My status as an older guy in this space gives me perspective, lessons learned, and hopefully, valuable viewpoints on some of these things.
It’s a problem many have faced, myself included, in this industry. You spend years honing your craft on a particular skill, narrowed focus, and always learning. Then your organization decides to do a 180, and you’re either out of a job or low person on the totem pole. Think Novell!
How can one dedicate oneself to the task at hand, while attempting to remain relevant to an industry constantly in flux?
Having had this happen to me, I vowed that I’d not allow it to happen again. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
I’ve not had the experience of a developer, having always been an infrastructure guy, though I have supported many. I think that it may be more difficult to maintain or build a skillset in programming, while simultaneously trying to build skills in entirely new platforms, but I do imagine that this is what it’d take to not get phased out.
Following are a list of things that have come naturally to me over the years, and some ways in which to accomplish them.
- Be Curious
In my case, there is always so much going on, new startups in software tools, storage, and orchestration are being launched practically every day. To choose some particular piece of this tech, and learn it, if only to be able to speak intelligently about it, takes a bit of effort, but can be accomplished by reading white papers, or attending webinars. Even more beneficial would be to attend trade shows, accept meeting requests from sales teams who’ve targeted you, and most importantly, talk. User Groups, Meetups, and the like have proven to me to be highly effective entrees into newer technologies. Seek out the technologies that interest you, and can be solutions that appear ideal to the problem at hand.
- Pursue your passions
Be aware that often, your time will be limited, and thus your productivity in launching into technology that you’ve not seen previously, will likely be hampered, if not thwarted entirely, but don’t despair. If you’re truly passionate about a given piece of tech, or the solution to a given issue, that passion will drive you forward to truly learn what you need on it.
Look at the big picture within your organization, take a look at potential needs that are not being fulfilled, or fulfilled well. Evaluate, and pursue the viable candidate(s). Once you’ve fully researched, you can present the findings to management. By establishing your interest and willingness to go above and beyond the call of your day to day job. You’ll then get to pursue this technology and have the opportunity to keep your skills fresh.
I once noticed that my organization needed to look at how we rolled out applications, and rather than simply continue pushing apps out with Citrix, potentially start anew with a VMware View (what’s now called VMware Horizon View) or begin deploying desktops in some other manner. I took it upon myself to truly test the platforms out there, create a report, present it to management, and ultimately roll the technology out. This proved to be both a success, and as well, launched me into a brand new arm of my career. All because I chose to ensure that the decisions made above my pay grade were those that I could get behind.
- Look at market trends, and key players
When evaluating the next tool (Piece of Hardware, or software) you’d like to learn, acknowledge that dying technology is probably not a great place to go. You’ll want to know the pros and cons of yesterday’s stuff, as it relates to the solution of a problem, but more relevant are the newer, more elegant solutions to a problem. For example, look how far remote access into an organization has come since the introduction of a VPN into the IT landscape. Your needs will be secure, manageable, scalable, as well as easy to maintain. Some older remote access technologies require huge amounts of maintenance, and might even have difficulty keeping up with threats. There are new ways of accomplishing this, which seem almost revolutionary in comparison. Once you’ve narrowed your choices, you’ll want to make a deeper dive into them.
But to be sure, if you’re evaluating a product or solution set toward a particular goal, it’ll be far more enjoyable to do this, when the solution you’re hoping to solve is compelling to you.
Also, nothing can make your star shine more than taking on and implementing a highly beneficial solution that the organization never even considered. That would involve selling your solution to management, negotiating within workforce, vendors, and contractors as well to make it happen. A successful rollout is highly satisfactory.
Always remember, complacency is the enemy.