Having just celebrated my 39th
birthday (really, not like Jack Benny), I find myself looking at the
world, and my high-tech career, a little
differently every day. Little by little, I have realized that no matter
how much I love my work, I probably don’t want to be toting computers
and climbing under desks when I am in my 50’s. From now on, any
evaluation of my career will involve thinking of what I need to do
in the next 10 years to make sure that I am not trying to have the
career of a 30-year-old when I am 60. Maybe you are only in your 20’s
or 30’s today, but you would be wise to consider, even in the
smallest way, where you might want to be in 20 years.
You might think only Hollywood actresses have to worry about their
age and their looks, but these days anyone can be subjected to age
discrimination. Depending on your career choice, it can happen sooner
or later, but you might one day be facing a client who is 20 or 30
years your junior across the meeting table. While people like to talk
about benefits of age and wisdom, younger people don’t always
like dealing with their elders when they are trying to develop wings
of their own.
As you grow older, you can find yourself engaged in a constant battle
to maintain your status. Regardless of your skills, younger workers
will want to flex their own mental and political muscle, sometimes
at your expense. The closer you work to the “front lines” of
high-tech, training, troubleshooting and tech work, the more exposed
you will be to the slings and arrows of others. Your goal, as your
high-tech career matures, is to move yourself into positions where
you can still exercise your technology skills, while also managing
or mentoring other, younger high-tech workers.
Rising to the level of a mentor and/or well-respected manager puts
you in the position of assisting newer high-tech workers, instead of
attempting to compete with them. It only makes sense to take all that
you have learned over the years and pass it on. This doesn’t
mean you can’t/won’t get involved in some “hands-on” work,
but you won’t have to face the day-to-day crises that we all
face as high-tech workers.
Moving up, but not out
The trick to developing a career as a mentor is to start early. If
you are in the corporate world, take new team members under your
wing from the start. Everyone knows how nice it is to have a helping
in the first rough weeks of a new job. You should make it clear to
everyone that you are willing to help, whatever the problem.
In some cases, just listening to your co-workers can be a big benefit.
When I was last in a corporate environment, I had a great co-worker.
We each knew that we had someone with which to discuss ideas and
problems, especially those difficult troubleshooting issues that
without fear the co-worker would exploit that discussion for his
own benefit later. Luckily, we treated each problem like a puzzle
solving together. There were many occasions where we solved extremely
difficult, and expensive, technology issues merely by talking them
out over a cup of coffee. Relationships like this are essential to
any high-tech career. They allow you to amplify the effect you have
on companies and their employees. They also build your reputation
as someone who can get things done by using their own knowledge
knowledge of those around them.
Today, as an independent consultant, I have several people who can
assist me with specific operating systems, high-end video questions,
or network cabling issues. It usually only takes a quick instant
message, email or telephone call to discover the problem and prepare
I consider these connections one of the most important parts of my
career. More importantly, they are something that can only be gained
over time. Help out newcomers to high-tech careers by giving them
a jumpstart on these important relationships. Put out a helping
and someone is bound to accept it.
As you get older, your high-tech career should take on new angles,
new responsibilities and new ideas. Starting today, you need to keep
this idea in the back of your mind. You need to constantly think
about where you want your high-tech career to be in 10, 20, or
Before you know it, you will be there.
Comments, Questions, Reviews?