Reinterpreting your career based on changing patterns in IT infrastructure

I read this piece in the context of my work in the tech industry but what really fascinates me about it are the implications its arguments could have for industry, and professional life, in general.

Key quote:

Over the course of the 20th century, each industry developed its own vertical stack – research, design, development, production, marketing, sales, service, etc. Although there were essential forms of shared business infrastructure – electrical utilities, transportation systems and telephony services – most industry sectors were much more different than alike. . . . But today, significant chunks of the traditional vertical industry stack are being replaced by an ever more powerful digital fabric of horizontal services – the IT infrastructure equivalents of energy, transportation and telephony.

The four layers of this ‘digital fabric’ are identified by CSC as follows (image below):

  • Compute/store/connect
  • Identify/secure/transact
  • Publish/communicate
  • Sense/analyze/understand


It strikes me that these four stack categories (the four lower categories on the image above) can serve to support career development strategy for those of us who don’t have obviously-identifiable professions and can inform thinking about the (potentially less stable) future for those of us who do have such professions.

We won’t necessarily go to school to become “sense/analyze/understand” experts per se (though, who really knows?) but it does help me to reflect on the fact that that probably represents the part of the stack in which I, personally, operate. I know others who clearly work in the publish/communicate part of this metaphorical stack. We each have job skills that are potentially more easily transferable between different traditional industries than between different parts of the stack.

Again, a useful construct that may provide an inkling of how changing digital infrastructure could change the professional lives of many.


Deep internet-related thought of the day

Facebook and social media are undermining a wide range of literary skills but they are building others such as, I would argue, certain kinds of contextual understanding.  I definitely feel that my ability to interpret a series of interspersed elliptical comments, and their relationships to each other has been enhanced dramatically over the past few years, from reading comment threads on Facebook.

I can imagine that one day, when social media is itself superseded as a common form of conversation (by, say, remote brain control), that there will be many pundits ruing the deterioration of the types of literary skills that I referenced above.  In other words, future generations may come to appreciate social media for the literary skills it promotes, rather than feeling despair at those it undermines.

The Future of Education

I’ve noted elsewhere some exciting developments in online education (most interestingly, this year, the opening of MITx, which is worth checking out).  This recent article about educational badges available online helps me to formulate, a bit more, a thought that has been gelling in my mind: If lower information-sharing costs help to make distributed systems more realizable in financescientific research (see here, too), hardware design and development, etc., etc., then why not in education?

A key quotation:

Employers might prefer a world of badges to the current system. After all, traditional college diplomas look elegant when hung on the wall, but they contain very little detail about what the recipient learned. Students using Mozilla’s proposed badge system might display dozens or even hundreds of merit badges on their online résumés detailing what they studied. And students could start showing off the badges as they earn them, rather than waiting four years to earn a diploma.

The current university system’s great asset is that it concentrates people in a learning environment.  But it also, as the quotation above implies, limits visibility to the student’s actual learning, limits student flexibility with regard to learning goals, defers recognition of achievement for several years, and does not lend itself easily to synchronous immersion in the professional world.  I’m interested to hear other’s thoughts on the viability of the model suggested in the article.

Privacy, Data, and Performance

In a fascinating legal decision that may have repercussions for how government employs large databases to measure performance, a New York state court ruled that “the New York City Education Department must include teachers’ names in the performance-data reports it provides to news outlets to fulfill open-records requests.

Will this decision have a chilling effect on the publication of government data about agency performance?  Or will employment in the government simply come to mean that one’s work records are increasingly open to public scrutiny?

Educational Data Mining

A recent Education Week article on “educational data mining” (EDM) highlights several key resources and insights.

To wit:

  • “the first international conference on the subject [was] held in 2008 and the first academic journal [was] launched a year later.”
  • the article reports on a study that demonstrated how aggregating large amounts of student data helped researchers make better evaluations about whether students were guessing while doing their work
  • several other centers focused on the field are referenced

A key quote: “Analysis of massive databases isn’t new to fields like finance and physics, but it has started to gain traction in education only recently.”  The expansion of large scale data mining into the human services field is just beginning to explode and will have great consequences for how we conceive of education.

Data Quality Campaign: Cool Maps on Ed Data Systems

The DQC is, in their words, “a national, collaborative effort to encourage and support state policymakers to improve the availability and use of high-quality education data to improve student achievement.”

You can check out (on their homepage) the maps they use to chart state progress on their “10 Essential Elements” and “10 State Actions” for data quality improvement.  I’m intrigued, personally, by the relative strength of the Southern states.