Disruption Story

You’re a bit like me, I bet…

Somewhere along the way, your career got disrupted for reasons beyond your control. 

Maybe you lost your job? Maybe you had a close call but it was enough to raise a red flag.

Either way you’ve made the same realization that is actually a reality for everyone.

Disruption is inevitable and it will affect every industry, every company, and every person…eventually…no matter how good things may seem. 

Let me share my condensed story.

Maybe you can relate?


Since 2009, I’m an Internet of Things (IoT) industry veteran.

From cold call to custom IoT implementations, I’ve routinely navigated through every aspect of delivering end-to-end  IoT solutions.

Taking a top down approach is the best practice for presenting the IoT value proposition.

My decade plus career in IoT certainly did not start at the top, however, my bottom up journey gave me a unique and valuable perspective to share.

My name is Christian Shaffer, Author of Customer Success is Key: How a Small Manufacturer Transformed into an Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions Provider and Unlocked $2 Million in SaaS Revenue

Career Disruption Story and Reason for the IoT Career Playbook

Introduction to IoT…

I started my Internet of Things career journey back in 2009, mostly by dumb luck, after suddenly becoming jobless when the principal investor of a health-tech startup got cold feet and shut the doors.  

After a frantic search I found a job listing on Craiglist for a small traffic safety management company (ATS).  I was hired for a marketing position.

Three weeks later I was in a conference room listening to management share the vision for an IoT strategy to gain a competitive advantage.

Relieved just to be employed, I had no idea at that time how much this would influence my career interests.

In short, we took dumb radar speed signs (the ones that tell you how fast you’re going) and transformed them into an IoT solution we sold for millions of dollars in higher margin, recurring revenue. 

No longer did the signs just provide feedback…now they offered Analytics/Reporting, GPS Mapping, Battery & Tamper Alerts, Images, and Remote Control and Diagnostics. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the service, I documented the ATS story in Kindle ebook and Audible audiobook formats.  

Multiple perspectives…

Looking back, the value of working with ATS was priceless.  Starting in a marketing role, I learned how to sell the IoT value proposition. 

Next graduated to a role referred to as Customer Success, essentially ensuring that our customers fully realized the value of the smart connected services and were willing to pay subscription fees to stay connected. 

Through it all I worked closely with the sales, software engineers, embedded engineers, technical support, and executive management to gain a deeper understanding of each perspective.  

The value wasn’t just about the product and technology. I witnessed first hand, collectively how these roles worked together resulting in an organizational transformation. 

A brave new world…

Career-wise, the concept of IoT, emphasis on the “things” was intriguing to me right away. 

My prior career experience was always related to data analysis but it was always Information System to Information System in traditional enterprise environments.  

The radar signs were different.  They were out in the world, rugged and for hands-on use…also no network to plug into at the data collection site.   If you haven’t heard it already, you will soon be familiar with the term “Edge” or communicating from the edge of a device.  

IoT is fun because it is the evolution of the Internet of People.  Now connectivity and smarts are joining our physical world and all the devices and machines we interact with. 

Productization opportunities abound.   

Disruption happens…

Remember when I said “no matter how good things may seem”.  Seasons change. Sometimes quickly.

ATS became attractive to a private equity firm…largely due to the newly established business model with recurring revenue. 

I’m going to resist the urge to elaborate on the investment firm situation and keep it short.

The firm hand picked an executive management team and dropped it right on top of ATS.

The management team wasn’t a good fit for me…and I wasn’t a good fit for them.  

Career disrupted again!  This time a little scarier.  I don’t live in a major metro area so tech jobs aren’t in abundance.  

new perspective, new motivation…

Finding an Ad for an IIoT Business Development Rep, I did manage to get hired for a local company again.

Essentially, I was cold calling for a distributor and selling Industrial Networking components – switches, routers, IoT Gateways etc.

Cold calling is tough. Cold calling for a company with negative reviews plastered all over the place is tougher.  

This experience gave me the notion that I should future proof my career options by obtaining some “hard skills” so that I would always be “in demand” and avoid a similar fate…ever again.

learning new things…

Going back to school in a traditional sense was nowhere near an option, financially or timewise. 

Fortunately the disruption of the traditional educational system worked in my favor.

I started taking online courses left and right, mostly Udemy courses at first, in an effort to get the “silver bullet” skill that would be my protective armor.

I started with Cisco networking training…

Next, I signed up for a free tier AWS account and jumped headlong into exploring the Amazon landscape of serverless technologies.

With growing confidence, I continued my “tech” skills scramble.  

After the kids went to bed, I studied the courses at night and watched them on my phone during lunch breaks at work…

Subject matter included but was not limited to…

-Physics: Intro to Electricity & Magnetism
-SQL – MySQL for Data Analytics and Business Intelligence
-Build a full-stack application with NODE-RED
-Visualizing Sales Trends with Tableau
-SAP BI / Business Objects Essential Training
-Business Intelligence Course w/ Statistics, Big Data, Machine Learning

And the final frontier, after researching the best technical fields online, dreaming of a more secure future with less stress…

I resolved myself to be a PYTHON Programmer and stay in the exciting world of IoT.  

Python went like this…I got as far as setting up the Jupyter Notebook development environment and running a few simple programs…that I wrote. 

Admittedly, that was a bit of a thrill because I couldn’t conceive that I would ever write code. 

Can’t escape who we are…

Ultimately though, I knew that crossing over to a career as a programmer was just not the right fit for me. 

It made me a much better team player for IoT product development when working with the software engineers, but ultimately not a career for me. 

Through this escapade of learning, I came to the following two conclusions…

The time was well spent and valuable.  It absolutely made me a better Digital Transformation Professional.

Being a Technical person and making a living with “hard skills” is not my core DNA and ultimately not where I fit into the IoT talent ecosystem.

Most genuinely I am a “soft skills” guy, more of a generalist, who benefited greatly from taking a deeper dive into the “hard skills” world. 

The vise versa is true for professionals with hard skills intact like software development, embedded systems, coding, networking and information systems engineering.  

In other words, you will be valued as a specialist but a lot more valuable if you augment your skills with the ability to cast vision and lead teams.

key takeaway…

To sum up, I found it is a dangerous proposition to rely on your abilities to suit your current role only.

The best safeguard against career derailment is to continuously develop yourself so you can pivot and adapt to sudden change.

With that purpose in mind…

The IoT Career Playbook, is not meant to guide every footstep of your IoT career path but to give you something of greater value…bigger picture perspective.  

You can use that perspective to make great plays.

The greatest danger in times of turbulance is not the turbulance; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.

Peter Drucker