This week I reached out to a bunch of people in my followers list with a small list of questions. The purpose of this is to gauge what people in different roles, years of experience and geographies had to say about growth in the technology field. I’ve received some of the responses already and I have to say, I’m loving them. I can’t wait to do a write up. Just forgive me for the length, because there will be SO MUCH that I want to share from them.
In the spirit of this, I thought I would respond to my own questions. I’ve had an interesting growth in my career, and weird path to say the least. So without further ado, here I go.
1. How long have you been working in tech, how did you get started and what inspired you?
Crazy enough, I’ve been working in Tech for over a decade. From high school, through college and now as a career. One technology or another, I was hooked either way. I actually wanted to work in television. I loved working on productions. When I was 18, I was working on live-to-satellite productions, helping setup and running cameras. After high school, I got an internship at a news station and when they decided to automate, I decided to move to my other career choice, Computer Systems. changed my degree to Information Systems Technology with a specialization in Programming and never looked back.
The thing is, the part of television that I loved was the troubleshooting and the rush of breaking news. I realized that you get the same feeling from troubleshooting IT and Enterprise systems. Since I had moved from Intern to Contract Engineer with the news station, I had chances to troubleshoot some very interesting servers and applications. The IT person at the station got me interested in coding. Any who, I later worked as an intern at a data center and was given a full time opportunity. The rest is history, but I am inspired to architect even more now!
2. What traits, methods, knowledge or experiences did you find crucial to your growth?
When working in television, the main idea behind troubleshooting was “follow the line”. Its the idea that you follow from the camera, through the CCU, through the switcher, into the distribution system and out to the recording or straight to air. I might be missing a couple parts in there but you get the gist. As I began programming, I took the same approach. I think this is why I dislike working on web code, no debugger! But programming taught me to learn, find and understand expected results. Now I’m not just talking about the end result either, I mean learn and understand every step, every function in every necessary sub-process. Once you start to learn the expected results throughout execution of an action, you begin to understand where its likely going wrong.So when it came to virtualization, understanding networking was critical.
3. What has changed since then? What additional traits and methods do you think are required today to grow?
I’ve actually taken on a few different tasks that were related to big projects. Since we are a service provider, licensing is always a thing. Its a crazy, ridiculous thing! Whats really changed is spending time understanding the business side of things. You haven’t stressed until you’ve stressed over purchasing and procurement across 3 subsidiaries located in different countries and working on invoicing issues dealing with VAT tax. Understanding business portions is going to lead to something big later on I feel.
4. What areas of the technology do you see the most growth potential that people aren’t considering?
For as far as the eye could see, VMworld last year was about DevOps. But at the very core of that is foundational skills like Linux and Programming or Scripting. I wouldn’t think about it as a method for becoming a super-admin, or some high ranking engineer for a company, but rather as foundational knowledge to make you more efficient. Want to help a company save money? Show them how to deploy web servers that aren’t Windows IIS. Want to get into this docker and containers craze? Brush up on that Linux! Once you do something 10 times, you’ll want to automate it, and once you do, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it in the first place. Programming? Well thats just handy for everything, but it really helps me with troubleshooting theory.
5. How do tech communities play a role in growth?
I remember as a kid, thinking that no matter what, there was always someone with the EXACT same hardware setup, and having the exact same issue. Forums were my friend, but when I took programming classes, local meetups seemed even more exciting. I hadn’t been introduced to VMUG or Virtualization blogs yet, and boy was that a wake up call. Above all, this community is amazing for it willingness to help others. Take this questionnaire for instance, in less than a week, 11 people volunteered their time to just answer a few questions, all very willing to lend a hand. At the last VMUG, I gave my first presentation when I reached out to someone at the Vendor for help, he had n problem taking time to share what points he felt were most important to present. Communities are amazing for their availability of knowledge, but at the same time, their willingness to help. As you participate more, you also get asked for help, and giving back is the best way to say thank you to those who helped you.
6. What would you tell someone with little to no budget or lack of available hardware, looking to gain experience?
There are so many methods to test and get experience on enterprise systems. VMware is probably one of my favorites about this. ESXi is FREE! You could learn the basics without doing anything more than using a laptop. I recommend looking up Autolab and checking it out. Essentially its a fun environment with an automated deployment method. There are also services from companies like Ravello and AWS, where you can build up a servers in an environment, and start testing. These come in at an extremely LOW cost per hour. We are talking cents per hour! Thats insane.
Beyond all of that, I actually purchased old HP hardware when I first attempted playing with Asterisk. It proved to be a loud server, with far more specs than I needed, but it worked for me to learn, play and get my hands dirty. But thats not even necessary! If you want to learn linux, use VirtualBox and a Linux Distro, just don’t cheat and use a GUI. Trust me, it won’t look good if you go into an interview, I see it far too often. Want to learn networking? Cisco Packet Tracer. You can simulate a network, and use a DEBUGGER for moment by moment tracking of a packet, its awesome.
Point is, there are hundreds of free and cheap methods to learn, just google it or seek out help from the community.
7. Do you feel certifications are necessary to growth in your industry of technology?
I think this is where I am a little more old school. I do entertain the idea of getting certifications, but mostly because I like the challenge. Are they required? absolutely not, do they help? I learned a LOT while studying for my VCP and if I take on AWS Architect this year, I plan to learn a lot more, but having them can help open some doors when looking for a job.
How should you go about getting them? Well, technically most jobs have reimbursement for classes or tests taken that attribute to your role. If you’re helpdesk, thats pretty general enough to cover most if not all IT related Certs.
8. What questions would you ask in an interview to gauge growth potential within a company? Or what signs would you look for?
I tend to lean towards the signs on this, I think looking at the culture of the company can shed a lot of light on their growth potential. Startups or companies with a startup culture are more likely to have rapid growth potential, because they will ask more of you. They will give you the opportunity to try on so many hats and build great things, all without batting an eye at your past experiences. They are typically in a tough position and need someone to do the work.
As for the question portion, I’d say ask something along the lines of “What are some recent success stories that you can share regarding employees within this department”. If they have a hard time coming up with something recent, I’d say there may be an issue with growth.
9. Any other thoughts you would like to share with those either just getting started, or stuck in roles like helpdesk?
The biggest thing that I can say is put your back into it. Put in the effort and you will most definitely stand out. The problem that I found is most people I met in college, did the degree as a cop-out for really trying at something they would have wanted. They figured, “this could pay enough, sure why not” but don’t really have the heart for it. So when you feel like you are walking through mud, day in and day out, just remember, putting in a little effort goes a LONG way. Far above those who wouldn’t care to try.
Lastly, I’d say it doesn’t hurt to ask. Sure thats cliché, but its true. I would have missed out on many opportunities had I not asked.