Your future role in IT probably doesn’t exist yet

According to the ‘World Economic Forum’, between 2015 and 2020 35% of the core skills you have today will change. What do you think these changes might be?

Personally, looking back over my time with NetApp, 11 years now, it fascinates me as to how my own role has adapted and changed. Some changes are very simple. For example, when I started 11 years ago, if you wanted to contact me, I just had a mobile phone and an email address. And if I wanted to communicate the value of NetApp and our technologies I needed to speak at a lot of events and meet with a lot of potential customers.

I’ve always enjoyed public speaking but it became clear that there are only so many events that you can speak at and therefore so many people that you can reach. This is one of the ways changing technology has had a big impact on what I do.

To connect with more people, I began blogging. In addition, I became active on Twitter and LinkedIn. In a short amount of time the number of people that I reached quadrupled. But it has required I step out of my comfort zone and learn a new way of communicating. I was never particularly comfortable with writing, but I’ve had to try to become much better at it.

It was also clear I couldn’t keep doing what I’d always done and somehow expect things around me would change for my benefit.

This should come as no surprise to anyone reading this but what does this mean to you and I as IT professionals in the future?


Recently, I had an interesting meeting with the Storage Engineers at a customer site. They were considering a move to a commodity type storage Infrastructure with little or no data management capabilities.

It was interesting because they were so enamored by the technical specifications of the new equipment, in particular the processors and interconnects, that the Storage Engineers actually said they were quite comfortable giving all of the Data Management capabilities that were inherent in their existing Storage Array up to the Virtualisation layer or to the Applications themselves.

After discussing the pro’s and con’s of this for a while, I asked the team of Storage Engineers what they believed their future roles were with the company? I got some very confused looks so I explained it a little further. Basically all of the value that used to be offered like Data Management, Data Protection, and Replication capabilities were going to be given to other teams in the organisation.

They agreed. So I asked again, What are your roles going forward? If you take all the value you used to deliver and basically give it to someone else to do, what exactly will you do in the future and why would your company need so many of you?

Let’s be clear of one thing. I am not saying that their approach was the wrong one. And I admit, my approach was a bit harsh.

As Hypervisor and Application levels of protection become more robust then you should of course consider them. But if by doing this, you effectively give up a significant part of the value you used to offer then you need a clear view on what you believe your role is going to be in the future, because it clearly will be quite different than the role you currently have today.


I guess this is why our ‘Data Fabric’ message appeals to me. It’s not about a specific technology per se but about a portfolio of technologies that can be brought together to create some pretty unique solutions. For example, Flash is exciting right now, but in isolation it’s just another media type with a few interesting new characteristics. But what if you could introduce an All Flash Array that also gives you the ability to replicate data to a virtual storage device installed inside an Amazon Web Services (AWS) instance? now that’s interesting, it creates truly new possibilities. How about replacing your traditional backup infrastructure with technology that can deduplicate, compress and encrypt the backup data and stream it via S3 to an Object Store or to a Cloud Provider, massively reducing complexity and cost. Or maybe you have teams inside your organisation looking at OpenStack to deliver Platform as a Service, or Docker, or any one of the technologies that contribute to the new ‘3rd Platform’ applications. Then our SolidFire technology provides a massively scalable storage foundation that is tightly integrated and can be fully managed by the Software layers above it. It may feel a little scary at first to think that these kinds of solutions don’t really need Storage Engineers to manage them, but that’s the way the world is heading.

Technology moves at a incredibly fast pace. The technologies we use today have to keep up or we must consider new ones that will. It’s incumbent on all of us to consider what technologies may be appropriate for the future. But equally as important is for us to consider what our role will become as these changes occur.

Each of us need to adapt to the changes and learn a new way of bringing value.

So what can you do?

As an IT professional, it is critical that you see yourself as a business professional and not simply a technology specialist. Finding ways to contribute to the success of the business will be a key skill in the future.

Recently, Lee Congon, CIO of RedHat, and Cynthia Stoddard, CIO of NetApp sat down with my colleague, Richard Bliss, and discussed the changing skill set of their IT staff in the new IT environment.
Lee said: Redesigning the organization and moving to cloud sent an emphatic message to our IT folks—not only that they were still going to have a job, but also that they were going to need to learn some new skills. Putting those incentives in place enabled us to get there that much faster.
You can read the full article here Cynthia Stoddard and Lee Congdon interview on Forbes

The changes in technology are both exciting and intimidating. I’m glad I have been able to be a part of it. And I’m amazed at the new skills and abilities I’ve been able to develop over my career.

So here I am 11 years later, if you’d like to contact me today then you can via…

– Mobile
– Home
– NetApp
– Gmail
– Hotmail
and this web site


  1. Hi Matt,

    Thx for sharing this interview/brainstorm with us, much appreciated and it has a lot of value for all of us how are confrontated with organizing and letting evolve our infranstructure departments!

  2. I have a vision that there will a lot less storage/network/virtualization engineers working for the provideres in near future. I don’t belive that specialist will disappear completely, but I’m pretty convinced that more of us, will have to manage a lot more of the stack than just the one part. Most have build more and more complex solutions over the last decades, but that complexity will soon be hidden. And once more the generalists will prevail.

    1. Agreed, as we see more Converged and now Hyper-converged systems the management of these becomes simpler and the roles needed to manage these environments have to converge as well. Teams to manage Orchestration and Automation will grow to serve the needs of the increasingly dynamic application environments, like I said in my post though, this isn’t necessarily new we’ve always seen automation push people further up the stack, what is new is the pace at which this is happening.

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Excellent Article Matt and asks a brilliant question – I did a storage workshop recently where we said two of the things that stop people developing an appropriate future strategy are

    1. overwhelmed by all the choices and don’t know where to start
    or and more worrying
    2. they realise that their current role could be under threat if they look at a technology that forces them to change what they do – if your current skillset pays the bills, kind of attitude.

    It’s a really interesting question – but one that neither of the above will solve, because in either case eventually your organisation will realise that you are doing them a disservice and that they may will need to find someone who can deal with the challenges presented.

    Excellent thought provoking stuff.

    1. Just thinking out loud here, do you think this is why some people have become too excited about Flash? they are able to convince themselves that they’ve done something transformational by introducing this new media and a move toward an ‘All Flash Data Centre’, it feels strategic, feels important, but the reality is that all you actually changed was the media type you use.

      1. Pretty much. Flash feels exciting because it’s fast (and speed can seem transformative), but that’s it, it’s not doing anything revolutionary around smarter ways of working, and it’s not strategic.

        1. Hey Ed thanks for the comment.

          Maybe today’s Storage Engineers / Architects need to become tomorrows Automation Engineers / Architects?

          1. That or the mythical “full stack engineer”. I think we’re reaching a point in IT where the majority of people are having to diversify into generalists and/or move up the application stack.

  4. If I see the move that companies does with their development teams moving them to a configuration team, then today’s data center team or storage engineers will be moving also towards automation/configuration teams…
    For me Flash is the last breath of a conventional datacenter before we move into the wave of nano technology, but we need this phase to adapt. Our live today is no longer about “knowledge” but about the ability of adaptation!

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