Ask the Village

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One of the best things about the CertMag Virtual Village is that readers can go there to get high-quality, free advice that’s backed up by experience and knowledge. People come to our online forums with a question and can usually get an informed answer or two—not just gratuitous, opinionated ravings for or against a particular technology or product. This edition of the Virtual Village is devoted to advice.

We were especially proud when a reader recently came to the Village asking about brain dumps. member Wagnerk responded with this comment, “To be honest I wouldn’t go for dumps, as they may be incorrect.” Wagnerk also offered a few suggestions on vendors for study aids. Now, we warn our audience against using these, and not just with clichés about how they’d only be cheating themselves (though that’s true). Brain dumps often have erroneous, outdated information. But we could caution you against using them all day long, and it still wouldn’t carry the same weight as a similar, simple caveat from your colleagues. So thanks to our readers for offering not just guidance, but good guidance to each other.

Career Development
In the Career Development community forum a couple of months ago, member shep612 asked whether he should pursue an associate’s or bachelor’s degree for a networking position. Fortunately, he came to the right place for recommendations. “I would actually like to see some experience working with desktop PCs first of all (e.g. help-desk, trainee/IT technician, etc.), before I let anyone touch my network,” Wagnerk responded. “OK, that aside—be honest, if you’ve played around with your own home network, put that down. Show that even though you don’t have commercial experience, you have personal experience.

“The AA will help you get a job and may even help you up the management ladder later on when you get more experience. I believe that the BA/BSc is more beneficial, as that is a higher qualification. Personally speaking, I went from trainee tech to IT manager in under five years, but that was down to the fact of my academic, professional and vocational qualifications as well as my experience. I made sure that I got my fingers in anything that was going. Now the real fact: Getting the AA or BA/BSc will not guarantee you a job, it will assist you, but no where will it say, ‘Once you have me, you’ll be earning lots & lots of money.’”

Going above and beyond the call of duty, Wagnerk added the following: “Take your CV in paper and electronic format. Be able & prepared to list in 20 seconds why they should hire you. Dress to impress, look smart. Mingle and talk to people, this is what we would call ‘networking.’” That’s good career advice for anyone.

CRM & E-Commerce
Over in the CRM & E-Commerce forum, the conversation about what makes for a winning Web site continues. Member tetsujin had this to say: “I feel a site should be user friendly. That of course depends on what your user base is. If you intend to sell to IT professionals, you can most likely have a higher level of customization and interactivity compared to if you are selling something to a first-time user.”

“On Web sites of the self-employed types, I’m told that having that individual’s photo on every page is distracting (kind of like they’re looking over your shoulder at every turn),” member JaneDoe added. “Color and movement are good, for the most part…as long as they aren’t ‘abused.’ Web sites with multiple pages that are tabbed as to subject matter are the best, i.e., I was recently researching real estate in Aruba, I wanted maps and single family homes for sale….not bars and night life. With the different pages tabbed, I was able to see exactly what I was looking for and didn’t have to scroll through a bunch of unwanted offerings. Web sites should always pertain to the subject and be in good taste….don’t want to see Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie when researching Africa, even if their child is going to be born there.”

Help Desk & Support
We’ve got a couple of new entries down at our “Help Desk’s Greatest Hits” discussion thread in the Help Desk & Support forum. The first one comes from site member HAL9000: “Well I had a good one one time. We had to shut down our network due to a virus at the university that I was working help desk at. So, this irate instructor was just ranting while I was trying to explain what was going on. He asked why we couldn’t send an e-mail out about the network being down to let people know what was going on.”

The other one comes courtesy of member Weezulguy: “We actually have a user that believes that there are aliens out there. She insists on shutting her computer down at night because this will decrease the chance of them accessing her system when she is not around.” Yeah, right—I’m sure that extraterrestrials would travel all the way across the galaxy just to see what’s on her desktop. Sheesh.

What’s better in information technology: to have a broad base of tech skills to draw from, or to specialize in a particular niche? On one hand, salary surveys such as CertMag’s suggest that it’s highly beneficial for IT pros to focus their skills and knowledge on a particular area such as wireless or security or even wireless security. However, an argument could be made that the highest-level positions in IT—such as chief information officer or IT architect—require a comprehensive understanding of technology. The first of a two-part series for the Independents community will explore the latter position this month. Check it out at

Project Management
Although it might seem like it to you sometimes, your project isn’t the only one in the world right now. It probably isn’t even the only one in your organization. If this is the case, there might be a tendency to view those other project managers as competitors for your leaders’ attention and your organization’s resources. Yet there are often synergies between your projects that, if tapped, can help everyone involved reach their goals. The Project Management feature this month will take a look at how you can use commonalities between enterprise projects to attain your objectives. Take a look at

Back in February, member Dean asked which security-related certifications would be relevant to developing enterprise-wide applications. Fellow member wendell333 had a few bits of advice around security credentials. “If obtaining security certifications is your desire, then I would suggest that you begin with the CompTIA Security+ to get a good general knowledge of the security field. This was the first security cert that I obtained. It gave me a fairly brief and general overview of the security field. Think of it as an associate’s degree in security. Another good entry-level security certification is the SANS GIAC Information Security Fundamentals (GISF). GIAC certifications are well respected but unfortunately have not been as publicly known as, say, a Microsoft cert.

“Now with all of that being said, if you want Executive/Senior/Chief level security understanding, I would suggest you begin studying to obtain (ISC)2’s CISSP. This will take the general knowledge you have from the CompTIA Security+ or GISF and expand it 10x (once for each domain of required knowledge). This is not ‘the end all, be all’ of security certifications as there are very specialized security certs on the market (CCSP, for example), but it will provide you with a much greater understanding of how security plays a role in all aspects of IT, be it database, networking, software design, systems admin, etc.”

Also, we’ve got an interesting feature in the Security community t

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