Career Planning/Longevity: Data literacy and being tech forward [preserving human capital]

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AerialWombat
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Career Planning/Longevity: Data literacy and being tech forward [preserving human capital]

Post by AerialWombat » Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:02 pm

Whether you work in "tech" or not, whether you're a business owner or employee, the information age is squarely upon us. Yes, I'm aware that phrase gained traction over 40 years ago.

The current COVID-19 situation appears to be creating a permanent, fundamental shift in the fabric of the work continuum. It's a shift that I'm personally OK with, because it's the way I've been working for the last 15 years. But I recognize the fact that it's jarring for the majority of the workforce, and it expands the divide between information workers and those that are not. It also creates concerns for those of us that are at the transition lines of various technologies.

My personal stake in this exists on two separate plains of existence: The private equity frontier, and the personal income frontier.

While I have no leadership role, I'm the non-technical co-founder of a venture-backed tech startup. I'm the one that had the original idea, brought together the founding team, knew the core industry, and launched the product on the marketing side, but today I'm a "has been" at my own company. Most of the current employees wouldn't know who I was if they met me, and the current tech stack for our product is beyond my grasp. I can muddle my way through LAMP-based stuff, and even maintain an archaic PHP-based site for my other business, but I can't follow the newer JS codebase built on AWS cloud tech. My equity in this company is almost half my entire paper net worth.

On the income side, my "day job" if you will, is a seminar company. We're a much smaller team, only 4, including myself. We run live business seminars across the country, plus online meetings, which have obviously grown recently. From a tech perspective, we're old school, utilizing 20+ year old online meeting tech. I have my hands in this on a daily basis, and if virtual reality or whatnot really does catch up, I'm suddenly a dinosaur.

I'm not worried about my investments -- I'm comfortable with my micro-empire in real estate, and the securities plan stemming directly from this board.

What I'm starting to think about is the long-term value of my human capital. Technology advancement is accelerating, obviously, and I fear not being able to keep up with it -- because I'm currently not.

Questions:

1). Whether in tech or not in tech, am I alone in this concern? What are you seeing in your profession or industry along similar lines?

2). It seems like machine learning and data mining tech is more and more integral to everything. Are there tools I should be learning to use, even as a non-technical business person, that would help me stay on top of things?

3). What other tech considerations am I missing, in terms of my career longevity? In other words, if my world fell apart tomorrow and I had to return to the real world workforce, what am I going to be expected to know? (this is the classic "I don't know what I don't know" thing).

4). Because of the nature of my businesses, I've given extensive consideration to either sitting for the CPA exam (I qualify to take the exam, just never have) or going to law school, merely as a hedge against degradation in my human capital. But at the same time, I think I might be better off studying ML or AI related stuff. I'm very fortunate to be in the time and financial position to do such a thing if I really wanted to. I'm in my early 40's, and somewhat-sorta-kinda semi-retired.

I'd probably be a much wealthier business person if I had focused all my efforts on ONE thing. But given a history of financial loss (bankruptcy, homelessness, blah blah blah), I'm far more concerned with preserving my ability to generate cash flow through diversification, aka "multiple streams of income". Preserving ye olde human capital is a piece of that.

I appreciate all suggestions, and hope this sparks a healthy conversation that is also relevant to others during "these challenging times".

Cheers, mates! :sharebeer

CascadiaSoonish
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Re: Career Planning/Longevity: Data literacy and being tech forward [preserving human capital]

Post by CascadiaSoonish » Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:46 pm

AerialWombat wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:02 pm
1). Whether in tech or not in tech, am I alone in this concern? What are you seeing in your profession or industry along similar lines?
You're not alone at all. There's a reason why cosmetic surgery is a thing for men in their 40s in SV. Even Bezos got swole, and I'd find it hard to believe that the youth-oriented obsession in tech wasn't a factor.
AerialWombat wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:02 pm
2). It seems like machine learning and data mining tech is more and more integral to everything. Are there tools I should be learning to use, even as a non-technical business person, that would help me stay on top of things?
Maybe take the Andrew Ng course online but honestly I think it's better for the veterans to find ways to mature the tech. Helping to define the business case for ML systems, streamline data management, and support research as well as the development of better software tooling. Being on the bad side of 40 doesn't mean we're irrelevant, it means we've seen the patterns and can apply our experience to current efforts. "History doesn't repeat but it rhymes" and all that.
AerialWombat wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:02 pm
3). What other tech considerations am I missing, in terms of my career longevity? In other words, if my world fell apart tomorrow and I had to return to the real world workforce, what am I going to be expected to know? (this is the classic "I don't know what I don't know" thing).
I'm thinking this would be really dependent on who was doing the evaluating. But right now in my world it's about understanding the dynamics of Slack and Github and AWS and Devops and making sure that teams work smoothly together. Knowing the actual tech isn't as important.
AerialWombat wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:02 pm
4). Because of the nature of my businesses, I've given extensive consideration to either sitting for the CPA exam (I qualify to take the exam, just never have) or going to law school, merely as a hedge against degradation in my human capital. But at the same time, I think I might be better off studying ML or AI related stuff. I'm very fortunate to be in the time and financial position to do such a thing if I really wanted to. I'm in my early 40's, and somewhat-sorta-kinda semi-retired.
If you're working in financial services, makes sense, but otherwise seems pretty orthogonal to what you're doing at present.
AerialWombat wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:02 pm
I'd probably be a much wealthier business person if I had focused all my efforts on ONE thing. But given a history of financial loss (bankruptcy, homelessness, blah blah blah), I'm far more concerned with preserving my ability to generate cash flow through diversification, aka "multiple streams of income". Preserving ye olde human capital is a piece of that.
Diversification is good, but it's not good for anyone to get spread too thin. I like the reasoning behind the "T shaped employee" model. Have depth in a specific valuable area, and enough generalist breadth otherwise to have contextual awareness.

