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Tips To Offshore-Proof Your Tech Career

For IT professionals, the word "offshore" is probably on the same list of dreaded terms as "death" and "taxes." But unlike dying and paying Uncle Sam, being a casualty of offshoring isn't inevitable.
For IT professionals, the word "offshore" is probably on the same list of dreaded terms as "death" and "taxes." But unlike dying and paying Uncle Sam, being a casualty of offshoring isn't inevitable.Some of the best tips also are similar to tips experts advise for any IT career progression, whether offshoring is a threat or not.

Some of the best advice generally falls under three broad categories -- technology and business skills diversification; self promotion; and soft skills and networking.

Skills diversification:

"If you want to move up the food chain, and keep your career secure, you've got to be a perpetual learner," says Steven Creason, assistant professor in MIS at Metropolitan State University in Minnesota and a former Accenture consultant and employment attorney.

"Whether it's taking classes or moving around within a company, you need to broaden your skills and stay relevant to the business' needs," he says. "How many times do I need to reinvent myself? As many times as it takes," he says.

One key trait that can help offshore-proof your own job is learning how to manage relationships with service providers and vendors -- those skills are a plus if your company does offshore work to a third party. So, instead of becoming a target of offshoring, you're a potential liaison.

However, only 55% of IT staffers say they currently have another important related skill-set -- knowing how to build vendor relationships. More managers -- about 77% -- claim they have those skills, according to the recent InformationWeek Research 2007 National IT Salary Survey of 7,281 IT professionals.

Self promotion:

While some people shy away from self promotion, too much modesty might actually hurt you career-wise. "Being a leader, marketing yourself internally, and also having a willingness to step out of your comfort zone throughout your career" can help build offshore-proof defenses, says Bill Wisley, who spent 20 years as an IT pro before joining national IT staffing firm XSell as director of ERP solutions.

Once you step beyond the IT comfort zone, "immerse yourself into day-to-day operations, building relationships with users, and understanding how tech tools can be an asset to them and their processes," he says. "If you're coding, understand why you're coding," he says.

But most important, "make sure your direct management knows you're maximizing your skills," Wisley says

Soft skills and networking:

Developing solid interpersonal skills also is important. "The strongest and best things people can do to stay valuable is to develop teamwork and communication skills," advices Mike Biela, a 20-year IT veteran who last year reinvented himself as a consultant after becoming a casualty of a former employer that decided to outsource its IT operations

"Acquire those interpersonal skills through training, on the job or outside the job, whether it's at a local or community college," Biela says.

Also helpful in developing valuable business and communications skills is involvement with IT professional organizations, Wisley says. Networking with other professionals inside and outside your organization could help you land your next job, especially if you do get the boot because of offshoring or outsourcing.

Any other advice you'd like to offer?