Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Plans in Life - or so I call them

My 10-year forecast for my future... starting today!

Before I start my own sermon about my plans here, I would just like to emphasize that, from what I can see, there are two major questions to be answered here. The first one is “Am I worthy to be called an IT Professional?” and the second is “How do I see myself 10 years from now?” and a follow-up question, “What are my strategies to get there?

The questions above are all difficult questions to answer, especially that I am also unsure of what I want to be in the future. I am a person with such diverse interests that my ambitions change as often as I change my clothes. I have to admit that this trait of mine is somehow affecting my decisions about what I want to do with my life.

Let me focus on the first question for now – am I worthy to be called an IT professional? Honestly, with the way I am now, I would not even dare say that I am an IT professional, let alone be worthy of being called as such. I would like to think that I am still on the long road to becoming an IT professional. If you have read a previous post in my blog entitled “Looking 5 Years into the Future”, you would learn that to become a “responsible” and “dynamic” IT professional is my ultimate goal, not my vision. A vision, as defined by our instructor, is a big and almost impossible dream. I would not say that becoming an IT professional is a vision because it is not exactly unreachable and impossible. So, it is now that I lay down my plans as I go on the path to reaching my goal of becoming a person worthy to be called an “IT Professional”.

In my opinion, there are many kinds of IT professionals but basically these are people, or more specifically professionals, who make use of information technology as a tool to help address their business organization’s needs. So just when can I say that I am worthy to be called an IT professional? I actually tried researching over the Internet to find out the definition of IT Professional but guess what, I found nothing. I did not find any definition or article about the true meaning of being an IT professional or even about what the characteristics of an IT professional are. I guess the title gradually lost its meaning as time went by and the popularity of IT and technology as a whole became widespread. I mean, most people claim they are IT professionals just because they know how to operate the computer and code some programs. However, I think that there’s more to being an IT professional than what most people claim there is. And I think that that is one of the reasons why I took up this course – to be able to rightfully claim being an IT professional.

Like I said above, I cannot say that I am an IT professional… yet. I may not be one now, but I am determined to become one someday. Let me sidetrack from the topic a bit because the mention of “IT professional” also made me think of two particular terms: “digital native” and “technopreneur”. You might think that I’m straying too far from the topic here but I assure you that this will all make sense as I continue this sermon…

I just saw on television recently a show entitled “Digital Natives” that featured certain outstanding young individuals who made significant impact to the world of Information Technology and business. Just what are digital natives? According to Wikipedia, a digital native is a person who has grown up with digital technology such as computers, the Internet, mobile phones and MP3. An article written by Marc Prensky entitled “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” also tells about how the youth of today – from kindergarten through college – are now considered as the first generation of digital natives. That would mean that I am a digital native, too! I agree with Prensky that students of today rely too much on digital information and technology in most of their activities. Even I admit that I would probably have a difficult time without the Internet. Technopreneur, on the other hand, was defined by the on-line Merriam-Webster Dictionary as simply an entrepreneur who makes use of technology.

So, how does all this talk about IT professional, digital natives and technopreneur fit into my scheme of things? Let me tell you that these are the terms that lay down the foundation of my plans. These are probably going to be the roots where my plans will branch out from. I made the concepts behind these terms as my inspiration and motivation to keep reaching for my goal.

The question about how I see myself ten years from now is pretty big. But I guess it is better that way because by that time, I think I will have already established myself in my chosen profession. Of course, here comes the question that I honestly have been trying to avoid – who will I be in the next ten years? It is about time that I answer that question because the clock is ticking and I know that I do not have forever to decide on my future career path.

I mentioned earlier that there are different kinds of IT professionals. But the kind that I want to be was inspired from the show “Digital Natives”. My inspiration and model is a thirteen year-old who, at such a young age, is already Silicon Valley’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Elemente-O. Elemente-O is a chemistry game that he created for the purpose of making learning Chemistry fun for students. He is considered a digital native because, like me, he grew up alongside computers, iPods and cellular phones. At the same time, he is considered a technopreneur because he made use of the technology available to him to create this game and do business. The Internet was the most important tool that he used to make the game because it was where he got information about the periodic table of elements, which was the main concept of Elemente-O. Using the Internet also, he contacted a designer to design the characters of his game, which were modeled after the Pok√©mon game characters. When he was asked at a conference about his goals, he stated two of them. The first is to make one million dollars in revenue by the end of middle school, which is next year and the second is to make Elemente-O one of Amazon’s top ten educational games. I could not help but envy him because he has already defined his goals and has a well-established plan for his future, even if it is just short-term. So, taking after his example, I on the other hand want to become an IT professional who makes use of technology as a tool to help me with my business needs and solve people’s problems and I think that’s what a real IT professional should do. (see video below)
13 year-old Silicon Valley CEO for Elemente-O

