Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Career transitions: From anxiety to performance

A case and point was the adoption of Windows NT into the network. During this time, many Novell experts found themselves struggling (or fighting) to learn and adopt the new technology. At the time, many expressed to me that they were so busy learning Novell's NDS (Netware Directory Services), there simply wasn't time to learn about Microsoft's Domain model.

My reaction was quite different. I viewed (and still do) most network operating systems as mostly the same, if not in semantics, then in concept. All have users, groups, file permissions, and resource access permissions. I didn't have to relearn those basic concepts, but only had to learn how the operating systems differed, and their syntax, or language, used to classify these concepts.

When the Internet burst onto the scene, the number of people struggling with IP concepts was primarily due to a failure to see the similarities in protocols that existed before.

The same idea is true in programming. Whether the language is event driven, object-oriented, or a linear top to bottom construct wasn't really that important, at least in the short-term learning. In fact, regardless of the language or platform, control constructs, functions, and modularity were common concepts. Semantics aside, C# and C++ are just not that different--in concept.

If you find yourself in a career transition, you need to take this message to heart. If you're not in a career transition, prepare yourself--you will be. In either case, the ideas above will prove to be critical in creating stronger career growth over the long haul.

Understand the importance of any given job. Identify those transcendent skills you already possess and adopt a strategy to learn those that you don't. Look at new technology from the perspective of its conceptual and actual similarities to technology you've already mastered, then concentrate on the differences.

Doing so will make your transitions more successful and reduce or remove the associated anxiety.