How is a river different from a pond?
The subject of careers is a complex one, especially in this time of remote work and a hypercompetitive IT talent market. That’s why for this second issue of ITArkansas Magazine we at ACDS and Arkansas Times chose to explore the idea of Careers in all its ramifications. It’s interesting to me that the word career has two very different meanings. As a noun, it’s defined as “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.” An example of that definition would be, “He seemed destined for a career as an engineer like his father.” But as a verb, career means to “move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction”— as in, “The car careered across the road and went through a hedge.” As you young readers embark on your own work-life journey, remember that you want the noun, not the verb!
Ultimately, everyone’s career is essentially a personal pursuit, negotiated across any number of playing fields over the course of a lifetime. That means there are lots of ways to go about it, as well as ways not to go about it. But all careers begin in the same place—with your landing that first job. Appropriately, we kick off our special Careers package with an interview with Ashley French, ACDS’ Director of Talent Acquisition and Development, whose goal is to get you started on the right foot. Ashley’s professional insights have been gained over many years of high-level IT talent recruitment. Ironically, she says she seldom uses the word career—the better to get you started on one.
We’re especially pleased to feature a piece by Charles Morgan, who knows a thing or two about successful careers. In “One Day, If You’re Lucky, You’ll Be 45,” he urges young tech talent to “take a longer view of what you look for in your work.” Morgan, whose dynamic First Orion is on a hiring spree, laments that too many young tech people choose “instant gratification over career.”
At various times over your working life, you’re likely to be faced with deciding whether or not to leave one company for another. These are very important decisions, and knowing what you love and value about your work is a key strength when it comes to deciding wisely. “I think the biggest mistake people make is changing jobs for money,” wrote Scott Spradley, EVP and Chief Technology Officer of Tyson Foods, in the inaugural issue of ITArkansas. Now, in this issue, Senior Editor Dwain Hebda probes the generational flash point of “Job-Hopping.”
On the other side of the employment equation, today’s smartest tech companies are doing everything they can to recruit and retain top IT talent. In “It’s the Culture, Stupid,” we check in with several of the most successful companies to find out the secrets of their success. Incidentally, Arkansas is fortunate to be the home of several tech companies that are leaders in their industry, so our career-minded young tech professionals have some great opportunities right here in The Natural State.
Finally, because careers look and feel different at different stages of the process, we’re wrapping up our Careers package with profiles of four tech professionals at different milestones on their journey: five years, 10 years, 15 years, and 25+ years.
We hope you find this issue interesting, provocative, instructive, and challenging. In closing, I want to share a quote about the nebulous nature of building a career from one of the truly legendary stars of the tech industry, Steve Jobs. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Bill Yoder is Executive Director of the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences