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thender
Screen tycoon
Premium
join:2009-01-01
Brooklyn, NY
kudos:1

1 edit

[Education] Looking for some direction. How did you find your niche?

I'm looking for some career direction(I know, ugh & sigh). I'm putting this as the first sentence so you don't waste time reading this if you have no interest.

I want to branch off into a new field, but I don't know where to start. I feel I've reached as high as I can get where I am right now, and I'm looking to find a new niche. So my question to you is - how did you find yours?

Here's my story. I have a small electronics/laptop/cellphone repair store. The idea was to enter the field, doing all the jobs no one else wants to do because they're a "pain in the ass." Stuff like replacing parts on the newer Macbook airs, or motherboard repair at component level on a laptop, etc. The crap other places don't bother doing. 5 years in, it's a great success. When you search for some services we offer locally we're at the top of Google, top of yelp locally with 4.5 stars, I have people sending their stuff in from all around the world for us to fix. We have a youtube channel where we post stuff for other technicians in the field that I get about 10 emails a day from. Over 6 months we've tripled our revenue at the same time that local competitors have been downsizing or closing.I have a happy staff of the best people I could ever hire working for me who are always watching my back. Business is good. It's awesome to look back and go damn, five and a half years ago I was broke!

I'm happy with the success, but I'm not blinded by it. I know the niche is going away over the next five years, and that I need to be prepared for the next thing, or I'll be right back where i started. I've changed "career" paths twice so far so I'm not new to starting from the bottom in an unfamiliar environment, but find myself stumped here, because every past niche I have found, was by happy accident. I don't know how to recreate an accident.

In terms of IT, I have a jack of all trades, master of junk skillset. I can compile a linux distribution together from scratch without the manual in front of me, I can set up iptables to be used as a router, I can set up RAID arrays and FTP servers. But, I have no practical experience with the enterprise world, no clue how to use active directory, I can't code anything outside of BASIC which I haven't touched in almost 20 years. I dropped out of college to focus on business since I was broke.

I go to work every day, but it's at the point where I never have to show up, and I want to use this time to find my next niche. I'm not the kind of person who can just sit and be happy doing nothing, not learning something new, but there's so much out there I have no idea where to start.

I had help from someone on DSLR a few years ago setting up a PBX system. I recently had to deploy a similar system and set it up from scratch to do some cool things like integrate with a custom made CRM and manage voicemail & extensions from android devices, and it worked. So I was thinking of pursuing that route, but I'm kinda clueless as to where to start.

Starting over is hard. I've worked for free and cleaned toilets to learn how to service broadcast audio gear, and I've worked 80 hour weeks when I started my own business. I don't mind putting in the time. I just need the direction.

Advice, trolls input of any kind all welcome. Thank you!

tomdlgns
Premium
join:2003-03-21
Chicago, IL
kudos:1
it depends on what excites/motivates you the most. from the few things you listed off, i can recommend networking and pbx work. where do you feel the most comfortable? are you looking to keep your business and add new services? or are you looking to close/sell your business and work for someone else?

i am on the fence about specializing in something. you can really go either way, here are some obvious reasons:

-if you specialize in something, you are limiting yourself to one skill (for the most part)
-people who specialize in something typically get paid more because they *are/should be* subject matter experts

at the same time, being a jack of all trades is great for a small shop, but i feel that being a jack of all trades guy may not allow you to branch off into something more specific (i am in this situation, right now).

why do you think your business will be dead, soon? there will always be devices that break that people don't want to touch. maybe focus on other services to integrate into your current business.


Nightfall
My Goal Is To Deny Yours
Premium,MVM
join:2001-08-03
Grand Rapids, MI
Reviews:
·ooma
·Comcast
·Callcentric
said by tomdlgns:

-if you specialize in something, you are limiting yourself to one skill (for the most part)
-people who specialize in something typically get paid more because they *are/should be* subject matter experts

at the same time, being a jack of all trades is great for a small shop, but i feel that being a jack of all trades guy may not allow you to branch off into something more specific (i am in this situation, right now).

A couple things to add to this....

Specializing in something is only valuable to a large organization. Many small - medium sized companies don't want specialized people. They want people who are good at a variety of things. Larger companies pay more for specialized people for sure.

I have been a jack of all trades for a long time now, and even now as a Director of IT for a medium sized company, I find my skills to be very meaningful. If anything, I have "specialized" in network design, implementation, and maintenance. I haven't lost my jack of all trades skill set though.

IMHO, if you live in a large city or see a lot of need for specialized IT people, then you should pick something and focus on it.

Other things you could do is to look at your certifications and education background as well. Like it or not, education and certifications factor into your job prospects if you are trying to break into a new industry.
--
My domain - Nightfall.net

tomdlgns
Premium
join:2003-03-21
Chicago, IL
kudos:1
well put, agreed.


thender
Screen tycoon
Premium
join:2009-01-01
Brooklyn, NY
kudos:1
reply to tomdlgns
I was thinking of just starting; even if I have no direction. Getting some basic certifications, like going for the CCNA. I don't want to get the certification so I can get a job, I want to get it so I can meet people while in class, talk to people in the industry, get some idea what people with this certification even do, and figure out if there's anyplace for me to fit myself in with my skillset & approach to things. Just to start. I accept that I may wind up miles in the opposite direction of where I started, but I figure starting anywhere is more productive than sitting here and wondering "where do I start?"

said by tomdlgns:

are you looking to keep your business and add new services? or are you looking to close/sell your business and work for someone else?

