After spending nearly 19 years working in IT operations for local government, Mike Wilcox, from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, left his secure, well-paid job this past summer to dive headfirst into learning, training and building a consulting firm based around the cloud. He refers to his professional transformation as “the perfect timing for a change” and even a “mid-career crisis.” However, when pressed for what really motivated the shift, he says the impending popularity and interest in the cloud—coupled with the fear that this outside interest could soon make his own job obsolete—led him to “retool technically.” Wilcox admits, “we on-premises people are a bit scared of getting our jobs outsourced.”
Wilcox recalls one specific scenario in his past job when the light bulb went off in his mind. It helped him realize that the cloud was where he should be headed. “I was preparing a presentation about a systems management software product, and I was having this internal conflict about the importance of the cloud because of my on-premises expertise.” It finally occurred to him that rather than denying or trying to argue the cloud’s prominent role in IT, he should embrace it and immerse himself in getting up to speed.
Wilcox decided that he would take the self-teaching route. He enrolled to get his certification and signed on as a Microsoft partner. As soon as he started dabbling in the cloud, he felt “like a frog suddenly realizing the water he is in is getting much hotter and will be boiling soon.” He says the process made it clear to him that the disruption of the cloud will be “as big as the mainframe-to-PC shift and that the time to adoption will be a fraction of what it was for that transformation.” He decided now was a better time than ever to get onboard, and launched his consulting firm, See I.T. Consulting, LLC.
Along the way, Wilcox believes that taking certain steps, such as networking, attending industry events and furthering his education, has helped to guide him. Of course, the road hasn’t been entirely smooth. Specifically, coming from an IT ops background, learning how to code was a must. There’s still a learning curve that comes with learning new technologies and launching a startup, but Wilcox says the move has already proven to be worthwhile.
“Five years from now, everyone in IT, the entire way we support IT is going to change, and this is going to be as big at the Internet,” Wilcox says. He believes there will be a gaping hole of expertise that even in his former manager role, he would have been required to meet. “I’m just going to jump in with both feet here,” he says.
While the path is still unfolding for Wilcox, he says one thing is certain: “Anyone on a mission to make himself more cloud-friendly will inevitably be more attractive to future employers and customers.”
Renee Morad is a freelance writer and editor based in New Jersey. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Discovery News, Business Insider, Ozy.com, NPR, MainStreet.com, and other outlets. If you have a story you would like profiled, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The IT Innovators series of articles is underwritten by Microsoft, and is editorially independent.