Thursday, July 4, 2013

Career in Technology .. Challenge of Change

Career in Technology
When Change is Faster than Ever

In the area of technology and computers even basic architectures are rendered obsolete in a matter of months. Over the last few decades, we've gone through several evolutions of computing models tromp large mainframe computers to the Personal Computer (PC) and client-server based models and now to Internet computing. Some analysts even predict a reemergence of mainframes as the centralized computing nodes in an Internet-based infrastructure i.e. called cloud computing and Amazon is doing it and so is reedit very successfully.  We have no guarantee what technologies will be dominant even five years from now, but we know for sure that however revolutionary those technologies, they will be sure to change!
I'm sure there are many out there who are confused by the career choices they face and are specifically wondering whether to pursue IT careers. Should one take a 6 month course in Java and C++ or learn database admin given the starting salaries for those with Oracle experience? Maybe an MCA degree is the way to go?
The Fundamental Economic equation
Sometimes, career choices are made purely for monetary benefits. A lot of young professionals may be attracted to a specific technology or IT area purely because of the high salaries at the time mahout making a value judgment of this motive it is important to recognize that such a decision is based on a snapshot in time. The basic economic concept is that the forces of demand and supply determine the price for any good or service; salaries for an IT professional are no exception.
If the salary for a specific skill is at a certain level, there is no guarantee that those levels will be maintained over time.
This phenomenon is especially pronounced with new technologies, a case in point being the demand that existed for Visual Basic and Power Builder programmers a few years back. These were specific technologies that were used to create packaged software applications and were designed for simplify the task for the application programmer. Many professionals focused on obtaining these specific skills and in a short period of time, the supply and demand equilibrium settled at a more reasonable salary level. The same phenomenon was true for SAP programmers just a few years back Obsolescence of technology is also a factor in throttling the demand for a specific technology, for example experience with IBM mainframe technology was a ticket to the U.S. for Indian IT professionals in the early nineties.
There are also situations where temporary demand may be created such as the need for COBOL programmers to address the infamous Y2K problem
It is important to recognize that the converse is also true, where a temporary fall in demand for a certain profession does not necessarily reflect the long-term reality. Computers have become an integral part of almost every facet of our lives and the need for computer professionals can only increase in the future. Specific technologies and skill needs may change, but professionals that provide distinct value will continue to be needed.
Modem portfolio theory in finance is built around the notion of diversification of investment holdings as a mechanism to reduce risk   but the basic concept essentially echoes the age Old adage of 'Don't put a“ your eggs in one basket'. Unfortunately, when it comes to our careers, all too often, we tend to focus only on what we know best and fail to manage careers as we would our finances. There is a natural inertia in stepping into the unknown and the result is that we may gain a deep understanding and depth in a particular area without sufficient breadth of knowledge. Focusing on a specific skill may prove to be rewarding as long as that Skill is in demand However, if the demand for that particular skill set declines. Diversified breadth of knowledge and skills provides the flexibility to switch more easily. While it is paramount for a young computer professional to have sufficient depth of Understanding in his or her chosen area of expertise in order to get a foot in the door, a diversity of skills is a crucial factor in career advancement.
Competitive Differentiation
Every employee needs to constantly consider how he or she adds value to an organization. What are the specific skills, abilities or experience that you bring the table and help you provide unique value? If you don't have a competitive differentiation, the alternative is come to the 'low cost' provider!  Decisions possess a distinct competitive advantage over those who simply have a working knowledge of the language constructs. In this case, the competitive advantage that these programmers have is of their understanding and knowledge of the specific programming language.
In some sense there seems to be a contradiction between establishing a competitive differentiation and continuing to be diversified. That is precisely the challenge in maintaining a balance between breadth of overall knowledge and a depth of understanding. Competitive differentiation can come in many different forms. A technology professional may have other nontechnical dimensions such as the ability to speak in public or think critically. It is also important that others in an organization or industry recognize your unique competitive advantage. Networking with other fellow professionals is a useful mechanism to help improve your visibility and ensure that others are aware of your unique talents and potential.
Investing in knowledge and Education
The strategies of diversification and maintaining a competitive differentiation are important in order to survive change in a technology career. Implicit in these strategies is the notion of Investing in education and knowledge on a continual basis. The World Wide Web and the Internet provide a vast array of resources for any computer professional who wants to broaden their knowledge on an informal basis. Formal education is valuable in equipping a professional with credentials that provide some level of Competitive differentiation. This education may come in the form of a short-term course form full-fledged degree program. A degree is not an end in itself but is almost always worth the investment in the long run, especially in a fast changing technology environment. Formal academic learning provides a strong foundation and introduces the IT professional to the theoretical concepts. This serves the professional well when learning newer applications and technologies.
The bottom-line is that young professionals should avail of ail the opportunities available to them to further their education and remain on the cutting edge of technology in order to successfully Cope with a dynamic environment.
How Safe is a Technology Career?
There is no standard certification process for IT professionals and in some cases a six-month course maybe the only requirement to obtain a good job in a high demand area. This makes it easy for a young professional to acquire a new skill and pursue an IT career, but it is important to recognize that if the barriers to entry are low, it is just as easy for someone else to obtain the skills and experience necessary to compete for your job.
Probably the most important factor in making a career choice is to like what you do. However rationale the Career choice decision may appear, if you do not have an interest in computers and technology, the ability to maintain a competitive edge in an IT Career is compromised in fact, given that a technology career is characterized by change and the need to constantly learn and adapt, it takes more than simply interest to succeed it requires the passion to excel. In a static environment where the tasks are mechanical and repetitive, the ability to adequately execute those tasks will suffice. However, in a dynamic and fast changing technology environment, you must like what you do in order to be motivated enough to invest in learning and adapting on a continual basis.
It is also important to 'like what you do' and the power of positive altitude can never be underestimated. Some young professionals are on a perennial path of searching for the ideal carrier and never seem satisfied with their current choice.