Saying “It’s not what I do” can get you unemployed

I had the pleasure of speaking with Jonathan Rider, Founder and CEO of JetStream Consulting, regarding current and future job opportunities in IT, given current and future trends in IT and the business place.

Regarding the technical landscape, Jonathan metaphorically compared forecasting the future directions and technologies of cloud computing to being similar to how meteorologists forecast the weather. That is to say, both activities require: • A careful analysis of current conditions • An understanding of which way the wind is blowing • Input from leading industry thinkers • Data analysis based on imperial and historical evidence

Then, with all this information at hand, you must make an educated decision regarding the future climate. From a weather perspective, missing a major incoming storm leaves you unready to properly respond to inclement weather. From a technology perspective, missing a major IT megatrend can hurt your professional growth and marketability. It can even cost you your job.

Moving from our discussion on the technical climate, we moved to a discussion of what this means for IT jobs today and in the future.

He went on to say, that in today’s technical and business environment, there is a huge advantage of being an out-of-the-box thinker and look at your IT organization holistically, rather than through the lens of your specific technical specialty or current job. This wider vision makes you more valuable to your company because you play the role of internal consultant, in addition to technical hired gun.

In the past, people were hired for their expertise in a single skill, such as Java, SQL Database administration, etc. Today, while it is still very important to have a strong technical specialty, you can’t simply be “a one trick pony”, with no knowledge or familiarity of the technologies around you. While you don’t have to be an expert in all these other technologies, which would be virtually impossible, you should understand how your technical specialty:

• Interacts and interfaces with the technologies around it • Can be used within the context of cloud-based and other IT megatrends, such as big data • Helps your organization meet its corporate goals • Is trending, in regard to its usefulness within the mix of upward trending technologies, trends, and market forces

The lack of this wider view of technology makes you:

• Less versatile to your organization • Limit your potential employment opportunities to large organizations where specific skills sets are departmentalized • Reduces the likelihood that you will be included in new technical initiatives outside your tightly defined specialty • More susceptible to layoff when compared to other techies that can wear multiple hats

Jonathan continued to say that if you are currently highly skilled in a particular technology, keep your technical edge, but broaden your view by knowing how your technology fits into the larger technical picture.

If you are currently a technical generalist, use this wide knowledge base to your advantage by becoming the combination of a technology integrator and a technical switch hitter. That is to say, be the internal architect that helps define how various technologies seamlessly connect and then allow yourself to be deployed to work on the technology where you are needed the most.

Lastly, whether you are a generalist or specialist, new to the profession or very experienced, and/or interested in learning new technologies or not, learn about the business you serve. A non-technical IT megatrend that has taken the industry by storm is that IT leaders, and in turn their staffs, must be business-centric first and technology-centric second. If you are not, you are limiting your upward mobility, potentially making decisions that don’t align with your company’s vision, and may, in time, be replaced by someone who truly believes that IT exists to serve the business.

Jonathan Rider and his company Jetstream Consulting can be found at www.JetstreamConsulting.com.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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