Back in September I released Surviving IT.
The book contains all the advice I wish I’d received when I first started my career in IT. Writing this book was my way of giving back to the community that has been so good to me since I entered the industry.
Most of the time, when an author releases a new book there is a big marketing plan that kicks into gear. Actually, a lot of the marketing plan gets actioned before a book gets published. Podcasts are pre-recorded, guest posts are pre-written, and ad campaigns get planned. When the book launches, all that stuff kicks into action with it.
The idea is to generate as much hype and sales as possible in the short term, to become a “best seller”. Ranking high on best seller lists leads to more sales , and opportunities for exposure (e.g. speaking, guest appearances on podcasts). That in turn leads to more sales, sustaining your run as a best seller, and the cycle continues.
I didn’t do any of that.
When Surviving IT got released I let my email subscribers know about it. I posted a few times on social media. I spent a few days watching the book float around the top of the best seller list. Then two weeks later, I went on vacation with my family and didn’t think about the book at all.
And there’s a few reasons for that.
I had other priorities
I gave Surviving IT the time it needed to get written, edited, and published as a high quality, finished product. But I also had a Pluralsight course to finish. And we were hiring and on-boarding new staff at our business.
We plan our vacations months, and sometimes years, in advance. And they’re non-negotiable. So I had to deliver on those priorities, without sacrificing vacation time with my family.
In my book I quoted Microsoft’s Jeffrey Snover, who wrote:
We all have ten jobs and our only true job is to figure out which nine we can fail at and not get fired.
Choosing the wrong priorities would have consequences for me. I could lose my Pluralsight contract if I can’t meet a deadline. And if I don’t on-board our new staff, they will cost us money without helping to grow our business.
So book marketing was the job I allowed to fail. The book sold well, but there was no marketing machine pushing it to its greatest potential.
I have no up-sell
The goal of most non-fiction books is not to sell books. It’s to sell something else.
Many authors use books to establish authority and get access to new opportunities. Someone who reads your book might subscribe to your newsletter. A newsletter subscriber might buy your course, or book you for a consulting gig. Conference organizers might hire you to speak at their event. All these things expose you to more potential customers.
I have no such goals with Surviving IT. I’m not chasing more customers. I don’t want to travel to conferences to speak. I don’t have a course to sell you after you read my book.
I want to help at least one person enjoy a better career and a better life. Anything else is icing on the cake.
I’m in no hurry
Whether 1000 people read Surviving IT in the first week, month, or year, is of no concern to me. Enough people have read it now, and emailed me about the changes it has made in their lives, that I’m content that the job is done.
The book continues to sell. I’m happy that it is reaching more people every day. I hope that continues for many years. But I feel no pressure to hit an arbitrary sales target, or make sales happen any faster.
I followed my own advice
In Surviving IT I wrote about the importance of taking time to enjoy your achievements. Reward yourself for reaching a goal. Have fun for a while. Give yourself time to reflect on what you sacrificed to get there. And don’t rush on to the next goal until you’re sure it’s what you want to do next.
I did exactly that after Surviving IT launched. Well, first I went on vacation. Then I had to deliver a Pluralsight course. But then, I was able to relax and enjoy myself.
And over a few weeks my next goals came into focus.
So what happens next?
One of the pre-release readers of Surviving IT dropped a comment into an email to me that it sounds like I’m “moving on from IT.”
Depending on how you look at it, I am.
- I’m no longer a Microsoft MVP. I was not renewed this year (back in July). When I sold Practical 365 in 2018, my community contributions declined. Obviously they fell to a level considered too low for the MVP award. I’m okay with that, because I didn’t have more time to spend on MVP activities. After a 7 year run, plus all the years of blogging before I was first awarded, I feel I’ve done my part. I also have no real need for the MVP benefits, such as free MSDN and Office 365 subscriptions. My work doesn’t need those anymore, nor do I need the MVP status. Removing me from the program opens up a spot for someone else instead. Someone who is contributing more to the community, and who can enjoy those benefits.
