My name is Rory Monaghan and I've been working as an application packager for over 10 years.
Working in such a specialized role can be very challenging. My first few years were pretty good. I would get a mix of applications to work on ranging from simple to medium to complex. It was pretty enjoyable learning how to package. Out of necessity, you become very well versed with the Windows OS. As with pretty much any job, the more experience you get under your belt, the more expectation there is. If you're worth your salt, you will get bumped into a lead role. All of a sudden, you don't get a mix of applications anymore, you only get the complex apps.
For a while, that's great. It's like coming to work every day trying to put a really difficult puzzle together. After 8+ years of completing a difficult puzzle, putting it away and starting a new one or usually putting multiple difficult puzzles together at the same time, it started to become less enjoyable.
In 2016, I had the honor of appearing on the great EUC Podcast (this blog post has been sitting in my drafts since 2016!), which you can listen to right here:
Whilst on the Podcast I made a comment that suggested I was ready to be replaced and made redundant as an Application Packager. At the time, Turbo.net were building up a pretty comprehensive list of applications in their library which would routinely auto-update and auto-package, no manual intervention from a Packager required. The lads on the podcast had some fun with my suggestion that I was ready to be out of a job.
As we venture into 2018, that sentiment still holds true. For several years now, I haven't worked a role just as a Packager. I was a Packager who also designed and implemented VDI, cloud-hosted DaaS, lead Windows migration projects and more. To this day, I still spend a significant amount of my time working with apps but I'm ready for that to become less and less.
I'm sure everybody has noticed in your own place of work that many of your organization's critical applications have gone from traditional Win32 desktop applications to Software as a Service (SaaS) web applications. I currently work in healthcare, this trend is very evident. Browsium have stated that currently, web applications outnumber desktop applications 12:1. This is only going to grow.
My friend and colleague, Ruben Spruijt once said that Win32 apps are like cockroaches. They will survive the apocalypse and be around forever. He also stated that while that is true, we will be seeing fewer and fewer Win32 apps overall. This is already happening, if you are an Application Packager today, you are most likely already automating whatever packaging work you are doing and if you are not, you are at risk of your skills becoming completely obsolete.
With the growth in popularity of app layering products and the power and simplicity of products like those from Numecent and FSLogix, along with growing automation the need for full-time Packagers is dwindling. Even if you are automating your packaging, you should apply those skills you have built up and start to focus them in other areas as application packaging is just NOT a long-term sustainable gig.
The good news is that packaging work builds excellent troubleshooting skills and a deep knowledge of the Windows OS and System Administration. These skills can transfer well to the infrastructure side of IT Pro work and your app and OS knowledge will give you an edge over those who may only have that Server, Storage, AD or Network knowledge. I feel cloud migrations, automation and virtualization in general are a good route to go down among many others. I'm really excited to see what the future holds for IT pros!