Should our children do IT for a living?

[13 Feb 2017 update: a similar article appears at Wired for the Application Developer job]

Ask any Infrastructure Engineers or Software Developers, whether their young kids should follow their foot step, and you may get a No answer. Maybe you get a Yes, but I think it is no longer as firm as it was 2 decades ago. Back in early 90s, the answer was a resounding yes. As an Infrastructure Engineer myself, I do not want my kids (12 and 15) to follow my footsteps. Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do. It’s just that I think the party is coming to an end. It will last long enough for us to enjoy, but not for our children. We are in a once life time change in IT Industry. There are megatrends, and it’s interesting to see them unfolds as they overlap.

If we look at IT, there are large sub-industries. Each has billion-dollar vendors (with market cap >$10b) jockeying for positions as they all want to get bigger. The greedy nature of capitalism means growth is the only factor that matters. If your market cap is $10 billions, then grow to $50b. If you have reached $100 billions, then grow to $1 trillion. It is indeed greed. The father of Greed is Fear. The thinking goes something like “if you do not grow, you will die.” As human, we know we cannot be satisfied with money, but our fear of losing the money makes us want more of it. This “dog eat dog” mindset contributes to tectonic shifts we’re seeing in our industry.

We can categorize the IT Industry into Application and Infrastructure. In fact, the IT Department in some large organizations typically means just the Infrastructure or common applications (e.g. Database, Email, and Directory). They have also turned into internal Service Providers.

We can also categorize the IT Industry into Personal (Retail, Consumer, B2C) and Commercial (Enterprise, SMB, B2B). The Rise of the Individual helped propel Apple to be a giant in the industry, even though it had a relatively tiny presence in the commercial space. The Personal-Commercial categorization can also be viewed using Core-Edge category. The Core physically resides at Data Center. The small core may only be as big as a few servers inside a rack. The Edge physically resides with the Individual. The first instantiation was PC, which has evolved into notebook, tablet, smart phone, gadgets. Recently, it starts to show up on machines, giving birth to Internet of Things.

Here are the forces that I see, in no particular order:

  • Cloud Computing
  • Mobile
  • DevOps
  • Container
  • Storage virtualization
  • Network virtualization
  • Edge Computing
  • Internet of Things
  • The Rise of the Individual

Here are the areas the areas that are already declining as a result. Again, in no particular order:

  • UNIX
  • Mainframe
  • PC
  • FC and FCoE
  • Physical storage
  • Current UX or UI

I will provide my 2 cents on the above trends. We can analyze each of them and how they impact one another. But that’s a subject for another blog post 🙂 In here, I want to focus on our children, not us. My timeline here is 15-20 years, not 5-10 years. What does IT look like around the decade of 2030? A 15-year old teenager today will be 30 year old adult by then. He is probably holding a mid-level position. What does the job look like? What does the industry look like? What jobs that will be important in 2030 and do not even exist in 2015? Will he work as independent freelancer? A 5 year old kid will be 20 year old in 2030. Should she be pursuing an IT degree? If she does, can she utilize her hard-earned degree for 2 decades? That will take us to 2050!

You may say that 15 years is too long to predict. I agree. It’s much easier to predict 5 years. But that’s not a prediction actually. It’s just a projection. A projection has no or minimal element of surprise, as it’s just along the trajectory. You have a historical data, and you’re merely moving along the line. The other reason is IT changes slowly, especially the mission critical, core system. The mainframe, the oldest among IT technology and it has celebrated its 50th birthday, will still be around in 5 years. In fact, they will probably be around 15 years later.

You want to know my prediction of IT in 2030-2050? At the rate innovation is going, I think there will be a super intelligent system. It spans the globe, connected with high speed network. A fault-tolerant distributed system that is always available. It is life-critical, that no administrator can bring it down. The good news is… there is a role for human to play in 2050. The bad news is… We become the battery 🙂 🙂 No, don’t even think of getting out of your container. The robot dog and drone will kill you! 🙂 🙂

Let me know your thought!

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