I’ve made the argument over and over again that the world is ready for a highly specialized workforce. There used to be a need to generalize and develop many disciplines due to geographic limitations that we have *mostly* overcome with the use of technology.
Using tools like WebEx, GoToMeeting and Skype, it is conceivable that a subject matter expert can provide a lot of value to people all over the world. This breaks down many of the boundaries of geography and the need to diversify in order to simply maintain adequate work. This also opens up a lot of opportunities for individual consultants while streamlining the businesses access to these experts.
This definition of niche, as it relates to this article, has evolved over time for me. I use to think that a good approach to becoming a technology rockstar was an evolution in which the individual started as a “jack of all trades”. A person in this type of role learns a lot, but it isn’t typically deep knowledge.
In my simple thought process, this individual would eventually pick an area of technology that they enjoy, become and expert and live happily ever after. The truth is that the inner workings of technology is getting more and more complex as the visible components are simplified and abstracted. Understanding these interactions are key to adequately servicing any niche.
Those who maintain servers are now working with many operating systems and responsible for complex virtualization environments (and even more complex conversations with people who think they need to understand them). Networks are following suit with controller based networking and orchestration solutions. The end goal is to move forward and create abstractions that allows for efficiencies and prevent human interaction and subsequent errors (e.g DevOps and Cloud).
Thus far, what happens under the covers, the protocols, processes and applications, hasn’t changed that much. However as administrative interfaces are simplified, gaining a real understanding of the inner workings will be a challenge for newer administrators.
The real message is this. Depth of knowledge in one or more areas will continue to be a key component of the modern technology rockstar. However this knowledge must include a thorough understanding of how the core competency interacts with all of the environment including the business itself.
The environments themselves are growing and changing in fun and interesting ways and subject matter experts will need to follow these changes. Being an expert in a relevant niche will lend itself to exciting new opportunities. However, it is important to continually understand the ever-changing landscape that is both affected by and effects the product or solution being supported. So as Yoda would say, ‘Broad AND Deep, the New Technology Niche is’.