Searching for Answers in an IT World

Pablo Picasso once said, “Computers are worthless. They can only give you answers.” It’s safe to say IT professionals would have a hard time agreeing with the first part of the quote, and judging from a recent look at the CertMag forums, they might not agree with the second part either.

A flurry of questions, some familiar, some uncharted, have flooded the boards recently — questions only a living, breathing techie, and not a computer or Web site, could answer directly.

Forum member AlphaGeek posted: “IT was originally just an interest for me, and I moved in to the industry because I wanted to do what I loved. Recently, however, I have been feeling like I am not being challenged as much. I have planned and overseen the upgrade of our network, and generally feel that the time to move jobs is approaching. I would like, however, to complete two more years here and take advantage of the training I get in that time. At home I have become almost a pure UNIX and Linux user, and my interests have moved away from the MS-based lab I used to use and towards security, penetration testing, distributed media systems, robotics and embedded systems. I also do a lot of armature coding and am not afraid to try and use any language. I would like to move away from user support, and maintaining business systems. I also feel that to [increase my salary] I need to specialize in an area.

“My problem is that I don’t really know what options are available. I have thought about working with hardware and introducing my electronics skills, or moving into the broadcasting industry and exercising my interest in media delivery. But beyond that I am just unsure. I feel that my lack of higher education may let me down, particularity as many of the interesting jobs are research positions in universities. Would it be worth my while to opt for an Open University degree rather than more certification?”

AlphaGeek’s question is familiar in tone to many on CertMag, in which forum members ask if it’d be better for their careers to go after more certs or go back to a traditional university. An often offered response to the query is that these situations can only be considered on a case-by-case basis, and every individual is different. However, you readers of the magazine may have different opinions. So share them!

CertMag Forum member Edwardknight had a similar query: “I am trying to get started with my IT career,” he said. “I already possess an AAIT from University of Phoenix and am trying now to study for my A+ and Network+ certifications. I have been contacted by QuickCert and WGU for their programs but am not sure if they are really worth the money. It seems to be that little buzzer is going off in my head that something is too good to be true.

“Does anyone here know if WGU is really worth their salt in what they are trying to sell? If you were a hiring manager would you hire me with WGU on my resume? I am 32 years old and have three kids. Going to a ground campus is rather hard for me because I work nights and have my daughter during the day, so an online course really appeals to me. However, I don’t know if it is [right for my career]. I understand that certifications are not easy — what is easy that is worth getting? — and am not trying to find the easy way out. I am ready to work hard and study hard, and everything that I have been told about WGU seems to fit with my schedule. I want to know what you guys think.”

A forum user with feedback for Edwardknight would be helpful. So if you’re out there, head over to the forums and let him know.

Did you ever have a teacher in school who would scoff at the end of a lesson if there weren’t any questions and wouldn’t move on until at least one student did? In those instances, the teacher would usually say something to the effect of, even if you know the answer to a question, ask it for the benefit of the class as a whole. Even the slightest question can have the effect of initiating a larger discourse.

The CertMag forums saw a similar situation recently, with forum member Darren getting a big answer to a small question. The exchange started by the request of another poster.

“Since this is a CRM forum, I want to catch your attention and [get] feedback on a CRM project I am working on,” forum member Brhien said. “The application is based on a goal and progress-oriented sales model and allows you to customize your own sales process. An account in the free version is limited in functionality, but is a good introduction to the considered sales process. I’d like to get any feedback on the application. Let me know what you think. Perhaps this can spur some further discussion on the types of features you are looking for in a good online CRM application.”

This is where Darren takes it back a few notches.

“Can you please tell me, exactly, what CRM is for?” Luckily, this is one question a fellow CertMag forum member has no problem answering. A slowly pitched softball in the world of IT queries, if you will.

“CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is the term given to software applications or projects involved with the sales process, from market research to follow-up sales research,” CertMag poster Cpatterson1 said.

“In short, it allows a company or organization to better handle its interactions with potential and past consumers. An example might be if you see an ad on television that shows a Web site link for you to visit with a particular code, you visit the Web site, enter the code and schedule a demo. If you’re in the market and do not purchase, the CRM would tell the sales staff that you’re a potential buyer and allow them to store all of the data about your particular transactions with them. Examples would be where your lead came from, how long it took for you to act after you saw the ad, how long it took for them to respond, your experiences with them and reasons why you didn’t buy on the spot. Then their sales staff can take all of that info stored in the CRM software on everyone and determine if their campaign is working or if there is a flaw in their product. It would also prompt them at a certain interval to contact you in the future for a follow-up or a thank you. Plus, it might notify them if a product you recently purchased is outdated. In most cases they can send you information about other offers along the same lines or other lines of products in line with your business or personal buying habits as well.”

Searching for Certs
It’s natural for people to flock to our message boards to search for certifications, whether or not they exist. Here we see a poster searching for a cert to beef up the competency of his or her workforce.

“I’m looking to implement a certification program for partners (sales, technical) and customers (technical) on our platform and products,” forum poster JPhebert said. “We’re in the networking, telecom infrastructure business. Would anyone be able to recommend a good hosted service that can deliver this type of service? If not, [are there] any suggested avenues that would work? I’ll be trying TCExam, but I’d like to see if anyone can toss ideas in my project.”

A second poster just wants to expand his or her repair abilities.

“I have always wanted to accept work orders to repair plasma and LCD TVs,” forum poster Witechguy said. “However, since I have never worked on one of these devices, I don’t feel comfortable using a client’s plasma LCD TV as a trial and error device. Does anyone have any advice on where or how I can get myself more informed on the layout of these devices or places I could go to get training for plasma and LCD TV repair? I was looking into a certification for plasma and LCD TV, but I would like hands-on training rather than CBT courses. I already checked with my local college. Sadly, they don’t offer any such course.”

If you have any advice for these posters or some questions you’d like ans

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