Despondent Correspondent

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Developing a career in IT is not all fun and games. Apparently, it can be a little depressing, as well. Most of the time, people who come to our community forums want to debate the relative strengths and merits of varying certifications and technologies or solicit advice on their career paths. But this month, we saw a different type of post on our General Discussion board.

In a thread titled, “I Want To Die,” masterssullivan states, “Sometimes life seems pretty bleak, and that all hope is lost. Sometimes I think it would be better to just submit to the sweet embrace of death. I’m being melodramatic, of course, but does anyone else feel like the industry has left them in the dust?”

The community was quick to rally around masterssullivan. Member ceadmin countered, “Well, I don’t feel depressed the way you do. The IT industry is ever-changing, and you need to be on top of it every minute of every day. Otherwise, you are right; it won’t wait for you. That is why many of us constantly read tech books, magazines, upgrade our skill sets and learn about upcoming and new technologies that will revolutionize the way we do things.

“To me, education and staying on top of things is what perks me up day to day. I love to learn, and the way the industry makes you do it is awesome and exciting to me and what keeps me in love with the field. Very few other fields challenge you the way IT does, and I think that is its greatest appeal.”

Member Wayne Anderson concurred.

“Staying on top of things is difficult but key in our profession,” he stated. “I happen to work for a consulting company that is very realistic in understanding the need for knowledge management. Part of our annual review is building a development plan for the next year, as well as meeting a mandatory minimum of 80 formal training hours in the past year. Realistically, if you are below 120 hours, your manager will bring it up as something to focus on next year.

“Additionally, we actually have a chief learning officer and a learning and knowledge organization at work. This is a great boon, as part of that organization is specifically tracking our training and helping us find the resources — internal and otherwise — to meet our development goals. Also, promotions have certain requirements to meet. These requirements are extensive and include both technical and soft skills training courses.

“Unfortunately, very few organizations these days take such an integral approach to furthering employee knowledge. As a result, you need to make sure you are spending personal time to ensure that even if you are not staying current in terms of training up on systems that are not yet in use in your environment, you are at least conversant in current affairs in terms of major technical releases and vendors.”

This pep talk seemed to cheer masterssullivan.

He responded, “You’re right. Staying on top of IT is the Sisyphean boulder that we all have to push … ungh, ungh, ungh.”

Looks like he’s back on that horse!

Career Development
Back in December, member Wayne Anderson posted an immense “Open Letter to the Certification Community” in a thread of the same name on our Career Development forum, offering advice on how to direct a certification-oriented career in IT.

More than a month later, masterssullivan asked Wayne, “This looks interesting, but could you please boil it down to a single paragraph or a brief list of bulleted points so that I can digest it in a timely manner?” Member ceadmin attempted to summarize Wayne’s advice in a single sentence.

“Research the career direction you want to take and apply time, money and energy into only the appropriate certifications and knowledge gathering that you need to further that career direction,” ceadmin stated. Wayne himself decided to respond with a list of summarized points, as requested.

“Look at yourself. Be honest. Where are you now? What are you skills? Where are you going position-wise? What do you need to get there? Again, not being honest only hurts you,” he stated. “Look at your employer, current or prospective. Do they prefer certain credentials? Do they prefer certain providers?

“Decide and quantify what your goals are. Are you trying to get promoted? Make more money? Get the job in the first place? Quantify what this goal is worth to you. “Then, and only then, search the industry for certifications that fit into your goals. Differentiate them from certifications that provide a credential of where you are now to certifications that provide a credential on where you want to be.

“Treat your certification as an investment. Look at the cost-benefit balance. Will getting any of the where-you-are-now certifications meet any of your goals? Will the cost of getting the cert outweigh the financial benefit of having it? Will your employer even care about that cert?

“Let me again stress that point. Your certification is an individual investment — just because some guy in the cubicle down the hall or on the Internet has MCSE Messaging doesn’t mean that it is a credential you should go after if you have no intent of working deeply with Microsoft Exchange Server. Only you can decide what certs are right for you and your situation. Try to think that through logically before just accepting what someone else tells you what you need or don’t need.”

Late last year, community forum member djenneka posted the following question in our Database forum: “I would like to get certified in Oracle database administrator. Does anyone have an advice for me?”

CertMag stalwart masterssullivan responded: “I don’t have any advice other than to say that you may wish to pick another thing to get certified in other than Oracle. Why? Oracle is mind-numbingly dull. You will no doubt draw a handsome paycheck but at the cost of your quality of life. I could be wrong, but I don’t mind making these personal suggestions. If you go ahead with it, just make sure you get a good book and study it hard and count the days until you’re filling up your dresser drawers with dollar bills you’re working too hard to spend.”

Member ceadmin agreed that Oracle can be grueling but added that it can be beneficial

“If you already have experience in Oracle or are a DB admin, then from what I hear, the tests are very in-depth and require a lot of study time,” ceadmin stated. “If you go through with it, let us know how you did and what you used. I personally believe most everyone should have a passing familiarity with database knowledge, as they are a part of our IT lives, whether we like it or not. If you can get certified even in an entry-level cert, you will be leaps and bounds ahead of most, as it is a good skill to know and have.”

Project Management Over in our Project Management forum, ceadmin and masterssullivan were at it again. Masters posted a thread titled, “project management horror stories,” looking to hear just that. He asked, “Anyone have any good PM horror stories?”

Member ceadmin offered this: “I don’t know if this qualifies as a horror story, but a few of the PMs I have worked with get tired of being the go-to person. In particular, if a project overextends its deadline, they just want to end it now/soon, and they start making decisions to that effect. This leaves the project in a dead space, where the customer thinks it’s done and so does the PM (because they refuse to help it toward its completion and have, in fact, taken it off their books and schedules completely). That leaves me in the middle, trying to finish up the project on my own, which will normally double the time that it should have required because I never have all the contacts that I need.”

Anyone with any project management horror stories of their own to share or further comments on any of the threads presented above should head to our discussion boards

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