After Y2K, A Whole New IT Landscape Emerged
The Y2K bug? Remember that? On Jan. 1, 2000, when the world didn’t fall apart, Y2K became a non-event. And pretty much everyone, including IT professionals, pursued business as usual.
It soon became apparent that business in the IT sector post-Y2K would be anything but usual. Spending on IT declined precipitously. The massive investments to prevent the Y2K bug had been made, and the dot-com bubble burst. The recession further depressed IT spending. Thousands of experienced IT professionals were out of work.
Why bring up Y2K now, when so many other issues are coming to the fore? Because in the run-up to the year 2000, practically every individual suddenly understood that if the information systems went down, there would be no lights, no food, no telephone, no money and no transportation—basically bringing modern society to a halt. The vast majority of people in the industrialized world understood at a visceral level for the first time that IT was essential to their lives.
There was a collective sigh of relief on Jan. 1, 2000, when the computers did not crash and doomsday did not arrive. But there was no going back. Everybody pretty much got the message—IT is vital.
Y2K and the Meaning of ‘High-Stakes’
For the IT professional, high-stakes means a set of certifications that open up major career opportunities. For IT management, high-stakes means an integrated information system that has a strategic impact on business success. For the public, since Y2K, IT has risen into the same high-stakes category as utilities, transportation, commerce, communication, finance and banking and security.
Once there is a consensus that a profession is critical to the well-being of the populace, you can be sure that a greater reliance on standards will follow. Consider the fact that pilots, doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants, teachers and others all have to meet knowledge and practice standards. Few object to these standards, because they increase the level of trust that we hold in professional people.
Will this trend lead to licensing of IT pros? Experts believe that if licensing does come, it will be focused on security. Technology changes too rapidly for licensing bodies to keep up with IT in general. The more likely outcome is that the practice of IT will be become much more standardized.
This has already started. The infrastructure of an established profession, which includes standards in curricula, certification, job-task skills and well-defined career paths and job titles, is developing rapidly in IT. Fundamentally, this incredibly young industry is maturing much more rapidly than normal because of its importance to society.
This maturity will bring educational institutions and commercial training organizations into much closer harmony, stimulating alliances and program integration. This will make it easier and more cost-effective for individuals to become well rounded and versed in both hard and soft skills. Similarly, certification vendors will continue toward greater integration of their offerings into recognized career paths. This will help to lower overall cost by reducing redundancies and making the choice of certification tracks much clearer.
Here are several examples of changes already occurring:
- The U.S. Department of Labor is now working with CompTIA, educational institutions and a growing number of companies to develop registered IT apprenticeship programs. These apprenticeship programs are all about job-skill standards.
- The TechCareer Compass, located at tcc.comptia.org, is a new compendium of industry-defined career paths and standard job titles that are linked to educational requirements and certification. TechCareer Compass helps employers define job responsibilities and requirements, as well as helping individuals know what preparation is needed for the career of their choice.
- The CompTIA CareerID is a certification verification service that tracks and stores IT certifications and makes records easily available—essentially, it is an electronic transcript.
Will professional status as defined here—greater use of standards in all aspects of learning and the IT career path—benefit those who work in this field? Absolutely! Will IT be different from today? Yes! As Dorothy said to Toto upon arriving in Oz, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
John A. Venator is president and CEO of CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association, the largest global trade association supporting the IT industry. CompTIA has more than 15,000 corporate members.