At some point (or at many points) in the life of a busy business IT consultant, the inevitable question arises:
“What technology / technology stack / vendor product suite” should I learn?”
Or a variation:
“I’m looking at two projects. Project ‘A’ uses [insert older technology stack here] and project ‘B’ is using [insert newer/different technology stack here]. Project ‘A’ just finished and learned a lot, but ‘B’ uses a technology that isn’t as common. Project ‘A’ is offering to keep me on with the common but older technology, and ‘B’ offers an newer, but less common technology.
So…Should I stick with ‘A’, go with ‘B’, or train myself to do ‘C’ and get a project doing that?” (Yes, I do actually get this type of question a lot.)
Sound complicated? It can be, especially as your career builds and more opportunities open up to you. If the scenario is a bit vexing, my apologies. But, I needed to find some way to share this with you today; I get variations of this question sooooo…. often. In fact, I’ve faced it myself numerous times.
So let’s break it down. Do you stay with a contract and a known quantity, change to a different contract with an unknown (or lesser known) quantity, or do something different altogether? Oh the dilemma of it all!
Before sharing a few hard-earned insights, I want to suggest not locking yourself into any particular technology stack. If you’re talking about big programming languages such as oh…Java … or…oh….NET for example, bets are pretty safe that both will be around for some time to come. (No flame wars here guys and gals. We’re not picking sides…)
But we’re not talking about big programming frameworks here. The questions we’re answering revolve around more boutique and often highly specialized technologies and big enterprise vendor products such as Oracle Identity Manager, or Microsoft’s Forefront Identity Manager, or Sales Force, or SAP ERP, or PeopleSoft, etc. Stuff like that.
Here’s how I approach this whole issue:
Something to keep in mind is that just because you don’t hear a particular vendor talked about much anymore, does not mean that their stuff isn’t deployed in companies or governments having huge contracts with that vendor. I can think of several software companies you no longer hear about, because they’re no longer “cool” or “sexy”. But guess what? their stuff is deployed at companies with hundreds of thousands or even millions of seats! That my friends is credibility.
If I can impart one other thought before my virtual ink runs out on this article: don’t look to job boards and contract services as your main source of project information. Remember way back in the day, when jobs were advertised in papers? And remember when the old adage was “the best jobs aren’t advertised?” That’s as true today — if not truer — than it was then. Look beyond the social networks and job boards when seeking good business technology contracts.
And one other little secret before I toddle off for the evening: most of the really big important players are not out there telling $5.00/hour recruiters what their actual project needs are. No sir (or ma’am). Companies like that find their talent discretely and indirectly, and don’t make their products and architectures publicly known.
When shopping for lucrative, portfolio-building projects, know that that whole “transparency” thing being bandied about today is hooey. (Yes, I actually said “hooey”.) If Mr. or Mrs. “Big” from the XYZ corporation offers up an interesting project using a technology that you haven’t heard your friends talk about? It’s time to get interested. Really interested.
Conversely, if they’re using stuff that triggers a “that stuff is so old I didn’t know ANYONE was still using it” reaction, — well yep — time to be really interested in that too!
Now it’s your turn. What is your take on all of this? What system or processes do you use to decide between projects and/or technologies to support? Sound off in the comments below.
Good night for now…
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