Need help positioning yourself and your staff for the changes virtualization and automation will bring in five years? Follow these career basics:
- Learn the new technologies. Take time now to learn the theories behind virtualization platforms such as IBM's On Demand and HP's Adaptive Enterprise and products from vendors such as EMC, Opsware, Softricity and Topspin Communications. Don't avoid virtualization because you think you'll be automating yourself out of a job - the converse is true. If you avoid it, you'll end up out of a job because you didn't react and see new opportunities.
- See the big picture. Get a good foundation in how the various pieces of the new data center interact so you can be smarter about implementing virtualization and automation. Don't focus only on the traditional server and network pieces, but also on the applications, storage, security and so on. Maybe in five (or 10) years, these all will become one virtual resource that you can shape to support your business on an as-needed basis. But you have to know the fundamentals and have the network design skills to make it all work.
- Hone your customer service skills. As automation kicks in, more functions are pushed out to end-user departments. Network staffers will need to increase their support role. Remote support also will become increasingly important.
- Bone up on your business skills. Successful staffers will be those who readily can adapt new technologies to business needs. As networks become more self-healing and sustaining, IT personnel will need to develop their project-based decision-making, finance and ROI skills - skills that never will be automated.
- Understand where to specialize. As the data center becomes automated, network staffers can begin specializing more, becoming the network architecture guru, the security wiz and so on. Just don't focus too narrowly because you might become less valuable, especially if your specialty is outsourced.
- Keep building your skill level. As new technologies emerge to take advantage of virtualization and automation, you need to keep educating yourself. "If you're not in a class at least twice a year, you'll be left behind," says Paul Little, configuration manager at Fidelity Information Services, a division of Fidelity National Financial in San Diego.
- Communicate often. Make sure you communicate to your staff clearly and consistently. You are simply removing the rote, time-consuming grunt work, while presenting staff members with new, better and more challenging opportunities.