Time For A Change. Career Change, That Is.

by Mike Stankavich on March 23, 2010

fork-in-the-roadOver the past few months, I’ve come to realize that I’ve had very much the same job for a long time.  I’ve been in the same position at the same grade level with approximately the same responsibilities for eight years now.  And I had similar positions for five or six years before that. That’s a long time.

I had high hopes of striking it rich by investing in real estate and starting up side businesses.  Unfortunately, I was about five years too late.  I have come to realize that in today’s economy, investing in real estate or starting up side businesses isn’t going to make me independently wealthy overnight.

While I was focusing my growth efforts elsewhere, I pretty much left my career on autopilot.  That allowed stagnation and distractions to really hurt my performance.  Thankfully I have turned around those performance problems.  But re-engaging with my day job really brought the fact that I haven’t really grown or progressed for a while back into focus.

When I took a step back and thought about what I enjoyed doing and what I didn’t, I came to realize that I don’t particularly love being a software developer.  When I combined that with the fact that software development is always subject to a lot of outsourcing pressure, I realized that I need to do something else.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what things I did and didn’t enjoy about my daily activities both at work and at home.  I came to realize that I really enjoy building systems and networks.  But I knew that just building systems or being a network administrator would be a step back for me.  So I thought about about what I might be able to do that would leverage those skills, but challenge and stretch me.

I thought about the fact that I enjoyed building personal firewalls and VPN appliances and recalled seeing that information security was a growth area within IT.  I did some more research which confirmed that security was indeed a growth area, and that my combination of software development and networking skills would be very applicable.

Fortunately  I found a good resource for further information within my current social network.  My wife’s cousin’s husband (try saying that real fast three times!) transitioned from an IT manager for a medium sized company to an information security consultant.  He was kind enough to tell me about his experience with the transition and how information security was working out for him.  He said that he was very pleased with how things came out and was liking his new role.  We also discussed qualifications.  I learned that one of the most frequently looked for qualifications is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional, usually abbreviated to CISSP.

So I looked into what it takes to get the CISSP certification.  It consists of a six hour, 250 question exam across ten knowledge domains, and requires five years of experience across two or more of the knowledge domains, or four years of experience with an appropriate college degree.  I went back and finished college in 2008 (more about that here), so all I need is four years.  I verified that I could meet the experience requirement, then went out and bought two review guides and dug in.  After a few weeks of hitting the books, I felt prepared for the test.

Last Saturday was the big day.  I felt that the exam went well, but I still don’t know whether I passed or not.  It’s a pencil and paper test that is sent back to the certification body’s headquarters for scoring.  I hope to find out within the next week or two.

Assuming that I pass, the next step will be looking for a position to put my new skills to work.  My first preference at this point is to find an internal transfer at my current employer.  I have a great commute, I like my seniority, and I enjoy working for one of the world’s great tech companies.  That being said, if another outside opportunity presents itself, I will consider it on its merits.  But the bar is pretty high.  One key benefit of staying where I’m at is full tuition reimbursement.  I’m considering a Master’s degree.  It would be really nice to have that funded.

One thing that would really entice me is an expat position, particularly in Southeast Asia.  My wife and I really love to travel.  She is from the Philippines, so we have strong ties to that part of the world.

My long term goal is to build a location independent freelance or consultancy business.  But I need to save for a while and build some experience before taking that on.

All in all, I’m feeling very positive about this change.  It’s good to break out of the rut that I’ve been in for the last few years.   I’m sure that there will be challenges, but I’m willing to work hard to overcome them.

Photo credit: The fork for Wernfigin on the road to Pentre’r-felin
© Copyright Bonelli and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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