Up and Out
January 23, 2004
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As your high-tech career matures, you will have less and less desire to
climb under desks, pull cable through ceilings and experience the mind-numbing
stupor of watching software install. As the years pass, you will want
to find new ways of using your knowledge and experience, while still maintaining
a quality of life and career. While it might not be easy, here are few
thoughts that can guide your journey from technology installer to technology
Behind the desk, not under it
While most of you might think that a position in IT management might be
the only way out of the trenches, there can be other opportunities that
might serve you better. Don’t let your current job dictate your
thoughts about where you might end up. That said, if you find yourself
with the proper sensibilities for IT management, pursue it, by all means.
It is a hard transition for many people to move from the trenches to supervisor,
but it can be fulfilling for the right person. More importantly, there
is no reason you have to be like every other IT manager you have ever
known. The IT world could do with some “shaking up” and you
might be just the person to do it.
If you decide you don’t want to pursue the traditional management
track, there are a few options that you might not have considered. These
roles might include some standard management tasks, but I consider them
a step above the usual, since they have levels of freedom that you won’t
find in most corporate jobs.
The main goal in maturing your career is to find, or make, a position
in which you spend less time installing technology, pulling cables and
installing software and more time thinking, planning and designing how
to make the best use of technology. Sure, you may want to spend some of
your work hours doing hands-on work, but that should be your decision,
not your boss’.
Development and Design
An excellent job to build for yourself is that of network designer. I
know from experience that many networks, even those in the largest corporations,
develop in an ad hoc fashion. The demands of business often dictate action
over planning, so systems are installed quickly without much thought to
their eventual use. I am sure you have experienced this issue in your
own work. Your day-to-day experience gives you a unique insight into network
design. As you work in your career, you should find opportunities to design
networks as well as install them. Then, down the road, you can hire others
to do the actual installations of your design, getting your hands dirty
only when you wish.
Similar scenarios can be developed for almost anyone, whether you are
a software developer, database administrator or end-user tech support.
Basically, you take whatever work interests you most and develop your
knowledge to the highest level. That knowledge then becomes your stepping
stone up the career ladder. I consider those people who have risen up
through the ranks as carrying a level of knowledge that cannot be gained
in any other fashion. This gives you a unique way of looking at design
and development projects, while also understanding the issues of the people
who will actually build the system.
Finally, as you might already see, you can also develop your career into
your own business. In many cases, companies that might not consider having
a network or database designer as a full-time position might be looking
for a freelance consultant to assist their in-house staff. This is especially
true of small companies who need a large system in order to grow. You
should be on the lookout for these opportunities. You may find that working
for yourself allows you to meet your career goals in ways that a traditional
corporate position cannot.
Depending on your career goals, moving out from under the desk, even in
a small way, may be the best path to a mature and successful career. Finding
new ways of applying your knowledge, without requiring yourself to perform
every step in a project, can lead to a future where you can better control
your work, your life and your career.
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