Career development is a funny thing for me to be writing about. A few years ago, it wasn’t something I really thought about too much. It’s not that I wasn’t aware or cognizant of the benefits of thinking about it and spending time considering my future, it’s that I was younger and a lot more focused on the “now”. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t get old overnight and I still value the philosophical concepts of my youth but I now see additional value in also paying attention to the future.
Today, I’m on the brink of making another significant career move and career development is front and centre in my day to day thoughts. Hence, rant.
Thinking About the Future
Back in the day, it was just about working with cool gear, being a geek and having fun. Moving forward, I really don’t want to end up making decisions that marginalize how awesome working with cool gear, being a geek and having fun really is so I’m forced to think about what I want and how I can attain it. When I was 24 I was lead on purchasing, installing and managing a 1/4 million dollar cluster, a definite highlight of my career thus far… but building that cluster wasn’t building my career because career development wasn’t on my radar and I didn’t use that experience effectively as a career building tool.
My focus has shifted somewhat and I’ve been thinking about what matters to me. To build my career, I need to accept some cons along with the pros of changing positions. I need to know what I want and go after it. Mitigating the cons through smart decisions and knowing what I truly want is going to be very important moving forward for me to build my career while remaining technical.
The One Man Shop and Beyond
Thus far in my career I’ve always been the one man shop. There are some really nice things about that kind of situation which I find are easily glossed over by those working in big IT shops whom enjoy other luxuries that I do not. I get to set a large portion of my own hours, as necessary. I can make the decisions I think are right without the pressure and politics of a large organization. I can be more nimble and react to changing needs much faster. Of course, all those things come with their own downsides as well and one challenge I want to face is being able to bring my skills and experience working in these one man shop environments into a more classic IT organization with a positive impact.
Now I just need to figure out how I can achieve the smooth transition from the one man shop to the IT organization while both improving myself and the IT organization. For me, being part of a team is about contributions. What can I contribute? How can I help? Where can I leverage my skills to better the whole team?
Since I’m really a GNU/Linux guy at heart, I consider this to be one of my key areas of knowledge and where I can contribute the most. The organization that I may join has some Linux prowess but they are, for all intents and purposes, a Microsoft/VMware shop. However, as they ramp up year after year taking on new clients on campus, I believe there is an opportunity to embrace the research environments and their marriage to Linux from a big IT organization point of view and this is where I see myself making a strong impact if I do indeed end up transitioning my career.
As I work things out in my head, I start to paint of pretty picture of what could be. In this pretty picture I retain what I’ve always loved about my current and previous jobs in academia while gaining a whole new set of skills that revolve around working with technical peers and managers, something I’ve never had working the one man shop. I can help not just one research group, but research groups all across the Faculty. I can fundamentally enable the progress of science on a larger scale. That means a lot to me because when it’s all said and done, the only reason I have a job and the only reason I’m motivated to do what I do is to enable others to do even more amazing things.
All that said, I’m not without reservations. I’ve seen what can happen to people in larger IT organizations. They become another cog in the wheel. They become jaded. They skirt responsibility and project their own mistakes and failures onto others. I reassure myself that these things won’t happen to me because I won’t let them. I hope that’s enough.
But I not only have reservations overs these personal issues that can arise from being part of a bigger team. I have reservations regarding how much good I can possibly do with an organization that seems unlikely to be able to react and move as quickly as science and research. How can I effect positive change for researchers and faculty when I’m in meetings for 50% of the day? These reservations are starting to feel more and more like challenges and I generally enjoy being challenged. It’s my hope that I can be part of figuring out how to resolve these concerns and not allow them to put a damper on the good that can potentially be done.
Wish me Luck
When it’s all said and done, I’m quite exited for this career opportunity to rear its head. I’m finding more and more that the business relationships I build are powerful. I wouldn’t be thinking about a career move today if I didn’t forge a relationship with a key individual over the last three+ years that I’ve seen make leaps and bounds in his career. He’s made the right moves for himself and now we’re talking about the right moves for myself, enabled through our relationship and common goals. It’s powerful stuff, friends.
So please dear readers, wish me luck in the up coming year! I’m either going to need a lot of it or none of it.