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What should you consider before changing your IT focus?

A TechRepublic member wants to switch IT specialties but is afraid that he might be going backward. We offer him some advice.

I received an email from a TechRepublic member who is seeking advice about switching focuses in his IT career:

I have been working in Telecom as a software developer for six years now. At the beginning of my career I did work in embedded for about two years. Now I find my self wanting to switch back to embedded/device drivers. Is it advisable to make such a switch after quite a few years of experience in the IT industry? Would it in any way hamper my career with such a move?

In order to answer this question, I began by asking Justin James, who writes for our Programming and Development blog, his opinion.

He said, "Would I call it 'advisable'? Not really. Unless your current specialty is on the decline, there is no need to make the switch. Unless you see otherwise, the pay rates are probably going to be the same. Up front you might have to take a pay cut due to lack of experience in the new field. In the long run, it may pay off to have a broader scope of experience, but that's long-term thinking and it's too hard to predict these things more than a year or two out. At the same time, other than having to start in a new industry and learn some new things, it may be worth a bit of a pay cut just to do something new and different. There should not be a substantial negative affect on his career other than the short term pay cut and the loss of seniority in your current job."

Here's my opinion: Six years may seem like a lot of time but in the grand scheme of things, it's really not. Some people make complete career changes to entirely other fields with more time than that under their belts. My advice would be to go where your heart is. If you really think that working with embedded/device drivers is something that would be more fulfilling or that you would find more interesting, then that's the way I would suggest you go. No one would deny the pleasure of a good salary, but if you earn it doing something you aren't really invested in, then, believe me, it won't make you happy.

The good news is that you have already had a taste of the specialty you want to move into. If you find it beckoning you again, then something tells me that's where your heart and interests lie.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

8 comments
TGGIII
TGGIII

I echo TOni's sentiment and encourage you to listen to Marcus Buckingham's 'The One Thing You Need ot Know,' to get more advice about aligning your career to your strengths. Regards,

david.walker2
david.walker2

I love what I do as a Software Engineer (I say "programmer"), and I like the company I work for. I've been doing essentially the same job, for different employers, for over 25 years. Unfortunately, due to the impending retirement of the product I work on, I'm going to have to start relearning some skills that have atrophied over the last few years, and adding new skills. I want to be able to move to a new product, as opposed to moving to a new company. This means I have to now take time out of an already-full schedule to start the training / retraining. On the up side, the company seems amenable to this. It may be a sad commentary on me, but I really am what I do The bottom line is, as I've said for many years: If your job is just a job, you need another job.

franceshd
franceshd

Your reply caught my attention because it seems that I am going to have to change my focus because I am a remnant of the 20th century. 1978-1996 worked in NCR mainframe NEAT/3 and COBOL co. Next sas changing to IBM IBM AS400. Said all software would be off the shelf and would no longer need programmers. All 4 programmers were being reassigned (network, PC repair, help desk). I loved programming and wanted to continue as such. Without looking but through networking word of mouth, within a month got a job 6 blocks from old position. From 1996 thru 2007 they used COBOL. In 2008 they switched to a data base and we (3 of us) learned SQL and Crystal Reports. They are ok. I just LOVE programming. Like your quote, my job was NOT just a job. It is a BIG part of who I am. (In fact, I once missed a date because I was so engrossed in a project and lost track of time!) Well, due to budget cuts, I was RIF'ed in April. There is NOTHING local with COBOL or CR, everything seems to be JAVA, .NET or management. Hindsight is 20/20 and I should have kept myself more up to date. I feel like a useless dinosaur.

williamleung
williamleung

We all spending most of our life time in day-to-day job. I will not regret to work on something make me feel fulfilling, happy and interested which financially enough to support my living.

richard.artes
richard.artes

Of course you should consider it. Don't take the safe option and stick with something that doesn't make you happy! If eveyone did that... Arnold Schwarzenngger would still be an actor! (What? He still is?!?)

ksec2960
ksec2960

About 4 years ago I changed career paths entirely. I had been doing Graphic Design for about 12 years since I graduated from HS. At the time I was looking for a new job. A entry level position opened up for a Network Administartor where a friend of mine worked. I had always been interested in Networking so I decided to take the leap. Needless to say I am much happier I absolutely love what I do and after taking the initial pay cut I am making more or about the same now than I would have, had I stayed in the Design Field.

camilo.carvajalino
camilo.carvajalino

In this cases is important work to define: if we are running away from situations and challenges or we are working to align our job and profession with our profesional goals. Many people change their jobs even in the same areas like a boat without rudder, others (like me) starts as software engineers, change to IT directors and project managers and now and by the moment works as IT Leadership consultant. The challenge is to work searching coherence between our goals and our professional life (even personal life). And personally I belive that there is not a guideline applicable in the same way for eaverybody.

RodNichols5
RodNichols5

I was a mainframe COBOL programmer for about 12 years when I decided to switch to a Java web developer. It took me about 8 years to get fully switched over but I have been a Java web developer for 4 years now and I have never looked back. I highly recommend changing if that is what you want to do, it is never too late and it is worth the time and effort.