Is the Golden Age of Information Technology Almost Over?

  • "I don’t think we’re all going to be about of work tomorrow, but I think we all have to think about the skills we should have to make sure that if the market shrinks we’re the ones who keep our jobs. Good advice in any age, but maybe more so now as we try to predict what the next 5-10 years will bring."

    Good advice indeed. I'm guessing the skills we need, at least at my end, are the Spolsky criteria - smart and gets things done. That's not changing anytime soon. I'd always take anyone on that can demonstrate those and I have always attempted to project those qualities, perhaps imperfectly but well enough.

    Personally I'm pressing onwards with a course in AWS management...as you say the capex argument is hard to answer.

  • Sad but true: I believe you're correct. When I started in IT, you had to upgrade your pc every few years, and it took a specialist to install it; now, a lot of people are still running Windows 7 or even Vista because it is sufficient. Fifteen years ago, it took a whole day just to screw a few servers into a rack and connect all the cables in an orderly fashion; now it is just a few clicks in VMWare. The amount of servers still increases, but the amount of servers a single admin can manage just increases faster. And that means less demand for IT staff. I predict a few good years ahead as the economy appears to be on the rise, but the long term trend is downwards.

    Robert van den Berg

    Freelance DBA
    Author of:

  • "I think we all have to think about the skills we should have to make sure that if the market shrinks we’re the ones who keep our jobs"

    I'm not so sure about a shrinking market - but we definitely need to constantly review our skills. Like Andy (but perhaps not up to such a high level), I worked my way in to the IT profession. Started cabling small networks, then setting up 2 or 3 PC Windows 3.11 networks, currently working as a developer using SQL, C#, and a host of web technologies.

    I have found (perhaps more so in my admin and networking years than in the dev ones) that something that's hard to do, and a mystery to the average man in the street, often becomes automated and therefore irrelevant as a skill. Combine that with the pace of change in the industry, and you seriously need to keep your skills up to date.

    The bottom line is, if the thing you do becomes easy, if automation or some other technology makes it irrelevant; find something else to do that's still difficult - as long as there's a demand for it, there's a reasonably well paid job for you.

  • I agree with Andy about keeping skill levels up in our areas. There are many avenues for that.

    I don't believe the cloud is the panacea that many think it is today. The reason I say that is two fold: data ownership and security.

    The first time an enterprise discovers that government can subpoena their data from a cloud vendor without the enterprise knowing about it, the cloud will lose that customer. Data ownership is important. The client of a cloud vendor may think they own their data but as long as the data resides on someone else's server they do not own the data; the vendor does.

    Every server system has security vulnerabilities. With the cloud, a hacker has only to discover the host vulnerability to root the system. It is only a matter of time until a determined hacker roots Microsoft's or Google's cloud. When that happens the cloud as an infrastructure tool is dead. Small businesses may take that risk but large businesses for the most part will become aware of the security issue and leave the cloud.

  • Just another reason I'm glad I am as old as I am.

  • You always need to keep your skills reasonably up-to-date, but you also need to take into account the increasing diversity of specialization in the IT field as a whole.

    20 - 30 years or so ago, the resident "computer geeks" pretty much ruled the day since they were the only ones who knew anything about computers. Fast forward to today and think of how many different specialties there are just in the data world. You have data professionals who maintain data systems (think traditional DBA), others who primarily develop for databases, others who specialize in data warehousing, some who perform or assist with data mining and analysis, and so on.

    And we haven't even touched on system architects and engineers, system administrators, mail system admins, security professionals, etc. You get the idea.

    Kind of begs the question: Is the "Golden Age of IT" ending or are we just in the "second wave"? In my mind, increased specialization means increased opportunities to carve out jobs and careers.

    ____________
    Just my $0.02 from over here in the cheap seats of the peanut gallery - please adjust for inflation and/or your local currency.

  • I believe there is more opportuity for an individual, even someone coming from a remote rural community with no formal engineering education, to be an IT entrepreneur or rock star today than there was 20 years ago. Online documentation, virtualization, Big Data, community support groups like SQLServerCentral on the web, and free or developer edition software: these are all empowering things most of us didn't have when we first started out.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • "All of those signal to me that we’re at a tipping point where businesses will outsource and expense the hardware and much of the standard software, shrinking the core IT staff but still keeping enough to work on features and differentiators."

    The company I work for announced that it will be laying off 20% of the IT employees by the end of the year. What is described above is EXACTLY what my company is doing. We haven't been given the specifics, but we know the company will be moving to O365 which will eliminate most of the Platforms support group, and I suspect the data center will be outsourced as well, since that is what our new VP of Infrastructure did at his last job.

