Great coding skills and an eccentric personality once guaranteed success in the IT industry. Today, it takes more than just knowing your bits from your bytes and a cool pocket protector to get ahead. As technology has evolved, so have the expectations of computer professionals.
Highly focused geniuses who live, breathe, and dream code are becoming the exception, while well-rounded employees who can communicate effectively with non-machines (people) are in high demand. If you’re starting to feel a little stagnant in your current position and you’re ready for a positive change, here are a few ways you can leverage your IT skills for a new career:
From Old-School Programmer to Web Designer or App Programmer
Current Skills: Strong coding skills and logical thought patterns
How to Get There: Learn JAVA/J2EE, .NET, C++, HTML, SQL, & XML
Job Outlook: The demand for JAVA/J2EE, .NET programmers, and Android developers is outpacing supply.
Although languages like COBOL and Assembler are no longer in demand, you learned more than just syntax while you were working with those legacy mainframe systems. You might have to learn a few new languages and adjust to new platforms, but your top-down coding strategies and logical thought patterns still have value whether you choose to develop websites or become a mobile-app programmer.
From Lead Programmer to Application Manager
Current Skills: Great organizational, analytical, and project-management skills
How to Get There: With your current employer, request additional responsibilities and take a series of business and project management classes. If you’re applying at a new company, highlight your management qualifications. Some companies may prefer an MBA.
Job Outlook: The demand for technical managers is second only to JAVA/J2EE coders.
If you have the following qualities, a promotion to application manager is the next logical step:
- Detail oriented
- Highly organized
- Able to delegate
- Can meet deadlines
- Ability to effectively communicate at all levels
- Great leadership skills
As an application manager, you’ll still get your hands dirty during the coding and testing process, but one of your goals will be to develop a skilled team that you can rely on.
From SQL Genius to Data Modeler
Current Skills: SQL, PL/SQL, Oracle, MS-SQL Server
How to Get There: Develop database-design skills and analytical abilities
Job Outlook: As the need for information and complex statistics increases, so will the need for data modelers.
To make the move from exceptional SQL programmer to expert data modeler, you will need to become proficient in designing databases for efficient storage, retrieval, and manipulation of complicated data. The entity-relationship diagram and the ability to normalize tables for efficiency without going to an unusable extreme will be your most important tools for both design and communication.
From CICS Programmer to User Experience (UX) Designer
Current Skills: Expert at designing online screens for internal users
How to Get There: Develop skills in information architecture, user research, visual design, information design, interaction design, copywriting, and editing.
Job Outlook: This fairly new position has been created as more companies feel the need to give their customers a value-added online experience. Demand is expected to generate a 7.8% increase in starting salaries over the next few years.
As a UX Designer, it is your job to create an engaging online experience for customers. Although you won’t develop the website at a coding level, you will work closely with the development team to ensure a user-friendly product with smooth navigation and content that adds true value for the customer.
From Systems Analyst to Business Consultant
Current Skills: Systems knowledge combined with great analytical and communication skills
How to Get There: Develop detailed business knowledge and an ability to communicate with both technical and non-technical business units in terms they can easily understand.
Job Outlook: Because the need for technical workers with business expertise is rising, business consultant positions are expected to increase. Motivated IT workers can even branch off and start their own consulting firms once they develop a reputation of excellence as a business consultant.
Back in the day, the IT department employed high-tech workers who were mainly concerned with computer-speak while the business units knew how to run the company and generate income. As technology expanded into every single area of business, this is no longer the case.
In companies that are extremely reliant on technology for every facet of the operation, IT workers often become the repository of all information – including how the business runs. To bridge this gap, the business consultant becomes an expert in both areas and develops the ability to communicate appropriately with coworkers at all levels and in all departments.
To be successful in the IT world, treat your skill set like any other resource and upgrade. Instead of being left behind with little hope of a salary increase or job security, you can step in to fill a need and earn the big bucks. Here’s one more thing to keep in mind: If you plan to make the change at your current company, the best way to get a promotion is to show that you’re already doing the job.