I’ve never spent a lot of time thinking about my career. I’ve been focused on the work, the team and the manager and whether I enjoy it all or not. If not, then it’s time for a change in job. Now as I get older it becomes a discussion point with peers and leaders in business. What does your career path look like? What does success look like for you? I hate this question in particular. Success for me is not working and being comfortable – not the best career goal but a great life goal!
After 20 years in IT, its easy to be mired in the IT mould. That is, IT Professionals are seen as only IT guys. What most people fail to realise is that a good IT consultant or systems engineer has to understand a wide range of other people’s careers in order to properly design and implement support technology for those careers. For example, it’s useful to understand HR’s work flow in the hiring, onboarding and firing processes if you are to design or procure a system to help them with that. In my experience and from having worked with dozens of businesses, the only way to really design and build systems for them is to have a pretty solid, high level understanding of their core activities and business. A financial business will have very different activities to a manufacturing business and so on. By the time you get truly integrated into a business, an IT pro can usually perform various tasks within a business with a degree of competency.
Jumping out of this track and into a different career is very hard and relies on the good will and foresight of a new employer to look at the activities an IT pro has engaged in and measure them against the new role. A successful example is a friend who moved into full time project management for a construction company. Just like projects in IT, there are lots of moving parts, contractors, suppliers and time frames. The overall framework still applies – but it’s wood and trucks instead of RAM and operating systems.
When I think about my next twenty years of employment I wonder what it holds for me? Do I want to retain my career in IT or move into something different? Can I move into something different if I am perceived as being in IT and therefore an expert in that and nothing else? Realistically most good IT professionals – particularly those who work as consultants could potentially jump into any number of different roles across a wide variety of industries. I’ve worked with management and staff from industries like local council, aged care, hospital and medical care, finance and accounting, social support, disability support, sales and manufacturing. A broad exposure means I’ve seen what a lot of different roles across different businesses looks like. How and to whom one reports is often very similar and understanding a profit and loss sheet is the same across many jobs.
The nice thing about being in IT is the interaction with all these different things and still being able to come back to core business – networks, servers and applications working together for the win. What I find fascinating is working in a particular industry but realising my industry is different but complimentary and exploring that relationship. For me at the moment the question is how to jump from a manager to an executive role. There seems to be no hard and fast rules on this. Seems like being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people is the key – that and a dose of luck. I wonder if that’s the case across other industries too? Or whether people are happy to stay in a particular role over time and it’s ambition prompting me to ask these questions. It’s something to ponder…