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About four years ago I decided to take my career on a new path. I had spent much of the preceding two decades working in IT of one form or another, but needed to change.

In my early thirties I’d set myself the goal of becoming a CIO by the age of 40. When I was interviewed for a feature about me by CIO Magazine just before my 40th birthday I figured I’d hit that target.

The question then became “Now what?”. Continuing down a CIO-career meant either doing the same job again at a larger scale, or stepping down a position or two to work my way up in a really big organisation. Neither sounded particularly appealing.

But there was more of an existential crisis going on as I thought about what should happen next. Having spent some time working to deliver Cloud-based services, and having been aware for some time that consumer technology was fast outpacing that in the world of business, it struck me that the world of IT was going through a profound and irreversible change. The CIO/IT path was one that not only looked repetitive, but also one where the scope for doing things that would keep me interested would diminish over time too.

So I took a leap – first to spend some time working on the supplier side of the industry with Microsoft, and more recently under my own steam. My career aims have now become much less precise, and much longer term.

I’ve been thinking about all of this a fair bit recently, as next week I’ve been invited to host an event taking place at the Regent Street Apple Store being run by FileMaker – the now Apple-owned database company. Anyone who has worked in a mixed Apple & PC environment over the years may well have come  FileMaker – and if that time was in the late 90s it might well be with gritted teeth.

These days, however, multi-platform is the norm not the exception, especially for smaller businesses where PC, Mac, Android and iOS will probably all intermingle. That’s the segment of the market that FileMaker appear to be targeting.

But why all the career reminiscing? Well, the event on Tuesday 5th will be talking to people who have become FileMaker developers, and so in turn have taken something of a different career path. Some come from “proper” IT backgrounds, some don’t. Most are working with small- or medium-sized businesses, some in house, some as service providers. All of them are doing things that are interesting, and providing value to their clients.

When I was a lad (which is becoming an increasingly distant memory) you could work your way up in IT. I myself started doing photocopying, migrated into photocopying and stapling, and from there was able to get a job on an IT helpdesk. a few years in the world of service support gave me enough insight to start to work in development, then into development management and so on.

Today, that kind of route is probably still possible, but as outsourcing and software as a service and off-shoring and whatever take their place, that well-rounded experience becomes harder to get. And one thing that I’m certain of is that understanding how people use technology, rather than just the technology per se, will become the skills of greatest value.

I’m interested to hear next week if the FileMaker developers are, though their backgrounds, their choice of tools and the clients they work for, are achieving that (and, at the same time, finding purposeful and meaningful work in their careers).

Full disclosure: FileMaker are paying me to host the event next week. All of the words above, though, are mine.  As they will be on the evening itself.

You can come along to the event on Tuesday 5th August by registering at https://www.apple.com/uk/retail/regentstreet/
(scroll half-way down the page to the Upcoming Store Events section and filter by “Events”)

One thought on “Career planning

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