Ever invest money? Like, even a 401(k) or something? What’s the first piece of advice you’re usually given by investment people?


The idea in finance is that, if one part of your portfolio sucks at the moment, you kind of want it balanced with something that doesn’t suck. So you invest a bit in domestic, a bit in international. A bit in stocks, a bit in bonds. That kind of thing.

Investing solely in one kind of thing creates what’s called a homogeneous portfolio, and it’s typically a bad idea. The same applies to your career.

Let’s say you got into IT Ops because Microsoft Windows made it E-Z to do. Look! A server that runs the same as a desktop! It’s E-Z! Cool. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But it’s a bit like an 8-year old who’ll only eat chicken nuggets and hot dogs. You know that someday the kid is going to have to eat something else, right? Same, again, with your career. Regardless of what your job demands of you, your career needs to be diversified. You can’t have a homogeneous IT career. Your career needs to go hetero.

“Going het,” from a tech perspective, means gearing up in some things you’ve never done before. But in looking at the other “teams to bat for,” you need to be smart.

Take it back to investing. We people say to diversify your financial portfolio, they don’t mean to invest in Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Oracle. Those are all tech companies. They’re all US-domestic. That is not diversification. So as you experiment with other sides of your career, think diversity. An Exchange admin who “diversifies” into Lync is kidding him/herself. Try diversifying into Office 365… and Google for Work… and whatever mail server the Linux kids are running these days. Not Notes, though. Never that. So no matter who’s “up” in the job market, you can jump in and be successful. Unless it’s Notes that’s somehow “up,” in which case, take up house painting.

This does not mean you have to be a world expert at everything. That is impossible. But it does mean you need to know the basics. How it works, what the fundamental design looks like. Where the tools are, and which websites provide Q&A coverage for it. You should never feel comfortable describing yourself as an “Exchange admin.” You should justifiably be able to describe yourself as a “messaging admin, with pan-technology capabilities.”

The point is to embrace other technologies. Know how they differ. Have no favorites. Be the guy/gal who can do whatever, given a little bit of prep time and some research. Know that within a field – messaging! – the concepts, tasks, and underlying bolts and sockets are all the same. Rely on that foundation to carry your career, and supplement that foundation with a vendor-neutral structure that can handle whatever the market throws at you.