What I Wish I Knew Earlier in My IT Career: Part 2
July 28, 2021
By Rahul Mahna
The IT industry has afforded me a wonderful career path; one that has been both challenging and rewarding – and decidedly resembling an “S” curve. Let me explain. When I started in the industry it, too, was just starting and there were a lot of building blocks being created; a wide, solid base, -- similar to the base of an “S” -- as a strong foundation. I tried to build the same base myself — I thought that I would then create, gain expertise, learn and grow in one of those building blocks for the rest of my career. However, as the industry changed, many of those blocks converged, and the industry rapidly accelerated for several years (the middle of the “S”) before it flattened off (top of the “S”). What I did not realize then, yet do now, is that this will continue to happen in my IT career and that I need to adjust my skills and learn to adjust to the new “S” technology frameworks every five-seven years.
The ever-changing IT industry requires a personality who likes to learn, adjust and keep shifting with the “S” curve. I have seen many colleagues enter the IT industry and then leave when they realize they have to keep up: Keep learning, growing and adjusting. That adaptable, flexible personality type is inherently required, or you will be left behind or worse, become expendable over time.
Fortunately, I have the personality type that enjoys learning and embraces shifting my knowledge every few years; however, it has always been a challenge to stay in the right lane. The IT industry broadens constantly, and had I known early on that I would have to adjust every few years I would have made more of an effort to get ahead of the changes and be more prepared for them rather than be reactive. The more proactive you are, the more your voice is heard -- and the more people turn to you as a leader in the space.
I am often asked about advice when entering a career in IT. My advice is simple: Take time and think about your personality and which category of IT you are most interested in continued learning (e.g., hardware, databases, networking, data, gaming, etc.). When you find the path you believe is most appealing, take a step back—similar to a runner at the starting gate. A runner starts a race with one foot back in order to create leverage. I firmly believe that to enter the industry one needs to look back and learn as many basics and foundation blocks of where that path originates from, and then learn some of the older technologies first. This will create a firm foundation for you to move forward and launch your career efficiently and successfully—as well as turn your IT career from a short-term, difficult sprint to a long-term, successful marathon.