IT careers are fracturing into more and more specialties, and the jobs themselves are no longer as abundant as they once were. Much of the blame, if it’s negativity you want to play with, is simply due to the accelerated speed of change in every facet of technology today. New fields and new theories, new goals and new challenges, multiply on every hand with the science of technology. Every branch of science, communication, finance, education, business, government, military, and so forth, is now heavily invested in technology -- and the mad scramble to keep pace with the latest developments is never going to end in our lifetime, or beyond. This is good news for those who can discipline themselves enough to become IT specialists -- but bad news for anyone who figured on just coasting through life with a cushy IT job after getting average grades and a B.S. degree at a community college.
The new IT demands leaders and thinkers; men and women who hunger to surmount obstacles and have the training and flexibility to do so in ways that their employers are going to be pleased with. And make no mistake. IT employers are becoming more and more demanding and savvy as to what constitutes a competent and cost effective IT employee. IT is no longer a world where nerds blow off their clients with big words and vague explanations -- while the work itself becomes more and more complicated, the IT worker must be able to break things down into simple concepts for customers and management alike, or face unemployment. And the post-pandemic world is not going to be very kind to unemployed IT workers who can’t keep up.
Perhaps the two key concepts that every new IT worker needs to remember and act on today are ‘obsolescence’ and ‘continuing education.’
Whether it’s built in or not, IT equipment and programs become obsolete practically the day after they are implemented. It’s the old game of ‘adopt and then adapt.’ But there’s only so much adapting that an IT professional is able to do with a system that can no longer handle the programs it was meant to process five years ago It’s like trying to patch a leaky boat after the bottom is already nothing but patches -- at some point, the whole thing will simply give way and the boat sinks, with all hands on board. That’s why ultra competent IT personnel are crucial to any enterprise’s smooth sailing today. No ship is going to get very far on today’s stormy pandemic sea without a sturdy, long lasting hull.
Today the IT professional is stranded between a rock and a hard place when it comes to continuing education. First of all, almost all of the tuition reimbursement programs that companies at one offered their IT workers have dried up and blown away. It’s not in the budget any more -- and not likely to return any time soon. So IT workers who want to just stay current, to say nothing of working their way up the IT career ladder, and going to have to pay out of their own pockets for continuing IT education.
Second, with the closure of campuses across the world, there is no guarantee that there will be IT classes available in any form except online. So IT professionals have to ask themselves this very hard question: Am I capable of getting what I need from an online course, or do I need to have hands-on, face-to-face interaction in order to understand the subject? There’s no shame in admitting to yourself that you need personal contact in order for ideas, information, and new concepts to lodge in your brain. And since it can’t be done in a classroom setting again, perhaps for a long time to come, it would be a good idea to check into mentoring with someone more advanced than you, either in your company or some other place.
The pandemic disruption in IT
The statistics change from day to day, and from country to country, but the bottom line for everyone alive today, and this includes IT professionals and IT students, is that the world of work is not what it was four months ago. At that time the outlook for the entire IT profession, and many others, was rosy and encouraging -- there seemed to be no limit to the amount of work that would be available for properly trained and certified professionals.
Now all that has blown away like the dust on an old table when the window is opened to admit the hurricane winds of change.
The only thing that’s certain is uncertainty
The best advice for IT workers seems contradictory, but it still is true. First of all, continue to specialize in an IT niche that will make you irreplaceable, and, second, start branching out into other IT-related fields, so if your speciality goes south you’ll have something to fall back on.