Gold says he has a strong technical background with little business acumen, which was part of his problem. Over the past few years, he realized that he wanted to make more money than the salary technical skills commanded. Tech salaries have been under assault from cheap foreign labor for years. Even worse, Gold figures a majority of technical skills are now easily commoditized and able to be shipped elsewhere. "The day of the IT expert is a thing of the past," he says.
Yet this doesn't mean the end of the tech career, rather a change in the skill sets that make it up. Gold believes business skills coupled with technical ones can guard against offshoring, outsourcing, and even H-1B competition. "Very few IT people can tell you the business strategy, and they are good candidates for the outsourcing model," he says.
And so Gold has been pursuing his MBA for the past three years and plans to earn the coveted business degree this spring. "The U.S. tech worker is going to have to become a lot more cognizant of the underlying processes of the business that it supports," says Gold.
If the next-generation tech worker becomes business-savvy, says Gold, IT can still be a good career choice. "When our economy comes out of this, I think you will see a shortage of IT skills," he says. Even today, in this historically dismal job market, tech jobs continually beat the soaring national unemployment average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Silicon Valley colleges like Stanford University and San Jose State University haven't missed the signs, either. They are helping to shape the next-generation techie by melding business and technology courses. "Business analysis and systems analysis jobs are really the target," says Jeff Gaines, lecturer of management information systems in the college of business at San Jose State University. "Because our students have a business degree, which includes a background in IT concepts, they are suited to work in the IT or business side."
Has tech innovation left the building?
But new college course offer little comfort to today's afflicted tech veteran. Like trying to change horses in midstream, these workers face the daunting task of reinventing themselves while continuing to make money and support their families. It's a challenge, for sure, but not impossible. The key is to find opportunities in the carnage, turning disadvantage into advantage.
At the upper echelon of IT, Tony Bishop, former chief architect and senior vice president at the Wachovia bank, is finding opportunities to fill gaps caused by layoffs and project cuts. He now runs a 30-person consultancy, Adaptivity, that boasts more than a dozen clients across the globe.
Of course, Bishop had a big head start working in tech in the finance sector, a hotbed of IT innovation and intellectual property. Even as finance companies took the hit from the recession dead on, IT continues to play an important role in their survival. "Where is the most extreme type of work? It's in anything that has an instantaneous market where you have to make adjustments and accommodate fluctuating volumes," says Bishop. "That's why [financial services] has the most innovation in IT, because it needs it the most."