- I recently completed what is likely to be my last Pluralsight course. My work has drifted away from the topics that I’ve been teaching for Pluralsight. And more of my work time is now spent on our business, leaving little time to spend on course creation. I could still do courses as a side gig. But I don’t want to fill my nights and weekends with course work, impacting my health and my family. So for now, no more Pluralsight courses.
- And, most importantly, I don’t work a traditional IT job any more. I no longer consult to other businesses. My focus now is on our family business. Technology is a tool I apply to achieve our goals. I don’t need to keep up with a sysadmin skillset, or a technical consultant skillset. And as such, my skillset has narrowed to only those things that I need to know to solve our problems.
If the technology industry has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be able to move on.
That product you loved working with, that framework you loved coding in, that job you loved at that great company… one day you’ll need to let it go and move on to the next thing.
In many ways, Surviving IT is my parting words to the IT community as I move on to the next thing in my life.
I packaged up the core, non-technical knowledge for a successful career into Surviving IT. Beyond that, people can learn enough from reading the book to solve their own individual challenges.
And of course, there’s lots of other strong voices out there in the community helping people with their career dilemmas.
Moving on from IT
I also want to make the point that there is “life after IT.”
A lot of us fall into the IT industry because of our passion for technology. Then some of us (but not all) find that passion isn’t enough to keep us going, as we deal with all the other stuff that comes with the territory. People then often form the mistaken view that they’re losing their passion for technology.
But there’s more opportunities out there for passionate technology people than working in IT. There are jobs and careers that use technology as an enabler, or as a competitive advantage. But they aren’t IT jobs.
- A member of my extended family runs a dairy farm. They’ve automated their operations, tracking the health of their cattle, adjusting feeding mixes and volumes. They love dairy farming, and use technology to make it more efficient.
- A former IT colleague of mine works in a business that provides point-of-sale systems to cafes, bars, and restaurants. He loves the foodie scene and gets to spend time visiting customers. He also loves the product they sell, and working with their developers to keep improving it.
- A neighbour runs a home automation business. They install smart homes, automation systems, and home theatre systems. He loves working with all that gear, and keeping up with new products and services every year.
If you feel yourself stuck in a rut with the typical IT roles, look for opportunities outside of the industry. Opportunities to enjoy using technology to solve problems, for customers that you care about.
I will just add here, that if you love working in IT, by all means keep at it. For all its ups and downs, I look back on my career in IT as a net positive experience. I could happily have continued as an IT professional for the rest of my working days. Many of my friends are still in the industry today and having a great time.
It just happens that other opportunities opened up for me that align better with the life I want to live.
What about this blog?
Writing is still a passion of mine, and I intend to continue writing here on this blog. I still have some draft posts that I want to publish over the next few months. And it’s helpful for me to have a place to share my thoughts when I feel the urge.
I’m not promising blog posts on any fixed schedule though. And when I’ve said all I want to say, I may just stop completely. We’ll see when the time comes.
I’ve moved some of the relevant blog posts over to the Surviving IT blog, where they fit more with the purpose of that site.
In the meantime, if you’re already subscribed to my mailing list, I’ll keep you updated as new posts go live.
But really, what are you doing next?
If you’re curious to know, my plans (outside of our business goals) are:
- Read more books – I had to put this aside for a couple months to finish Surviving IT and my Pluralsight commitments. I’m smashing through the Game of Thrones books now. Hopefully a new one gets released before I catch up.
- Run more ultramarathons – This sport has connected with me in ways I never anticipated. I’ve signed up to one next year, and plan to sign up for another later next year too.
- Finish my PS4 game backlog – Perhaps an impossible task. On my list are The Last of Us, Spider-Man, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, and Detroit: Become Human. But then Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is about to drop as well!
- Start a new blog – I do need that creative outlet that blogging provides. I’m considering topics, but it’s not a technical blog. Likely more personal in nature, and won’t need millions of visitors to be fulfilling.
- Write another book – Or two, or three, or more, because I do love writing. Probably not technical books. But you never know.
Lofty goals, right?
And if these are the last written words of mine that you read, thank you for your attention and support over the years. And best of luck with your own future!