Okay, so that’s basically it. In the next ten years, I want to see myself as that kind of IT professional that I am describing now. As for the follow up question, “What are my strategies to get there?”, I’m going to lay out my plans here again and hopefully, they are better than the previous ones that I posted in an earlier blog entry. I should probably mention that I was very happy when RSG left a message on my chat box saying that he loved my reflection on his sermon last November 24, 2008. I said in my reflection that I picked up his idea of S.W.O.T. or Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats and that I will use it to help me identify the traits that will help me get to where I should be going. And this, my friends, is actually the second step of my plan. The first step is to identify what I want to be and I believe that it is only after I can do that will I be able to proceed with the rest of my plans. So, after having identified and stated what I want to be in the next ten years, the second step for me would be to assess and evaluate myself for my strengths and weaknesses. This is where S.W.O.T. comes in.

S.W.O.T. allows me to evaluate myself in a fair manner because it identifies both my strong and weak points. I believe that both attributes- my strengths and weaknesses- are important in assessing myself and knowing how I will be reacting under various situations. This evaluation method, though when RSG presented it to us it was an evaluation for an institution, is a very simple yet clear outline of an individual’s capabilities. The way I look at it, S.W.O.T. gives me the chance to explore myself and help me know myself better.

So, let us see here my strengths that I identified. Okay, after considering my personality, the strengths that I could identify within myself are my: (1) open-mindedness, (2) hardworking attitude, (3) willingness to learn new things, (4) sense of responsibility, and (5) young age. You might have noticed that I did not put such strengths as “intelligent” and the like, but that is because I believe that being an IT professional does not require one to be intelligent. Instead, an IT professional in my opinion should have more attitude than brains. Intelligence is a secondary factor in this field of work. True, you would need to know about a lot of things but it is how you approach a particular problem and how you deal with it which are the more important considerations than knowing what to do with it. By the way, you might be wondering why I considered my young age as a strength. If you have been observing and reading job advertisements, the preferred age is getting lower and lower. So, being as young as I am now, I believe that it is not only a strength but also an advantage when I apply for a job. Why, you say? Have you ever heard of the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? I do not mean anything insulting here by saying this. But because I am still young, I have a bigger chance to still be molded into an individual who can make, not break, a company. And this goes with what I was saying earlier about digital natives, that we have an entirely different way of thinking than the so-called “digital immigrants”, people who adopted the digital era. Because of my young age, it is possibly easier for me to still reshape myself to be the person who will lift the company.

After having laid down my strengths, the next thing to do is to identify my weaknesses. Why is this part of my strategy? Like I said above, identifying both the positive and negative side of yourself allows you to weigh out your choices in deciding on a career path. By identifying my weaknesses as early as now, I would know what parts of myself need to be improved so that they will no longer handicap me when I tackle the rest of my plans. As of now, I could identify only some of my weaknesses. They are: (1) shyness, (2) fear of commitment, and (3) indecisiveness. There are only three, which is fewer than the number of strengths that I was able to identify, but I know for a fact that these three weaknesses of mine are the most significant and influential factors that would affect my over-all self. Let me go back to that thirteen year-old CEO that I mentioned earlier. You know what, I totally envy him for breaking out of his shell and going out into the world. Honestly, ever since I was child, I had missed lots of opportunities to broaden my knowledge and explore my skills and capabilities because I was too shy. I know, stupid me! Of course I regretted missing them but I am now determined to break out of the invisible jail cell that I put myself in. The other two weaknesses of mine – fear of commitment and indecisiveness – are, I think, due in part to my shyness. I honestly do not even fully understand why I am so afraid of committing to one thing. Based on my past experiences, I turned down several opportunities because I did not want to be committed to it. I guess at that time I was thinking that I might not be able to dedicate myself to that particular matter and I did not want to get tied to a duty that I am not sure I can fulfill. And, I may have mentioned this already, I have diverse interests so I probably thought that I did not want to commit to a thing that I know I would soon lose interest in. There is also another factor that adds to my fear of commitment which is lack of motivation. I have observed myself that even if I do not really like what I am doing, I get forced to doing it because there is a motivation for me to keep doing so. As for the last weakness that I identified, indecisiveness, this is also due to my varying interests. But then, as I look at it now, this is probably going to have the biggest impact in my career. Why? Just the fact that I do not know what I want to be in the future clearly shows that this weakness of mine is going to cost me a lot. However, I believe that I can overcome this weakness by identifying and establishing a clear goal and having the motivation to keep reaching for it. If I apply this to when I will become an IT professional, there would be no room for indecisiveness if I have a clear view of what I have to do because then I will only have to make decisions that would be in line with and help me achieve my goal.

