Do you pick your technology, or does your technology pick you?

This is one of those topics that I’ve been close to, both from an observation perspective as well as my own career.

As a “technology person”, people expect you to know everything (or learn it quickly). It’s possible to be aware of a large number of technologies but most people end up concentrating on a few specific areas that pay their bills. There are rare people that seem to pick up everything, but I’m not that person. The question for most IT people is… what technology do I focus on, and when should I decide to learn something new (or drop something that I already know/work with on a regular basis)?

It seems like there are two scenarios that play out in my mind. If you’re a consultant, you’re always trying to ride the bleeding edge of what’s in demand and what will keep you employed. If you’re working as a regular employee, you’re focused on working with whatever technology keeps you employed.

I’m going to step back into my Notes world as an example… mainly because I went through this. As a Notes developer, it was my job to make sure I knew as much as possible about Notes development. That could mean just Notes client development, but it also included web development as well as XPages as the Notes environment evolved. It used to be you could focus on Formula language and sort of ignore LotusScript. Then it was needing to know LotusScript but XPages was still a nice to have. Now it seems you have to know XPages, and client development is sinking quickly as an in-demand skill.

As a regular employee in an organization using Notes, I focused mainly on Notes client development, as we had a lot of that. When I found myself unemployed and headed into the consulting/contracting world, I found that I wished I knew more about web development, portals, XPages, etc. When I was able to get re-employed by my original company, I was back in my sweet spot of client development again.

While I would have been happy to continue to do that and push those limits, life had different ideas. We moved from Notes to SharePoint, and now SharePoint is my primary focus. Much like Notes, saying you’re a SharePoint developer can been a variety of things… out-of-the-box development, SharePoint Designer workflows, JavaScript web development, C# coding, etc.

To the point of my title… I could take a step back, decide that I think Hadoop, big data, and Python are where it’s at, and start planning my post-SharePoint technology life. I could also look at all the options available to me in the SharePoint and Office 365 world, and push myself within the arena that I’m already familiar with.

I think it’s important to keep an eye open to where IT trends are going, but no one has a crystal ball. Telling someone they need to leave their current technology may make sense from the outside looking in, but sometimes that technology picked you given where you’re at and the opportunities that are available.

Keep your eyes and your mind open to where things are going, and take a realistic look at the future of your organizational choices and your personal career. Then decide… do you need to pick your technology, or are you OK with the fact that your technology picked you?

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