Many want to take the step into top management and become department heads. But the way is not easy. As a team leader, I suddenly no longer manage 8 but 80 employees and taking on the leadership of executives becomes relevant. Strategic topics are also on the agenda, which is new for many team leaders. Conversely, strategic topics are nothing new for the staff units, but leadership.

Such a climb is worth it, according to Stepstone – While a Team leader in IT Earned 65,000 to a maximum of 76,000 euros a year – comes in Head of department in IT to 76,000 to 90,000 euros. The rise brings a lot of salary again and I think that the magical 100,000 is also possible after 4-5 years.

In 2019 I was also able to rise to the position of department head and would like to report how I managed to get into this position. The way to do this came through staff units and team leaders.

Reading tip: Become a manager

There are generally two important aspects for department heads to be able to do. One is taking on large and abstract subjects and the other is experience in leading people.

Staff unit gives experience in strategic topics

My first way after the consultation is through a staff unit. I was the assistant to the head of department and supported major issues for him, such as restructuring for 90 employees, as well as large customer projects beyond departmental boundaries. I also accompanied the establishment of a location and an M&A takeover.

So I was able to gain experience in large topics and also lead and manage project teams with up to 50 people. So after 3 years, very large subject areas with complex characteristics were no longer new territory for me. So I was able to gain the necessary experience so that, as a department head of 50 employees, I can control major issues very easily. But what about leadership?

Team leader creates the leadership experience

Since I was supposed to and wanted to gain more experience at the grassroots level, I took on a team lead. I was at the forefront with that and had my own clients and projects. It was a new feeling to have your own resources and employees. In the staff unit I always had to sort out everything and ask team leaders. Now I was in the situation myself and had to take responsibility myself. In the role of team leader, I gained relevant experience in leading people.

Conclusion

Head of department is a tough job and even with experience you can only learn a fraction of the required skills – but you can prepare well. For me, it’s like a team leader, only with significantly larger issues, more employees and leadership.

It is important that you meet the requirements of this position and can show in the interview that you have the necessary experience. 3 years staff position and 3 years team leader can cover these experiences well and make a start into a career as a department head possible.

However, do not take the job lightly – it is a tough job with a lot of responsibility and, above all, leading managers is a tough challenge. Even the complex issues can lead to despair. It’s like a marathon – training is everything – always stay on the ball and keep up with the times!

Reading tip: Leading executives

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Author

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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