While I was an undergraduate studying computer science, I struggled with determining what technologies and languages that I should invest my time in for an ideal career path. I constantly asked myself what would bring me the best value for years to come in terms of my future career.

Still not having been completely satisfied with my own answers, Jeffrey Snover, lead architect for Windows Server at Microsoft, provided insights into this question that's continually being asked by IT professionals during his opening keynote at fall DevConnections in Las Vegas on Monday. In particular, Snover discussed the importance of investing time in several key technologies to maximize a professional's earnings throughout his or her lifetime.

According to Snover, he says that it's time for IT professionals to think about modernizing themselves by investing time in new and relevant technologies. "Sometimes there are flash in the pan technologies, and you don't want to hang your hat on any single technology," Snover explained.

Snover noted that it can be a difficult decision to determine what technologies individuals should be investing in for his or her career. Snover alluded that with Windows Server 2012, an emerging trend in the industry includes mobile cloud computing, which will provide an explosion of opportunities for individuals to invest him or herself in several different technologies.

"With these changes going on, it's really time for each of us to step back and make a conscious decision to reinvest in our careers," Snover stressed. In addition, Snover provided several different factors to consider when determining whether an IT professional should invest their time in a technology. These factors include:

  • Compelling economic advantage. Does the technology in question dramatically improve productivity?
  • Compatibility. For example, C# is very much like C++, which is also similar to C. Users can take knowledge from one language and apply it to another.
  • Simplicity and adoptability. Can the technology in question be easily implemented into production and processes?
  • Sponsorship. Is the technology in question something that's being promoted by large sponsors such as Microsoft?

"You want to invest in those things with a probability of long-term success," Snover explained. When I spoke to Snover one on one, he referred to Malcom Gladwell's Outliers (Little, Brown and Company, 2008), which makes the claim that an individual needs to invest 10,000 hours to be an expert in something. 10,000 hours equates to a five-year investment. "You really don't want to make a flash in the pan decision just because you read a bunch of articles on a certain technology. You need to realize that you're in it for the long term and try to make those decisions thoughtfully," Snover said.

 Jeffrey Snover discussing IT trends and Windows Server 2012 at DevConnections in Las Vegas
Jeffrey Snover discussing IT trends and Windows Server 2012 at DevConnections in Las Vegas