Whether we got into IT because we had an interest in it or because it was required for college or a job, we all start out by digging in. This could involve formal training or a bunch of reading and experiments, but in the end, we all end up with a set of broadly applicable IT concepts—and, for most us, a deeper understanding in an area or two.
As we do more things and our experience grows, we become a subject matter expert (SME). Put another way, we become more specialized. Some specialists choose or are chosen for an operational and administrative track. Others take on a development focus. Some take on team and project coordination. Some have a design specialization. As I mentioned in my prior blog post on full-stack developers, some take on all these, but within a restricted set of technologies. As we grow in our focus, experience, and specialization, our value and, in theory, our compensation increases.
Technologies are rarely standing still though. Therefore, the challenge (or opportunity) for IT professionals is to never stop learning and retooling. Whether the skills you have are in a commercial product, open source, cloud, etc., 99% of these have an underlying commercial business model regarding how they go to market. This means that the organizations for these products are always trying to have a healthy ecosystem of customers, implementers, bloggers, and communities. You know all that knowledge that you worked so hard to gain? They just want to give it away to users and developers. However, if your skills are in a closed technology where these things are missing, you can anticipate disruption, because their competitors will see that as an opportunity.
Anyways, you have the skills, the technologies are evolving, and the support structures are all active and healthy. You're all good, right? Hold on, because along comes cloud. With cloud you don't need to know the install process or plan your topology. Most cloud providers give trial accounts at low or no cost in order to get customers interested and engaged.
This means a couple of things: either your skills are now in high demand, or there is a slew of new talent jumping on the bandwagon, probably at a lower cost. It could mean the skills you built become a commodity overnight. As a practitioner of information technology, if you haven't looked at developing cloud skills yet, I would encourage you to do so. It is coming for many companies or is already happening for others.
I always encourage others to embrace change and seize opportunities to grow. After all, in IT, "change is the only constant," but what I am observing is that the pace is getting faster. These technologies bring us new and wonderful capabilities. Today it’s cloud, but who knows what tomorrow holds for IT.
Not only do you need to be vigilant and stay current, but you also need to be pushing yourself out of your comfort zone almost all the time. If you haven't learned something new in the last few weeks, then you need to look around and set a challenge for yourself. If you have learned something new and it was cool, I encourage you to share your experience, and ask yourself “what else?” or “what next?”
About the Author
Mike has been with Prolifics since 2006. He has over 20 years of IT experience covering project management, enterprise architecture, IT governance, SDLC methodologies, and design/programming in a client/server and Web-based context.