Recently my development team was approved to receive Pluralsight subscriptions. I’ve been an advocate of Pluralsight’s training since joining the team and am pleased to see the company support my coworker’s training and education.
Having been a subscriber of Pluralsight for several years, I was asked to give a demo of how to use the site.
Before giving a user’s demo and showing people how to use Pluralsight effectively, I took the opportunity to give a short talk to my coworkers about career development and why Pluralsight is important to me for helping my career development.
Why Pluralsight is important for my career
First, let me give a big Kudos to Karth and Mike for working to make Pluralsight subscriptions available to our team.
For a few minutes I’m going to talk about what career development means to me, talk about my career, which I hope will give insight to how I see Pluralsight relating to career development and how Pluralsight can help you in your career and job performance.
As many of you know I’ve been a proponent of online training and of Pluralsight in particular. I’ve subscribed to Pluralsight for three years. So, as one may say, I put my money where my mouth is. I have subscribed (and do) subscribe to other online training sites. But, hands down, Pluralsight is the best in its class.
One of the foundations to be successful in your job and in your career—note that I differentiate the two, your job is not necessarily your career—one of the foundations to having a successful career is having good skill sets.
Pluralsight is about building your career and helping you become successful at your job.
So why have I paid for my own subscription the past three years? What makes Pluralsight valuable for me? As you understand why I find Pluralsight valuable, I hope some of the lessons I’ve learned will give you consideration and thought of how Pluralsight can help you.
To answer that question of value, let me say that I have a perspective of career which likely differs from most of you.
I’ve now reached the 40 year milestone of writing software. I really did get started writing software using punch cards. I started on the university mainframe, writing Fortran IV programs for electrical engineering projects.
In my career, I’ve had many jobs. From writing PL1, APL, and 370 assembler at IBM, to assembler on a variety of microprocessors at NCR, to OS work on DOS, OS/2, Windows, Unix, and working on large framework development at NCR and Microsoft.
What have I learned in 40 years about career development?
One thing is: Your employer owns your job, you own your career.
Your career is your passion, what motivates you to get up in the morning, what you find interesting to work on, what roles you like to be in. Your job is the assignments given by management and business to get a product or project developed. When your career interests align with your job assignments, life is good. When they don’t, life sucks.
YOU usually initiate and follow a career change. Your employer initiates and directs job changes.
When I think about career and job, I ponder these three questions for myself:
Who are you?
What do you want?
Where are you going?
I hated my first job at IBM. As the project progressed, I realized I did not like the location, the work environment, the company culture, and felt my job assignments were out of alignment of where the industry was moving and where my interests lay. I needed to make a career change.
I quit IBM to join NCR in the Point of Sale division. The jobs and projects at NCR aligned with my career interests and goals: operating system work, communications protocol, distributed computing. I enjoyed the travel and the team-lead responsibilities.
But remember, the company owns your job, and there may come a day when:
The avalanche has already started- it is too late for the pebbles to vote.
What does that mean? After a decade at NCR, decisions were made by management 3 levels above me to close the facility and relocate to Atlanta Ga.
Because of my skillsets and past work, I was offered a choice to relocate to Columbia, SC to a newly formed office products division, or to relocate to Atlanta Ga to the POS division, or go my own way and become sucked into an apocalyptic economic black hole that sucked the life blood from a community as the major employer of a small town closed operations.
My career choice was to do different work on different operating systems and application development. My career choice opened job opportunities I would never had if I stayed in the POS division. And those job opportunities opened new career choices in later years.
At the end of the 90’s, the .DOT com boom was in full swing, and NCR was going in directions I no longer cared to follow. My passion was Windows. NCR’s interests lay in trying to enter customer relationship management software, developing software in Java and Unix. NCR had many stumbles, and experienced much turmoil.
NCR job assignments and business directions were totally mismatched with my career goals.
After 20 years with NCR, I jumped and joined a .dotcom startup in Columbia, developing eCommerce web sites and doing performance work.
But, in two years: The avalanche has already started- it is too late for the pebbles to vote.
