Who would have thought that in 2016 many of us would be wrestling with the question of whether our entire 25+ year career of IT experience was worth anything to modern businesses today. We always assumed that our deep experience was valued and the more experience we had, the more valued we would be. Right?
According to the US Labor Dept, the average IT worker is 42 years old, which means that half of the IT folks we work with started their careers in the mid 1990’s. They started building file and printer sharing networks (remember Netware) and have basically been building bigger and faster versions of their computing environments ever since. Sure, they had challenges and over those years, we all worked through all the compatibility and translation issues in both hardware and software, we found ways to build clusters, and share storage, we added security to the mix, we conquered the scale and resiliency topics like gladiators, and in the past 5 years we even figured out ways to embrace the ‘Co-Lo’ and ‘Cloud’ things without upsetting our emotional apple carts too much.
But now many of the IT workers are at a point where they are asking the question: In today’s always-connected world where everything talks to everything, everything is standardized and the location of those pieces really just doesn’t matter… am I personally relevant?
The short answer is YES. In fact, a HUGE YES! But you have to step back and think about WHAT you actually learned in those 25 years. Sure you probably have a hundred stories about writing programs when you were just starting out, the time you spent all night building out a new network during a company move, or bringing an e-commerce site online, but those are really just stories, since the details just don’t matter any longer. They make you smile and make you proud, but WHAT you did does not really matter any longer.
HOW you did it matters. Today, it’s all about business and business is all about PROBLEM SOLVING. Yup, for the same reason that many of us went to undergrad school, we find our biggest value in today’s market is our ability to think through complex problems and using a healthy dose of discipline, create action plans and take action. We have learned how to solve complex problems using a litany of data points drawn from those years of technology battles to guide our efforts. We can translate business to technology better, we can estimate project time-frames better, we can look at costing models , and we can even gauge the impacts of technology on staffing.
So are YOU relevant? Absolutely! Do you need to show people how to program a bubble-sort in COBOL, or explain how to connect FDDI networks to Ethernet? Or even how to patch an SSL library on Linux? Nope. Those types of minutia are now handled in a much more elegant and automated fashion, and IT users need not worry about discrete build-outs… their intelligent infrastructure options can do that for them.
Your value is your experience in solving business problems using technology as the enabler. When you focus on the business aspects and metrics of IT, your 25 years of experience shines. Those around you will appreciate your metrics, methods and approaches. They will listen carefully to your business guidance and your articulation of the fiscal impacts of technology. Remember that Cloud and Web-scale (and their little bothers Private Clouds and Converged Infrastructures) essentially have solved all the technology challenges (the very detailed stuff that we all wrestled with for most of our careers) for us, so it is your experience in aligning the business needs with the ability for IT to deliver the right amount of work processing that matters. Even players like Google and Facebook have huge amounts of this “adult supervision” in their flip-flop filled hallways.
Make no mistake, YOUR 25 years of experience are desperately needed to run every modern business. Think business, think value and offer your guidance.