Technology Silos: Why and How Engineers Should Drift Out of Their ‘Lanes’

We find ourselves in the midst of a market where technologies are converging and the requirement to provide a complete data center solution always includes multiple disciplines. Furthermore, we used to address the data center through silos in terms of network, storage, servers, virtualization and operating systems, but now the same team must manage most of these skills. This question applies to other technology silos outside of the data center as well. Is it better to have one resource with a wide range of knowledge or is it better to have a specialist for each vertical? Furthermore, how do we solve this dilemma?

Culture:  I prefer to take a holistic approach to problem-solving which ultimately provides a better experience for my clients. Personally, I believe for a team to be able to execute upon this idea together, this lies in the hands of leadership and the capacity of a few individuals to empower others to provide a complete solution or service to clients. Thus, I have chosen to be a part of an engineering team that spans multiple technologies and our leadership provides the inspiration and vision to support them. This enables the team to present a unified approach with the expertise needed to help clients reach their goals and solve their business challenges. It’s easy to see that a culture which fosters the idea that engineers should cross lanes into other technologies will continue to become more and more of a necessity in the IT industry moving forward.

Certifications:  To support this mentality, engineers should not only maintain a constant pulse on innovations across the industry, but they should also invest the time to pursue certifications across various technologies. Technical certifications provide clients assurance that an individual or the company that is executing work is qualified. It also allows engineers to apply multiple perspectives throughout the process of addressing a client’s needs. Achieving multiple certifications is also important because it shows your employer that you care enough about clients, your profession and your future growth that you were willing to spend the time, money and effort on furthering your education.

Where Do You Begin?  Once the culture has been addressed (if needed) setting out to pursue certifications can seem daunting. There are hundreds of certifications, ranging from professional certifications that take years to achieve to online certificates that you can complete in 30 minutes. Some are product specific while others focus on a specific technology. In my 20 years of experience, I’ve had quite a few certifications; I make this little joke about how I am an “expert” in so many things nobody uses anymore. What mostly motivated me to achieve them was the direction my company was going and the solutions we provided to our clients. I realized that there was something new out there that I had to get on board with or I would be left behind and my current expertise would become obsolete. For me, this technology was virtualization – specifically with vSphere from VMware. It was like an epiphany. When I experienced the way you could consolidate and move workloads across physical environments without any downtime, I knew that there was no way back, that this would be a disruptive technology with huge momentum. I can say now, after investing ten years of my time, it was the right decision but not my last as I continue to maintain a pulse on new technologies as I continuously search for the next new thing to invest my time in.

In order to make the decisions to pursue education of various silos of technology for the betterment of myself and to provide better client services, I needed to be well-versed as to what was occurring in the industry to stay ahead of the curve, remain open-minded to learning new things, a part of culture that fosters cross-technology education, and of course, I needed to possess the willingness to put in the work. I’m convinced that focusing on this throughout my career has served me very well, but more importantly, it has served my clients well as I have been able to provide a holistic approach to solving business challenges from a technology perspective for decades.


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