The dotcom boom was turning to the dotcom bust. The startup company burned through its venture capital. Came into work one morning, was told “Dan, you can’t work here anymore.” Three months later, the entire company collapsed.
But, my prior career choices, and the kind of work I was passionate about, and the acquired skillsets in the dotcom startup company helped me land a job with Microsoft in Findlay.
But, always remember: You own your career and make decisions to facilitate getting into positions you want in your career, The company owns your job.
I loved my career and job in Microsoft. But, in 2004, The avalanche has already started- it is too late for the pebbles to vote.
Microsoft executives three levels above decided to consolidate operations in Redmond and close the Findlay facility.
My career goals were aligned with the job Microsoft was offering in relocating to Redmond. My personal and life goals were not. In this case, my personal and life goals overruled the career goals.
So what are some lessons I learned in 40 years?
Job skills matter.
Career is knowing what you want and acquiring the job skills for those goals.
Luck is sometimes said to being in the right place at the right time.
But luck is almost always coupled with having the correct skillset to fulfill your employer’s needs.
Sometimes the position a person wants is gotten through backdoor channels—of being friends with, or being related to, or by sleeping with someone higher in the organization making the hiring and promotion decisions. (I say this seriously because I’ve seen it happen several times.)
But, thankfully, most of the time “luck” is being at the right place at the right time, and having the right skill sets.
And if luck doesn’t happen for you, if you’ve maintained marketable skillsets, you can make your luck happen somewhere else.
As it’s been said, “If you can’t change your job, change your job.”
Early in my career, about everything I needed to know could be found an a few books: Assembler, The C Programming Language by Kernigan and Ritchie, and a few protocol specifications for bisync, tcp/ip, and X.25.
Today, the skill sets needed to do our jobs as software developers are much wider and numerous.
Want to party with Windows client technology? You’ll need skills in Winforms, WPF / XAML, WCF, Debugging tools.
Work with a database? Usually the developer has a dual role of being the database administrator, of making decisions of well written table schemas and stored procedures. Of course, ensuring performance doesn’t suck. Oh, and you probably have to know something about ORMs.
Are you going to deploy to cloud?
What are your security concerns? Encryption, Cross Site Scripting vulnerabilities, etc. etc.
Netscape founder and Venture Capitalist Marc Andreesen wrote in 2011,
“Software is steadily eating the world, disrupting and transforming industries like music, retail, and more. In 1999 there were only 50 million internet users, compared to 2 billion PC users and 5 billion phone based internet users today.
And keep in mind, Andreesen said that three years ago. Certainly, those figures have significantly increased.
So I pose the three questions to you again, in context for your career.
Who are you? Meaning, What are you passionate about? Development? Testing? Infrastructure? Client UI? Web UI? Server back end? Database? Security? Performance? Mobile computing? Gaming?
What do you want? Meaning, What do you want out of your career in the next 30 to 40 years?
A 8 – 5 job? Leadership and influence? Development? Project Management? Architect? Well known author / speaker? Influencer in your organization? Do you like to travel? Work in a R&D company, a “D” company, or be a contractor? Do you want to be a well known consultant? (like Michael Collier)
Where are you going? Meaning, do you plan to stay in your job? What happens when your job changes due to technology, market, or economic changes—what would you like to do? Where do you want to rise in the organization? What kind of role do you want in the organization?
And biased from my past experience,
When, not if, an avalanche starts, will you be in a position to cope or will you become buried?
I see several emerging trends in the software industry. Pluralsight helps me to be better at my current job, and it helps me learn more and be more prepared to work in a world changed by those evolving trends in the next five to ten years.
The big trends I see are
Cloud computing; mobile / tablet based business computing, distributed computing (Moore’s law is being reached and we are now increasing scalability by scaling out to multiple servers and using enterprise software patterns in messaging, and implementing patterns like CQRS.)
Security will play a role of increasing importance, as more security breaches happen, and more user data and money flow on the internet.
We are becoming a surveillance state: Not meant in the context of NSA—that’s a different topic—what I mean is companies are collecting more and more data about us.
