On my colleague Don Willmott's report on how more CIOs plan to outsource their work
, this comment caught my eye:
So what would you suggest we do to gear up for the future? For example, I am a .Net developer employed full time at a government agency. I’m only 38 so I figure I have at least 20 more years to go and I am done switching careers. I am more than happy to learn new tricks, and had been planning on moving into a DBA type role in the next 10 years. Should I just stay where I am and hope the government doesn’t collapse, or is there some studies out there with predictions of where things are going? Or, should I pack up and move to Australia, which seems to have a decent IT demand?
This reader wants advice? Well then, I'll give mine.
Hold Steady For Now, My Friend
You're employed full-time with a government agency. Be thankful for your good fortune. Many people would love to be in your position. You don't sound ready to give your two week's notice and that's OK. Pondering the future is good. Do your job well and stay gainfully employed. Having a job gives you the flexibility to make thoughtful choices.
.NET vs DBA
You say you're a .NET developer and want to be in a DBA role in the next 10 years. A critical question to ask yourself: “Is that realistic?” Over the last decade we've seen incredible changes in IT. Do you really expect the industry to slow down and remain predictable? I recommend researching options that will work specifically for your skill set while putting yourself in a good position for the next big industry trends. For example, there are currently about 11,000 .NET jobs listed on Dice, compared to about 2,800 DBA jobs. Staying on course as a .NET developer is what I'd do. You may be able to find a wider variety of .NET jobs, and in more locales, than you would with DBA positions. Also, look at the number of Dice listings found under more specific search terms. "DBA" combined with "government" only produced 162 hits, while ".NET" combined with "government" yielded 678. Ten years is a long time and nobody has a sure-fire way to predict what's going to happen. But here's some suggestions that may help you spot trends for yourself.
Attend .NET- or DBA-centric conferences to gain perspective. Outside sources like this may help you suss out how the role of DBA will be changing in the coming years. For example, check out the DevConnections
and Visual Studio Live
conferences. Events like these could give you a boost at your current place of employment, as well. Conferences usually have mixers or socials to encourage networking. Take advantage of every opportunity to talk to people about your areas of interest. If you aren't completely worn out by the end, you aren't networking enough.
Contact Industry Experts
If you dig hard enough online, you can almost always find contact information for an expert in any field. So reach out. Be respectful in your email or note. Let them know why you're interested. Keep it brief and to the point. The idea is to begin a dialogue where you're comfortable asking where they think your sector is headed. You'll run into experts who want money for their advice but others will share their views for a cup of coffee. Appeal to their sense of helping a newbie and see where it takes you. If you connect with them and they have a project of interest, offer your assistance (if you have the desire and time). But remember: Your goal is to get information, not to ask for a job.
Find Local User Groups
You may be surprised by who you meet at local user groups and events. Years ago, I bought the nearly 1,200-page Sams book Samba Unleashed
at Barnes and Noble. The book's author, Steve Litt, is a consultant and hosts troubleshooters.com. Imagine my surprise the first time I attended a local Linux User Group and found myself talking to him! He's an ultimate programming expert and a heck of a nice guy. Also, there's a good chance you can make connections at a user group and find out about job opportunities, the ones that are never listed on job boards or fielded by recruiters.
Government Collapse? I Think Not.
I follow American politics pretty closely and an in-depth discussion regarding my views is probably best left to another place and time. Personally, I don't think we're heading toward a government collapse, so hold the move to Australia. If you can make it to the end of the year, that's great. Save some money and look to the future. Concentrate on gathering information and making new connections. For the time being, you still have job and that's a good thing.