After more than 20 years in our industry, I’ve seen a lot of changes. What’s funny is how the technological advancements are reflected in the job market and the trajectory of IT careers. I’ve heard some folks worry that as the technologies become commoditized, so will the careers of IT professionals. People worry that the march of the Cloud will do to IT pros what Future Shop did to electronics stores; make them all obsolete. I disagree completely. I believe that IT professionals have more opportunity than ever before to contribute real business value and establish themselves as strategic assets.
When you think about the evolution of our industry, the major changes have been the move from mainframes to PCs, the client server era to virtual desktops, and now we see the newly emerged public and private cloud systems. On the people side, we see the consumerization of IT and an increasingly mobile workforce that employs heterogeneous devices and demands constant wireless connectivity. Adapt or die.
Corporate users are getting smarter every day and they are becoming more demanding when it comes to information and innovation. As the days march on, they require less and less help with their personal computing environment. This means that the “OLD” role of the corporate IT guy (or gal) is changing. And if she doesn’t keep up, she will go the way of the Dodo bird. Be clear, I’m not saying her job will disappear … Organizations will always need smart IT folks. What has to change is the knowledge and strategic direction of the IT professional. If the people don’t change, they will become irrelevant. The need for smart people will never go away.
As large Cloud providers becomes more entrenched in our industry, I suspect that small enterprises and SMBs will no longer staff IT folks for the backend infrastructure – they will outsource that. The cloud providers themselves are going to be the ones staffing the front line tech guys. Today’s enterprise IT professionals face the choice to adapt or move. If they choose to stay, they need to start working closely with particular business units, performing analysis, managing data … being strategic and adding value. Waiting around for someone to call the helpdesk or waiting for a server to run out of memory isn’t going to cut it.
For the youngsters starting their careers, they need to specialize in something and recognize the new realities of our industry. We older folks also need to recognize the realities of the new workforce. They want variety, regular scenery changes, and need to feel part of something bigger than themselves. I’d say these 2 realities line up rather well. A meaningful IT career requires someone willing to think beyond reactive tasks to the broader organizational goals, and happily … things are always changing in our industry!
ITW has been working hard the past few years to translate this insight into robust career paths and mentor programs for our technical teams. They start as generalists on our Service Desk – getting to know our clients and learning about our reference architectures. From there they work with their mentors and Team Leads to carve a career path up and onward onto one of our four specialized Consulting teams. One way to think about their evolution is this: the Service Desk priority is a client’s technology. The Consultant’s priority is the client’s business.
If you want to grow your own career, you need to adapt. If you are looking grow your team, you need to work within the constraints of the new realities. From the bottom up, it’s about specialized skills. From the top down, it’s about squeezing genuine business value out of technology.