Techlandia Issue 3 - 2019/2020 - Page 63

How many times have we heard the saying, “history repeats itself”? Throughout my career leading technology marketing organizations, I’ve discovered this rings true for business, too.

Today’s emerging technology leaders must understand that they will lead teams through cycles within their own careers. Each time a cycle progresses, chaos ensues that creates opportunities for some and leaves others behind. Part of being a leader is anticipating these cycles and navigating them with foresight.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from the cycles that occurred during my own career.

Technology is Cyclical - Be a Lifelong Student

The only constant in technology, as in life, is change. Technology leaders already know this – after all, we thrive on innovation and disruption – but what’s interesting is that technology trends often cycle back in new ways.

In the technology industry, we often discuss the move from centralized computing towards personal computing, then back again. This cycle began with the centralized computing of IBM mainframes and even mini-computers like VAX clusters or UNIX servers, then moved toward the personal computing of Windows and Mac computers and PC-based Linux servers, then back to the centralized computing of public cloud.

Technology was the driving force behind this cycle. Microprocessors, such as those from Intel, enabled the emergence of the personal computing market; then, the power of symmetric multiprocessors and multi-core processors led to the re-emergence of virtualization and cheap shared computing. Now, the rise of graphics processing units (GPUs) and mobile processors are driving some computing back to the “edge.”

I’ve seen this happen within my own career. When I joined Oracle, VMS – a mini-computer platform at the time – was our revenue-leading platform. Just three years later, UNIX took its place as our number one platform as client-server computing gained prominence. Little did I know at the time that these applications would be replaced by web browsers, or even that these backend servers would run Linux!

Business technology adoption shifts continually; as a result, I have had to actively update my own technical skills throughout my own career as a technology leader.

As we all know, the technical skills required to survive in the marketplace do change, and we must learn to keep up. How many COBOL programmers survived past the mainframe era without learning new skills? How much was a Novell NetWare certification worth past the PC era? Today’s technical gurus who think they can rely on their current AWS certifications may be in for a big surprise.

Lesson: Every technology leader who has been in business can tell similar stories of technology shifting under their feet. Today’s emerging technology leaders must keep refreshing their skillset to stay sharp in our fast-moving world, and even to stay valuable in the job market.

Purchasing Styles are CyclicaL - Financial Planning is Key

Purchasing styles have evolved along with technology and will continue to do so. Technology leaders cannot neglect financial planning skills, as they will need to keep up with these changes throughout their careers.

At the beginning of my career, telecommunications services were usage-based and charged as “dime for time,” and even computing services were charged as a utility (for example, Telenet and CompuServe).

As the minicomputer era emerged, companies invested in their own “big iron” as capital purchases where costs were recovered by charging back shared computing among different departments. In my first college internship assignment, we had a VAXcluster downstairs shared by everyone in our facility, and we allocated a sharing model not based on usage, but billed and split as a percentage of the time we spent against the projects we worked on.

The PC era brought purchasing down to the departmental level where laptop computers, software licenses, and even backend computing resources, like email, were simply considered part of the budgeting associated with headcount planning.

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