Software-Defined Shifts: The Evolution of IT Career Paths

Chris Wolf, Chief Technology Officer, Americas at VMware

Chris Wolf, Chief Technology Officer, Americas at VMware

Today, I made my return to Virtualization Review as a regular contributor and monthly columnist. I was one of the original columnists when the magazine first launched and am very excited about “coming home.” Of course, I’m not leaving my day job and plan to share insights from my conversations with a variety of CxOs across the Americas on a far more regular basis. That will also include monthly thoughts right here on Radius as well.

My virtualization review column focuses on the inevitable shifts to simpler, more modular and dynamic IT infrastructure solutions, both for cloud and traditional IT. I also blogged about the shift in IT architectural principles last year, comparing the way we think about buying all core infrastructure services to the same way we buy servers today (i.e., not caring so much about what’s inside so long as it meets the proper cost, SLA, and support requirements). Increasingly going forward, IT operations skills will shift from critical plumbing to critical integration and software development. The rate at which this transition will occur will largely be driven by business agility and efficiency (including cost) requirements, and the motivation of those in the IT ranks.

Transitioning to a more agile IT environment can be accelerated when all IT members see the path forward in terms of how their own careers will evolve in a positive way. Take a network security administrator, for example. Some security administrators have a narrowly scoped job. They come to work, log in to a ticketing system, open a support ticket, process a rules change request or pull an audit log, close the ticket, and repeat the process over again. No one got into IT security with the expectation that they would practically be doing factory work. The time some get to research threats or consider automated countermeasures is practically nonexistent, save for perhaps attending RSA Conference once a year if they’re lucky. Now consider if that same computer security professional got to live on the front lines of security every day because the more mundane parts of the job have been automated. That’s career progression. Virtualization administrators might find themselves evolving to also take on management of additional virtual and physical objects at massive scale, such as Internet of Things (IoT) gateways.

CIOs also need to carefully evaluate their own role in the organization. Most CIOs are faced with spending too much of their time “keeping the lights on,” which leaves not nearly enough time for partnering with business leaders to help drive digital innovation. That has caused CEOs and business leaders to view the CIO as important, but not nearly as relevant as the role should be in driving innovation forward, safely and securely. That was evidenced clearly in the CIO Magazine 2016 State of the CIO Survey, which highlighted significant data showing the evolution of the CIO role to one that is far more strategic and less operational.

Evolving IT to be a business agility enabler starts with getting across-the-board buy-in of each team member’s future. The table below offers some examples.tableWhile every organization and every role is slightly different in terms of responsibilities, all of us in IT have a future that is more dynamic and more exciting. We are leveraging and integrating newer, more modular and scalable solutions at a pace faster than ever.

We’re at the start of a new year, and it’s the perfect time to resolve to evolve. The first step is to clearly identify the business challenges you need to solve. Then identify the technology requirements and map how existing roles can evolve to meet those requirements or determine what outside skills may be required. VMware Accelerate Services is deeply skilled in these concepts and can help get you there faster.

I hear urgency in nearly every business leader I meet with. I spent New Year’s Eve with the CFO of a major northeast hospital network, and his top concern was the amount of patients seeking healthcare services at local retailers. His biggest disruptor isn’t another hospital, but a retailer, and he sees greater healthcare innovation and quality patient care as his differentiators going forward. Hopefully in reading this, you are thinking of the disruption you face. We all have a great technological future and every organization has the potential to evolve and uplift the careers of the entire IT team, but only if we evolve fast enough to remain in business when the future arrives.