Looking forward: career trends

What will you be doing in 2008? Chances are it's not the same thing you're doing today. Major shifts will dramatically affect IT organizations - particularly the network teams - over the coming months and years. The good news? The dog days of summer are the perfect time to kick off your shoes, sip a cold beverage and do some in-depth personal career planning. Here's a short list to jump-start the process:

Managed WAN services arise. Several large companies, including some I consider bellwether organizations, are cutting as much as 75% of their WAN staffs, particularly in the area of day-to-day network operations.

The rationale? WANs have become commodities, as carriers increasingly offer reliable managed WAN services. Several senior-level executives have told me in recent months, "I don't want to be in the business of day-to-day WAN operations - period."

Sounds scary, but the impact on Joe and Jane Network Engineer isn't necessarily all bad.

True, if your primary value to your company lies in your ability to decipher router commands, you may want to start perusing the want ads. But chances are you can do more than that. If you're a WAN guru, you'll want to join the architecture team, which will become even more important. If you're better at understanding and communicating technology, you may want to consider a position in vendor-management or procurement. Finally, you may want to consider one of the areas below, where most IT organizations are increasing staff.

Real-time collaboration emerges. Organizations large and small are jumping on the collaboration bandwagon, as evidenced by the increasing number of firms that have newly appointed executives overseeing collaborative services. "VP, Collaboration Services" is an increasingly popular title - and these folks are rapidly building teams. If you've been getting familiar with products such as Microsoft's Live Communications Server, Cisco's Unified Personal Communicator and similar products from Nortel, Avaya, Shoretel and others, you may want to consider getting into the collaboration space.

Data centers evolve. One exciting development is the creation of a data center architect who oversees a team responsible for all aspects of data center design and planning (facilities, HVAC, networking, security, management). Some of the most interesting technologies are getting rolled out in data centers, and it's a good area for ambitious network folks.

Information stewardship gains momentum. Leading-edge enterprises are getting serious about spending on information stewardship - the art and science of managing information end to end in a company. Areas for specialization include information protection, which encompasses data security, compliance and business continuance.

Project management expertise is increasingly important. Anyone with a track record of successful project management can find roles to play in all of the abovementioned areas - whether it's WAN deployment, real-time collaboration rollout, data center consolidation (or expansion), or information stewardship initiatives.

The bottom line? We're in a transition period - and transition brings opportunity as well as uncertainty. The key to success is planning ahead - and you've already started by reading this. May your strategies bear fruit.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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