A Career in IT: Is It “All Ball Bearings Nowadays?”

Posted on January 21, 2014. Filed under: Career Management, CIO, Consulting/Contracting, Job Market Trends, Work Issues |

toon346It’s all ball bearings nowadays

In case you aren’t a Fletch junkie like me, this line is delivered by Chevy Chase in this “epic” film, where the main character Fletch (played by Chase) is an investigative journalist working undercover. At one point, he pretends to be an aircraft technician working in an aircraft hangar. Two other technicians, who begin to doubt his “technical knowledge,” ask him a technical question, to which he famously replies, “It’s all ball bearings nowadays.”

It’s one of those classic movie scenes that, if you are like me, you can use to annoy friends and family whenever some situation arises that even slightly remotely seems to fit the line.

Today, I want to use it to talk about some changes occurring in the IT job market that are shifting the landscape of what it means to have a “career in IT.”

Right now there seems to be two camps, and they aren’t necessarily opposed to one another. One says that the IT job market is ripe for non-IT people because soft skills are paramount. The other says those with true tech knowledge (and industry experience…and a desire to be more in “management”) will be moved into other business areas within the organization with a dotted line back to old “IT.” Together, these camps create a new image for the IT career path.

Below is more of an overview of these two camps:

The Ball Bearings Camp

In this camp, non-techies are welcome, if not courted. The general belief is that anybody can learn IT…at least enough of it to get by (while the rest is outsourced to service providers anyway…the true “techies”). What matters most is that you are smart and execution oriented. Here are some key attitudes that are now starting to take hold in this arena (right or wrong, good or bad):

  • Soft skills are more important than tech skills.
  • Non-tech people can learn IT “on the fly.”
  • Business intelligence is an avenue into the tech world.
  • We can never have too many project managers.

The general advice is to brush up on some IT “lingo” (aka computer code) and sell, sell, sell those communication and fast-learning skills.

The “IT Is Everywhere” Camp

In this camp, it is IT that is taking over organizations, and tech knowledge in combination with business acumen/industry experience is king. IT pros are branching out across the organization into marketing, logistics, and other functions outside of IT into more strategic business partner roles. No longer is the path to CIO the only road to follow.

The end result will be departments filled with (1) IT wannabes with strong soft skills and business operations backgrounds and (2) true techies who can envision how technology impacts industry and productivity and who want more of a management or strategic role.

For those techies who want to remain in a hands-on tech experience, however, they will be pushed into contract and service provider roles, brought in to support in-house IT (who is busy “thinking” about IT..haha).

Therefore, the idea of someone “in IT” or who “knows IT” will become more and more nuanced. And separating out the depth of one’s knowledgebase will be tougher to do, so that like the two technicians in Fletch, you may have to wonder whether it really is “all ball bearings nowadays.”

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