It is a cliché to say that the world is changing as we speak, but it is indeed true. There are roles in IT that won’t be in existence in five years time, or they will be considered roles of lesser value than today.
As IT professionals we need to be always reinventing ourselves, moving our skills to where the action is going to be – it is about preparing to fight the next battle not the last. My view is that unfortunately this common sense is not that ‘common’ and many IT folks don’t believe they can easily move across specialist areas.
I feel that in Australia a career change is more feasible than some other locations. It’s about having the transferable skills that will take you from sitting in your own comfort zone to tackling a completely new challenge.
What are the hot trends?
There are some key roles that are emerging, including: data scientists, cyber security experts, digital business analysts and cloud architects.
If you were going to take a punt on a career change, then I would pick one of these areas.
There is also a list of alternative hot spots that is not hyped or talked about as much. These are roles where there appears to be quite a shortage of skilled IT professionals like middleware integration analysts, COBOL programmers and mainframe skills in general.
Time for reflection.
My own motto is “life is too short to be doing a job that you don’t love”. I’ve met many people who dislike or don’t enjoy their work and it always shows. It is hard to have ‘passion’ and ‘energy’ when you feel that your role is a dead end and leads nowhere.
Either way if you decided to go after a shiny new career in ‘Big Data’; there is clear evidence that there is a global shortage of skilled staff. Similarly, the number of enquiries that I receive to refer cyber security specialists is staggering. There is just not enough skilled staff to fill demand for any of the hot trends.
Taking the alternative path and moving into a legacy like COBOL can also provide great rewards as the skill is not being taught at all institutions but the requirement is still there.
Getting an opportunity to get some experience with a new skill, as part of a project is one avenue to build a different career direction.
In 2015, should look for opportunities to learn new, or for that matter old, technologies.
Don’t die wondering. Have a discussion with your supervisor about your longer term career goals, your commitment to the organization and your desire to learn a new skill that both helps the business and grows your value.
The most important transferrable skill is actually not the technical aspects, as those can be learned, it’s your ‘positive’ attitude and ability to learn.
For example, taking a person that has for instance been an ERP specialist and having them transform into an information architect is clearly a long bow. This can be achieved when there is a positive and receptive individual who is willing to work as a team member.
Hence we could take any role and with the right coaching and mentoring, that person can move over a 2 year period into a new IT profession.
Barriers to entry.
You may be thinking, “Surely there are barriers that will prevent me from making the change?” Perhaps and it is likely that your request may be somewhat of a surprise at first to management.
I maintain that approaching this in the right manner will have you seen as an engaged employee that wants to progress and learn.
In my experience any good manager or supervisor will want you on their team.
Thus the biggest barrier is indeed you. This has to start with an assessment of you.
SKEB=skills, knowledge, experience and behaviour.
One of the simplest and most effective tools that I have used is a piece of paper and pen. With some quiet time to reflect you can write down what are the skills, knowledge, experience and behaviour that I need for my next role. I came across this approach during my time in Japan and developed this matrix.
Your notes should feel like a stretch and not just a routine thing like completing a certification course.
The intention is to write just one objective for each of these dimensions and if you then feel comfortable share this with your manager.
In the example included here, I have identified three improvement areas in each section.
Developing a similar SKEB diagram would involve insights from your supervisor and I would envisage that this may require more than a single discussion.
“Do nothing” as an option.
This is always a possible approach, and it is likely that this may be acceptable. The acid test is do you love your job?
If your answer is “well…not really”, then it is not too late to reinvent yourself.
Take your time during this month to consider your future. It really is the best time of the year to take the opportunity and ask what’s important?
Have a great 2015 !