    Somewhat similarly to Andy, I received an Associate degree in IT in the mid-80s, and rapidly worked my way into a really challenging, lucrative, fun job supporting CICS on IBM mainframes at a Fortune 200 company. I quit in the mid-90s to stay home with my children. Once my kids were pretty self-sufficient, and knowing that my IT skills were completely outdated, as soon as I could I went back to school part-time and got a job working full-time as an administrative assistant for the IT Infrastructure group at my current company. I received my BS in Computer Science (with a 3.93 GPA) in December. It took some time and a great leap of faith on my boss's part to allow me to do so, but I've volunteered for every IT-related assignment I can get my hands on in addition to my admin work over the last five years in my current role. I was always hopeful that I would be able to transition to a tech job within my current department or in another IT area within the company, but with the announcement of the pending layoffs I doubt that will happen. So I keep volunteering for assignments and am working on gaining skills to put on my resume (and to relieve the boredom with my "day" job). I don't feel I have the necessary skills yet for any of the job openings I see in IT in other companies.

    During all those years parenting full-time I never dreamed it would be so difficult to transition back into the workforce. My timing was unfortunate, I tried to reenter the work force at the height of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Given the rapidity with which technology evolves and changes, I knew that I would have to pretty much start at the bottom again. The fact that so much of the lower level IT jobs have been outsourced offshore has made it particularly difficult to come in at the ground floor. Even though I've lowered my expectations, I love working in IT and I am still hopeful I will find something challenging and rewarding.

    Enough whining...time to get back to teaching myself SSRS. 🙂

  • A healthy bit of fear about the future and our own viability and usefulness is a good thing. IT doesn't stop evolving, so those of us in the industry have to as well. Anyone that can't or wont accept this should pick another line of work. The Golden Age of IT also had a downside in that a lot of people got jobs they never should have and were paid too much. If there has been a correction in that, then it is also a good thing.

    I'm in my 40's and I know age isn't a friend in this line of work, mostly anyway. At my age I think I have a good feel for what I'm good at and what I'll never be good at, so I stay away from the things I can't do well. We are almost done rolling out VMware and SAN at our main location and I am completely fascinated by this stuff. In the past I've only been able to play with this stuff in a cheap way, but now we have made a serious investment in hardware and training.

    I've got no plans to get away from the DBA role or SSRS, but VMware is a big part of my future, and I'm excited about that.

    Cheers

  • Eric M Russell (7/9/2015)


    I believe there is more opportuity for an individual, even someone coming from a remote rural community with no formal engineering education, to be an IT entrepreneur or rock star today than there was 20 years ago. Online documentation, virtualization, Big Data, community support groups like SQLServerCentral on the web, and free or developer edition software: these are all empowering things most of us didn't have when we first started out.

    Spot on. Things may change more rapidly than they did in the past, but it has never been easier to obtain information to learn.

    Cheers

  • Higher bar: oh know people that know what they are doing will be in charge.

    That is what the industry needs. Companies will still make the bits that they need customized and will succeed or fail based on how well they implement (not just tech but whatever else the business does). Keeping 1M people employed doing redundant things isn't efficient. A society/economy doesn't exist to achieve full employment but to supply the needs of the people. If we can have the same output while 1M fewer people need to go to work each day I'm okay with that.

  • jfogel (7/9/2015)


    ...

    I'm in my 40's and I know age isn't a friend in this line of work, mostly anyway. At my age I think I have a good feel for what I'm good at and what I'll never be good at, so I stay away from the things I can't do well.

    ...

    I've got no plans to get away from the DBA role or SSRS, but VMware is a big part of my future, and I'm excited about that.

    Compared to other lines of work, age is a friend to those of in IT, especially those of us with a background in database admin or development. Also database technology builds upon itself incrementally; the knowledge has a longer shelf life. I feel more confident having SQL on me resume than I would XAML or SilverLight. From what I've observed, it's the younger IT workers, those who specialize in some niche technology, that pop up like mushrooms as the organization expands... but then disappear the day after layoffs are announced a couple of years later.

    Regardless of what's going on in the broader IT industry, I believe those of us here in this forum are in a good position. It's blue skies ahead.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • The work will still need to get done. It's just a matter of who is doing it. There will need to be just as many skilled data scientists and database specialists. The database specialists will simply work for the cloud vendor, not the business directly. There will still need to be staff to customize, extract, liaison, etc. Those roles will be split among vendors and businesses depending on how management likes to operate, but it's not like The Cloud eliminates the need for someone to understand how the businesses data is structured.

    There's no such thing as a solution that turns a company into a turnkey operation in regards to data.

    There are very few organizations that can simply fit into an off-the-shelf product without major customization to accommodate funky business rules. Funky business logic will never go out of style.

  • Last report in Sweden is that we need more IT-staff, developers of all sorts. In the coming few years there is a report that the banks will need ~30% more IT employees.

    I think there will be a need for more programmers of different types of skills for many years to come and it also looks like IT-jobs are becoming one of the largest areas for employment. Maybe one day it will shrink but I can not see that on the horizon.

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