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.

By Toni Bowers

Toni Bowers is the former 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.