Thursday, July 3, 2008

Increased Business Acumen Needed to Survive in the Tech Industry

Recently I attended a business networking event where I had the pleasure of meeting a business development director for a staffing agency in Boise.  His job was to create relationships with the area's technology and engineering firms that would place in these companies technical and engineering professionals on short-term and long-term projects as well as on a contract to hire basis.

He lamented how it can be difficult to establish such relationships and place professionals in these companies.  Our conversation reminded me of an article in the Idaho Business Review I read last year about the need for technology professionals to bring more to the table when it comes to seeking jobs in this field.  I mentioned that perhaps this may be a reason as to why he encounters difficulty from time to time.  The article, quoting a couple of the area's more influential technology professionals, suggested that the schools training software and hardware engineers are not doing enough to prepare their graduates for the workforce.  The education is heavily weighted in technical training, but not so much in business and communication training.

The trend we have seen for many years is that these jobs can be and are being outsourced to countries like India and China.  I don't need to go into the reasons or the debate as to why outsourcing is good or bad.  It's simply a fact of life in the today's business climate.  The key to protecting technology jobs in U.S. is for the graduates and current professionals in the field to increase their business acumen and communication skills.

The article explains how the quoted Boise area tech professionals see business and communication skills as a must in order to remain competitive.  From my prospective it's about justifying the means to an end.

Technology, as I've said many times before, is a means to an end.  Technology is what enables people to do their jobs and tasks quickly and efficiently thereby increasing productivity.  It's one thing for a software programmer to create an application that can enable a person to do their job better, but does he or she know why they are creating the application?  What is the business need?  Understanding the need behind the task of developing an application for the programmer will create a different perspective that, I think, will build a more usable product.  Usable products, among their many benefits, create higher returns on investment.

So, if you are one of the people who are the subject of this post, consider bolstering your business accumen along with your communication skills if you feel you are lacking in this area.  You don't have to get an MBA or another BS degree.  Take some classes or read up on current business trends.  By doing this you will do more to protect your career and extend it even further.

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