I am looking to keep my business. While I want to be an active participant and help grow it & ensure it runs well, I am at the point where I can not go to work and everything is just fine. I don't plan on closing that!

said by tomdlgns:

why do you think your business will be dead, soon? there will always be devices that break that people don't want to touch

For PC laptops, it already is. A laptop that does everything the average person needs costs $300 at best buy. It doesn't matter if I can fix your motherboard at component level when you spill beer on it, because you can just buy another one for $300.

With Apple stuff, they are going down in price and becoming more of a pain in the ass. For example.

a) iPad mini costs HALF what the iPad costs, but repair parts often cost twice as much money. It is also more of a pain in the ass to work on.

b) Price of "pro" level machines has come down. The retina is as low as $1200 with the sales & coupons some sites have going. The idea that you can sell a no-frills laptop for $1200 is a bubble that will eventually burst, I believe Apple will have to come to terms with this.

c) Proprietary parts are used for the most basic essentials. RAM is soldered to a motherboard, recovering data off an SSD vs. a hard drive is magnitudes of times more expensive & difficult.

I don't mind doing basic motherboard repairs, but when I have to replace 16 very small BGA chips just to diagnose whether the RAM was even the issue.. no.

d) The industry is going more mobile. Less computers, more tablets & phones, which are dropping in price like crazy. Even before the price drops, phones were always much less profitable to work on.

It's not like it's a dead industry right now, but I'm not fooling myself into thinking that in ten years my business model will be viable.


thender
Screen tycoon
Premium
join:2009-01-01
Brooklyn, NY
kudos:1
reply to tomdlgns
said by tomdlgns:

where do you feel the most comfortable?

I love soldering. I like solving problems. I enjoyed setting up the PBX, I feel comfortable solving basic linux problems & finding solutions for them when they're complicated problems. Setting up FTP servers/storage solutions. Nothing crazy complicated since I've never done it for the enterprise, but it interests me and I've done basic stuff like LVM on top of several RAID arrays and FTP servers with advanced user monitoring features before.


Boricua
Premium
join:2002-01-26
Sacramuerto

1 recommendation

reply to thender
said by thender:

said by tomdlgns:

why do you think your business will be dead, soon? there will always be devices that break that people don't want to touch

For PC laptops, it already is. A laptop that does everything the average person needs costs $300 at best buy. It doesn't matter if I can fix your motherboard at component level when you spill beer on it, because you can just buy another one for $300.

With Apple stuff, they are going down in price and becoming more of a pain in the ass. For example.

a) iPad mini costs HALF what the iPad costs, but repair parts often cost twice as much money. It is also more of a pain in the ass to work on.

b) Price of "pro" level machines has come down. The retina is as low as $1200 with the sales & coupons some sites have going. The idea that you can sell a no-frills laptop for $1200 is a bubble that will eventually burst, I believe Apple will have to come to terms with this.

c) Proprietary parts are used for the most basic essentials. RAM is soldered to a motherboard, recovering data off an SSD vs. a hard drive is magnitudes of times more expensive & difficult.

I don't mind doing basic motherboard repairs, but when I have to replace 16 very small BGA chips just to diagnose whether the RAM was even the issue.. no.

d) The industry is going more mobile. Less computers, more tablets & phones, which are dropping in price like crazy. Even before the price drops, phones were always much less profitable to work on.

It's not like it's a dead industry right now, but I'm not fooling myself into thinking that in ten years my business model will be viable.

That is a very good insight you have there. I also see the same thing in that PCs and laptops have gone down in price enough that if someone breaks it, they'll just go out and buy a new one. I knew Apple was/is proprietary hence I don't work with them.

My 2 pennies, I can recommend trying out website development. I'm taking a class on it right now and hoping I can understand it enough to start doing that on the side.
--
Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian. Robert Orben

JoeSchmoe007
Premium
join:2003-01-19
Brooklyn, NY
Reviews:
·Optimum Online
reply to thender
Problem solving is required skill to have for software development but you don't seem to express desire to go in this direction. As you already have a business - maybe you want to branch out in that area by hiring someone to do websites for small businesses or something like that?

On top of that there is always tech support for small businesses who don't have dedicated IT person. Maybe you already do that but it looks like your current business is concentrated more on hardware repair.

pawpaw

join:2004-05-05
Greenville, SC
reply to thender
Home automation, custom installations - thermostats, locks, lights, phones, home theater/DVR/HTPC, security cameras, garage doors...


Nightfall
My Goal Is To Deny Yours
Premium,MVM
join:2001-08-03
Grand Rapids, MI
Reviews:
·ooma
·Comcast
·Callcentric
said by pawpaw:

Home automation, custom installations - thermostats, locks, lights, phones, home theater/DVR/HTPC, security cameras, garage doors...

You could call it "Making your Home Smarter" or something along the lines of Smart Home. I think that is a good niche. The difficulty will be installing in older homes.
--
My domain - Nightfall.net