No in-person conferences. No get-to-know-you-dinners. No hallway encounters in conference centers and hotels. While the Covid-19 crisis has put the kibosh on many things, active career development may be one of those things. 
Photo: Joe McKendrick
A majority of the 1,625 professionals — many from the technology sector — responding to a survey by Blind, an anonymous professional network, finds 53% claim their careers have been negatively impacted by the crisis. Putting things in perspective, of course, one shouldn’t complain if they kept their job — and their health — through these last six brutal months. And yes, sustaining and maintaining operations and decent user/customer experience through all this was quite a learning experience that will definitely shine on many resumes.  The recent crisis has been a mixed bag for IT professionals. The role of IT has been elevated to the highest echelons in the organizations, which recognized they simply could not survive through the crisis without technology professionals and assets. At the same time, this is placing even more demand on IT professionals to deliver. A recent survey from Nitro Software finds while most people feel productive working from home, they want their organizations to improve their IT workflows but see a number of barriers such as IT being too busy (42%), budgets being limited (41%) and lack of training/support (38%).   IT skills and services have been seen as the world’s most valuable commodity. A bellwether is the amount of M&A activity that has been taking place over the past year — a report from Hampleton Partners, for example, shows that the crisis has put the IT sector “on the frontline despite the pandemic’s impact on deal volumes and valuations, with IT departments and suppliers remaining crucial in the shift of entire companies online and in the e-commerce boom.” The sudden push to work from home “has required better IT capabilities, whether in-house or outsourced,” the report’s authors state. “In some cases, IT departments have had to move entire companies offsite. To enable this, IT services firms and departments are working with virtualization tools and integration with other systems, software and platforms. They are also working with the cloud for efficiency in remote working and corporate agility.” The simultaneous push to data-driven customer interactions has also increased the value of IT as of late. “CRM integration with other systems and software, is more crucial than ever for businesses who rely on customer retention, particularly in this climate.”  So, the fallout of the crisis is more pressure and dependence on technology professionals to deliver and keep their coworkers and companies afloat, more opportunities to roll out transformative technologies — but fewer opportunities for career growth, at least at the moment. For most, in fact, active career growth may have also ground to a halt, the Blind survey shows. Networking — the fundamental route to opportunities — ground to a halt, with 74% of surveyed professionals stating that they have not been able to network internally since work from home began, and 75% have not been able to network externally.   It seems virtual meetings or sessions simply don’t facilitate robust opportunities for getting to know people. What makes this survey extremely interesting is the fact that many of the professionals responding work at tech companies, which, in theory, are the masters of the virtual universe. If tech company employees are having difficulties adjusting to all-online encounters, imagine the frustrations felt by employees in mainstream organizations.

A tech company with the most favorable career opportunities through the crisis has been Intel — only 38% report career opportunities being hindered, versus 62% seeing continued growth.  Amazon and Cisco both were more favorable than unfavorable as well — 48% report sluggish career growth, versus 52% experiencing normal levels of opportunity. (A word of caution on this data — it is based on relatively small sample sizes.)

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