Did you know Switzerland used to dominate the world of watchmaking? Back in 1968, they owned around 65% of the world market share and enjoyed 80% of the profits. Yet, about 12 years later their market share had fallen below 10% because they ignored a tech trend. Can you believe that?
The number of watch workers in the country had gone from 65,000 to 15,000 in a little over a decade. In a nation as small as Switzerland, this was catastrophic. The watch industry had been turned upside down by a revolutionary invention: the quartz movement watch. It was totally electronic, way more accurate than the mechanical watches it replaced and battery powered. Who invented it? Well, it was the Swiss themselves.
However, when the idea was presented to the Swiss watch manufacturers in 1968, it was rejected. Long story short, the quartz watch had none of the mechanical complexities that the Swiss were so good at. Hence, it couldn’t possibly be the future of watches; it was useless. Swiss manufacturers were so confident in their conclusion that they didn’t even patent the idea. On top of everything, that same year they displayed it at the World Watch Congress for anyone to see. A tiny Japanese company called Seiko walked by, took one look at it, and only a decade later, rose all the way to the very top of the global market.
The Swiss couldn’t foresee a change in the way things were done; they failed to see past their paradigm. This happens very often in the world of business and in everyday life. For example, have you noticed that what used to be an online bookstore, Amazon, dominates the cloud storage market? If a few years back you had to guess who was going to take over the cloud industry you would have probably said something like Cisco or IBM. But, they didn’t jump on what was the latest tech trend at the time and lost a huge opportunity.
Amazon realized their application engineers, in order to do their jobs properly, needed to have very detailed conversations with their network infrastructure engineers. In order to avoid wasting more time, they figured out that the data center people could give the apps people a reliable infrastructure that they could build products on top of. They built it and then decided to sell it to everyone that needed web-scale applications. Without paying much attention to haters they proceeded to take over a massive market.
It’s not a secret that jumping on a new tech trend can result in a huge advantage. Most, if not all, of the people who have had major success in the IT industry, will tell you that doing so was one of the keys to their success. They would tell you that it could be the difference between rising all the way to a top position in a few years or being stuck in a boring job. They will also tell you that spotting a new tech trend is very hard and that if you do, you should do something about it ASAP.
Many people who made it all the way to the very top of the IT world, owe it to being among the first ones to identify future demand for certain skills. Think about it. Do you think those who became experts in cloud technology when many people still debated whether it was a good idea or not are seeing any benefits today? These people knew they could have a head start and took advantage of it. Right now, they are probably looking for the next big thing.
If you are among those who are constantly looking for an edge, you’ll be glad to know that there is a huge shift (yes, another one) starting to happen in the IT world that you can take advantage of. Those who do will probably be able to skyrocket through the industry as if it were easy. Those who don’t will likely regret it since it will affect their ability to land and/or keep senior level positions in the future.
As usual, what’s happening is quite simple. Networks have become way too complex and this is making companies want to hire less IT people. If you read that again you’ll probably think it makes no sense so let me explain. Back in the day, networks used to be very simple. Some networks would consist of a handful of devices and require only one person to manage them. If you had a certification in routing and switching you could easily become a network engineer and make a great living. Nowadays, things are a bit different. There are a lot of technologies integrated into networks and way more devices connected. This has increased the size of teams, which means higher costs for IT departments.
Companies are starting to realize that their IT teams are too big because they are hiring people to focus on each specific area of IT. Therefore, they are now looking for professionals with cross-functional skills, also known as full stack network engineers. These people understand networking, security, automation and cloud and are able to communicate effectively across all of these areas. As a result, they can save companies a lot of money.
However, full stack network engineers are very hard to find. One of the main reasons for this is that IT education prepares people to specialize in one specific area from the very beginning of their careers. Take Cisco entry level training as an example. If you look at their CCNA certs, you’ll see there is one for each technology. However, nothing teaches the basics of the full stack of networking technologies.
Usually, full stack network engineers are people who have built cross-functional skill sets over several years. It could be someone who was into networking but then switched to security and later on learned automation or someone in security who was intrigued by the cloud (anyways, you get the idea). These people learned one skill and one area at a time as they moved through their careers. They could have specialized in one area, but maybe the way their careers unfolded resulted in them learning many things and building some of the most coveted skill sets of today. Lucky them.
Top tech companies are already seeing the benefits of hiring people who understand the full stack. Pablo Espinosa, Director of Network Engineering at Intuit, says that assembling a team of full stack network engineers allowed him to make better use of company resources. With top tech companies like this one already seeing the benefits of hiring full stack network engineers, it’s only a matter of time until more companies start to do the same thing. This will certainly increase the demand for full stack network engineers. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that there will be a shortage.
If you are thinking about breaking into IT or are in the early years of your career, you’re in a prime position to take advantage of this tech trend. Instead of using your time to specialize in one specific area you can make sure you get the strongest networking foundation, understand security inside and out, learn a network programming language and know your way around the cloud. Later in your career, you will probably need to specialize in one of these areas anyways. However, chances are that IT teams will be looking to onboard people who understand all of these areas since it helps them streamline their operations. Therefore, those who can confidently say they are full stack network engineer will have an edge on everybody else.
The only training program that can train you on the full stack of networking technologies is called Zero to Engineer. It consists of an online course of over 100 hours that can teach you everything from networking essentials to how to carry out your own full stack networking project from start to finish. Additionally, people who finish this program have the option of attending a 5-day full stack certification boot camp where they can gain hands-on experience handling real-world equipment. At the end of the boot camp, students get a chance to get certified as Full Stack Network Associates.