As government agencies shift their focus to virtualization, automation and orchestration, cloud computing, and IT-as-a-Service, those who were once comfortable in their position as jacks-of-all-IT-trades are being forced to choose a new career paths to remain relevant.
Today, there’s very little room for “IT generalists.” A generalist is a manager who possesses limited knowledge across many domains. They may know how to tackle basic network and server issues, but may not understand how to design and deploy virtualization, cloud, or similar solutions that are becoming increasingly important for federal agencies.
But IT generalists can grow their careers and stay relevant. That hope lies in choosing between two different career paths: that of the “IT versatilist” or “IT specialist.”
The IT Versatilist
An IT versatilist is someone who is fluent in multiple IT domains. Versatilists have broadened their knowledgebase to include a deep understanding of several of today’s most buzzed-about technologies. Versatilist can provide their agencies with the expertise needed to architect and deliver a virtualized network, cloud-based services, and more.
Versatilists also have the opportunity to have to help their agencies move forward by mapping out a future course based on their familiarity surrounding the deployment of innovative and flexible solutions. This strategic support enhances their value in the eyes of senior managers.
The IT Specialist
Like versatilists, IT specialists have become increasingly valuable to agencies looking for expertise in cutting edge technologies. However, specialists focus on a single IT discipline, such as a specific application. For example, a specialist might have a very deep grasp of security or storage, but not necessarily expertise in other adjacent areas.
Still, specialists have become highly sought-after in their own right. A person who’s fluent in an extremely important area, like network security, will find themselves in-demand by agencies starved for security experts. This type of focus can nicely complement the well-rounded aspect that versatilists bring to the table.
Where does that leave the IT generalist?
Put simply – on the endangered list.
The government is making a major push toward greater network automation. Yes, this helps takes some items off the plates of IT administrators – but it also minimizes the government’s reliance on human interference. Those who have traditionally been “keeping the lights on” might be considered replaceable commodities in this type of environment.
If you’re an IT generalist, you’ll want to expand your horizons to ensure that you have a deep knowledge and expertise of IT constructs in at least one relevant area. Relevant disciplines will most likely center on things like containers, virtualization, data analytics, OpenStack, and other new technologies.
Training on these solutions will become essential, and you may need to train yourself. Attend seminars or webinars, scour educational books and online resources, and lean on vendors to provide additional insight and background into particular products and services.
Whatever the means, generalists must become familiar with the technologies and methodologies that are driving federal IT forward. If they don’t, they risk getting left out of future plans.
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