It was my first day on the job. After signing some documents with the HR manager, I was told to drop by the IT department to pick up my company-issued laptop. As I was about to go, one of my colleagues made a comment that got me really interested: “you are about to enter Jurassic park.” Intrigued, I asked why. “The folks at the IT department are a bunch of dinosaurs who are slow to respond and don’t want to embrace change.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this comment. I know technology professionals who are stuck with the old stuff because it’s what they’ve gotten used to – same tools, same processes, same technologies. It’s comfortable. It’s safe. Or is it really?
The REAL Problem Behind Fast Paced Technological Changes
Technology has changed quite a lot in the past few years – newer technologies (cloud), faster release cycles (automation), outsourcing (globalization). There will be more in years to come. That’s just the very nature of change.
It can feel overwhelming and intimidating. One of my online course subscribers felt overwhelmed with the amount of information available on the Internet just to learn something new and be proficient at it. Where do you start? Which technology do you focus on? How do you keep up? Like a deer caught in the headlights, you feel paralyzed with the overwhelming amount of options and availability of information.
It can feel scary. Another one of my online course subscribers was laid off because the entire IT team was being outsourced to India. Some of their systems are being moved to the cloud. I can imagine the emotions going thru as he hands in his company badge for the last time.
This is reality. Businesses will always look for ways to minimize cost and increase profits. Outsourcing, automation and the cloud are just ways to accomplish these goals. The real problem behind fast paced technological changes isn’t really the changes themselves. Because change is inevitable.
The REAL problem: US.
The Family Framework
I’ve read a quote from Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book that said “the more things change, the more we need to depend upon things that never do.” With this in mind, I’ll use a universal framework that can help you navigate the fast paced technological changes – whether you’re dealing with the cloud, automation or outsourcing.
Kids are quick to learn and pick up new things. It also means that they are eager to learn, willing to try something new and take more risks. Want to learn something new? Ask a kid.
It also means that they don’t yet have a deep understanding of the word “responsibility“. They want to learn how to drive but they don’t think about saving for a car nor making insurance payments. No big picture thinking. They focus more on DOING.
If you’re relatively new in your career or in the company, you’re in this stage. You’ll learn new things, test them out and eagerly implement them. You’ll learn how to create JSON templates to deploy Azure virtual machines. Or try out Azure Machine Learning with Power BI. You measure your value in terms of the amount of work that you do.
Becoming a parent means new responsibilities – bills to pay, decisions to make, resources to manage. While it may seem fun to continue the boys’ night out every Friday or the girls’ hang out every Tuesday, kids still need to be fed and mortgage paid. You become more focused on THINKING and PLANNING. You still have to do something but you now have to really think about whether what you will do is worth the time, effort and resources. You don’t feel guilty sacrificing buying that new LED TV just so the entire family can travel during the kids’ school break – sacrificing the exciting for the important.
If you’ve spent a fair amount of time in your career, you’re in this stage. You’ve done the hard work of writing code, tuning queries, deploying servers, implementing new technology. Oh, those days were fun and exciting.
But while it’s tempting to continue what you’ve been doing in the past, you need to be learning skills that are more appropriate for this stage. Instead of focusing on the technical, why not focus on the conceptual? Instead of just learning the technical details of how to implement a SQL Server failover clustered instance, why not learn how to design high availability solutions that meet business requirements? Instead of worrying about the possibility of your role being outsourced, why not find ways on how you can automate repetitive tasks so you can focus on making a greater impact in the organization? Parents know how to measure their value in terms of the impact that they make in the family.
Majority of the workforce in the IT industry is at this stage. That’s why changing the mindset isn’t easy. Letting go of the things we really like to do is always a challenge. Just ask any new parent how it feels like? Or recall how you felt like when you had your first born.
They have stories to tell. About how they did things “in their time”. They’re coasting, probably in their retirement. They’ve seen their kids grow and have kids of their own. And they want to spend more time with their grandkids. You won’t see them learning new things but they are more than happy to share their experiences.
If you’re in the late stages of your career, you’re in this stage. Maybe waiting for retirement or just coasting along the nine-to-five job. You find newer technologies confusing and no longer excited in the latest innovation. Not much doing. Not much thinking nor planning. Just CONTEMPLATING.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all over for you. Because you have decades of experience under your belt, you have the advantage of wisdom, of patience and intuition – things that kids and parents don’t have. Your role in the organization is more important than ever because the younger generation has not yet developed the discipline of patience and perseverance necessary to make an impact. You understand the importance of measuring your value in terms of the legacy that you leave behind.
Call to Action
I started this blog post by recognizing that change is inevitable. I also highlighted that the real problem behind the fast paced technological changes is US. I then gave a framework for dealing with the change.
How, then, do you apply this framework?
- Recognize and embrace change. We don’t have any issues with recognizing change. But we struggle with embracing it.
- Identify what stage you are at in your career. Are you just starting out? Got enough years of experience? Or are you about to retire? Knowing where you are right now can help you make better decisions.
- Be very efficient and effective in the current stage while slowly preparing for the next one. The natural tendency for technology professionals is to be very good at what they do at their current stage. They forget that there is yet another one coming up. No kid/teen/young adult ever prepared to be a parent until they had kids. So they live for the moment and ignore the future. Knowing that you’ll be a manager, director or a CIO in the future can help you prepare for that role when it comes.
Businesses and organizations need people from all three stages. Kids don’t get fired because they can’t make better decisions. Parents don’t get fired because kids can do more. And grandparents certainly don’t get fired because they don’t know Snapchat. It’s about understanding what stage you are at and performing your role while preparing for the next one.
If you’re looking for a quote that sums up this whole blog post, here it is.Be willing to let go of the past, live for the present and prepare for the future. Click To Tweet