Career advice: Dealing with the recession, and its aftermath

Nicholas D. Evans

Title: Vice president and general manager, Office of the Chief Technology Officer

Company: Unisys, Blue Bell, Pa.

Evans is this month's Premier 100 IT Leader, answering questions about dealing with the current economy and what will follow the recession. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of our Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to and watch for this column each month.

Nicholas Evans, Unisys
Nicholas Evans, Unisys

I'm beginning to believe that even if we make it through this recession, things are never going to be the same as they were. If we're in for a fundamental shift in how the economy and the companies we work for operate, how can we prepare? One of the advantages of working in the IT field is that technology can be utilized for business benefit regardless of the economic cycle. Companies need to innovate in both up and down cycles, and IT can be a strategic enabler of this innovation. As organizations look to reduce costs and improve internal efficiencies, they are looking at how to do more with what they have. Application modernization is a great example. Instead of costly rip-and-replace projects, companies are modernizing their existing applications by moving to service-oriented architectures, Web-enabling their legacy applications, adding Web 2.0 and mobility extensions and generally improving the experience and productivity for their business end users. In addition, IT is gaining the benefits of reduced risk and cost, greater leverage of existing intellectual property, and shortened implementation time frames when compared to high-risk, new application development initiatives. This is just one example of the kinds of IT projects you might want to think about as you adapt to the fundamental shift in the economy. Innovation within IT will always be valuable and relevant regardless of the economic cycle. How well companies execute on this innovation may well determine success or failure in the marketplace.

I'm a new graduate of a well-regarded computer science program at a major university. I feel confident that an interesting career in IT awaits me, but for now I'm unemployed. I'm worried that I'll remain so for a while, until the economy recovers. Any advice on what I should be doing in the meantime? Certainly don't wait for the economy; no-one can predict when things will turnaround. I'd suggest networking as much as you can through online and offline sources (e.g., university contacts, local and national IT associations, online sources, etc.) and also thinking about which industry sectors might be most attractive to you personally, both in terms of the kinds of industries you'd like to work in and the robustness of these industries during the recession. You may opt for more resilient industries such as health care, defense or the public sector, or you may consider the IT services or consulting arenas. Also think about other certifications you might be able to work on in the interim such as the Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and so forth. If you're a new graduate with limited prior work experience, then these certifications may give you an additional edge over your peers and be just the door opener you need.

I was planning on retiring this year, until my 401(k) tanked. Now, I don't know how much longer I'll have to stay gainfully employed (I'm 62), but I know I need to adjust my expectations and attitude -- I don't want this situation to make me bitter, but I'm not exactly thrilled to still be here. Any advice? With 401(k)'s, I think most of us are in the same boat, unfortunately. The best advice I can give is to revise your game plan in terms of two key areas. Firstly, get some financial advice in terms of your savings plan and retirement goals to make the best out of your new situation. Secondly, think about your work plan and what combination of elements might make things more interesting to you. It might be a change in role or some new assignments that will challenge you more and be more personally rewarding.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon