Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Road to IT Pro

As promised, this is the first of many posts on the subject of working in IT and teaching yourself Windows or your operating system office choice using the techniques described. Before we get started, let's talk about IT. Unlike some fields out there, IT is great because it's always changing and you can constantly be challenged. On the flip side, IT can be tough because it's always changing and you can constantly be challenged. How you look at it is dependent much on whether you see the glass as "half full or half empty". Unfortunately, the hard skills you learn today (Building a Server 2003 domain, configuring Windows XP, Novell) may not be used tomorrow, but the soft skills and lessons in technology you experience with ease your path.

Don't like the IT path you are on?? Change it! Do some research (we'll talk about this), find something you like in the field, and learn it... If you are lucky, you might pick the hot new thing and be a wanted commodity. If you are not so lucky, you'll learn a new skill set, expand your "Tech Toolbox" (we'll talk about this), and make yourself more marketable.

Does someone you know have a IT position you find interesting? Do an informational interview w/ them and see how they got there. While some people "fall" into cool positions, many prepared themselves to take on new positions by learning new skills and keeping up to date.

So how do you get started? Well, you can attend classes at a local college. But I prefer to delve into self-taught learning here. With the power of the Internet and all the information available, you can create your own training classes w/ some creativity. While self taught learning does not have the "certification" of having taken a class or course, I would hire anyone whose "honed their craft" in their spare time as it shows initiative and drive to learn.

First things First...You need to create a training facility for yourself. Just like training for a marathon, a bike race, or just to get in shape, you need a plan, the tools to work, and the desire. Here are the basics you need to follow the plans I'm going to lay out

  • A recent model computer. Dual-Core would be optimal but Pentium 4 is good. Make sure you have at least 1GB of RAM and lots of HD space. Laptops are my choice due to portability and ease of accessing free Wi-Fi if you are on a budget.

  • Access operating systems and programs you wish to learn. As we'll focus on the Microsoft world, I'd recommend getting a subscription to TechNet Plus. If you are attending a college w/ an MSDNAA account, you can get it for $99. Talk to the head of your program...

  • Broadband or access to free Wi-Fi (and I don't mean "borrowing" your neighbors unsecured connection). When you are self learning, you'll spend a lot of time on the web, so the faster, the better.

  • A plan for studying. Set aside a few times a week, just like workouts or attending class, for your studies. Create a timeline and assign objectives for your sessions.

  • Optional: I like books! Fortunately, I receive free books on many topics as a college instructor. Scour EBay, used book stores, or talk to your friends. If you know others who are "in the same boat", start a book club where everyone buys a book and passes it along when they are done. And if you ask nicely, people with lots of books may lend you one...

Note on this: You are going into IT...you should have the proper "tools of the trade". Do you know any mechanics that don't have tools to work on cars? If you do, tell me their name so I don't take my car to them. You should have a decent computer and peripherals.Cost per my calculations to create a self-study lab:

Dell Laptop Inspirion 1525 $599+shipping/handling/tax

Technet Subscription $249 (With this code...Thanks to Keith Coombs)

Broadband Access @ Home $250+/year

Sum Total................................$1200 should get you started. And that's about one semester of school or half of a class at a professional training center.

Biggest thing to remember...Free is Good! Large companies like Microsoft and VMware hold tons of free events to get you interested in their products. Many times they give you free stuff...take the MS launch events. Normally, you get a copy of all of the products being launched. Often full of marketing stuff, you can often pick up some hidden gems about products from the pros. Get on mailing lists, Betas, and anything else free. I'd recommend creating a free email account for all of this as you will get pummelled w/ email.

That's it for now...

Next time, we'll talk about setting up a home-based lab environment, and begin "geeking"...


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