Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

The Search for the Adaptable ICT Student

Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

The Search for the Adaptable ICT Student

Article excerpt

Introduction

We live in an era characterized by rapid change and a crucible of that change is the ICT industry. Most ICT professionals find themselves under constant pressure as they strive to deliver ever more complex technologies in the presence of increasingly severe constraints and a paradigm shift in the ICT profession. Although the effects of change are pervasive and few of us are immune to them, they are virtually a constant in the lives of many ICT professionals.

Not everybody is equally well equipped to deal with constant change and uncertainty. Indeed, some people find it difficult to function in highly unstable, changing environments. Although there might be some niches within the ICT industry for such people, on the whole they are likely to find the life of an ICT professional stressful and even threatening. Even professionals who do not occupy technical roles are highly exposed to the challenges of change and are often responsible for implementing the strategic organizational change that emanates from technological innovation. Indeed, in many organizations, ICT professionals have become critical agents of change.

A wealth of research has been conducted into the key skills and the psychological, social, and attitudinal dispositions that lead to success in various career paths. A limited amount of this research has focused on ICT professionals and little on what has become a key requirement: the ability to adapt to change and uncertainty. This study focuses on the extent to which ICT students appear to be adaptable to rapid change and uncertainty. It seems reasonable to surmise that people who choose to study ICT have some idea of the rewards and challenges that await them in the world of work and of the fact that a career in ICT is best suited to those who embrace change. Further, those who are comfortable with change will be attracted to ICT and those who seek security and certainty will self-select out of ICT.

The point of departure of this study is, therefore, the hypothesis that ICT students will exhibit substantive adaptive dispositions and be open to careers that involve uncertainty and change. The study further hypothesizes that ICT students will favor flexible, decentralized, and innovative work arrangements.

Predictors of ICT Career Success in a Changing Workplace

In the business world of today, change is the constant. Survival depends upon innovation, flexibility, and an adaptive mindset (Drucker, 1985, 1988; Kanter, 1983). Information Technology is a key enabler of change and nowhere is change more pervasive than in the ICT workplace (Freeman & Aspray, 1999; Gallivan, 2004; Straub & Watson, 2001). Information Technology products often have much shorter life cycles and are sometimes obsolete at a stage when products in other industries remain in their infancy (Cairo, Kritis, & Myers, 1996). Information Technology thrives on innovation and the past few decades have witnessed the innovation imperative progress inexorably upward in the scale of organization imperatives, from desirable through essential to a necessity for survival (Cairo et al., 1996; Freeman & Aspray, 1996).

Professionals working in ICT should expect the pace of change to increase and should prepare themselves for a job market that is unpredictable (Weber, 2004). It is a well established dictum that ICT workers must continuously adapt to new technologies and approaches or face the real risk of technical obsolescence and the fact that they are unemployable in the field (Freeman & Aspray, 1999; Sumner, Yager, & Franke, 2005). Now, this is no longer sufficient. Structural changes at the macro-economic level have made the competition for ICT positions more severe and the ICT workplace is undergoing a paradigm shift (Weber, 2004). ICT professionals will need to do more than adapt to new technologies: in many cases, they will find that their current job category no longer exists (Weber, 2004). …

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