Uncharted Waters

Nov 20 2014   6:00AM GMT

My View of the Future: Mixed, but Guardedly Optimistic

Michael Larsen Michael Larsen Profile: Michael Larsen

As I was looking at Maxine Giza’s article regarding the Long Term IT Outlook, I was drawn to the areas many people cited as concerns. I likewise see that there are many challenges we are all facing, and that challenges differ between organizations. How optimistic or pessimistic we are depends a lot on where we are, what we do, and how flexible we are with the work we do. With that, here are several concerns voiced in the article, and my comments about them.

They’ve Chained Nature, but They Will Never Make It Sing by Peter Kurdulija

We may have limitations, but we can always grow around them.

Career advancement is limited

As a software testing practitioner, I can continue to be a practitioner, and get better at what I do, or I can manage other testers. Those are generally the options, without changing my role… and that’s the key. If I expanded into coding, security auditing, or working on a less well served initiative, that greatly expands my career opportunities. It may not immediately expand them upward, but it will certainly expand them outward.

Management is ineffective

This would have impact on my own feelings of positivity for the future. What can I do about it? Keeping an open dialog with my manager is critical. It’s also important to get a higher view; see what my manager’s manager is looking at. By working to understand my business better, and what matters to my business, I can better understand management’s motivations and priorities, and align my efforts where possible with those priorities.

Training is limited

Considering the wealth of information that is available on the Internet today, and the ability to create virtual spaces and to download applications to create services, I feel we have a leg up here. Granted, some opportunities to learn will not be done in this manner. I cannot realistically simulate a mainframe or a big data cloud. Still, today, anyone can create a plan to learn more and become more proficient at almost any area they choose. For those areas still out of reach for a do-it-yourself learner, up-front initiative so far has helped sell the organization on me taking the next step.

The IT Budget Keeps Getting Cut

This is hard to overcome, but its not impossible. Initiatives can be developed for free with open source tools. Cloud devices can be configured and used on demand. Scripting and removing repetitive tasks can win back some of the discretionary budget by making onerous and time consuming tasks more manageable. Doing more with less always sounds like a cop-out answer, but if we can consider it a challenge to rise to, it may well pay dividends later on.

mu sky limited express by Masakazu Matsumoto

Where is your train going?

Little room for innovation

If this is a top down view, perhaps bringing a small side project to fruition will help management think differently. If it’s bottom up, there’s little to stop me making the future I want to see. Limitations may of course exist. Rewriting our legacy application in a new language may be impossible if attempted up front and whole cloth. Iteratively, and over time, it may be much easier to accomplish.

Jobs are being outsourced

I have seen this done effectively. I have also seen it cost companies much more than if they kept jobs local. Companies that choose to “race to the bottom” ultimately get what they pay for. I have to innovate on a different level, in a way that cannot be outsourced. Is that a high bar to aspire to? Absolutely! However, I would say working with that approach may well make me harder to replace.

We are still in a down economy

How important is long term job security to me? If that is important, then fears of the economy, and the ways larger companies hire, do play into this. If, however, I am willing to place bets on smaller organizations, am willing to move for work, and can deal with the possibility of needing to look for new work every couple of years (on average), working through a down economy is not so scary. To paraphrase James Bach, “I don’t need every company to hire me. I just need a few. In fact, at any given time, I just need one!” How I position my work, and my efforts in the broader community will have more effect than an up or down economy will.

To reiterate, my assessment of the future outlook in IT is “guardedly optimistic”. Disruption and challenge face me every day. There will be challenges in the next few years I haven’t even started to consider. I also believe showing activism in my craft and getting involved in initiatives will help with that uncertainty. Ultimately, my questions is this: we see the future challenges… what are we going to do about them?

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