If you are managing an IT shop and can’t write the code to render “hello world” in C, html, php, and pull “hello world” from a MySQL database using a perl script, then YOU are in the wrong job.
I should point out that these latter tasks can be copied and pasted straight from properly composed Google queries. They aren’t a test of programming knowledge at all, just of the ability to use the Internet. Yet many technical managers will fail and should get the boot as a result. You can’t manage what you can’t understand.
I just spent thirty minutes writing a detailed post on why while I agree with Cringely’s point that technically incompetent IT managers are less valuable than technical staff I think his test is lacking. Unfortunately I was using the WordPress web-based editor for writing and a careless key stroke destroyed it all. Lesson (re-)learned: always use a desktop blogging client.
Here’s the gist of what I was trying to say: the technically incompetent are dangerous as managers, but IT managers that are unable to interact with other management and navigate the labyrinth of rules and policies present in most corporations are worse. Often, IT managers are capable of neither. I can cope with someone of limited technical ability that is willing to listen and learn. Someone who can’t or won’t shield the engineering staff from the distractions of corporate life so they can focus on the constant learning required of them while they also keep the technical infrastructure running with too few hands and dollars is a disaster.
Cringely’s test is too unsophisticated and focuses on the wrong skills to make this differentiation.