Knowing what you want and where you want to be in the IT world, will be an advantage to your career, advises Colin Beveridge
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2004, welcome to the big wild world of information technology. Well done, you have successfully made it over an increasingly difficult threshold and the world is your oyster.
Your schools and colleges may have given you a reasonable grounding in the use of technology and helped you with the daunting task of getting a starter job in the industry but I want to fill in some of the gaps in your education so far by giving you some essential survival tips for the future; tips that should help you deal with the reality of the next 10 years in the IT jungle.
I believe the traditional opening line for dispensing such pearls of wisdom is something along the lines of: “Wear sunscreen…", but I think that we can take that particular piece of advice as a given and move straight on to the nitty-gritty stuff.
First and foremost, my prime advice to you is to look after your own career at all times. Nobody else will invest the necessary thought and commitment to prolong your active IT life. It is down to you, and you alone, to manage your career prospects.
Every three months or so sit down and ask yourself that classic job interview question: “where do you see yourself in five years time?”
And then shorten the timescale to two years, at most. Five years is way too big a chunk of an IT career that will end for most people long before they are 40.
Computing has always been the domain of the young and thrusting and I can’t see any sea change on the horizon that might make it different for the class of 2004.
In 10 or 15 years most of you will be moving on to quite different pastures, well away from the mainstream of IT employment, having been supplanted by succeeding generations of graduates, eager to seize the reins of technology from you. That’s the way it’s always been.
At least if you know that now you won’t be disappointed when you hit 35 and start to wonder what value is placed on your hard-won experience. So make the most of IT while you have the chance and energy.
Always try to be one step ahead of the artificial effects of rapidly encroaching age by having a well-planned personal roadmap, with contingency options available for unexpected circumstances.
The trick will be to keep yourself constantly relevant to emerging situations. That means not only taking ownership of your own professional development but also actively pursuing new skills and experiences that will enable you to exploit your investment to the best advantage, both financially and emotionally.
In these days of freely available resources on the web we have absolutely no excuse for not making the most of ourselves and blaming the lack of training investment by employers is simply no longer a plausible argument.
Make sure that you keep fully abreast of technology and never forget that our mission is to add persistent value to a successful organisation through the effective application of technology.
But don’t get permanently embroiled, or enchained, by narrow technical detail if it means that your options for the future could become seriously restricted. Deciding when to move on and how to replace diminishing value skills should be routine considerations at your private quarterly career reviews.
So then, ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2004, your personal trajectory over the next 10 years may be eclectic, to say the least, and should be so if you realise your own true potential by exploring the breadths and depths of the opportunities that undoubtedly lie ahead of you.
Enjoy the journey by all means, but never lose sight of your intended destination or you might well find yourself in 10 years time completely lost and confused, just like the rest of us…
Colin Beveridge is an independent consultant and leading commentator on technology management issues. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org