Here's the suggestion: Be your own boss. You may never grow a company from garage to the NASDAQ stock exchange as Bill Gates and Larry Ellison and other techies have done. But there're thousands of small companies across the world run by techies. No reason you can't start one yourself.
You can do something reasonably obvious -- work as a computer consultant in your field. You can work part time writing software programs on eLance. You can set up a small store or office providing computer services such as eliminating viruses or spyware. If you're smart enough you may think of some entirely new kind of computer service or product. Design the next Zip drive, for example.
You don't have to quit your job first. Unless you've saved up a lot of money, that just puts enormous financial and psychological pressure on you. Not to mention making you unpopular with your spouse and children. Your biggest problem will be the one described by Michael Gerber in his book "The E-Myth." Let's say that after you've been a networking engineer for a few years you start up your own networking company. At first, you do all the work for your customers, because there's only you to do it.
Then one day you realize you cannot install all the networks you have orders for. So you go out and hire an assistant or two. Then you are making so many sales presentations about your networking services that you are not working as a techie at all. Instead, you are working so hard just running the business that you begin to wonder if it's worth it to continue. Gerber's book goes on to explain how you must learn not just to delegate authority but to set up systems for accomplishing your business chores, which you can easily teach new employees as you hire them.
From the beginning, you must decide you are a businessperson who used to be a network engineer, even while you're still the only network engineer you've got. That's the hardest part for techies who start businesses. They continue to think of themselves as network engineers who just happen to run the business. Get over it.
Use your expertise to design the systems that make your customers happy. That's how McDonalds has built a huge international business -- using the hamburger expertise of high school students. Because they don't have to be great cooks. They just have to learn the McDonalds system.
You may never become an international franchise, but at some point you will want to kick back and let others do the work for you -- while you cash the checks.
c 2006 by Richard Stooker To learn why now is the best time to change to a computer career, go to: Secrets of Changing to a Computer Career Updates available at: Computer Careers blog