There is one, apparently.
So, it seems someone has figured out the answer to an old question which has often plagued IT professionals: How long are your skills good? According to Eric Bloom, over at IT World, longer than you think. He claims that the tech skills you have now will be half as marketable in two years. If you read Slashdot, you’ve seen this article and the comments that followed. Here are my thoughts, though.
First, I think it depends on the skills involved.
For example, if you’re working on Windows Server, your skills will probably translate fairly well and that two-year half-life is about right. For Unix, maybe a bit longer than that. For Novell, well, sadly, I’m not sure who actually uses that old warhorse any more, as much as it makes me sad to write it. For other, less vendor oriented skills, I think two-years may be a bit short-sighted. Take routers, for instance. Now basic routing hasn’t really changed in quite a long time. Even Cisco routers, the creme-de-la-creme of enterprise routers, haven’t really changed that much on the inside in the last 15 years. I was in one the other day and I have to admit I was shocked at how quickly the skills came back to me after quite literally years of disuse. Far more than two years, I might add.
Also, skills that are a little harder to quantify certainly stay “fresh” longer than those hypothetical two years. Things like troubleshooting and the so-called soft skills involved with user support are something that I think are deeply engrained in someone. They’re part of a work ethic. So the customer service skills I learned more than 20 years ago when I worked for Hyatt Hotels are certainly still more than “good”.
Secondly, Mr. Bloom is talking about marketability, not actual utility.
So, the fact that, for instance, I don’t have a Cisco certification, even though I’m clearly capable of configuring a Cisco router, means that quite probably was never what he would have considered a “marketable skill”. In fact, based on what many recruiters may have felt about the marketability of my skills, I should be farming beets right now, not working as the Lead Tech/IT Manager of a fairly prosperous design and manufacturing company. Instead, of course, all through my career, I’ve managed to talk my way through the door and then show the people in charge that versatility and adaptability, not to mention mad Google-query-crafting skills, are far more important than any specific past experience or certification.
So, what about you, gentle readers? What do you think? How long are tech skills “good”? And does working on legacy systems harm your future employability?