I’ve been an Exchange administrator for over a decade, but my company’s now moving to Office 365. I have two colleagues who help me manage Exchange and we’ve been told they’re only keeping one of us. How do I pick something new to focus on? How do you handle it when a technology you’ve managed for ever basically goes away and you’ve got nothing?
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I’m really sorry to hear about that – I hate that people have to go through that kind of stress. I hope it all turns out well in the end for you, though.
When I look at the entire span of my career, there’s been a few technologies involved:
- F-14 Tomcats and A-6 Intruders (yup)
- TI-994/A and C-64 (I did programming, not playing “Oregon Trail”)
- AS/400 (including OS/400 CL scripting)
- Visual Basic
- Windows Server (since NT 3.51)
- Windows Client (since 3.0)
- SQL Server
- Raspberry Pi
It’s been a lot. And it’s not all because I’m some prodigy, I don’t think; it’s because I’ve never really based my career on a technology. Instead, I’ve tried to rely on a range of competencies. I’ve tried to cultivate a logical mind, which helps me both in coding and in troubleshooting generally. I try to keep an open perspective and not get locked into one world view, which helps me get along with a wider variety of people, but which also helps with technology problem-solving. I enjoy learning new things, and I enjoy tinkering. I have a creative side, which helps in programming, but also helps in systems design and architecture. It also helped when I was into cosplay ;).
You should be more than just “someone who runs ____.” You’re a full person, and you’ve got your own aptitudes, likes, dislikes, and competencies. A happy career, for me, is being in one that leverages as much of me as possible.
Back in the day, I know tons of people were getting into the IT field for the money. I don’t say that as a bad thing at all – following the money and switching careers is a brave task, and many people found themselves in a career they loved. But I’ve met a few who really just got into it because of the money, not because they really cared about the industry or the computers or all the new shiny we always deal with. They often have a hard time keeping up with the pace of change in IT.
But whether my current job will always support me or not… well, I don’t know. I love my current job, but it might not be my forever job. My career, though, is my forever career. I love it, and I’ve spent considerable effort feeding and solidifying it. I often pay for my own classes and conferences, because those are important to my career, even when they’re not important to my current job. It sometimes means sacrificing – we once had to forgo fixing a badly-broken car for two months so I could go to an important event – but my career is worth those sacrifices. I’d like to think that’s one of the things that’s kept me employable.
I think too many people in IT give shortchange themselves when they’re asked to think about their competencies and aptitudes. I think too many people in general shortchange their own careers by focusing too much just on their current job. I’ve known many people who’ve been hired, fired, and laid off multiple times, and they’ve always landed on their feet because they’re people who focus on their career.
So I cultivate mine. I focus on my aptitudes and try to keep them sharp. That doesn’t always mean taking the easiest or least risky way, but in the long run, I’ve found it actually lowers my major job risks.