Your technology skills have a two year half-life and 6 ways to stay current

Question: Professionally I customize software modules on a well known software package. The version we are working on is one version back and about a year old. Is continuing to work on this old software version hurting my professional marketability?

The short answer to your question is no, not yet, unless it was a major release that is being quickly and widely adopted.

The longer answer is that, in my opinion, a techie’s skill set from a marketability perspective has a two year half-life. That is to say, that the exact set of skills you have today will only be half as marketable two years from now.

The reason your technical marketability degrades so quickly is because technology, like time, marches forward. Software companies continually update their applications. Hardware vendors upgrade their hardware and software control systems on an on-going basis. Also, technology oriented mega-trends like cloud computing and the proliferation of mobile devices are continually driving and transforming our industry.

Your ability to stay current in your technical niche can be greatly affected by the company where you work. That said, regardless if your firm is an early adopter, main stream adopter, or late adopter of new software versions, there are things that you can do to keep yourself current on the technology including the following:

  1. If it exists, become involved in the vendor’s official user group. This can give you special access to the vendor’s employees and help you build a network of other techies using the vendor’s technology.
  2. If your company has no immediate plan to upgrade the vendor’s newest software version, ask your manager if you can load the software upgrade into a test region so you can begin to learn about it for future reference.
  3. Many software vendors now have cloud-based versions of their software. That said, as a client, they may be willing to give you a free test area within their cloud environment to evaluate and learn their latest software version.
  4. Read all you can about the vendor in general and release notes and industry commentary on the software package. This will help keep you current on your vendor’s plans and technology challenges.
  5. Read about technologies that are complementary and/or integrated with your vendor’s software. For example, if you work on Oracle’s financial software product, stay knowledgeable on software, like report writers, that can be used to enhance its usability. Additionally, if you are writing database stored procedures, keep up to date on Oracle’s PL/SQL.
  6. Read and stay knowledgeable about your vendor’s major competitors. For example, once again, if you work on the Oracle’s financial software package, read about what SAP is doing on their product. This will give you a wider understanding of your application specialty and potentially give you insights into innovative ways to customize your vendor’s software within your company.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

This story, "Your technology skills have a two year half-life and 6 ways to stay current" was originally published by ITworld.


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