fatFIRE
Posts: 346
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Re: Career Planning/Longevity: Data literacy and being tech forward [preserving human capital]

Post by fatFIRE » Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:59 pm

AerialWombat wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:02 pm
1). Whether in tech or not in tech, am I alone in this concern? What are you seeing in your profession or industry along similar lines?
I'm in a tech megacorp, but I didn't started out that way. I don't even have a CS degree. I've made way into tech through the long road, and it wasn't easy. I am proud that moving into the tech is the best career move I've made so far. Current situation excluded, I have never worked in such a positive industry before. It's all about trending upwards.
AerialWombat wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:02 pm
2). It seems like machine learning and data mining tech is more and more integral to everything. Are there tools I should be learning to use, even as a non-technical business person, that would help me stay on top of things?
I work in the AI/ML space, and closely linked to cloud compute, and I personally think it's all hype and a bubble. TBH, my opinion on tech is that everything is a bubble. The key is to get on and get off the bubble at the right time. While I sit on this bubble, I'm looking for the next bubble. I'm not sure what that is though. I don't think there is a better bubble to be on at the moment. I welcome any dissenting opinion.
AerialWombat wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:02 pm
3). What other tech considerations am I missing, in terms of my career longevity? In other words, if my world fell apart tomorrow and I had to return to the real world workforce, what am I going to be expected to know? (this is the classic "I don't know what I don't know" thing).
Things that I know I don't know that might be the next shiny thing - blockchain (not crypto, but blockchain tech), intersection of cybersecurity and AI/ML.
AerialWombat wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:02 pm
4). Because of the nature of my businesses, I've given extensive consideration to either sitting for the CPA exam (I qualify to take the exam, just never have) or going to law school, merely as a hedge against degradation in my human capital. But at the same time, I think I might be better off studying ML or AI related stuff. I'm very fortunate to be in the time and financial position to do such a thing if I really wanted to. I'm in my early 40's, and somewhat-sorta-kinda semi-retired.
Personally, I think the technical aspect of tech is overrated. Foresight trumps technical mastery. Maybe you are very good at PHP, or maybe you're even the best. But that's useless as PHP is a joke now. So stop focusing on the technical aspects, focus on predicting what is the "next big thing".

Personally, here is how I see a tech career. It's risky, but it's high rewards payout. You also don't need to be "good", you just need to be "lucky". If you're lucky and identified the right fad, and do it twice, you're set for life. Since most bubbles last for 10 years (my opinion), getting onto 2 bubbles (20-years), will be enough to FIRE. Then, you rest-and-vest and turn into a fossil.

The last thing is that you're already 40. You're basically too old for real tech. I'm not kidding when I say there are no old people in tech (I'm only counting top companies and not dying companies like Oracle... just to clarify). I'm very cognizant of this as I'm a late player as well. Some things that I'm working on:
- Move to management (it sounds like you're already in it). That way, you don't have to keep up with the latest execution/skills, but keep up as "though leader". It's also more acceptable to be an old manager than an old IC. Also, unless you have been CSing in your mother womb, you will not survive being an old IC. Old and high-leveled ICs in my megacorp are basically inventors of computer languages. You can't win against that.
- Retcon some of your past, by removing work experience to make it seem like you have less experience and are younger. This is more difficult especially with education credentials (since once can always infer your approx age by when you graduated). Also retconning to make you more competitive may help. For example, I don't ever list my bachelors degree in my resume or linkedin profile (it's not CS), to avoid discrimination.

In any case, it sounds like you FIREd already. So why do you care? Just do whatever you want...!

phxjcc
Posts: 354
Joined: Thu Aug 23, 2018 3:47 pm

Re: Career Planning/Longevity: Data literacy and being tech forward [preserving human capital]

Post by phxjcc » Tue Apr 28, 2020 2:27 am

Background:
Started as an 8080/Z80 assembly language embedded firmware programmer.
Also designed TTL AND CMOS circuits both A & D.
3 years.
Switched companies, they needed assembly language coders for their proprietary stuff in a proprietary OS.
Then switched to C/Unix--K&R white book--in a mid range server and dumb terminal environment.
Then switch to client/server with PC's offloading some processing from the minis.
Was sent to an X-windows training class and found out I wasn't God's gift to OOOE/OOPL.

Made a decision that I WAS going to make myself the best tech manager by learning how to translate business needs to the
techies and technical limitations to the dollar guys.

Moved to run a large telecom at the start of the internet boom...think about the time of the NETSCAPE IPO.
Moved to run large projects for government agencies and private businesses.
Ran rollouts of infrastructure during the 2000 bubble.
Moved to BIG DATA, before it was called big data, we were doing clouds (plural) before there was THE CLOUD.

The net/net and the point of all of the above is that you cannot know now what you will be doing in 10-15 years.
But, at the risk of sounding all touchy feels, if you 1) know how to get things done without pi$$ing off both sides, and 2) know when each side is lying, and 3) are able to translate between the two worlds so they understand each other... you will survive.

What others have said upthread is true, however--no one will want you designing data structures in WHIZBANGO v2.0 in the year 2045; working next to people born in 2024.

Not gonna happen.

But then again, I would have laughed at you if in 1980 you told me that you could go to any computer store and order a 1 TB disk drive for your PC.

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AerialWombat
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Re: Career Planning/Longevity: Data literacy and being tech forward [preserving human capital]

Post by AerialWombat » Tue Apr 28, 2020 10:43 pm

I appreciate all your input on this. I have a lot more to research and think about. Thanks!

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