influence stakeholders as well as lead and manage multiple individuals and teams across several business sectors. The ability to understand and meet the different needs and perspectives of these diverse groups, while balancing strategic objectives and goals, in no mean feat. Focus on improving your people management skills from the moment you embark on a managerial role to future proof your career.

Starting out in contracting

 4.  The art of delegation 

The ability to delegate will be one of the most useful, and difficult, skills to cultivate as a manager. It can be tempting to step in and dish out advice on tasks that you were once responsible for - but it is now your turn to let someone else complete these tasks as you focus on your new managerial role.

5.  Multitask

A programme director will oversee multiple projects and programmes and is responsible for meeting tight deadlines and bringing benefits to an organisation within its strategic objectives and goals. You must also be able to factor in problems, and resolve them, so it is essential to have a good knowledge of techniques needed for planning, monitoring and controlling programmes, benefits identification, business change tools and management techniques - all within the budgets and resources available.

6.  Find your own way

There are many different types of manager, the trick is to find out what works for your and makes your employees tick and to motivate them. As you move through the ranks work out your own way of working and continually evaluate your methods for continuous self improvement.

Starting out in contracting

7. Ask for help and support 

The support of your peers and manager will be invaluable as you move up the career ladder. Organise regular meetings, ask for objectives from your managers and training early on to make each transition as smooth as possible. Another tool which may help you is our Calculator for IT Contractors.

8.  Understand the boundaries

Check the facts relating to your new responsibilities straight away. What is the budget and scope of your new role? By understanding boundaries, and sticking to them, you will be a better manager. Programme directors need broad shoulders as they are accountable for the successes and failures of a programme. A programme director will also have a diverse range of responsibilities such as planning programme-level activities, defining terms of reference, setting policies and scheduling projects, to name a few.

9.  Training 

Is a good way to learn and demonstrate to your employer that you have the fundamental knowledge and skills to be a competent programme director. Engaging in training also shows commitment to your self-development and to your career. 

10.  Experience 

When you have built up enough experience dealing with the nuts and bolts of team leadership you can move onto project management, and eventually programme management. Building up and keeping a record of your portfolio of experience and skills will aid you as you move through the ranks and, eventually, into a programme director role.

If you have any questions about contracting or would like any further advice on becoming an IT Contractor, please email craig.whelan@nixonwilliams.com or call us on 01253 362062.