Dangers of Living in the Past


When the New Year begins, it starts with 18th century traditions like Auld Lang Syne, reflections of the year past, it’s challenges, accomplishments and it’s triumphs and then day 1 of the year begins with traditions not to be remembered but created anew. The topic of this blog post came from a stop on a drive from Tofino BC to Vancouver this week. The stop was at a chain restaurant in Port Alberni. While waiting for my order, I glanced through the trophy case filled with awards and plaques from community organizations, the head office and other public service foundations extolling the community service, donations and contributions the restaurant had made or done. It was clear that the owners had made active participation in the community a priority and it was laudable.  There was however a problem.

The most up to date award in the case was from 1999 and the earliest 1996. So the esteem that only moments ago I had bestowed on the restaurant vanished as quickly.

  • So for the last 12 years they have done nothing for their community?
  • They felt that 3 years contributions were enough?
  • They are too lazy to change the awards in the case?
  • What happened to them, don’t they care any more?
  • Will my food be safe?

The little restaurant was living in the past. So unless you are a serious Jethro Tull fan there are implications to Living in the Past; even more serious for the IT consultant.

You will have heard me repeat in this blog that a good track record is the consultant’s most important marketing asset. While that is still true I would now offer a modification to that statement.  “A track record that shows progressive and consistent good performance until today is the consultant’s most important marketing asset”. If it doesn’t show that, then it’s just history. My stellar accomplishments as a 8086 assembler programmer in 1978 are hardly market-worthy, nor Lattice C skills nor for that matter C++ skills. People could care less that I’’ve worked with Booch, been a principal study subject at SEI or been first on the beach for HMO/Medicaid systems reform in the US. Why? Because it’s all ancient history…. and you won’t find it on my CV.

“History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s dam is the history we made today.” – Henry Ford

Like it or not we consult in an industry that changes on a daily basis and every day the rate of change increases. The good news for IT consultants entering the business is that no one has direct experience in any new technology set that is more than a few years old. So the new consultant with a few years of C# experience may be just as hot a programmer as the consultant with 20 years overall and a few years also with C#. Yes experience counts, yes the same design patterns still apply, yes the same design principles still apply but if you are a “mature” consultant don’t  be fooled, the new consultants can buy exactly the same books you did and will be able to apply that knowledge faster with today’s development toolsets.

We need to take great care that we don’t chase every new technology direction but that we do chase and master the ones that are pertinent to our field. Prospective clients look at our CV’s and service propositions the same way I looked at the restaurant’s trophy case. If the last good thing you did was from 1999, it will likely remain the last good thing you will ever do professionally. Beware of living in the past.

Happy New Year!

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1 Response to Dangers of Living in the Past

  1. Pingback: Infinite Shades of Grey – A year later and a little greyer | Infinite Shades of Grey

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