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My job explained: Development manager

My job explained: Development managerIan Smith manages software and electronics development engineers. Find out more about his job and how he got there.

Can you tell us a bit about your job?

Currently I am between roles, so I shall describe my “normal” work.

I work as a development manager looking after software design and development projects – and sometimes electronics design and development projects. The sort of developments I have worked on include robotics; semiconductor design and development; and mobile phone software.

Can you describe a typical working day?

One of the fun parts of the job is that usually each day is different – so in a typical week, there will normally be talking to the engineers to check on progress, and if there are any problems they are having, talking them through and maybe helping – or involving someone else who can help; talking to managers about progress and any problems; producing reports; chairing or attending meetings about progress or technical issues; maybe looking at future projects and working on what exactly is being proposed and ensuring it is possible to undertake; maybe talking to individuals about how to keep them interested and motivated, and maybe dealing with some personnel issues.

Part of the role (as far as I interpret it) is to facilitate getting the work done – as well as keeping everyone informed – sometimes that means I have to help with sorting out problems – or just doing some of the more trivial tasks so the engineers can focus on the work they excel at!

And sometimes, it is down to me to make sure the team have a laugh, or can relieve the stress.

Why did you choose the career path you have taken?

It wasn't planned to be this way, just an apparent logical progression over time as I sought to solve more difficult problems.

What qualifications do you have?

I have a BSc (Hons) in a Physics based degree, as well as a BA in management and economics, and a qualification in project management.

What other skills do you need?

The ability to work under pressure – and remain calm with a sense of humour; be able to work with anybody (some engineers can be “characters”!); be able to stand up for a case – but know when to back down.

What’s the best bit of your job?

The best part of my job – well there are several – often there are some really interesting technical topics; there are often challenges – so one needs to solve a problem, that appears intractable, and then to deliver against the odds; and then some of the people you meet are really great!

What’s the most challenging bit of your job?

The most challenging part is when there isn't enough time, and you have to make decisions as to what is the best course of action, knowing if it is wrong, you will have to account for that decision. I suppose a second tricky part can be those awkward characters – and working out how to deal with them – and if you crack it, that is one of the joys – another success!

Was it hard to get your first job?

When I got my first job, I had maybe three offers – so it was just a question of which one I wanted the most. I suspect I could have had more offers had I tried. These days, it is much harder to get a job! You have to differentiate yourself from everyone else!

What advice would you have for people who want to follow in your footsteps?

If you want to succeed in this role, you need to ensure you have a tough character – as you can get a lot of pressure and you have to stand up for what is right; and it helps to have the technical knowledge to help the team – and earn their respect; and you have to be able to get on well with people – and have time for them no matter how busy you are!