Sunday, February 28, 2010

Computers have misdirected career paths

I often speak and write how computers have created many new options in career paths. Being in a software industry, i have often seen the rosy side of the computers more than the dimmer side. In a recent meeting with parents, however, i realised how computers have also misdirected parents and students.

Parents and students often get attracted to careers in IT industry, because they see all the positive picture of working in computer industry : Availability of jobs at the campuses, air-conditioned offices, postings in foreign countries, travel in exotic places and 'white collar jobs'. Like in any other real-life situation, this is just one side of the coin.

When i meet an individual who has worked in software industry for 8-10 years, though, i often see the negative picture of choosing this career path. For instance, if they fit in the typical growth path offered by companies ( Programmer>Project leader> Project manager), they love their job and grow at a rapid rate. This category is however a minority. These are the individuals who combine programming skills with man-management. For them, the companies in this industry offers opportunities to nurture & grow their skills & promotions if you can grow in them. ( As is normal in any industry, Individuals who deepen their programming skill, instead of combining it any other skills, are also better off.)

Individuals, who combine programming skill with other skills, however face tough challenges. For instance, architecting a solution requires a combination of programming skill with 1000 feet knowledge of technologies. Although this skill is recognised as important in this industry, it is not offered similar opportunities of nurturing, neither the rewards of successful growth. Even though you may be acknowledged as a good 'architect', you still have to follow the path of 'Project manager' which is not your cup of tea !

Similarly, many other skill-combinations that require a different skill in combination with programming skill, are not rewarded in these companies. For instance, domain skill of a subject say telecom with programming skill. Or positions that require combining a different thought, say about Human resource management, with programming skill.

If you happen to belong to one of these skill-combinations you are better off in working in some other industry other than computer. In other words, computer industry is as good or as bad as any other industry in terms of nurturing the growth of your skills, except when you fall in that small minority. Instead of getting tied with a 'golden cuff' in computer industry, if you have such combinations of skills, you could be better off working in a different industry.

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