On a rather routine basis I get the question of why the hell anyone should listen to me, and to be fair this is a good question that you should always ask yourself when listening to the advice of someone else. Why are you listening to this person, and is their advice worth the oxygen expended to offer it. To be frank I’m not a billionaire. I’m not the mastermind behind a startup that changed the world. I could probably be categorized as “pretty smart”, but I’m never going to claim to be a great mind. I think the thing that I really have to offer is advice that is replicateable. The advice I give is something almost anyone can use. Its not so intricate you have to be a genius to get your mind around the concept. You don’t have to have access to millions of dollars in resources to make use of it. And if I’m offering the advice I genuinely believe that what I’m saying makes sense in the here and now. This is not something I have found many mentors do not offer.
The thing with advice is that it’s only valuable if the person listening can put it into play. All the amazing war stories in the world are simply entertainment if the person receiving the information cannot figure out how to use the knowledge to further their agenda. This is a major problem in the tech world because many professionals are woefully ill-informed about the larger world around them, and their particular place in recent history. What made someone famous a decade ago is now something a 9 year old can code. The high power job a tech professional got a promotion into a few years ago may now simply exist as a legacy holdover rather than a valued part of an organization. There is a feeling from many “successful” people that they did things “right” and to n00bs who can only measure success based on job titles and the size of houses this can be a sirens song.
I just received my second silver play button from YouTube. My EliComputerGuyLive channel surpassed 100K subscribers a while ago. I’m no Linus Tech Tips, but there is a real difference between EliTheComputerGuy and EliComputerGuyLive, and with both channels I was able to grow them passed the 100K sub threshold (even while I did a lot of things that can be argued hurt my channels). The reason I feel that I can talk about YouTube is because I have put real effort into different aspects and had varying levels of success. Even the aborted FailedNormal channel has trucking along and surpassed 10K subs before I realized turning my love of travel into a business was a bad idea. When I talk about YouTube the advice I give is advice anyone can use (If they still want to). I did not find success simply because I started a channel at a specific time.
This relates to technology as a business and as a career. I was in the .com boom, then I was a consultant, then I ran a shop with employees, then I went to YouTube, and now I’m on Failed Normal. These are all different jobs and different businesses within the tech world. There are different resource requirements, social norms, and ways to earn money. I can say from experience how I made good money 10 years ago, and then go point by point on why that would not work today.
I want you to think about this as you go out and listen to advice from people that are more senior than you. I know for a fact many of the people in senior positions will be screwed when they get laid off. They see themselves in senior positions and feel that they have done things correctly, but the world has moved on without them. They have legacy positions, to support legacy systems, that will last all the way until the CFO decides to put the CTO in their place. When listening to people ask yourself:
- Do the opportunities that they are talking about still exist?
- Do the entry level jobs that they talk about still exist?
- Are companies creating more of the positions that this person is in, or are they a legacy hold over?
- Did the person have financial resources that you have?
- Did the person have personal relationships that you have?
- Did the person start in the same geographic area that you are in?
- How closely did their situation match your current situation?
I think about this with one YouTube cementer that tried to put me in my place over my argument against n00bs going for cybersecurity. The commentor very forcefully stated I had no idea what I was talking about, and that they were able to jump into cybersecurity with no real world experience, and that they are now helping their nephew to do the same. Thankfully the person detailed their “lack of experience” to drive the point home…
They had served in a few different branches of the military over 16 years. Their final job was as a special agent in one of the branches. They had then come out of the military and gotten an MS in Cybersecurity which they used to get a job with a government contractor in the Washington DC area… Now that they had 8 years experience working for the contractor they were guiding their nephew through the process to get a cybersecurity job…
So… show of hands… how many 18-20 year olds reading this have anywhere close to this persons situation? Long term experience in the military. Clearance and training to be a special agent. Masters Degree paid for through the GI Bill. All the bonus points and clearances that government contractors need for new employees. Already living in the epicenter for cybersecurity jobs. And now being able to hand deliver their nephews resume to the appropriate people and personally guide their nephew on the requirements for the specific jobs that are currently open.
So how many hands are up? Do I see ANY hands? Of course not because this person while not having the cybersecurity background, did have all of the other checkboxes checked for what a government contractor would need. I’m happy for him all the up until he acts like he’s just some chump off the street that anyone can copy. These are the people that will screw you. They should be proud of their accomplishments, but the transferability of their experience is tenuous at best.
So when you’re taking people’s advice always listen to what they have too say, but make sure to prioritize it based on whether or not you can actually use it. As I’ve said many times I think by and large this may be the best time in history for being a technology professional, but the path to being a successful professional is more foggy than ever. Drones, IoT, AI, Wearables, AR are wide open for people to make their mark on, but the question is, “how?”. In 1996 you learned how to build PC’s. In 2000 you got your MCSE. In 2010 you learned Ruby on Rails or Objective C. In 2017… … … build something that people are willing to pay money for, and then sell the crap out of it…
I probably can’t teach you to be a millionaire and I sure as hell can’t explain how to build Skynet, but I can explain how to wake up in the morning, assess the world as it is, make your bets, and ship product. Past that you’re on your own for reading Elon Musk’s autobiography and figuring out if you can use a single word out of the entire book.