How to survive in the IT field in 2012 – various inputs

2012 has turned out to be a stern year for a lot of people in the IT field, both companies and individuals. And it looks like its going to be like this for a while. I wanted to take this opportunity to put across my views on what can help us survive and also took expert views and opinions from a cross-section of people who are in this field.

I will use the terms ‘IT’ and ‘software’ interchangeably. This article might be leaning towards developers and designers, but its still applicable to anyone working in the IT field.

WHY SOFTWARE IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER FIELDS

By its very nature, the software field exists only because it provides value to other fields. On its own software is of no value. This concept stems from the fact that software is used to make a device/computer useful to its user. A mobile phone/tablet/server/laptop is basically a tool which helps someone become more productive or do things better. So a piece of hardware needs software to make it useful, else its just a piece of useless metal.

THE YEAR 2012

Its more or less the same story everywhere – economic crisis, downsizing, shrinking markets, less demand, less money. Every industry is affected, every country is affected. Since the software field is dependent on other fields (as mentioned above), it also faces the same grim scenario.

SO HOW DO WE GET THROUGH THIS YEAR

Dont just be an expert in a language/platform. Try to get domain expertise.

That is the first and foremost way you can retain value across the years. It is easier for a cardiologist to learn to program than for a programmer to learn cardiology. So if a clinic/hospital wanted to develop some cardiology software, it would prefer to go for the former rather than the latter.

So become knowledgeable about some domain outside software. There are thousands to choose from and all of them require software. Become an expert in logistics solutions, aircraft scheduling, pharmaceutical inventory management, travel portals, school systems, telecom billing, the apparel industry. The list could go on and on.

Your value will skyrocket if you are known as a ‘medical billing solutions specialist’ or a ‘media planning solutions specialist’ than just a ‘.NET developer’ or a ‘Java enterprise architect’ or a ‘PHP programmer’.

Get cross-platform exposure

Mobile applications, web applications, cloud computing, data mining/warehousing. There are lot of upcoming technology fields which will be around for a while. It is important to have a foot in at least one of them. That makes you future-proof and you dont get obsolete. In software the trick is to be a Jack of all trades and master of one.  I dont recommend trying to become a master of too many fields – its not possible anyway and you never know if by the time you master the field, it might have become obsolete. So just enough knowledge of multiple skillsets so that you quickly get into it deeper if the situation requires it.

Keep your eyes and ears open

Dont box yourself in and be content to just work on your current job or project. It is easy for developers to get caught up in code or designers to get cught up in their designs and forget everything else. Look around you, see whats happening, check the news for whats happening in your country, your region, your industry. Talk to people from other industries/fields. You will be surprised at how much insight you gain by just doing this. You will find your attitude towards your work changing once you see it from a different point of view.

Take it a little easy

If you are facing slow times in work, or some downtime, dont panic. Use this as an oppportunity to learn something new, or simply improve your existing skills.

OTHER INPUTS

Stefan Didak, an experienced graphics developer and entrepreneur has a very interesting take on this whole situation. In his own words:

“There are no real secrets to business or success really. Some people say it’s all about hard work but I know people who have worked really hard and got nowhere. Other people say you have to “want” something bad enough to get it and go after it. But I know people who have done that and also didn’t get what they were going after. In the end the real factors in any success are; 1) whether other people will allow you to be successful (but most of the time you don’t know which people those might be), 2) being at the right places at the right times (but you never know what the right place or time is), which leads to 3) luck. That’s probably what it all comes down to, a lot of luck which makes that the things in 1 and 2 work.”

I do think I have a basic rule that I’ve stuck to for the past 20+ years. “Don’t let anyone tell you what to do”. 🙂

Some inputs from UX designers working in Fortune 100 companies – Arun Sengupta, Uday Nandan and some others:

  • Don’t be close minded – Always be open to ideas ,new or old, be it from an experienced person or a fresher who has no experience
  •  Always keep improving your communication skills and people skills to get the best requirements / suggestions for the design from the user / clients.
  • Never limit your creativity / designs due to technological constraints
  • Experimentation with new concepts or technologies
  • Be proficient in Latest Web Technologies
  • Always keep yourself updated with the changes in the industry , technology , hardware & demand.
  • There is always an added advantage for web designers who have development knowledge or skills
  • Experience & knowledge of mobile technology

John Sansom, a DBA mentions a couple of survival rules for DBAs which are applicable anytime , not just 2012:

  • Things can and will go wrong. So dont get complacent.
  • Adopting a defensive mindset. This is related to the above point.  Plan for scenarios where things can go wrong
  • Preparation is the key. Always be prepared to face the unexpected

CONCLUSION

The way I see the big picture is that, 2012 is the year when you will be tested to see if you can survive hard times and obstacles. Its like an examination. If you get through fine, then you will get rewarded, else you will be out on the wayside.

1 Comment

  1. i agree – IT is a competitive field, and in order to “survive” one needs to keep updated with the latest technologies…so the learning never stops. 2012 is an exciting year, new technologies have entered/prepare to enter the market, and as I see it, the words defining this year are: “faster” and “more powerful”

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