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The Three Jobs Every IT Worker Will Be (or Is Already?) Doing

Seven years ago, a writer for Tech Target predicted that, in the future, there would be just three job roles for IT workers. Is the future now?

In the future (or right now?) there will only be three kinds of IT workers.Going as far back as my professional IT memory will take me allows me to remember that when I started, there were just “IT Guys” — those ambidextrous, multitalented individuals who could do anything with a computer.


One of the IT Guys would be developing some code to close the month for accounting, or adding a frame-relay circuit on the core router, all while they were adding new users to the e-mail system. What happened to those people? Have we drifted so far from that era in time that we need a Splunk Admin or a Technical Project Manager?


Do we still have any “jack of all trades” individuals in IT? I’ve been thinking about this in response to forward-looking Tech Republic article written roughly seven years ago. The 2011 article, which can still be read online, predicted a future in which every IT job role would fall into one of three categories: Consultants, Project Managers, and Developers.


Seven years later, is the IT industry still inching toward, or perhaps already living in, that future?


By the broader implications of Moore’s law, we could somewhat reasonably claim that information technology has gone through four cycles of advancement and growth since the article was written. The question then, is whether all of that change has been enough to move the needle to fully specialized jobs.


Let’s look at little bit more closely at those three broad groupings that, it was boldly predicted, would encompass the whole of “working in IT.”


First off we have the Consultant. IT consultants are tech confidants, problem solvers and fixers, people who can be like a seagull (noisy and distracting, a scavenger picking around the edges) when they are bad at what they do, or become a valued and trusted ally when they are good. Consultant are ground-level, nuts-and-bolts workhorses.


Next we have the Project Manager. A good project manager is a leader and organizer, a person who turns the crank, steers through rough patches, and makes sure an IT job is carried out properly. No matter who is doing the job, you can rely on a good PM to make sure it gets done right.


Last, but not least, we have the Developer. Code, specialization in programming, telling machines what to do in their own language — this is what a developer does. A good developer can take ideas and turn them into practical, functioning applications. Their hands don’t actually touch the hardware, for the most part, but they unlock all sorts of possibilities.


Complexity breeds specific function. Consider the story of three brothers that started a home beer brewing “hobby.” Of course what the brothers actually want is for their pastime to take off, to become more than something that they kick around on the side. They have no real sense of what it could be, however, or what they would become.


The brother hit on a formula for a light beer that soon takes off. The brothers, who were initially just brewers and bottlers, now must specialize in order to grow their brand and build up their inventory. One becomes CEO and takes charge of long-range planning, while another is better with money than the other two and tackles accounting and finances. The third brother becomes the company mouthpiece, specializing in sales and marketing.


In a simplified sense, this is the mechanism by which companies grow and by which people start to specialize. Notice that the brothers did not lose their overall expertise in brewing or bottling, but that each had to find a niche in order for their dream to survive. Too much of this can lead to negative consequences, but the overall pattern is necessary for growth.