Professional Growth: Part 4 – Future Proofing

Intro text:

In keeping with the continued theme of this series, I wanted to know what the responders felt was a good technology path of choice, based on how the market is changing now and what areas they thought had the most potential. I know that the title of this post makes it seem like there is a specific technology horse to bet on at the races, but that isn’t the case. IT is broad and ever changing. These are the number of ideas people think, based on different perspectives within the market.

 

So the next question asked was “What areas of technology do you see the most growth potential that people aren’t considering?” The idea behind this is where can we fill the void, and what emerging technologies are people not hearing about just yet that could become the next buzzword of the tech conference world? Because you know we are all so very ready for the next IoT, Cloud, Hyper-Converged buzzword.

 

Considering I was looking to for a technology, I was surprised that half of the responses still centered on soft-skills. I think we’re seeing a trend with this, no? Granted there are some technology buzzwords that popped up like DevOps and Automation, that was only half of what came up.

So lets get the obvious stuff out of the way, shall we? DevOps. It has many meanings, but I think I like AgileAdmin’s best:

DevOps is the practice of operations and development engineers participating together in the entire service lifecycle, from design through the development process to production support.

The idea that greater collaboration between the two teams can make applications more efficient, set expectations a bit closer to reality and create a more agile group of people who support the business. The key thing being speed. Faster, without the compromise of quality. Now given those two objectives, that likely means its more expensive! You know, the IT Holy Triangle “Fast, Good, Cheap, Pick Two”. Now in the case of today’s technologies, there isn’t a company or IT shop that hasn’t looked at or considered things like Chef, Puppet, Ansible or things like them. These are systems to help take applications from development to production as fast as possible, and are helping shape how we can make our applications more scalable. Which is HUGE!

Automation, the next on the list. Although most people think it falls into DevOps, thats not always the case. It depends on the situation and the business. The fact still remains though, if you work in technology and you allow yourself to do a task more than twice without trying to automate it, you aren’t doing the job justice. Sure scripting is hard, but professional growth isn’t meant to come easily and nothing easy is ever really worth it.

That kicks nicely into the next one, Scripting and Programming. This is actually becoming a focus for many institutions at the elementary level. Which is great to see so much focus on helping our younger ones become effective analytical thinkers! Programming and Scripting gives people a new perspective on problem solving. It helps people realize how to break down processes and find the issue. Even if you don’t work on something technical, learning to code can help you break down a workflow to find inefficiencies and that can be huge! Beyond that, we need to focus on building applications that scale and deploy in a more “Cloud-like” manner. Thus promoting business resiliency! That is the new focus in programming/scripting, because no one likes snowflakes anymore.

Software Defined Anything. From the infrastructure standpoint, this is less about trying to keep up with trends, and more to do with understanding new ways to support demand. One publication had an interesting bit for Networking guys. They posited that Network Engineers not trying to understand SDN technologies would mark them as Dinosaurs waiting for extinction. Not to say that I fully agree, but Architects in the Enterprise space should at least try to understand to see if it makes sense for their business, else they haven’t done a good enough job vetting out technologies (Which is the basis for having an Architect).

Security, big surprise right? This is actually a major issue given the high number of breaches that have been going on. Beyond that, you have to support the businesses compliance efforts. Ever sat in a audit meeting? They are boring and long. The idea being that someone is looking for potential vulnerabilities in your configurations and deployments that don’t meet a standard. No one likes them, but they are important to your customers, so hop to it, get on that security bandwagon. Who knows, maybe you’ll get to go to the blackout conference. I hear its crazy!

So what about the soft-skills? Well, one of my favorite responses was “you need to get out of your comfort zone to grow”, which is so true and not just for the obvious reasons. Ever heard of the Full Stack Engineer? Its a person who can talk about everything from the Infrastructure to the Applications. Understanding how to best support the different technologies that use the infrastructure and tuning everything in business to work well together. Its a hard concept to make a reality, but the easiest thing to start with is getting out of your comfort zone, and learning the ancillary technologies to the one you specialize in. If you cover compute, check out application and networking. If storage, how to work with the applications and network guys to decrease I/O but maintain or increase performance.

Business Skills! This one hits a bit close because its something I talk about with customers often. IT is made up of technology that consistently costs a lot of money. The costs have also continued to grow. People working in IT because of this are constantly thought of as a cost center, instead of a business enabler. Remember when trying new technologies was about making the business more efficient? Yeah, thats mostly forgotten now. In most settings, there are the expected technologies and everything after that is gravy, even if its about making the job of the IT person more efficient or just easier to save them time. The more that you can align your initiatives with the business issues, there more you produce a value. Most companies want automation to lower IT head count, while the IT organization wants automation to increase efficiency. The key is showing how certain actions or systems can reclaim your time, so you spend less on keeping the lights on and more time thinking ahead to better the business.

Cross Department learning. Now this adds on to the business skills portion, because IT needs to understand what others are doing. If we don’t try and spend a little time getting to know the people we support and the things they do, how can we expect to find better solutions for them? We have to become a stakeholder in their objectives and goals. Again, this fits into working with other tiers in the IT stack, the better we understand the parts we support, the more efficient the IT systems and their deployments can get (Not to harp on that again, but its important). You have to work together, if not, you’ll only be seen as a road block, but remember its a two way collaboration so they (the other team) need to buy in as well.

To quote “The First 20 Million is Always the Hardest”, the technologies or soft-skills should support the following idea:

Simplify, Clarify, Economize

Learning about systems or technology that can simplify and automate, Clarify the intent of technology in support of and aligning with the business, Economize by concentrating on technology that helps save the company money, or makes them more efficient at engaging with and handling more business. I think that sums it up pretty well! Plus I got to use a quote from a movie I love.

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