What Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers

Walking with Giants

1. Oracle
2. Microsoft
3. IBM
4. Cisco
5. The Sun?

Walking with giants - this strategy is about managing career risk by choosing successful partners. Your career partners are IT vendors who provide technologies through their products. On their technologies you build your skills. With your skills you obtain jobs and you work in IT. In your work, you apply your skills to deliver products and services so you build you experience day by day, that's your IT career.

As you see, your IT career was realized from:

-- that was developed in your jobs,
---- that was supported by your skills,
------ that was built on technologies,
-------- that was derived from vendors' products
---------- that was built by vendors in IT industry.

That's the logic flow that reveals how your IT career is related to IT vendors. It is a partnership with mutual interests: You build your skills around vendors' products; Vendors depend on you to occupy the market. Your career success is tied to your partners' business success. Partnership with right vendors is critical to your IT career advancement.

An important part of IT career planning is to choose right partners who are reliable, secure, and valuable. Just like investment, you want to buy stocks that have minimum risk and great growth potential. If you put money in wrong baskets, you not only get no return, but also lose your investment. As the same as in IT career, with a wrong partnership, you could waste all the resources, burn out quickly, and never reach your goal.

Then, who are the right partners?

Right partners are industry giants. That's simply because, the IT world is a big ocean, and you are only a small fish. As an individual IT professional, no matter how much you know and how experienced you are, you are still a small fish. What are the dangers out there? Well, it's just so easy to

  • Get lost
  • Be killed

Yes, your career could be killed in the IT world. Look at it this way, your career success depends on the skills you acquire and the tools you use. Your skills and tools are from the vendors. Your vendors are your partners. Your partners could be killed in competition. In fact, a lot of established companies had been eaten in the IT ocean, to say nothing about those once hot dot-coms. In this case, your career value was gone with your vanished partners.

Thus, in order to protect yourself, your investment of time, money, and all the efforts, and also to avoid getting lost and being killed, you need to follow this simple strategy - walk with the giants. As the common sense can tell, this strategy works not only in IT world, but also in general career life.

Now, let's look at advantages of giant partners:

  • Giants are industry leaders who point the directions. By walking with them, you cannot get lost or head to wrong way. You also save the time for searching directions by yourself.
  • They spend a lot of money and efforts to develop markets for their products, which means lots job opportunities for you.
  • They are well established, stabilized, and hard to fall down. So you can depend on their skills for your long term career success.
  • Even if a giant falls down, it still give you buffer to continue your job (till retirement) or transform to new area. Considering the sizable implementations of their technologies, you jobs cannot go away so fast.

So, who are the giants you can walk with exactly? In the following sections, we'll discuss a few significant industry giants who are clearly identified as:

  • Oracle
  • Microsoft
  • IBM
  • Cisco
  • Sun

Let's see how we can walk our way to success with them.

1. Oracle

Oracle means database; Database is the center of IT business. Your career can't go wrong if you build it on core Oracle database technologies. Then, who is Oracle? Here are some facts:

  • Oracle is the leading supplier of software for information management.
  • Over half of enterprise RDBMS platforms implement Oracle Database server.
  • Founded by Lawrence J. Ellison in 1977 and headquartered in Redwood Shores, CA, USA.
  • World's second largest software company with revenues of $7 billion.
  • Has over 35,000 employees and is located in 150 countries around the world.

No doubt, it's a giant. During last decades, Oracle grew as the leading relational database (RDBMS) vendor. In recent years, this giant has been expanding to the wide area of enterprise information management.

