What job title should I choose? I'm doing a combination of policy writing, strategic planning, technical support (management) and customer liasing.
June 15, 2008 4:38 AM   Subscribe

I'm starting work at a new company and can choose my job title. What title should I choose? I'm doing a combination of policy writing, strategic planning, technical support (management) and customer liasing.

Well, I've made the move back to the Gold Coast with my wife and am starting work with my Dad's company. Because the company belongs to my Dad, I can choose my own title, so I want something that reflects an IT professional role and also some management experience. Since it's a small company, I'll be doing a few different things, including providing advice to the directors (Dad & my brother). Tasks he's considering include:

  • Strategic Planning
  • Technical Support
  • Customer Liason (potential investors etc)
  • Policy writing and organisational structuring

    The fallback position for the job is the tech support role, but he's suggested I might be doing quite a bit of the strategic planning as well. With this in mind, I've considered titles like:

  • Manager, Technical Support Services
  • Manager, Product Development & Technical Support
  • Associate Director 'something'
  • General Manager 'something'

    Just FYI, my brother is Director of Operations, my father is Managing Director and the various other employees tend to be 'something something' officer. I'm also in Australia, so we tend to prefer position titles like Director rather than CxO.

    Thanks all!
  • posted by ranglin to Work & Money (11 answers total)
    Technical Director?
    posted by mattoxic at 6:20 AM on June 15, 2008

    Why not start with a no-frill basic title for the fallback position such as Tech Support Specialist or Tech Support Officer, and change your title later when your other duties are better defined?
    posted by jchgf at 6:59 AM on June 15, 2008

    I think these questions will lead you to the answer: Where would you fit on the Org chart? What the most important role you'll fulfill? IE, If you are (effectively) the CIO but you also administrate the webserver, you'd still be the CIO and you wouldn't make yourself the Webmaster.

    If it was me, I'd choose Operations Manager or Assistant Director. Your duties seem to be wide enough that narrowing them with a qualifier (like General Manager 'something') wouldn't look good. Not inside the company, but outside. If you're the Associate Director Operations and you are talking to potential clients, they'll wonder if they are talking to the right person.

    (At my company, in the US, they've started using the "Generalist" title for a lot of things. I understand the utility of it, but I don't like the sound of it.)
    posted by gjc at 7:19 AM on June 15, 2008

    I think you're limiting yourself unnesecerily - what's wrong with Lord High Commander Darth Ranglin?
    posted by Mike1024 at 7:43 AM on June 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

    It sounds like a lot of your work is focusing on the direction that the company is moving in and the way that it will grow and be shaped. So something like Directory of Planning or Director of Company Development might be a good choice.

    In the long run, though, titles don't mean that much. If it comes to making the business cards, it might be more useful to be more clear about what you do, since titles can be opaque.

    So something like:
    FirstName Lastname
    +12 345 6789
    Planning, Customer Relations, Technology
    would be more useful for potential customers trying to figure out how you'll be relevant to their needs.

    Also, I realize it's a small company and you will probably have a lot of responsibilities, but if you give yourself a too big title simply because as the son of the company's owner you are "allowed" any title you want, then employees that aren't direct descendants of your dad (assuming there are some) might resent this a bit. I'm sure this isn't your intent but this is what I sort of read in the line "because the company belongs to my dad, I can choose my own title". The title should reflect your duties and responsibilities, period.
    posted by Deathalicious at 8:04 AM on June 15, 2008

    If you go without a title, you can be whatever you want, depending on circumstance. Many business owners do this, so that they can be senior or junior, depending on what works for them. Sometimes you don't want to look like you're in charge. Other times, you do.
    posted by acoutu at 8:48 AM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

    I'd go for a title that indicates level of responsibility ("rank," if you like) and avoid specifying area of responsibility (i.e. department) as much as possible: e.g. General Manager, Senior Manager, Director, Partner, Principal, Operations Manager, Vice President.

    I'd say to go for something on the director/partner/principal/VP level rather than manager or lower. This can make a significant difference to how your resume is perceived on future job searches, even if the understanding of your actual duties/responsibilities is the same. On the other hand, you don't want to sound like you're overstating the size of the operation (I always roll my eyes when someone self-employed with no employees uses the title of "President" or "CEO").
    posted by winston at 9:36 AM on June 15, 2008

    It almost sounds like a Technical Product Manager position.
    posted by deadmessenger at 9:43 AM on June 15, 2008

    I would be considering what I plan to do after working for my dad, and what title is most likely to impress a future employer, as it doesn't really matter what you call yourself now, you get to do the work that's yours, people who need to speak to you will be filtered through to you. Unless of course, you think your title might impress some of your clients - but I doubt it. Maybe have more than one card and you can be Director of Technical Support for the people who care about that, and Manager of Product Development for the clients/suppliers who care about that.

    Basically, what will the title do for you - make it easier to get a job in the future, or impress your clientele?
    posted by b33j at 2:39 PM on June 15, 2008

    I agree with maybe doing without a title. Obviously a title is supposed to indicate what you do (maybe hint at your hierarchy in the group), but if you have to make one up yourself that's a tough one. If you're at one of those new fangled IT places you can make cute titles, but otherwise it's difficult.

    There's a guy at work hired 6 months ago under the title of "Quality Engineer"... the problem is he isn't even an engineer by training and everyone knew that from the start. Since then, when he puts his signature in emails the title has been expanding. Off the top of my head he morphed it to Plant Quality Engineer Manager, Quality & Safety Engineer Manager, now it's something like Corporate Plant Quality & Safety QMS (??!) Engineer Manager.

    No one knows what the hell he does and people avoid him at all costs- he just messes up/delays projects because no one has any idea what he's supposed to do when he tries to get involved. The title should help explain his function, but it doesn't. Don't let this be you.

    There's also this person who made up a title "Corporate Technical Compliance Manager of R&D"... this is just way too wordy to even know what goes in this person's life 9-5.
    posted by Jimmie at 5:17 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

    Response by poster: mattoxic: We're thinking about changing my brothers title to "Technical Director", so that's probably out!

    b33j: It's most definitely about getting a good title for my future job searches, rather than impressing clients, although I agree that I need something that clients will realise makes me the right person to answer their query.

    I'm tossing up between Manager, Technical Support Services (which is fairly specific) and Associate (or Assistant) Director, Operations, (or even just "Assistant Director") which feels a little higher and is more general (assuming my brother becomes "Technical Director"). What do you all think?
    posted by ranglin at 1:45 AM on June 16, 2008

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