The next part of S.W.O.T. is O or Opportunities. Hmmm, there are many meanings to the word “opportunity”. If we talk about business or career opportunities, right now, there are really a lot of opportunities for me and other IT students. I mean, we ARE in the information age and there is a very high demand for IT-skilled individuals. But there is also an opportunity of improving myself because now, after having been able to identify my strengths and weaknesses, I know what needs improvement. Another opportunity also opened up for me when some of my classmates and I visited this certain employment resource agency. Our main purpose there was to ask permission from them to conduct a study on their system. But, because also of their initiative to act first, they told us about career workshops that they hold every week. And guess what, it’s for free! This is a fantastic opportunity for me that will be a big help when I am going to apply for a job. It is a great way to develop my skills that will be needed when I apply for a job and it is where I can learn techniques to snag the job that I want. There are also scholarships offered to us like the one that I heard of just recently – PHILNITS. These scholarships are actually opportunities for us to be able to really make the most of our skills in IT. Scholarships such as PHILNITS are created for a specific group of people who specialize in particular areas. There is also another opportunity that opened up for me when I became a scholar and that is the opportunity to work in Japan as an IT professional. This opportunity came to be because our scholarship coordinator’s daughter is both a scholar and working at the Japanese Consulate. If I perform well, she can give me a recommendation and possibly send me to Japan. Even if it is not a very definite opportunity, at least I have something to hold on to. At least, I am given a chance.

The next step of my strategy is to isolate the threats. No decision is without a threat. There would always be a corresponding threat to everything we do. Why is isolating the threats an important part of my strategies to become an IT professional? My answer is really simple – to be prepared for them. These threats are actually going to be challenges and temporary road-blocks to the path towards my goal. But, if I am able to isolate the threats earlier then I will be able to prepare for them and know how to act accordingly. It will also help me weigh my decisions better if I can foresee what would threaten my plans. Based on the opportunities that I named above, the number one threat that I could see is overpopulation. Overpopulation in the sense that since IT is very in-demand nowadays, then many people would only want to study IT or to revert to IT. From this would stem another threat which is more competition. Basically, we are all competing for job titles and it would become a major threat for me, especially if I do not have the adequate knowledge and skills to compete with the others. Thus, it only follows that I have to gain as much theoretical knowledge and practical skills so that I can stand up to all the competition around me.

So, now that I have completed the S.W.O.T. part of my strategy, I think it is time to move on to my other strategies. These strategies are actually like my contingency plans or side plans to develop the other areas of my skills. First off, I can bravely say that I am better at drawing than most people. I am good at drawing on paper and it is part of my strategy to transfer this skill on the computer. Therefore, I plan to develop my skills in computer animation. I know, it may not be too related to becoming an IT professional but I figured that it would come in handy if situations call for some creativity. The second skill that I want to develop is my skill in writing. From my blog, you can probably see that I like to write. Actually, next year, I plan to submit a sample 300-word review to a certain magazine and see if I can be a contributing writer to their magazine. I believe that writing skills are also important if I want to become an IT professional because it takes a lot to be able to document your work and take responsibility for it. And I think that this is what separates IT professionals from ordinary programmers and such. I also plan to broaden my knowledge about business administration because it is where I want to use my IT skills. It is where my skills will be most needed, especially that businesses nowadays are dependent on technology. I do not want my knowledge to be one-sided because I believe that IT professionals should be well-rounded and dynamic.

Now that I have filled in all the letters in S.W.O.T. and laid down my other plans, I believe that I can now become that IT professional that I aim to be. Honestly, this assignment was pretty stressful because in the first place, I did not know how to go about my plans. But it was actually thanks to RSG’s suggestion of S.W.O.T. that I was able to define what I want and what my plans are. S.W.O.T. made my task easier because it categorizes everything that I need to know about myself and help me identify where I can be of most use. So, right now, I want to take advantage of my being young and my being a digital native to pursue my goal. I don’t want RSG to tell us again that we are planning to fail. I do not want to be afraid of that anymore. It is my ultimate goal to become an IT professional and I should be flexible and dynamic so that I can act under different circumstances. And after ten years, I want to see myself as a well-established IT professional at a Production Company in Japan working as a consultant for their IT-related operations and activities.

I thought it would be hard to reach 3,000 words but I guess I thought wrong. Laying down my goals and strategies would really require space and I am glad that RSG made us do this. If not, I would still be wallowing in the dark, not knowing where I am going and completely clueless about the opportunities that I would be missing. Even though this is far from my vision of working at NASA, my goals here are realistic and I know they are achievable if I follow my strategies and consider my S.W.O.T. seriously. When I reach my goal, my vision now would become a driving force for me to keep competing with myself to do better. Who knows, in time my vision might become another goal and so the cycle of strategizing my plans would start all over again…

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