The Software-Defined Nerds of Tomorrow

March 26, 2013 in Systems3 minutes

This is one of my favorite times of the year. Despite the terrible weather that Ohio usually affords the month of March, I brave the wet cold and return to my alma mater for this year’s round of senior presentations.

During the five-year IT program, students are required to learn just about anything and everything you can imagine in IT. This ranges from software development of all kinds, database administration, systems administration, network services and even pure route/switch. Any program that is this spread out over all IT disciplines will not be too terribly heavy in one particular area, but will provide a really overall rounded IT education. This helps form the students that come out of the program into true technologists, rather than purpose-built to one particular need. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with the latter - see this post for my OPINION on the subject.

This program is by far not the only one of it’s kind, but it, like many others, requires a broad, rounded IT education of all the students, as well as the ability to demonstrate said knowledge in a 9-month project at the end of the program. This project could be, really, ANYTHING, but it must demonstrate technical ability, project management ability, and the ability to make technology relevant to a business’ bottom line objectives.

I continue to remind myself that the students I called colleagues as well as the graduating classes since then are becoming and in many ways already are tomorrow’s big innovators. We live in an industry where software-defined networking is rapidly moving out of the “pipe dream” phase, and the world is going to need skillsets that know how to make packets fly, in addition to writing the software that gives the packets wings in the first place - a skillset that, despite the trends, remains to be a rarity.

With proper motivation, and the right personality, the students of today are destined for some awesome things. Skillsets like these have existed for a while, but the sad fact is that the industry has not done a very good job of ensuring that these skillsets grow in tandem. Either an engineer/administrator will be siloed into a very specific role, or they will get their skills watered down by being spread too thin without much challenge. Of course, one factor that will always remain is the fact that the IT professional will ALWAYS have the choice to be successful or not in whatever role they find themselves in - it takes passion, it takes energy, and an unwillingness to compromise on personal and professional growth every second of every day.

My title implies that SDN is the basis for this article, but it’s really not - that’s just one example. It’s about paradigm shift. Every huge disruption in tech has occurred because some crazy nerd looked at the proverbial red button and said “wonder what this does?”.

IT professionals like this that are always looking to challenge themselves are going to be downright scary in the technology trends of the future. There is a new age coming in technology - a bright future powered by minds that will have nothing to do with “the box”.