IT careers: Does it pay to become a brand specialist?

Beth Stackpole

Being good at SharePoint means I know a bunch of things.... But it's the 'architect' part of my title that's more important. Nick Brattoli, SharePoint architect, Medseek

Brattoli says Medseek values his SharePoint credentials, but what really appealed to the company was his prior experience in healthcare IT. "They liked my technical background, but they liked more that I could do the business side of things," he says. "Being good at SharePoint means I know a bunch of things — how databases and Web pages work, and a lot of encompassing technologies. But it's the 'architect' part of my title that's more important." Now Brattoli is making a point to focus on the problems the business is trying to solve so his skills translate when the time comes to move on, he explains.

High demand + low supply = top dollar
Some brand specialists argue that if they choose the right product, there's no need to worry about latching on to the next great technology, because their skills will remain marketable long after the heyday of the brand.

That was Joseph Morgan's strategy for quite a while. The 31-year IT veteran was able to work for years doing PowerBuilder development long after the Microsoft/Sybase environment lost its luster in the late 1990s. "Even if something is considered old, you can still wring more career value out of it because there are companies invested in the technology who need assistance," he says. "You just need to do the legwork to find the opportunities."

Even if [a technology] is considered old, you can still wring more career value out of it. Joseph Morgan, DataPower administrator

Morgan, 49, eventually moved on from PowerBuilder and settled in with a new specialty — IBM's DataPower integration appliance. He was introduced to it in the mid-2000s while working at a company that encouraged him to get trained and certified in DataPower. He was initially reluctant, but he quickly recognized the product's staying power, given its emphasis on security, networking and application development.

With a new specialty under his belt, Morgan has been able to negotiate what he calls "top-dollar salaries" and a variety of other perks, such as reimbursement for relocation expenses.

Because DataPower specialists are in short supply, he's also been able to parlay his domain expertise into a rather unique working situation: He's currently in a full-time DataPower role at Netsmart, a provider of electronic medical records technology, but also makes himself available as needed to the Department of Veterans Affairs as a contract DataPower administrator.

"There are so few people that actually either want to stay with [DataPower] or want to do it that it leaves high demand and low supply for this particular skill set," he says. "That's real good for a career if it's something you want to connect yourself to."

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