For example, retailers are using motion sensors (similar to Kinect) in stores to track customer interest in items, seeing what items customers pick up, inspect, and put back on the shelf, vs. put in their shopping cart. Retailers want to know what you considered buying, but didn’t. Companies are collecting data on purchasing patterns, collecting data for marketing purposes on viewed TV shows, which more easily done now that more people are moving to internet provided viewing, vs. off the air antenna viewing, as was predominate 30 years ago.), and then there is social media usage and trends, etc. etc. And consider the commercial use of drones and automotive—the software needed to navigate. Awesomeness for software developers.
As more and more data is collected, Big Data and data analytics will become more in demand: Skill sets in cloud computing with massive database server farms, using technology stacks like Hadoop, NoSQL, document databases like MongoDB, and software patterns like Map / Reduce will increase in usage and demand.
What are your career goals? Each individual needs to reach into themselves and give thoughtful consideration on what they enjoy doing, how to be more effective in what they do, and to, perhaps, widen their minds in the possibilities of how their career can develop.
I like Pluralsight because it helps inform me, it broadens my perspective of the possible, it inspires me;
If you only listen to the courses, you are short changing yourself. You become informed, to a degree. You can improve on a job skill.
But, I encourage you to read the course comments to see what others have to say about the course, and often you’ll find additional resources related to the topic.
Try to learn what you can about some of the authors. Read their blogs to drill deeper into information that they are expert in. Learn what you can about their career paths, to see the possibilities which you may want to pursue for yourself.
Knowing their career paths, seeing what they are doing in the industry, can be inspirational to the possibilities. What you learn about how others have managed their careers may blow you away.
Several authors I personally know. Talked with at different user group events– CodeMash, CodeStock, regional Days of Dotnet, and StirTrek. Several authors I’m familiar with their work, going back to early internet days and exchanging messages with them on the COM / DCOM mailing lists, and taking their courses when they were instructors at company called Developmentor.
It’s inspiring to see how people who were developers 25 years ago are now co owners of successful startup companies. It’s inspiring to see how someone (Iris Classon) who was a dietician three years ago is now a well known speaker, blogger, and has taken on high visibility jobs at Telerik and GalaSoft.
David Starr, who I met attending his half day session on Agile process development, three years ago at Codemash, has gone from doing training like that, to working at DevDiv in Microsoft on the tooling team, to now, recently announced, to become the Chief Operating Officer at Scrum.Org.
Let me close this discussion with the following point:
Seldom in life do you get something for free.
As my father told me, and I told my son, you get 12 years of free education. The motivation of how you use it must come from within. What you learn needs to be in line with your passions, goals, and dreams. You’ll never get 12 years of free education again in your life. How you take advantage of that free education is up to you. No one can force you to study.
You can use that free education to the max to become the best you can be to help drive where you want to go in life. Or you can waste that free gift, and likely regret that that decision for many years
And such it is with Pluralsight.
You have been given a freebie.
Maybe you’re career path hasn’t been in your thoughts much. Maybe it doesn’t matter to you. But if it does, I encourage you to try out your subscription, explore the courses and learn.
My career is important enough to pay for my own subscription, buy books, and attend conferences and network with other software developers.
Hopefully, your career development is important enough for you to take advantage of a free subscription.
And hopefully, I haven’t sounded too preachy or shouted too loudly from the soap box. My goal was to give you pause and thoughtful consideration.
Many of you have 30 to 40 years ahead of you in your career. Consider and give thoughtful consideration to what you like, where you want to go, and the possibilities. Think about how staying current and broadening your skills will help get you where you want to be.
And in doing that, our team will improve, better meet business goals, and be less likely to face some future avalanche event.
I’m 110% certain the software industry will transform in incredible ways in the next three to four decades—significantly more than it has in my career.
How will those transformations unfold?
I can speculate, but honestly can’t say I care as much as you should care– My path will be different than yours.
In five to ten years I’ll be retired. In thirty to forty years, I’ll be dead.
And with all that to think about, let’s move to exploring Pluralsight!!