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The Evolving Definition of the Technology Career

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Moore's Law states that microprocessor performance typically doubles every 18 months. The controlling principle of this law lies in the evolving technologies required to develop and build smaller, faster, more efficient and more cost effective devices to satisfy the need for advancement. What has been unexpected over the time that technology has evolved, was the sweeping changes in what we as human beings consider technology jobs. The tech job of today is much different than the dinosaur that it was just 15-20 years ago.

We all understand the general role of a plumber. Plumbers fix pipes; leaks, broken pipes, re-routing pipes, that sort of thing. The overall job description of a plumber hasn't really changed in the last 50+ years. Same goes for chefs, and landscapers. Sure, there may be some nuance in how these jobs have embraced and leveraged technology; the plumber can employ ultrasound to look for cracks in a pipe, the chef can utilize liquid nitrogen to quickly cool a desert, and landscapers have the latest in lithium battery-powered tools to make their jobs easier. But when we look at how technology jobs have changed -- the direct jobs that uses technology to develop and build other technologies -- we find that in so many ways they too are driven by the same Moore's Law that drives devices themselves.

The advancement of technology forces the advancement if the workforce that supports it.

Perhaps it's not so much about change in technology jobs, as it is about emphasis. In the 1970's, it was about semiconductors; those little transistor devices that spit out ones and zeroes in peculiar patterns which could be understood as code. In the 1980's the emphasis shifted to bigger things - systems which employed hundreds of thousands of transistors into a CPU, which in turn was plugged into a motherboard, as part of something called a computer. The world found it's addiction to the technology system - a device which employed technology to enable multiple functions and manage multiple tasks. The 1990's saw the technology system morph from desktop computers to laptops, then to tablets and smartphones.

With all these changes, tech workers continue to find themselves having to reinvent their skill sets to meet the changing needs of technology. Someone who might have been a semiconductor engineer in the 70's, might have evolved into a hardware engineer in the 80's, and into a GUI developer in the 90's. I've spoken with numerous tech workers who have gone from software quality engineering to systems integration engineering just to keep up with the times. Add to this, that the change in the economy has all but killed many technology jobs which companies found to be expendable, leaving many people without a career comfort zone to sit in any longer.

Ultimately, the definition technology career had changed from "one who is a specialist in technology" to "one who is versed in adapting to changes in technology". Today's technology career is not a one-horse show. You must be versed in several adjacent fields just to stay one step ahead of the technology curve. A technology worker can no longer sit in his ergonomic chair, doing just one thing.

Technology's fast evolution dictates that everyone -- from programmers to hardware folks to industrial designers - has to be ready to adapt... or risk being redefined - as a dinosaur.