Core technologies

Now, Oracle is more than database. Oracle technologies cover wide ranges from development to implementation, from database to business intelligence. Major Oracle technologies include:

  • Database (Oracle 9i Enterprise Server RDBMS)
  • Application server (Oracle 11i AS)
  • Case tools (Oracle Designer)
  • Development tools (JDeveloper for Java, Oracle Form)
  • Business intelligence (Oracle Discoverer)
  • ERP and CRM (Oracle E-Business Suite)

Top value skills

In order to walk with Oracle successfully, you can equip yourself with skills on the following Oracle products that reveal top values in IT industry:

(1) Oracle database skill: Oracle database server is Oracle's flagship product. It never falls, and is not likely fall in the future. All other Oracle technologies are built around it. With knowledge and skills on this core product, you can work as a database administrator, data architect, database designer, or database developer. You job is safe in the long run. Because there are too many Oracle database installations on earth, you can always find work to do.

(2) Oracle web application development: If you focus your career on developing and implementing web applications, then Oracle Application Server skill is one of your choices. Oracle AS is gaining popularity nowadays, and there are a lot of jobs using this skill. Because Oracle AS works on J2EE platform, your Oracle AS skill has universal value on all J2EE compliant systems. Oracle Application Server is Oracle's major product and will succeed in the long run, so as your career on it.

How about other Oracle technologies? You can grip them as side skills, but you'd better off by holding these top-valued skills first.

2. Microsoft

In IT, Microsoft is the King, period. Let skip the overview part since we all know this company and its boss well. Whether you like Microsoft or not, it can by your valuable partner and help you succeed. You can count on it for your IT career. What for sure is that Microsoft will continue creating the market for its products so as our jobs with Microsoft skills. Now let's see what technologies Microsoft offer and what skills to add to your career value.

Core technologies

Microsoft builds all technologies on its operating system platform - Windows. On Windows platforms Microsoft introduced .NET framework. Therefore Microsoft core technologies include:

  • Operating system (Windows 2000, XP, 2003 and server network technology).
  • .NET toolset and framework (Visual Studio .NET)
  • Database (SQL Server)
  • Web technology (Internet Information Server (IIS), ASP)
  • CRM and ERP
  • Office applications (MS Office)

Top value skills

(1) Windows system and network administration: Microsoft Windows is the dominate operating system on desktop and workstations. Windows server along with its sophastcated network capability is the most competitive server technology in the market. You've already seen Windows everywhere. All of the installed Windows in use need people to take care of them, so you can fill in the spot and become a Microsoft Systems administrator or engineer. Windows system and network skills can add great value to your IT career.

(2) .NET design and development: Microsoft .NET is the core technology for Microsoft application systems and architecture. Microsoft bits its future on .NET technology, so why don't you take advantage on it? Microsoft delivers this technology through Visual Studio .NET. Be aware of that Visual Studio .NET is more than a toolset, it is a framework for application system development and implementation. A lot of organizations have started to implement this framework, which means jobs and money for IT professionals. The core .NET skill is to develop Microsoft applications using Visual Studio .NET to code with VB, VC++, C#, and J#.

(3) Microsoft web skill (IIS and ASP): Programming web applications with ASP/ASP.NET on IIS is also a top value skill. With this skill you can build enterprise web systems on Windows platform. IIS and ASP (ASP.NET as well) are mature technologies with a lot installations in production environments. You'll have no problem to find a job and grow your career with them. The only drawback is, this skill can only be applied on Microsoft platform. Thus If possible, you should pickup J2EE platform and JSP for your web application skill development. J2EE and JSP are the industry standard supported by multiple vendors. They give you more room for career advancement.

(4) Microsoft Database skill: Microsoft SQL Server is growing strongly and has become a leading enterprise database server product competing with Oracle, DB2, and Sybase. Skills on SQL Server administration, design, and development are in high demand. However, although it is a very strong database product with increasing market share, it is still not the top tier enterprise database server. If you want to build the best database career, the first choice is Oracle; the second choice is IBM DB2. If you have no opportunity to develop Oracle and DB2 skills, then take MS SQL Server as you database skill.

With the right skills built on Microsoft core technologies as discussed above, you are not only saving you job, but also creating a lot room to grow your IT career. As for other Microsoft technology, skills on Microsoft desktop products are handy, but have little value for your IT career. They can be your side skills but don't count on them for serious positions.

