Guessing the next big technology career path


Picking a winning career path in technology is difficult even if you have years of industry experience. The great thing about having over 15 years of experience in IT is that I have great 20/20 rear vision. I now know, investing in my Cisco certification, in 2001 was a much better idea than updating my Novell Certification. However, it wasn’t so clear cut at the time. Engineers have to make really difficult choices on how to guide their careers. If you aren’t thinking about managing your career, you should start to do so.

Some engineers are limited due to the limits of their employer’s technology profile. If new technology projects aren’t available, you must make the difficult decision of moving on versus getting a steady paycheck at a solid organization. Even given the option of moving to a different company over staying with the same company and switching focus onto a different technology, the decision isn’t easy. Picking the next best thing in technology is difficult for your career.

If you are an infrastructure geek as I once was then you are faced with similar choices today. For example, a question I get all the time is “Have I missed the boat on VMware?” I know it may seem like a silly question. vSphere is the best overall technical solution for virtualized environments – today. Timing is critical, Novell was the best network operating system in the late 90’s/00’s but got over took by Microsoft and Linux. Has vSphere reached it market apex? Is a pivot underway to a new next great infrastructure technology career path? An engineer undertaking a long and expensive journey to gain VMware vSphere skills, may not pay the same dividends as it did just a few short years ago.

I used my Cisco/Novell comparison for a reason. They didn’t compete for customers but they did compete for system engineering talent. The same engineers who considered Novell’s CNE certification were the same engineers capable of achieving Cisco certification. Choosing training in Cisco technologies vs. pursuing updating my NetWare certifications lead to opportunities in a hot period of the market. The options for investing in your technical infrastructure career today are similar. OpenStack, DevOpps, Network Virtualization (SDN), Public Cloud manager, Cloud Infrastructure Engineering and similar roles compete for your personal resources. With that is the question of which careertechnology path is the winner?

It’s a different answer for each person. I’ve always used an emotional gauge for making this decision. I’ve learned over the years, to invest in technologies I find compelling and interesting. It’s not a perfect approach. I’ve picked some long term losers such as Novell NetWare over Windows NT initially. However, it has served me well over the long-haul of my career.

Published by Keith Townsend

Now I'm @CTOAdvisor

6 thoughts on “Guessing the next big technology career path

  1. My thoughts have always been: choose technologies over vendors. Yes, it’s true putting in the time to see how different vendors implement a technology takes time. But it is usually worth it. If only if that makes you understand that one vendor you choose even better.

    I do the same with purchasing hardware: no vendor lock-in, choose vendor neutral technologies.

    Software is the application, I can’t always choose the application. The user/customer does.

    But it can be virtualized. 😉

    Actually, some hardware can be virtualized now too. But at some point you need hardware to run it on.

  2. Since 2006 (through 10/2013) I’ve gathered once-per-week proprietary statistics on IT job opening search results at several job boards (Monster, Indeed, Career Builder, Dice to name some that I’ve tracked). Example search terms: VMware, Hyper-V, XenApp, MCSE as well as boolean searches such as Citrix and MCSE.

    The purpose of the exercise was to track where technology job growth was occurring so I didn’t tie my career path to something that might have been interesting to me but had no future.

    From a virtualization job opening standpoint VMware-related job openings showed gigantic growth from 01/2009-01/2010 for Indeed and 01/2009-10/2012 for Dice as examples. Then the number of VMware job openings plateaued and continued to plateau since. That plateauing likely had to do primarily with effects from the Great Recession and to a much lesser extent from the effects of VMware’s VRam Tax which allowed VMware’s competitors to gain a foothold with some customers. Microsoft Hyper-V related jobs had significant growth in job openings between 01/2010-10/2012 and then also plateaued quickly to the level of about 1/9th the number of job openings of VMware job openings.

    In fact, there has been a plateauing of job growth openings in many of the search terms I’ve tracked. That may be due to my search terms needing upgrading (such as separately tracking VCloud Director and OpenStack as additional search terms) as well as the pace of the overall economy after the Great Recession, so far, has also somewhat plateaued.

    One search term continues going up after a period of plateauing — PowerShell. No surprise there.


  3. I am a software developer with years of experience. Wish to shift to cloud\virtualization admin. Could you please advice. Have a passion for configuring systems and interaction with real world.

    1. A great resource for developers looking to learn more about infrastructure is vBrownbag. They have a DevOps feel to their content and is great resource for cross pollination of the two cultures.

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