June 22, 2017

Amazon bought Whole Foods

Amazon bought Whole Foods, which means that pretty much any company could be next? 

Will it be yours? How has a money-losing online bookseller become a global powerhouse in every nook of our lives? And how has technology escaped from being something that sat (politely, quietly) on our desktop to something that pervades every part of our lives and cuts through industry after industry with an amazing, chaotic whirlwind of change?

What is true today is that we don’t have a separate tech sector or tech industry anymore. Technology can’t be closed off in a box and left to the technology team. And technology is no longer just a part of the org chart.

It’s the whole org chart.

And while that might be a bit obvious when you’re thinking about companies, and competition, and consumer choices, have you thought about what this means for you, your career and your family?

And have you thought about what changes you’ll need to make in your life and your career as a result?

Because the hallmark of technology industries is that stuff is always changing.

And that means your job will always be changing.

At some point in the past, the advice of your parents or grandparents went like this:

Get an education, get credentials or get a professional degree, pay your dues, and you’ll earn a good living.

And that’s just not true anymore.

It’s certainly not been true in technology for a long time; today’s popular software, device, or system ended up in the back of the closet with all of the other gadgets of yesteryear. And that meant that the programmers and designers and engineers that built the gadgets had to always be keeping up: learning new skills, experimenting with new technologies, trying out new things.

And what you’ll need to realize is that the same is true of your career.

It’s no longer going to be enough to get a college degree, pass a professional test and slowly make your way up the ladder over years and years.

Companies need employees who are able to help them win despite the chaos. Employees who can thrive, and compete, and grow when the industry, and competitors, and even customers are changing in a turbulent, unpredictable way.

Even technology winners turn over pretty quickly these days. It was less than a decade ago that Blackberry, Yahoo, Nokia, and Monster.com were the toast of the town. Today they are much smaller competitors in their industries than they used to be.

For you and your career this means that yesterday’s wins do very little to ensure tomorrow’s future.

What’s required of you is not that you learned something valuable once upon a time, but that you are constantly learning the new things: learning new skills, understanding the new dynamics, and thriving in a new competitive environment.

It’s not a light burden, and you should be aware of that. It will take time and hours and attention.

It means setting aside the time to pick up new software skills. It means going to the new technology demos at your industry trade shows. It means paying a little more attention to the “tech trends” articles that get passed around on social media and your company mailing lists. It means once in a while, being the person that finds the “tech trends” article and passes it around on the company mailing list.

It means a lot of effort on your part -- there’s no use pretending that all of this will come for free.

But in an economy where a tech company can buy your local grocer, there is no industry, no company, and no career that can succeed without embracing change.

Remember that, the next time you go to the bookstore to buy a tomato.

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