3. IBM

IBM, the Big Blue, has transformed from a large system hardware vendor into the enterprise information service company. While IBM provides many products and services, we can count on three key products to build a successful, safe, and stable career in IT industry:

  • IBM DB2 Database - It is the only database product competitive to Oracle Database server. DB2 has been around for long time, and it has a lot of installations. With DB2 skills, you don't have worry about your job today and tomorrow. In fact, DB2 implements all the standard relational database features, and its structure is a lot like Oracle, that makes your DB2 skill transformable. It is a valued-added skill.
  • WebSphere Application Server - It is the most popular application server in the industry. It is J2EE compliant. IBM puts great efforts on marketing this product that build a sizable job market on this tool. Again, it is a value-added skill because your WebSphere skill can be easily transferred to other J2EE compliant application server environments such as Bea WebLogic, Oracle AS, JRun, JBoss, etc.
  • Rational Suite - Some analysts said IBM over-paid for Rational Software acquisition; I say it worth the money. Now IBM's Rational Unified process (RUP) implemented in Rational Suite is the primary software development lift cycle methodology that is widely adopted across the industry. Whether or not using Rational Suite at work, all IT processionals need to at least understand RUP and software life cycle concept in general.

4. Cisco

If you want to build the most successful career on network and security, walk with Cisco, -- there is no better choice. Cisco is the leading network infrastructure company. With Cisco-based skills, you can go all the directions in network filed. Some of the most valuable Cisco technologies are highlighted below:

  • Cisco Routers and Switches - Technologies on making up portfolio of intelligent routing solutions that scale up capacity and enable carrier-class IP/MPLS core and edge networks. Professionals in network field need to develop skills on planning and configuring Cisco routers and switches to build secure, optimized enterprise network systems.
  • VoIP/ IP Telephony - Cisco's voice over IP technology leads IP communications way ahead. This technology leverage the data network investment and deliver cost effective, reliable systems that scale with the organizations needs. Network professionals need to build skills to implement Cisco VoIP technology in IP telephony call processing, IP video, unified communications, contact centers, and voice infrastructure.
  • Wireless/Mobility - As the industry leader, Cisco's wireless technology extends enterprise network beyond the desktop. As a network professional, you should acquire knowledge on Cisco mobility solutions including campus mobility, branch mobility, and teleworking. You also should understand design issues for deploying mobility solutions and technologies such as secure wireless LAN (WLAN), IP telephony, and voice and video enabled VPN (V3VPN).
  • Integrated Security solutions - Cisco's integrated security solution technology is Cisco AVVID which derives SAFE Blueprint - a flexible, dynamic blueprint for security and VPN networks. Network professionals are in high demands in implementing SAFE Blueprint that enables businesses to securely take advantage of e-business opportunities and compete in the Internet economy.

5. Where is the Sun?

Sun Microsystems had been acquired by Oracle, and its technologies are in good hands. It was said, "as for IT career, it is safe under the Sun." Now there is no Sun, but Oracle is bigger and better, that means it is even safer to walk with Oracle. From historical perspectives, there are two big things from Sun Microsystems, software and hardware - Java and Unix Server. While Unix technology is a big deal to system administrators and network professionals, Java EE technology is what programmers and software professionals cannot afford to ignore. Here let's just have a brief overview of the Unix technology and Java EE.

  • Unix - Oracle/Sun Solaris is the most popular Unix operating system. Due to huge installation base, system administers with Sun Solaris skills are most wanted. On hardware side, Sun's UNIX servers offer advanced technologies such as compute grid and cluster interconnections for optimized performance, reliability, and scalability.
  • Java EE - While Java is simply a programming language, J2EE is a complicated specification base that covers a lot more technologies to develop web enabled enterprise systems. Some of the most common J2EE specifications include Servlet API, Java Server Pages (JSP), and Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB). Fortunately there are enough books and online references available to help you acquire knowledge and experience in this area.