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Is the New Year Really Going to Be New? - Expectations become reality

Is the New Year Really Going to Be New? - Expectations become reality

Time is passing, as that is its nature. Outside of overdone science fiction, there really is no moving backward. The future is variable-filled, uncertainty looming ahead like an audit of a badly run project. What do we dare in the coming days? What will this New Year hold for us IT professionals?

The State of the Union
Things are grim, times are tough, and there are no free lunches. If you manage to find a bird in the hand, you're probably clinging to it like grim death. Unemployment is going up - there are cutbacks, downsizing - and it doesn't seem to be getting better. In spite of the semi-boom in the war sector of the economy, Boeing is laying off scores of workers. We are still swooning from the dot-com bust. The nation doesn't have a lot of confidence in our current government leadership. Honestly, many of us are still looking over our shoulders for the next airplane-meets-skyscraper collision.

Even IT jobs are scarce compared to a short time ago. While companies are still looking for solutions and are willing to spend money on software projects, they are very unwilling to overspend. What can we do to ensure we have a continuity of income?

Step 1: Lifetime Learning
Some of us may have lost sight of this most basic feature of an IT career. You can never learn too much or acquire too many skill sets. Struggling to find work developing? There are countless other skills you may not know you have. There are still jobs up here in Seattle for DBAs, techs, system admins, network administrators - rarely for project managers. Can you still take a PC apart and recognize the moving parts?

If you have forgotten this aspect of our lives, you should look into it again - quickly. There are Oracle and Sybase training centers near most of you. Every metropolitan area has classes available for getting various kinds of certifications. There is probably no one reading this who could not find a college or university within driving or bus range. For that matter, if you have cable television, you're just a registration packet away from telecourses. And heaven forbid I should forget to mention online learning opportunities.

A year will pass, people. What skills will you have acquired by this time next year? Maybe you'll get better at analyzing your favorite TV shows; maybe you'll learn the inner workings of your mower engine; or maybe you'll acquire another marketable skill.

Learn a foreign language. There are many jobs in the Seattle area for those who can program and speak Japanese or Korean. Taking a foreign language class is only going to enhance your ability to sell yourself on the brutal open market.

Step 2: Find New Business Skills
As analysts, project managers, and developers, one of our biggest concerns should be which businesses we understand. Writing code is what many of us do well, but how do we apply it to industry? How do we sell it? The medical field is always looking for ways to save money, to do what they do more efficiently. Do you know enough to write code for a medical imaging system? I don't. I know an awful lot about how the natural gas marketing industry works. Interestingly enough, that skill set is not highly desirable in the Seattle area. In Tulsa, it was worth a fine salary. But that is an industry that is no longer on its feet.

If you can understand a business, you can begin to find the heart of why we program. You can find ways to help business owners put away the index cards and hand ledgers. Sometimes learning business skills means starting from scratch - employing analytical skills can be universal. The bills have to get paid, the inventories must be kept accurately, and the revenue has to be collected. These things are somewhat universal. Learn about the industry that you want to be a part of.

Step 3: Don't Be Trapped by Fear or Regret
One of the most horrible traps that we can fall into as we plan for the future is listening for the other shoe. If there were things that made this past year unpleasant, set them aside as you move on. It's always good to understand history - or you truly may continue having hard times. However, there is a huge difference between understanding our mistakes and wallowing in them. Set aside the things that have burdened your career and make this year a new one filled with hope. Regret is a trap that you can avoid by simply recapturing time, making choices with that in mind.

Fear is another paralyzing force. There is much to be afraid of but, ultimately, when you strip away the things that we fear, many of them are only surface deep. Will the things you fear hinder your career? Will those things stop you from becoming the best you can be in the coming year?

Plan ahead and envision yourself succeeding. There is a school of Eastern philosophical thought that distills a means of drowning out both fear and regret. In its simplest form it says: "See it, say it, and see it." First, form a personal vision; if you don't know what you want to do, see yourself as you want to be. Then begin to lay out the plan, or say it. Find out what the logistics are, how to gain the skills, make the business contacts, and find the suppliers or the buyers. Once you begin to gather information, then you can walk into the third step. See it! This is when you begin to set fears of the future aside and walk into your own dreams.

In The End
While the future is uncertain, what can be certain are the steps we take to get through it. There are many ways to walk through dark, uncertain times. Arm yourself with knowledge - learn like you've never learned before. Start to read again, find a book, a manual, or a copy of PowerBuilder Developer's Journal. And, most important, form a vision for what the New Year will be for you. You have to have an image of yourself as a success, and then dreams coming true will simply be a daily event.

More Stories By Mike Deasy

Michael Deasy is an application specialist with the State of Washington. He has been working with PowerBuilder since version 3. Mike holds an MBA from Southern a senior systems analyst for the Williams from Southern Nazarene University.

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