January 17, 2003
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Reader letters over the last year have had me thinking
about the exact definition of a high-tech career. Just a few years ago
it would have been easier to describe. If you worked in high-tech you
were either a programmer, in network management or tech support. Today,
though, as technology has crept further and further into our everyday
lives, high-tech workers might show up anywhere in a business, with titles
not necessarily reflecting their high-tech work. These “hybrids”
have combined their technical skills with other talents and created an
entirely new group of high-tech workers. Even more, these new hybrid jobs
might become the future of all high-tech work.
One of the most frequent questions I receive involves people who are seeking
to make a move from their existing career into high-tech. In some cases,
they have found that their current careers are not a good fit with their
temperament or desires. Others are simply looking for the monetary benefits
of working in high-tech, which traditionally pay better than most other
Whatever the reason for their change, my usual response to them is to
develop a hybrid job. It has been my experience that when you are transitioning
into a high-tech career, experience is the most important factor of all.
In order to get hired and make this career move, you need demonstrable
technology skills that provide a solution to a company. One way of developing
this experience, and your resume, is to find a position that combines
some traditional skills and knowledge with your technology skills. For
example, a para-legal might look for positions that could use their legal
skills to help develop or sell software for law offices. If you have an
engineering degree, perhaps you could become an important resource for
engineering companies who are seeking to expand the use of technology
in developing their projects. The goal is to develop a hybrid position,
which can develop your high-tech resume so that you can move into a more
“pure” high-tech position in the future.
As I was developing this column, though, I began to realize that a hybrid
job need not be just a stepping stone. As technology becomes more and
more integrated into our lives these hybrid careers may become the norm
instead of the exception. I see now that hybrid careers could help companies
better utilize technology while also helping you achieve higher levels
of job fulfillment.
Imagine being on a building project and talking to a tech support person
who understood not only the CAD program they were supporting but also
had a grounding in the basics of architecture and engineering. How about
a programmer who was able to use his/her knowledge of accounting to design
a better system for tracking budgets and expenditures? It would even work
for the network manager who had a deep understanding of the needs of salespeople
on the road, so that the corporate network was accessible no matter where
staff members traveled. There are almost no areas in business where combining
technical knowledge with another specialization would not lead to better
technology design and use.
Finding a balance
Not only does the concept of high-tech hybrids work for those entering
the high-tech world, it can also be a boon to those of you already deeply
involved in a high-tech career. Pure high-tech jobs, such as programmers,
require a very specific temperament and personality. Too often I encounter
people who have developed a high-tech career only to realize that, perhaps,
it isn’t the best fit for them.
Maybe they are spending all day developing programs to manage ATMs at
your local bank when they have little to no interest in banking. Perhaps
they are developing a network for retail stores, but have no desire to
understand the workings of this environment. This type of situation can
lead to worker dissatisfaction and quick burn out.
If you find yourself increasingly dissatisfied with your current job,
perhaps you should be investigating some form of hybrid career. If you
have a deep interest in photography, why not find a position at a company
that produces digital cameras and the software that operates them. Not
only would you be more interested in your job, the company would gain
someone who could bridge the gap between the art, science and technology
that is digital photography. Everyone wins.
You owe it to yourself to make a change. There is no reason to continue
slogging away in some generic corporate environment, working on projects
that hold no interest for you. Find a position that not only engages your
technology skills, but also your heart. This is a sure way to better your
life and your high-tech career.
Friends in Tech
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