Change, Transform, or Else

The message we get from the industry is that we must change, we must transform, or we will be left behind. What does this imply from an economic standpoint? Will your business go under? Will you lose employees? Will employees lose their jobs? Or is there something else going on here? These are questions from the business perspective, but there is also the employee perspective. Furthermore, there is the perspective of other parts of the industry to consider. We all know that automation impacts an industry. Sometimes automation has a negative impact. How will automation and change impact IT?

This is another conversation that came out of a discussion with my neighbor. His premise was that automation takes away jobs. In a very real sense, he is correct. The new jobs created by automation are far fewer in number than the jobs removed, at least in the area of manufacturing. Is IT in that same boat? Are we automating ourselves out of careers? This has always been a big issue, ever since virtualization started within IT. One of the earliest questions we got when virtualization came about was “Will I lose my job?” It was a serious question. As virtualization took over, the number of physical devices we needed changed. They decreased. That was a short-term goal. Now, however, the number of physical devices we need is rising while our virtual assets have increased by large numbers. Nevertheless, that is only for certain parts of the industry.

The answer then was to find a way to be useful as IT changed around you: learn more, expand your horizons, learn about virtualization. As software-defined networking and storage came into the picture, the same question was asked by those folks as well. The answer was the same. As more and more compute moved to the big public clouds, we were once more asked the same question. The answer was that instead of managing infrastructure, we should learn how to manage clouds. Similar, yet different.

The message has not changed over the years. Gain the knowledge you need to transition your job to something the business will continue to use. Have people lost their jobs even as they have transformed? Yes. Will this trend continue? Yes. However, keeping a job and getting a job are very different things. For example, we still need one million IT security workers. That number has not increased. So, does moving around within IT require a skills change? Or does it require more knowledge?

This is the big difference. In manufacturing, as automation took over, people went from building cars to something else entirely. Let us say, for example, that the move was from running a drill press to baking a cake. These are two distinctly different sets of skills. Retraining can take a while, and once you are out of the job market for a while, that stigma sticks around. However, in IT, we are not talking a major skills change. We are talking about moving from baking a cake to baking a pie. The skills to do both are pretty much the same. The knowledge, however, is different. There is a gap in knowledge, not a gap in skills. Those in IT have the skills, but they may not have the knowledge.

To change, to transform within your industry, to stay relevant, to stay employed: these things take knowledge and a willingness to gain that knowledge. Eventually, there will be fewer of certain types of jobs—those jobs that are easily repeatable. However, for the foreseeable future, there is a gap in jobs. We do not have enough people who understand software-defined networking, storage, and even security. If we can transform ourselves to those types of jobs, then we are still relevant and benefit the business.

IT has the need to transform. It is still about lowering costs, but there is still a need for people to do the work. That work is also changing. Can you change with it? Are you willing to gain new knowledge?

Ah, you may say, but not every business has a huge IT department, and yes, they can go 100% cloud. Unfortunately, this is true, yet there is headcount all over IT. At the moment, we need more people than we have. That could change, but not anytime soon. Change, transform, etc.: those words provide opportunity to gain new knowledge using your existing skills.

Where do you think we are headed?

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