## teach/research domains2specialize over30Y

See also post on top 5 expertise I could teach.

In the US job market, people often ask “What do you specialize in?”. I think most non-managers in this industry, esp. the successful ones, do specialize in something. Whether you like it or not, you are often perceived that way.

Clearly, many professionals are jack of all trades (or a jack of very few trades), and don’t have any real expertise or insight. Depending on your view, this may not be a problem for them.

Like property evaluation, I have a list of criteria:

  1. theoretical complexity — so most peers can’t master it. I get lower stress. Threading, statistics, pricing models …
  2. accumulation and low churn — Look at grandpa
  3. market value on job market
  4. Commercial value; could make a living; pathway to startup
  5. opportunities in research/teaching, for my later years. Very few choices.
  6. Something related to early childhood education
  7. ———– Rest are secondary —————-
  8. Something I believe in or care about, such as personal investment, or health. Self-knowledge: If it has commercial value I will care about it.

c#/c++/quant – accumulated focus

If you choose the specialist route instead of the manager route, then you may find many of the successful role models need focus and accumulation. An individual’s laser energy is a scare resource. Most people can’t focus on multiple things, but look at Hu Kun!

eg: I think many but not all the traders I know focus for a few years on an asset class to develop insight, knowledge, … Some do switch to other asset classes though.
eg: I feel Sun L got to focus on trading strategies….
eg: my dad

All the examples I can think of fall into a few professions – medical, scientific, research, academic, quant, trading, risk management, technology.

By contrast, in the “non-specialist” domains focus and accumulation may not be important. Many role models in the non-specialist domains do not need focus. Because focus+accumulation requires discipline, most people would not accumulate. “Rolling stone gathers no moss” is not a problem in the non-specialist domains.

I have chosen the specialist route, but it takes discipline, energy, foresight … to achieve the focus. I’m not a natural. That’s why I chose to take on full time “engagements” in c#, c++ and UChicago program. Without these, I would probably self-teach these same subjects on the side line while holding a full time java job, and juggling the balls of parenting, exercise, family outings, property investment, retirement planning, home maintenance….[1] It would be tough to sustain the focus. I would end up with some half-baked understanding. I might lose it due to lack of use.

In my later career, I might choose a research/teaching domain. I think I’m reasonably good at accumulation.

–See also
[1]  home maintenance will take up a lot more time in the US context. See Also
https://1330152open.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/stickyspare-time-allocation-history/ — spare time allocation

(prepare in advance)RnD career -viable choice4final 15Y

Grandpa became too old to work full time. Similarly, at age 75 I will not be able to work 8 hours a day. Some job functions are more suitable for that age.

I guess there’s a spectrum of “insight accumulation” — from app developer to tuning, to data science analysis to academic research and teaching. For virtually all of these domains, US has advantages over Singapore.

The older I get (consider age 70), the more I could move towards the research end of the spectrum.

My master’s degree from a reputable university is a distinct advantage. Without it, this career choice would be less viable. (Perhaps more importantly) It also helps that my degree is in a “hard” subject.

A PhD would give me even more choices.

I could choose an in-demand research domain within comp science, math, investment and asset return… a topic I believe in.

semi-retirement jobs:Plan B#if!U.S.

I had blogged about this before, such as the blogger-pripri post on “many long term career options”

Hongzhi asked what if you can’t go to the US.

* Some Singapore companies simply keep their older staff since they still can do the job, and the cost of layoff is too high.
* Support and maintenance roles
* Some kind of managerial role – not my strength
* Teach in a Poly or private school
* Run some small business such as Kindergarten with wife

pre-retirement planning – work till 70 in U.S.

Bigger than property investment, bigger than CPF annuity, bigger than my unit trusts is … healthy working condition.

Remember Connie’s PR chart? My Prime years could extend to 70.

In the US I could work till 70 and possibly branch out to other domains of specialization. Singapore only respects medical specialists.

Q: what aspects of health?
A: diet, fitness
A: weight
A: cardio
A: sleep

serious j4 U.S. -ez2get jobs, till 60

ez2get jobs; abundance of jobs — At the risk of oversimplifying things, I would single out this one as the #1 fundamental
justification of my bold and controversial move to US.

There are many ways to /dice-n-slice/ this justification:
* It gives me confidence that I can support my kids for many years. * I don’t worry so much about aging as a techie
* I don’t worry so much about outsourcing and a shrinking job pool * when I don’t feel extremely happy on a job, I don’t need to feel trapped like I do in a Singapore job.
* I feel like an “attractive girl” not someone desperately seeking on “a men’s market”.

Look at Genn. What if I really plan to stay in one company for 10 years? I guess after 10 years I may still face problem changing job in a market like Singapore.

network engineer ^ accountant @60 – Raymond’s paradox

See my other posts on civil engineers.

I told Raymond about Junli’s lament over constant learning expected of an IT guy. It’s an imposed extra workload that eats into our spare time.
Raymond’s sister is an accountant, and Raymond is now in the infrastructure team. Raymond pointed out that network engineers don’t need to learn anything new. So the constant learning is not the key difference here.

We do see accountants in their 60’s but why we don’t see the same among network engineers? Perhaps it’s supply/demand.

Explanation – demand. Accountants enjoy much bigger demand. Every big or small company need accountants. Raymond felt only big companies need network engineers. If indeed one out of 50 professionals in each domain is 60+, then old accountants are easier to find because the absolute number is much higher than network engineers.

I feel network engineering is a more specialized domain. How about brain surgeons? Specialist too. The bigger demand doesn’t translate to higher salary — look at taxi drivers. So specialization is not the explanation.

Explanation – globalization. Supply is in Accountant’s favor. It’s less common to hire accountants from developing countries. (Those who have worked locally for years would be treated like locals.) IT skillset is more globallized and standardized, as standardized as it gets. Employers easily tap into overseas candidate pool. That’s Raymond’s observations. However, in the US there is also the presence of overseas candidate pool, but there are old techies. So overseas talent pool is not the complete explanation.

The value of experience is higher in medical, accounting … and less in c++. I know c++ didn’t change a lot over 20 years, but ….? But the young programmers can accumulate the experience very quickly, often in a few years. The entry barrier is too low. Many aggressive, ambitious and determined young programmers can pick it up at home, just like I did. How about network engineers? Higher entry barrier. So entry barrier is still not the explanation.

Hongzhi pointed out Singapore salary is lower for accountants (not auditors) than network engineers. If indeed a typical old accountant earns $4k but a network engineer typically earns $8k, then this would be one valid contributing factor. The less lucrative/competitive jobs would be easier to get for an old job seeker.

Hongzhi also pointed out the Singaporean perception that every IT job skill is churn and therefore favors the young. The lay public doesn’t realize network engineering vs online app — have vastly different churn rates.

Q: why I don’t see a network engineer in their 60’s on the Singapore job market? Maybe there are but they are not job hunting! I think in Singapore there are electronic equipment engineers at that age.