Series on Networking and Career Development in the Information Age (while Staying Sane and Natural)

I’d like to develop, over a few posts, some thoughts about how I approach and build my career, develop projects at work, and, more generally, develop my professional network. There are a few key principles I employ that, I think, reflect the age of changing professional identities and unstable/dynamic organizational environments many of us experience. These principles have been of some service to me professionally, but even more than that, have allowed me to maintain a degree (I think) of sanity and balance as I contend with the forces/realities just described. I owe a big debt of gratitude for this general outlook to my brother, Jeremy Epstein, who is a Master Networker, with whom few can hope to compete (I am not one of those few.).

In the course of (what I think will be) a few posts, I’d like to develop/express some of these ideas (I’m getting there!!), which, with whatever faults, help me to develop opportunities outside of conventional linear business processes, and allow me to have some fun in the process.

OK, enough prologue. The key dimensions of the topic I’d like to call out are:

  • knowledge development (aka, learning)
  • relationship development
  • opportunity promotion (aka, seeking a goal)

I’d like to explore these ideas in a few contexts:

  • looking for a job/developing a network
  • creating opportunities in the workplace (accomplishing things, getting recognition, getting promoted, etc.)
  • why these ideas might be increasingly relevant ‘nowadays’
  • how these ideas help me maintain sanity and flexibility while developing my career

I’m not promising that I will develop these ideas in the particular order outlined above but, for the moment, the dimensions described seem about right. Thanks for reading, and I hope to have a second installment for you soon.

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

digital-fabric-600

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.

“The Great Decoupling”: National Wealth and Individual Well-being

McKinsey writes about “The Great Decoupling“:

The Quarterly: How would that work? Are you referring to some sort of wage insurance?

Robert Shiller: Insurance is a fundamentally important concept. Whether it’s provided by the private sector or the government, it’s an organized response to uncertainty that affects individuals. Wage insurance is one form that has been experimented with by the US government, in fact, in an effort to deal with the problem that globalization is taking jobs out of the country. But it hasn’t been experimented with very much yet. I think we could have a much more comprehensive system of wage insurance. And we can do it without moral hazard if we manage it right.

I would argue that any sort of large, complex insurance program would be subject to some sort of moral hazard. However, it is also true that a wealthy society with volatile economics should, generally speaking, have different mores about work and livelihood than a poor society or a wealth society with stable economics.

Read more about this image at The Dish.

The Tech Industry in Japan

Here’s an excellent take on how sociological and economic factors have combined to undermine the strength of the Japanese tech industry. If you aren’t specifically interested in that topic, you may still be interested to read about how culture/habit/local business environment have interacted with macroeconomic developments in a globally visible industry, to produce significant change.

I’m sharing a few key excerpts:

" . . . Japanese firms have confronted two critical challenges: the decomposition of production and the services transformation. The decomposition of production refers to the process whereby integral production centered in one country has given way to modular production and global supply chains."

“Japanese firms have confronted two critical challenges: the decomposition of production and the services transformation. The decomposition of production refers to the process whereby integral production centered in one country has given way to modular production and global supply chains. . . .

The decomposition of production has undermined the competitive advantage of Japanese business models that rely on long-term relationships with suppliers, banks, and workers to foster incremental advances in production processes. Japanese manufacturers have maintained a stronger competitive position in products that continue to be characterized by integral production (such as automobiles and digital cameras) than in those that have shifted further to modular production (such as personal computers and cellular telephones). . . .

The services transformation has tested Japanese manufacturers because it relies on capabilities in areas of their weakness – such as services, software, entertainment, and system integration – or on ties with firms that possess those capabilities.”

"Observers have characterized Japan as having a "dual economy", comprised of an internationally competitive sector focused in manufacturing and a domestic protected sector centered in services. And this dual economy has been characterized by a particularly wide gap in productivity between the two sectors. Hence a shift in the locus of growth in the global economy from manufacturing to services and toward greater integration of manufacturing and services implies a shift away from Japan’s comparative advantage."