There was a time when personal reinvention was something you did only in the face of a major life event, like losing your job or a divorce. But as the Internet has grown larger, the world has grown smaller, and competition has grown fiercer, we should explore the possibility of reinventing ourselves every year or two. It’s no longer a recovery technique—it’s a career and life management tool.
Plenty of books and blogs help with techniques; what many lack is advice on where to focus your efforts: Where do you start? What’s your roadmap?
Fortunately, you don’t have to figure out the answers to those questions alone. You’re surrounded by people and systems that can help.
A great place to start is the organization you work for. Ask yourself this: Do you know how your company makes money? Better yet, do you know how you do or can help your company make money? I know, these seem like obvious questions, and you may believe you know the answers. But do you know them well enough to formalize them in writing and show them to your peers? Your manager? Would you show them to your boss’s boss? How has the picture changed in the last year, and how will it change over the next 12 months?
You see, whether they like it or not, the application economy is forcing most businesses to change—radically. Organizations that don’t adapt will wither and fade away. Kodak created the first digital camera but shelved it due to fears that it would undercut film sales. Blockbuster tried to buy out Netflix and doubled down on BlueRay, rightly predicting that streaming media would undercut its DVD business. Xerox invented many technologies we use today but didn’t exploit them for fear that they would undercut their photocopier business. See a theme here? Fear and protection of old business models will always lose out to courage and forward-thinking.
We in IT may think we’re safe—after all, IT is causing the change, right? But it’s not just the nature of business that’s changing—the nature of IT is changing. Whereas IT used to focus inward and was considered necessary overhead for running the business (like typewriters to my father’s generation), IT has moved closer to customers and is strategic to the business.
What we do no longer affects just internal operations; we affect the customer directly. And vice versa: Customers have a more direct and daily impact on what IT delivers and how we deliver it.
This shift means that our jobs are constantly changing. The skills, knowledge, and tools that used to serve you well are now out of date—or soon will be. To determine which skills, knowledge, and tools you now need, look to your company’s evolution, find out what has already changed and determine what changes are around the corner.
Next time I talk with you, I’ll spell out a plan of action. In the meantime, if you want to chew the fat or comment about this post, comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.