Do technical skills cross industry boundaries?

As a long time technology enthusiast I have had the pleasure of talking to peers in various industries. I have spent most of my career working in Telecommunications, but the lines have always been a bit blurred. When I entered the work force in 1981 there were not enough technology workers to go around so it was quite common to have graduate engineers from other engineering disciplines writing software right beside me. The average age of the workforce at Mitel in 1981 was 22 and life was good. Some of the best software designers that I have every worked with were chemical engineering and physics graduates.

We still see graduates from other engineering disciplines crossing over to software development, but it has become more the exception than the rule. Within the software development industry we are starting to see some stratification caused by industry specific requirements. Gaming, Telecom, Embedded systems and several other verticals tend to look for specific types of developers based on everything from salary requirements to game play experience.

When I am building a team I tend to look for technology enthusiasts. People who love what they are doing and like to have fun. These type of people can rise to any challenge and are generally willing to put in the extra time required to get up to speed. What this means is that direct industry experience is not as important as a desire to learn. These people are hard to find, but they do exist so once you find them, never let them go.

The last company I worked at had an individual that needed to move to another country for a while to take care of his parents. We set up a remote office there so that we could continue to benefit from his contributions. That is the kind of thing you should be prepared to do!

Technical skills do cross industry boundaries, so I encourage you to look for the people first and the skills second.

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